We walked out of yet another war – over food this time, there was yelling (from her), grit teeth (from me), howls (from her), ultimatums (from me), slammed doors (from both of us). Finally at bedtime a few hours later, a quiet sorry (from both of us), hugs, kisses and cuddles (from both of us).
I’ll try to do better mom! I’ll try to do better baby!
In my head, and the heads of all the people who are her caregivers (parents, grandparents, fond aunts) there is a narrative “Honestly – why is there so much drama over food? ” In a foodie Indian family where food = love, she’s the picky one – so picky it becomes a personal challenge for everyone who tries to tempt her with new and different things. 9 years in and no one has understood her patterns very well, although we have tried.
In addition to food wars, other battles have been about things like reading, math and music – these are abilities that most of the biological family is instinctively good at and we started with the assumption, that she would take to these skills as well. Then we realized, that she didn’t get these topics instinctively and that traditional teaching methods didn’t work with her.
Her creative brain saw the world as a set of crazy, upside down possibilities, her energy left us exhausted; and finally her naughtiness and curiosity made her view everything as “Why not?” instead of “Why?” She had a stubbornness and determination that left us gasping – and we hadn’t seen these particular characteristics in the biological connections within our family.
Occasionally, we’ve talked privately about therapists for us and for her. At other times we tried to rationalize her approach by thinking of other people in the family who were like her. My biological sister, was naughty, hyper and creative – but she was also terrific at reading and math. An uncle was driven by sports and not by math. All these connections that we made were an attempt to understand, rationalize and explain who she is – and with that understanding, to find a way to be a better parent – so we could teach her the things necessary to get her through school, life and everyday. Somehow, this methodology didn’t work too well for us.
I think as parents we instinctively try to find patterns as a blueprint or a dictionary to help us understand what our kids are as yet unable to articulate. We rely on genetic, observable patterns – sort of a dictionary, that gave us clues to a child’s interests, likes and dislikes. This method proved itself out in the case of my biological son (who was our first child). When we adopted my daughter, we went with the same assumptions and found ourselves rapidly in parenting quicksand. Because her dictionary was as yet locked and we didn’t have the keys to unlock it.
After many years of many joyous but also many frustrating moments, we took a pause and said – “what if we were to start with a discovery and observation, not with assumption. What if we were to develop her dictionary because we don’t have one. What would we do differently? ”
This approach became the magical key that unlocked her blue print and changed the entire relationship for all of us. She got calmer because we were listening, not assuming. We got calmer because instead of expecting her to behave a certain way, we observed and asked and navigated. We developed a blueprint together!
In fact, over time we revised the methodology with our biological child as well and found ourselves much better as parents with better connections to our kids – both of them.
There is so much more to discover with these two as they grow and blossom, but the important life lesson my little one taught us about blueprints, will stick with us forever.
I find parenting kids that are adopted is freeing and frustrating at the same time. Freeing in the sense that we get to discover who they are without any preconceived notions about what they “should” be – its a grand adventure and I marvel daily on what interesting, cool and unique people they are. And, many times, thank god they are nothing like me, my husband or our families.
On the other hand, it can feel like flying blind … not knowing if behaviors are learned, inherited, a result of trauma we don’t know about, etc.
But then I remind myself … my sisters and I couldn’t be more different and we are biologically related. So….
As a good friend and mentor in the adoption space said. Its not nurture vs nature, its Nurture their Nature.
I love that.
“Nurture their Nature” Love that! Thanks Tracy!