Tuesday, March 17, 2009

An Adoption Paradox

I’m realizing blogging may actually help me gain a better understanding of my daughter and our story. After my first blog, I felt quite vulnerable. Vulnerable, not only having put our struggle into words, but also out there in the ether. But then it also sank in how important it is for me, not only to accept my daughter’s feelings, but to let her know I honor them. If she learns or feels she has to deny her feelings at home in order to protect my feelings, how will she ever learn to hang on to her feelings beyond home -- at school, on the playground, or in future relationships?

Sunday night, we were talking again about feelings. She’s wrestling with a lot right now. Not only with feelings around her adoption story – but around some girl dynamics at school. She’s in third grade and it’s a time of heightened awareness. Some kids handle this better than others. Some try to dominate. Some try to please. My daughter is not a doormat -- but she will sometimes compromise her own feelings to keep the peace, to make others happy, or avoid confrontation.

How many of us do that, at our own expense, even as adults?

Sunday night, in the midst of fixing dinner, in the midst of our conversation about third grade girls, I got down on my knees, and looked my daughter in the eye.

You know. I’m not always great about acknowledging your feelings. You need to know you have a right to your feelings. They’re important. You are important. No one else can tell you what’s going on inside of you.

Several weeks ago I noticed she had discovered The Feelings Book: The Care & Keeping of Your Emotions which is part of the American Girl series on The Care and Keeping of You. (I love this series!) I’d buried it on her book shelf. (If I try to recommend a book and place it in her hands, she is unlikely to give it a second glance. If I bury it on her book shelf, she will find it and read it when she’s ready.)

Oh. You’re reading The Feelings Book. What do you think?

It’s good Mom. Its really good. You should read it.

Oh? Perhaps we could look at it together sometime? You could show me the parts you like.

Yeah. That’s a great idea Mom. Let’s do that.

Sunday night, after dinner, after she’d washed up and brushed her teeth, I suggested she grab The Feelings Book and bring it into my room. We often read in my bed together before lights out. (Max is up there too, wedged in between us, his chin on her stomach or mine.)

We read a few pages together from The Feelings Book, taking turns. Then my daughter flipped to the page titled, Grieving. The page talked about what it feels like to miss a loved one who has died or moved away.

This is how I feel sometimes, Mom.

When you think of your birth mom?


Do you like their suggestions?


Maybe we should try them out.

We talked about lighting a candle, about journaling. She wasn’t teary. Just quiet. Thoughtful.

When it was time for bed, she skipped off happily.

Good night Mom! I love you.

I love you too.

See you in the morning!

See you in the morning.

The next day, she woke exuberant. She walked and danced about the kitchen fixing her breakfast, full of hugs and happy chatter.

Monday night, homework, talk of the school day, and dinner were all punctuated with more hugs. She couldn't hug me often enough or hard enough. In the midst of dinner, she walked over and confided:

You know, sometimes this doesn’t feel like my house.

We have lived here together since she came home from China. I asked her to say more about what this felt like for her.

Its like… I’m living in a strange house!

Do you think maybe that’s cause it feels strange... to think you were born in China, to another family, but you ended up here? Like you’re supposed to be somewhere else, with another family and another home, back in China?


I nodded. That makes sense.

She was thoughtful. Then she hugged me again. I gave her a small kiss on the top of her head. (I’m no longer allowed to give her big wet ones on her cheeks – as much as I’d love to.) She bopped back to her seat.

After dinner, her eyes lit up with expectation. I knew what was coming.

Do you think we could have a cuddle on the guest room bed?!

Of course!

This is one of our rituals. We charged into the guest room together. First we helped Max up. He’s twelve now and needs help with his hindquarters. Then the two of us leapt up onto the bed together and jockeyed for space. I settled in on my side and my daughter moved in quickly, curling up close in the crook of my body – her back up against my belly. Max settled in below – nestled in the crook of my legs. He draped his chin over my thigh to make sure he wasn't forgotten.

My daughter smiled and laughed and babbled on, sharing surprises and triumphs from her day, jumping from one reflection to the next. She grew quiet. The three of us lay there, breathing almost as one.

It occurred to me that the more I make room in my heart for the dissonance she feels -- for whatever may be separate or broken or lost -- the more she can then accept us -- and take us wholly into her heart.

1 comment:

Mirah Riben said...

Late in coming...i love the way you handled this!