Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Measuring. Or, how to make yourself crazy in older child adoption...

Measuring.
We do it all the time.
I could go on a tear about how we as Americans do it, with everything, but that might be a whole 'nother post....and the point is that we do it consciously or unconsciously...ALL THE TIME.

But let's stay focused: as parents we measure...what? Everything, right? Right!
And no matter  how you became a parent, you still measure everything..right?
Hmmm.  Think maybe not? Well, consider:

My Chris, this pic makes me laugh...goofy baby pics, gotta love em.

If you are having a baby, by which I mean, you are pregnant and are gonna literally give birth to a child...from the very moment you find out you are pregnant, there you are: measuring.
You measure how many weeks along you are, you count the days since your last period, you count how many months ahead til your due date.  Then you go to the doctor and they too immediately start measuring: they measure your belly for the first time (and they will keep that up until it just alarms you) they measure your weight (again, this continues to a shocking gain - unless you tell them to 'quit that' as I did when I just couldn't take the numbers on that scale anymore).  They measure and they measure.  Thus, it's no surprise that you are unwittingly indoctrinated into this habit of measuring and by the time that baby pops out - or, if you're measuring, is pushed out after 21 hours of labor that felt like 45, taking what must be 3 years off  your life with the effort - you are measuring without even realizing you're doing it.  And of course, they whisk the baby away and do all sort of measuring with fancy names like APGAR and fill in fancy charts and graphs with the incessant measuring.


It doesn't end there, once you are home you measure the amount the baby sleeps or doesn't, how much they eat or don't, or if you're nursing, how often and how long, you measure their hair with your fingertips and count their toes again and again just to be sure they are all there and as cute as you remembered 5 minutes ago.  Then you start the next phase of measuring which is only slightly less number based: the developmental milestones.  As you can see, it just goes on and on and on, in one form or another...the rest of their measured little lives!

Now it's easy to think, "Aha, but I'm adopting, that doesn't even apply to me." 
Well, hang on Roy Rogers...sure it does.
Because if you're adopting an infant, well you get ALL the infant measuring from the moment of birth onward and then some.  Yeah, you're gonna get those APGARS and count those toes, don't think you'll skip that part.
Sweet Sarah

But you get the added perk, to make up for the personal belly measuring, of measuring Your. Entire. Life. in order to see if it measures up to the standards of your social worker, the agency, the judges, the police FBI feds government, even if it measures up to Homeland Security if you're adopting internationally.  Nope, you don't get a "pass" on measuring in the adoption lanes.
So yeah, you'll be measuring your weight after all, and your spouse's, your other kids, even your dog's weight (Think I'm kidding about the dog? Check out our dossier, I kid you not).  You'll measure your finances and traffic fines, your health and your fitness to parent, and on and on. Let's not even get started on measuring and counting the wait!
Finally, when that happy day comes and  you are holding that little one in your arms, well, you will sob with amazement and then you'll go right back to the measuring game like the rest of the parents.


But this post isn't about that, not really.....
This post is about the measuring done in a whole 'nother zone: the zone of Older Child Adoption.
In that world, that lane of family building, the measuring takes on all new meaning and form.

And, it's not good.

The measuring that is done in Older Child Adoption is not nearly so factual or innocuous.
This measuring is more insidious and unconscious and, frankly, is a big huge bear trap.

Because what they don't tell you in the adoption books is that we moms, we measure us
We measure ourselves against the first mom, against our ideas of what a perfect mom is supposed to be do or how they should appear (...again, like in the fashion ads, it's always the Benetton mom..but I don't have a stylist following me around every day..I know you thought I did, lots of folks make that mistake...but I don't). 
But even all that, that's not the worst of it.
The measuring that is killing us, we moms who have adopted older children, and/or children from the hard places, is the measuring of our feelings.
Our FEEEEEELINGS.
Hear that screeching just saying it? Yeah, my voice goes up an octave or two, on the hard days, when I even say that word out loud.
But taking our emotional temperature, checking in with our feelings (love, like, affection, annoyance, disdain, dislike) most of the time, is a trap.
I'm not saying never do it.
But I'm saying  you need to do it far, far, far less often that you think.

In fact, I would like to point out that I believe we moms, in this circumstance of Older Child Adoption, tend to take our emotional temperature...constantly.  I think we, without even realizing it, are always having it on our radar scroll, just like our own personal emotional CNN.  It's our ENN (Emotional News Network).

But this is one of the huge differences in older versus younger or infant adoption.
These feelings take longer, there is more to build to learn to absorb to work through...for all parties.
In older child adoption the primal human process of bonding is skewed and twisted all around.  The trauma that is inherent in older child adoption (and it is, always, to varying degrees) and/or the prior family experience all influence the new bonding, and it's efforts; what it looks like, how it plays, how it stalls, what form it eventually takes.
For all involved, all of it, every bit of it, takes time.  Unknowable, unmapped time.
These older children come to us as whole persons; with personalities and traits and hearts already formed and molded to a very very large degree. 
And so, if any or all of you are taking that emotional temperature, if you're measuring constantly or even daily (much less hourly or minutely)...you will lose your mind.   You're setting the stage for crazy.

So stop it.
Yup. Stop it.
Stop the measuring!
I might tattoo that, too, on my forehead so I can look at it every time I brush my teeth.
Stop the measuring!
Measuring implies a mark that must be reached.
There is no mark.
A dear friend told me, at the very start of this last adoption, "Don't take your emotional temperature every day.  Just don't."
She's right.
Another dear friend told me recently, "Stop being so hard on yourself and measuring to what you think it's supposed to be.  What if this, right now, is ALL it's supposed to be? This.  This IS good enough."

And I guess that's what I am still chewing on, hence this looong rambly post.
But I think we mom's, me, need permission to accept that we don't have to measure every moment, every day, every thing.  We can stop the ENN scroll bar.  We don't have to even know our emotional temperature.  We don't have to feel our emotional temperature.  Once more: Love is not about the feelings.
So, let's stop scanning our feeeeelinnngs.
And let's kick that bit of crazy right out of our days.
With older child adoption, we are here. We are in place.  We are doing it, all of it.


And that's good enough.
By any measure.

9 comments:

emily said...

Such a great post my friend. Thank you.

Diane and family:-) said...

Wondering if you ever read the book suggestion, One Thousand Gifts...to say Eucharisteo....in this moment of Thanksgiving. If you have not, again, just suggesting. Somehow, in all the measuring of life...maybe we forget the simple thankfulness of it all.....at least I did. This book has given me some new insight into giving Thanks.....in all things!!

Just a suggestion:-)

coffeemom said...

Diane, Yes, always giving thanks is best. And it's easy to forget in the measuring and counting of it all. I agree it's super important to look up and say "deo gracias"… and I do. Even more now bc I have learned that MY measures only count for…not so much. That it's not about the measuring, but rather the being present. It's all easy to forget and/or to succumb to the desire of measures that jive up to your presumed desires.
And…that sometimes our measuring stick is not the one to measure by.
These posts help me process all that, again and again. BC that's how I roll.

Thanks for commenting!

Wolfemom said...

my favorite line... Love is not about the feelings! A motto for parents of older children to live by!!

lisa said...

THANK YOU!!! just what i needed to hear and yes a tatoo maybe in order!!!lisa

Christine said...

Yes, it's about staying present, I think. The measuring can be a distraction and also tie a mom to the whipping post. Gah! A terrible place. I love this post.

Jen said...

Whoah. Yet another really really needed and good post. Love your honesty and insight. Loved talking to you last night.

Amy @ Literacy Launchpad said...

Love this post, and it was JUST what I needed to read tonight. I must admit I have the baby itch, and I think it is all because I want to have those ooey gooey feelings for another child... that aren't there yet for my older two.

Love readings these comments too and seeing that I'm not alone. Yes, I need the tattoo as well. Maybe mine can read "You're present, and that's enough."

The Raudenbush Family said...

What a great post - would you allow me to repost this on www.wearegraftedin.com? I'd need a short bio and a picture of you to put with it. Let me know what you think!
Kelly