Adoption = Holiday Cheer, Holiday…Hell

The holidays around our place are not always happy. Mood swings, tears, anger, behaviors–such as eating non-food items–that we thought were long gone (“you ‘licked a fern‘ while you were walking in the woods? Did your brain take a vacation? Are you sure it was a fern? Oh, it was actually a vine. You realize poison ivy is a vine, right?”).

It starts around Halloween and lasts through mid-January. I don’t know if it’s the change in weather or the actual dates, but every year, things start getting weird. We understand why (they start thinking about their birth family and wondering where they might be and whether the family members might be thinking about them also–and the kids worry that they have been forgotten, or that someone important has died). The worry takes up most of their brain and leaves very little for living even a semi-normal life.

A few Thanksgivings ago, our boy swallowed a coin as we made ready to leave for my aunt’s house. A coin. I guess he realized it was dangerous a moment too late and started wailing, which brought us, half-dressed, from the bathroom. “I swallowed a quarter. Will I die?” Hubby looked him right in the eye. “Probably.” More wailing. Hubby continued, “But most likely you’ll just poop it out. Do us a favor. Don’t eat coins.” (Everything came out all right in the end.) Matter-of-fact is the only way to deal with it. If we freak out, they take it to the next level. “A coin freaked you out? I bet a marble will send you over the edge…”

Last night, our son woke us up around three in the morning. “I hear noises. I can’t sleep. Can I sleep in here?” Call me hard-hearted, but I walked him back to his own bedroom. I can’t sleep when the kid is rolling around next to my bed, and I’ve been having trouble sleeping myself. (Hubby and I don’t allow them to sleep in our bed, but if the nightmare is really bad, we let them drag a blanket in and sleep on the floor.)

I tucked him in and he tried to pull me down onto the bed. He’s a hefty little guy, thanks to his food-sneaking-and-hoarding habits (a story for another day) and almost succeeded. “Dude, it’s late. I love you.” I kissed his forehead and made for the door. Tears stopped me. Oh, no. “Honey, what’s wrong?” I leaned on the end of his bed. “I’m scared, Mama,” he said. “Of what?” I asked. “Of EVERYTHING. What if someone comes in and tries to get me?” I stifled a giggle. “Well…I don’t think anyone is coming here to get you…and I promise, even if they took you, they’d bring you right back. You’re waaaaaay too much trouble.” He grinned through the tears. “Yeah. You’re right. But can I have a night light?” I brought him a pink “Princess” night light we had in the hall, and he laughed. “You’re funny. But it’s bright. Plug it in.” Crisis averted. Still, it’s horrendous that he is still worried about someone “getting” him, a worry caused by social service workers who showed up unannounced and moved them (multiple times).

Many other nights since October, the averting has not gone so well.

Today, I told our girl (at 9 am) that if she washed three cookie sheets while I folded laundry, we could go Christmas shopping and I’d take her out for breakfast. I estimated the job would take about ten minutes, if that. Hubby and our son were helping a friend. She knows how to wash a pan (with just a teeny bit of soap). She poured half a bottle of ultra-concentrated soap on the sheets and proceeded to soak herself completely but neither clean nor rinse the cookie sheets. Several times, she pulled me from folding laundry: “Check them now, Mama; I think they are done.” Each time, they were still very obviously covered in soap bubbles and baked food residue. It sounds like a little thing, but we’ve had these crazy power struggles over the smallest things, and she likes to make us late (giving her the control). I’m learning to mostly ignore it, and since I didn’t have a timeline, I reminded her each time that we’d leave whenever she finished. All she needed to do was remove the (now easy-to-wipe) food and rinse off the soap.

I gave in a little bit and washed half a pan (thirty seconds) to make sure she truly knew how to do it. I know, I know, that’s what she wanted (and she grinned madly as I did it), but I’m obsessed with giving kids the benefit of the doubt. It’s my Achilles heel and will probably destroy me (or at least will give Hubby something to laugh about. “You know she’s playing you, right?”).

Finally, I told her that if she called me in again and they weren’t done, we could eat cereal at the house. Miraculously, she finished the pans in about four minutes. Dang it…why do I always wait to lay down the ultimatum. Should have done that hours ago. Literally. By then, it was 11 am.

I took her to a favorite all-day breakfast place, explaining that all the fast-food places she liked were no longer serving breakfast. Still, as we passed each one, she grouched, “Why can’t we go there?” After the fourth one, I said, “We can. But you’ll have to get a hamburger.” She was quiet for a minute. “No, I guess this is okay.”  She grumbled through most of the meal and ate with the manners of a 18-month-old (she knows better. Waaaaaaaaaaaay better). After repeated reminders to chew with her mouth closed (food was falling out), I finally had her move to a chair facing me–and facing away from the rest of the restaurant. “You want me to move because you don’t want to sit by me?” she asked. “That’s not it,” I said. “This way I can look at your pretty face. And also the rest of the people here won’t lose their appetite.” She frowned at me, but ate with better manners.

We went to the store for Christmas shopping. She knew we were only getting presents for her brother and several gift exchanges. but repeatedly begged loudly for items as we passed them (also something she only does this time of year), making a scene in the store. I ignored her pleas. Other parents were staring. Let them. For the entire day, she also did the exact opposite of everything I asked, saying innocently, “Ohhhh. Sorry. I thought you said (insert here: opposite of what I said).” That’s been going on since October…I’m thinking of getting a little voice recorder with the instructions so she can play them back. As I write this, I realize it sounds sort of like “normal kid” stuff, but the level is far beyond “normal kid.” It’s utterly exhausting. There’s just no way to describe it fully. If you’ve lived it, you’ll understand.

I am a bit concerned about our Christmas schedule…it’s going to be packed with all the things that make them more crazy. Overstimulation. Loud noises (bells, etc). Sugar. Lots and lots of people, and then all those people leaving to go home. Leaving is always toughest.

I think, though, if  we manage it well, things may go better this year than they have in the past. New resolution for this year’s festivities: a normal bedtime. This will be difficult, because they’ll probably be annoyed to “miss out” when everyone else is still partying, but I think it’s best…and I’m hoping it will work. More sleep may lessen the craziness. Also going to institute naps if they get nutty. Well, nuttier.

And, BONUS…if they get nap time, WE get nap time. Hmmm…I think this could really work.

About Casey

Adoption = my life. I'm determined to give my kids the chance they deserve. Adoption isn't always easy. I promise, you're not alone in this. Join me at - we're in this together.

Posted on December 13, 2014, in Adoption, parenting and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. don’t know how I missed this! Once again I will say how those kids are so lucky to have you. Love the story about the nightlight! Hang in there, I know God is giving you strength!


  2. I cannot imagine how difficult it must be to parent children with traumatic pasts. You have so much courage and love and I truly admire you for that. I hope you all have a wonderful peacefilled Christmas!


  3. It is crazy and exhausting all around. You just get extra “cheer!” Thinking of you! 🙂


  4. appreciate your post very much!


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