Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Why a "Pack?"

I meant to start this blog two weeks ago. No, the dog didn't eat my homework. But as luck would have it, my daughter, nine, came down with a horrible case of the flu and we were in lock-down mode for eight straight days. (Aaaaaugh!) It's a scary thing to watch a normally exuberant, even ebullient child, grow feverish and listless. I found myself running endless laps about the house, washing sheets, towels, my hands, pajamas, my hands, dishes, my hands, cough medicine cups, and yes, my hands, again.

I bear raw, chapped knuckles like a badge of courage.

When it all migrated to her head, neither of us slept. She went through five or more boxes of tissue. Then I ran laps supplying tissue, Sudafed, emptying trash, supplying more tissue, more Sudafed, more tissue, etc.

She recovered (finally... whew...) and bounced off to school while I looked in the mirror and saw ...a train wreck. I tried to clean up, dig out, and get my bearings. And begin this blog. Which, appropriately enough, is about the life of a single mom (me,) my daughter who was born in China in 2001, and Max, our Portuguese Water Dog (he was born here.)

How did I come to choose the name Pack of Three?

We're a family. A happy, loving, boisterous family. At least that's how I think of us. And my daughter, obviously a key part of this equation, is also happy, loving, and boisterous. At least most of the time. The truth is, she also struggles with the facts of her adoption, with the loss of her birth family.

She's always been proud of the fact she's Chinese. (Yes, I've tried to instill that and encourage it.) But she's sensitive and perceptive. Over the years, she's begun to process the loss in her story at a deeper level. And so, sometimes, in the middle of dinner, in the car on the way home from school, or even at bedtime as I lean down to kiss her, she'll pause and say:

Sometimes, I think you're just the babysitter.

I miss my real mom.

Sometimes I wonder if you stole me from my birth parents...

Now, I should be clear. I adopted my daughter legally. I am not an abusive parent. If anything, I am at times an overly attentive parent. A worrier. Perhaps, even, an overachieving parent. Most of the time, my daughter writes me poems, love notes, "you rock" notes, you're the "awesomest mom ever" notes. She draws pictures of hearts and flowers and happy children. We laugh. We cry. We love each other.

It pains me to hear her say these things. To know she struggles. To know there is only so much I can do to help her resolve these losses. At the same time, I'm human. Having turned my life over to her most every need for the past 7 1/2 years, I have to admit the first time she called me the babysitter.... a voice in my head nearly screamed:

Are you kidding?? I'm sleep deprived, cranky, fat, and frazzled, trying to keep three steps ahead of you. The sitter?! I could be on a beach in Bermuda right now! I'm your mother damnit!

Of course I realize I'm supposed to be the adult in this relationship. So when she said this the first time and asked, Does that hurt your feelings? I denied my first reaction and offered the empathy I also genuinely felt, offering her the validation she needed, the opportunity to express her feelings.

But I've had other moments since. Where I've slipped. Where I thought she was only mad at me for not getting what she wanted, when I thought she was trying to play the 'other mommy' card.

How do you compete against a phantom mommy, a mommy who never says no? So yes, there have been those moments when I have fought for the title of mommy, arguing...

Who's there when you go to bed each night? Who's keeps you safe? Who's there when you wake each morning? Who's there at 2am when you have nightmares? Who's there when you get a bloody nose on the playground? Who's there when you're sick with a fever of 103? And who nags you to eat your vegetables, to watch for that mug of boiling hot chocolate, to watch for the car in the street?

Then, one day, in a more enlightened moment, I let it all go. I thought,

Who cares what we call this? A family? A tribe? A pack? I know what we are and I know I'm in it till I draw my last breath. That's what counts. Someday, whatever she calls it, acknowledging the depth of her losses, my daughter will also see what we have -- in all its beautiful, complicated glory.

Welcome to our blog. Our stories. Our little Pack of Three.


hiltonsheadeast said...

I take heed ...thank you for this. Your story broke me, woke me and forewarned me. Again, thank you.

Lori, mom to my little 2YO Guangdong beauty

Mama Dog said...

Thank you for the beautiful comment. The more people write back to me and share a bit of themselves, their journey, the more I realize we're all part of a much larger tribe -- that of adoptive parents. And what a truly remarkable tribe that is!

Mei-Ling said...

"Sometimes I wonder if you stole me from my birth parents..."

Does your daughter watch the news about stories of abandoned children in China?

Or overhear rumours about these trafficking rings?

On the offchance that I never find my way back to your blog (it's kinda buried on the AP blogrolls I usually go to)...

My e-mail is

Lisa said...

Hi Mei-Ling,

This post is from March of 2008. At that time, news stories were only just beginning to appear in more prominent publications about adoption. (I write about these articles in a later post.)

I believe its highly unlikely my daughter saw or heard anything about these abductions. If you read subsequent posts, it became increasingly apparent (and was confirmed by a counselor we saw) that my daughter was struggling with a genuine internal dissonance. She was proud she was from China and believed her birth parents loved her deeply. She was struggling to resolve -- and fighting with all her heart -- the conclusion that her birth parents could have abandoned or relinquished her. The only other possible conclusion (which frightened and worried her) was that I must have taken her -- against their will. If you read subsequent posts from March and April 2008 you will see how she struggled and how we finally got to the heart of the matter... a painful but important process that allowed her finally to grieve.

Thanks for stopping by.