There is an odd part of the adoption adjustment process that I want to talk about, to kind of sort it out in my head. I've only really actually been able to see it clearly this time around. I suspect it plays out much more with the adjustment of an older child into the family. I'm talking about that boundary...the one that is so hard to cross the first few times.
I'm talking about trouble. I mean Trouble with a capital "T" (to borrow from "The Music Man"). And I guess I should throw out the caveat that I'm only talking about OUR house and family and experience here. So don't flame me, I know well enough that every single adoption - young or old - is unique and different from every other. However, that said, I have noticed something lately, and it feels important, at least to me/us. Its a whole counter intuitive experience.
Trouble. You all know it. There are different kinds of course. But I'm talking about routine 'trouble,' the kind found in oh, every single family in the world. The usual stuff of squabbling and testing boundaries and annoying behaviors and flat out breaking the rules to see how it plays sort of thing. The sulks, the tantrums, the rudeness, the ignoring.....life with kids. Not all kids, not all the time...but really, most every kid, some of the time.
With the adoption of an older child, ok, this older child, there are phases. You can read about them in the books. The honeymoon phase is the most fun, supposedly, the giddiness of meeting and all the excitement of the new.
All new, all the time.
Frankly, its wonderful and exhausting.
Part of that exhaustion comes from that very newness. Every single thing is new, needs to be explained, or pointed out, or giggled over. Everything is heightened. And it takes a little while, but then you realize that everyone is kind of walking through the day on eggshells. Don't make a false step or the eggs will crack and the mess might spill out. Everyone is on their best behavior because no one is quite sure how it will play when they are not.
But you know, that can't last.
It doesn't. And while it is a whole 'nother kind of exhausting to leave that golden honeymoon phase, it is a relief in it's own way. Because now, it becomes real. Things get rocky, possibly very very fast. It can be ugly. It hurts, there can be tears all around - anger, fury even, snits, snot, names, accusations, hopefully not hits pinches and shoves between the kids (but you know, it's possible).
And, as mom, you know what you have to do. You do it before you've analyzed it and set out a plan. You deal. Ideally, calm cool and collected. But, sometimes you (ok, ok: me) react instead of plan. Because while some moms might be able to only discipline in calm cool collection, according to their calmly evaluated plotline...THIS mom tends to react and maybe even has been known to um, yell, once or twice. (I am not admitting this, I am just saying that there is a possibility that there has been a slip or two over the years.)
What I am saying is: the kid(s) are in Trouble. Capital T.
Now. We are in this new phase now. Our new daughter has been in Trouble. Capital T. And it happened before I knew it. It has now happened a number of times. And, really, I now think it is such a good thing. Let me be clear, the trouble itself is not good. No one digs it. But the ability to be in trouble....priceless.
Let me give you a for instance. On this trip, we went to a swishy restaurant with all the kids - because we are maniacs. (But that is a topic for another post.) I won't bore you with the details, but suffice it to say that not long into the dinner, about halfway through, I got up and took Miss Marti outside.
In mom code, that's big stuff. Capital T stuff.
And I took her off to the side of the restaurant and told her in no uncertain terms that she was behaving poorly and in Trouble and it was all not ok. She is a stubborn little gal and so this included some back and forth between us, heads shaking, arms crossed, tears...the works. Shortly, we came to terms. More tears. Now hugs. And a long one. Done.
But then, for the second or third time since she's been home Marti looked at me and laughed a small laugh as she said her (Ethiopian) Mom's name. And then pretty much re-enacted our 'discussion." Then she pointed to me and said my name: "Mom."
I smiled and said, "Yeah. She would have said the same thing. Because we are both moms. Your moms. And we love you. So listen!" And then I got a REAL hug and a REAL smile and we walked inside to continue dinner (Waving at the bar patrons whom I had unwittingly provided the evening entertainment. doh!).
And you know, when she went inside she was happy again. Not sulky.
And it felt like things clicked one more notch down toward settled (still a ways to go, but every notch is something).
Because all that - that discipline, anger, apologize, forgive, move on thing?
And the other kids feel more normal if they know I will take her out (of the restaurant...c'mon on!) and she can get in the same kind of trouble they can.
It's a comfort, in a totally counter intuitive sort of way.
And it's one notch closer to "Normal."
For all of us.