Friday, August 23, 2013

Nurture and structure

It started last night while I waited for Walker, whose flight had been delayed from Chicago, to come home. Minutes before midnight, I heard her crying. I went into her room, rocked her several minutes, kissed her, laid her back down. She cried again.

Walker came home and went up to her, tried to soothe her. Didn't work. She began screaming, a weird, new 'cat scream'. Furious. Hysterical. After ten minutes I told him to go to bed and I took over.

Both of the girls awake, crying, miserable. Sent Maggie to Eva's room. Told Bethie to lie down, and she did, but wouldn't fall asleep. As soon as I thought she was, I'd try to sneak out, she'd pop her head up and scream. Finally I brought my pillows and my Kindle and climbed into the top bunk of Maggie's bed.

So now it's 2:00 am.
She sleeps.
Till 5am.
In case you weren't counting, that was a whopping three hours of slumber.

At 7am I ran up to HEB to buy popsicles and watermelon for the 40 or so people who were due to arrive at my house in three hours for a last-day-of-summer bash.

At 8am Walker left to drive to Houston. She whined. She screamed. Maggie whined. And screamed. Ike whined. And screamed. All I wanted to do was whine. And scream.

I put her down in her crib to nap. She screamed some more and hit me.

Then I made the decision to walk out of the room before I completely lost control. 

And texted about forty people and told them the awesome last-day-of-summer swim party with popsicles and watermelon was canceled, because I. Could. Not. Deal. Which completely infuriated my other kids.

So now everyone is mad at me and I am mad at everyone.

Already a really, really, really bad day.
And it was only 9am.

Friends came to the rescue, took one kid to one playdate and three other kids to swim and I laid down with her and tried to get one or both of us to sleep. When she finally napped, I couldn't. Because this is what happens when you adopt a kid. They freak out, they have a tantrum, they scream all night, they act clingier than usual, they begin hugging strangers. They do all the stuff they did when they first came home. The stuff you thought you had gotten past. The stuff you thought you'd conquered. The stuff that they had quit that made you think you were a fantastic mom with a happy attached kid.

So when you finally try and get your exhausted self to sleep, you analyze the hell out of it. Was it from our trip to Houston? That's when the tantrums began. Was it from the Ethiopian food we had when we came back? Did that trigger some repressed memory? Was it that time she got left behind for ten minutes? Did those ten minutes erase six months of attachment?

Is it me? It must be me. Obviously, it's me, I'm the mom. What have I done to make her insecure? How have I backtracked on all the progress?  Have I not been loving lately? Have I been too tired and cranky? Have I been too strict? What exactly, precisely, specifically have I done to completely decimate her psyche? 

WWKPD? What would Karyn Purvis, the adopted child whisperer, do? Well, she wouldn't need to do anything, because she would have have gotten herself in this situation. Okay, WWKP tell Missy to D?

My friend Grace texts me, KP would say: amp up the nurture and structure. 

Nurture and structure. That's what kids from hard places need. Nurture and structure.

Isn't that what all kids need, hard places or not?

Isn't that what I NEED? Nurture, which I am completely bereft of since my husband has been out of town for the better part of two weeks. Structure, which we have not had since school let out in June. Oh, Lord, how I crave structure.

The day did not improve. At Meet the Teacher, one of them refused to look her teacher in the eye or allow herself to be hugged. And by the fourth classroom, the eighteenth form to fill out, the tenth "I'm hungry/thirsty" whine, one of them screamed NO in my face when I told him to go outside. In front of the new teacher who had just been refused a hug. While the little one literally climbed on my back and did the cat scream thing. In front of the new teacher. And several parents.

One of the top five Bad Mommy Days ever. 

Which makes me remember, as I shower after sending three children straight to bed at 6pm.

I had bad mommy days before I adopted. Lots of 'em. Lots and lots and lots.

I had two year olds who threw tantrums, who hit, who acted super clingy for no discernible reason. Who sometimes flat out pissed me off. Who I sometimes had to leave in their cribs and just walk away. In fact, I had exactly four two year olds who acted like this. And come to think of it, every single one of them started having sleep issues when they were...about Bethie's age. Started waking up at night, screaming, acting scared. At the time, I chalked it up to a developmental leap, bad dreams resulting from a suddenly very active imagination. I actually chalked it up to them being bright and creative. I don't once recall blaming myself for it.

Maybe it's an adoption thing. Maybe it's the food or the travel or me being an absolutely sucky mom.

Or maybe that's just the way that two year olds act sometimes, regardless of where they gestated. Especially when they are lacking nurture and structure.

Maybe the kid who screamed all night and whined all day is just really, really normal.

Maybe she just needs a hug, and a rock, and to be told several times it's time to go to bed.

And maybe that means that I'm not a bad mom after all.
I'm just a mom who, for the love of all things, desperately needs some nurture and structure. 
And a hug, and a rock, and to be told it's time to go to bed. 


  1. Amen.

    This afternoon? Emmy woke up from her nap screaming. "Swiper's gonna swipe me! I don't like my room!" That was after she spent the entire morning literally hanging from my neck as I prepared for school.

    And my five-year-old? Won't stop yelling in my face. The more I respond, the more he does it.

    So yeah, maybe you're a really normal mom, with a really normal kid.

    Or maybe we're bad at this together. =)

  2. I needed to read this to today.For today. For future days. My kids are grown but my youngest grandchild has serious issues and this, well, thank you!

  3. I know it's so, so hard during times like these, but make "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me" your own personal mantra. Not some things. ALL things. As long as you've got Jesus, you've got this. And knowing you as I do as a blog-stalker (heh), girl, you've GOT this. :)

    Praying for you!

  4. Sounds like you are tired, girl. Being tired makes everything so much harder to deal with. I'm hoping Walker gets to stay home for a couple weeks, so he can share a bit of the load. The beginning of school is always a crazy time. Throw in a few transitions, like the end of summer, moving, and maybe adopting a beautiful new baby girl, and you've got yourself a flat out marathon. Hang in there, you are a great mama, and you can all get through this. :) I love your blog. Thank you so much for sharing this, and for all the other encouragement you have given me the last few years. xo

  5. Today was a crappy day here too. I keep thinking what is going on with my kids and how bad of a mom am i that they act this way? ! Of course, they're children. "This way" is normal.

  6. It has been a crappy week here. The Hubs is back in nursing school after a summer off (just working) so my kids are testing boundaries, needy, difficult, sweet, difficult,... and one has special needs and I think at the end of each day this week, "What did I do right today? Did I help him with any skills today??" Right now he is SCREAMING from his crib for some unknown reason.
    All that to say this nurture and structure reminder and reminder that I'm not a bad mom is just what I needed at the end of this lonnnnnnng week.

  7. It was a Crappy Mommy Day here and I have birthed all these children. May God bless you and help you through this.

  8. I just want to thank you for voicing this. As I was in tears for the third time today praying over my cold lean cuisine pizza, I asked God to show me how to be a better mom, the mommy He wants me to be. And your post is where He led me & I could finally exhale. Thank you for reminding me that this is part of the mommy job description & the toddler job description.

  9. Know you are not alone and that you are being covered in prayer. Sometimes there are just no explanations. Get some rest, ask for help if you need to and know it will pass eventually. I promise, as I have been there.

  10. Beautiful words. I so very much needed to hear them. Thank you! Praying for you and your family and for nurture and structure!

  11. Ah yes... the never ending "is it developmental, personality or adoption related?" questions. It's impossible to discern. And I love (but sometimes hate) Karyn's answer to it. "Yes". It's probably all of those ;) I love that... WWKPD? I will be using that in the future, lol.
    I also wanted to suggest to you that our children have anniversaries that our children's bodies remember, even if their conscious memories do not. For instance, my friend has two children from ET. The spring before they came home, their orphanage ran into some problems and the children were going hungry. Every year since they have been home (going on 3 years), every spring they freak out that she isn't feeding them, they are starving and hungry, they cry and rage and are furious with her for starving them even though she is feeding them ALL DAY LONG. After days of this their first year home, she clued into the fact that their bodies are remembering the anniversary of this event in their life. Now that they have better grasp of English and are older, she can explain to them that this is what happened to them - that they are not starving here in their forever family and never will. And it gets better quickly. But I can tell you the first year this happened she was completely thrown for a loop and going out of her mind! Now she just expects it. So... Ruthie could be grieving something you have no idea of. I would suggest writing it down somewhere so that you can keep track. And check if she does something similar about this time next year. If so, it will be something you can prepare yourself for. If not... then she was probably just being 2 ;)

    1. There is nothing that I know of that happened on this day....I honestly am not sold on the 'trauma-versery' theory, with younger kids. I just don't think that they are aware, at all, of the calendar. I'm barely aware of what day it is half the time!

  12. Hugs to you. But one thought, does she have her 2 year old molars yet? I was baffled with all of my 2 year olds suddenly waking and crying all night until later I realized they had been working on their molars. Praying for your family!

    1. I was wondering if it was molars. She has all four tho, so I can't use that one :/

  13. Yes. Just, absolutely yes.

    Sometimes kids are just kids. Not adopted/traumatized/ohnoimtheworstparentever kids. Just KIDS. And sometimes kids are jerks because that's just how kids are.

    In our experience, if one is being a jerk they're all going to go downhill fast. Again, kids.

    We are all excellent parents. But sometimes kids are just kids and days are just hard.

  14. Oh Missy! I so get this!!! We have had our daughter home from Ug@nd@ approx. 18 mos. We still go through some of the newly home issues but the time between the "outbreaks" keeps getting longer. (Praise God!) But then I usually feel like I got sideswiped by a bus...just sayin'.
    Hang in there...I constantly remind myself that there is still so much healing going on in her heart and mind. The encouragement to me is friends who notice the healing and say so. And the constant reminders from our Big God that He understands in every way how hard the adoption and bonding process is...because He is there every day.

  15. Love this post. I'm so thankful for your honest approach to blogging. I know its not everyone's thing but I'm so glad its YOUR thing. So refreshing and encouraging. I just wish I knew an adoptive mama of a 2 yr old to forward it to right this very minute!

  16. Thank you for writing this. I don't have kids, but I think it's such an important and interesting journey to be an adoptive parent. It's all a journey I try and will be a story to share one day..and a point of grace and growth.

  17. Love this! I have stalked your blog for some time now. :) We brought our 4-year-old daughter home from ET just over 3 months ago. This morning before church I nearly lost my mind...I thought we were OVER the defiance and complete melt-downs, but no. Ugh. Right there with you!!! Trying my hardest to let God take over in loving and guiding her when I am just too darn tired and weak! You're doing great though! This too shall pass, right???

    1. My friend Loralynn texted me and the first thing she said was "REMEMBER THIS IS TEMPORARY!" Easy to forget when you're in it tho!

  18. Our daughter came home at almost 3 yrs old. She's now 6 1/2. We STILL have these days, from time to time. It's hard to discern whether it's her past (which NO child should ever have to live through), attachment issues, or just being a kid who wants her way at times. We decided long ago that we'd parent the same way, regardless, and that decision has saved my life. I'm called to be a consistent, nurturing mom regardless of the reason for the behavior. The best advice I ever got was this "You can't fix what you didn't break, but you can replace those memories with good ones".
    It's been a long time now since we've had a major meltdown. She is secure, confident and bonded 99% of the time. Why is it that the 1% gets to me so much? who knows? Probably a pride issue for me.
    Regardless, Ive been in your shoes, and I'm praying for you today!

    1. Yeah I am pretty much going with the "treat you like a regular kid until proven otherwise' method. It seems to have worked this weekend.

  19. Been there too -- that extra wondering if it's an adoption thing, or just a kid thing, has driven me crazy at times too. And I'm sure it will again when our next one comes home! Thanks for the reminder to just deal with it and not beat myself up or hold myself to an impossible standard of Purvishness.

  20. This ends with so much truth, friend. I pray you come back and read it when the darkness closes in. You are involved in a holy work, a great struggle. Of course there are times when it's hard, but it does not reflect you. You are loved, forgiven, redeemed and restored. You have the Christ indwelling your very being. You have stepped into the gap to love and nurture that sweet Bethie, and God will help you to do it.

    Love you. (Can't wait to hug you. Squeeee!)



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