Monday, October 27, 2014

Yes, you sweet, silly boy! We are keeping you and we love you and you are important too!

We brought Joseph home in May.  My parents were at our house, waiting for us, ready to help us for the first 9-10 days of our transition.  They were the first extended family members whom he met, just 90 minutes after he got off of the plane in Washington DC.  He has been to their old farm house 2 times, for 5-day visits during the summer.  

During his first few hours at the farmhouse, only 18 months old, he wandered into the dining room where my parents have a wall of photographs.  It's a visual family tree, with Dad's family branching to the left, Mom's to the right, and my brothers and I coming down the center, with several more pictures of Abigail, their only grandchild until Joseph entered the family, near the bottom.  Joseph looked and squawked and yelled and pointed at the pictures, to those he recognized, I suppose.  His sister, recent pictures of aunts and uncles and me and his Baba.  And he looked all over the wall, running back and forth the length of the room.  Pointing and yelling and squawking more.  He did this a few times each day for that first visit.  

Then, five weeks later, he did this same thing for his second visit.  I suggested to my parents that he was protesting that he didn't have a picture on the wall.  I took a cute one, ordered an 8"x10" for them online and made them promise to hang it up once it arrived by mail (in a bright orange envelope!).  

Fast forward to Friday night.  We arrived at my parents at about 9 pm.  Joseph was awake because he had an (unfortunately long) nap in the car for a few hours.  After he hugged my parents in the kitchen, he was running through the dining room to the play room full of toys when he stopped and searched the picture wall.  He saw his new, big photo and right away, he began pointing and yelling excitedly at it. He led people by the finger into the room and showed them the picture, yelling happy sounds, excitedly saying words that we didn't understand.  He was so proud.  He made the wall.  He knew he was important like his sister and that This was Permanent and he beamed with joy.  All weekend, he would periodically run into the dining room and check the wall, pointing and smiling radiantly at his photo, so full of pride and happiness that we thought he might explode!  

It was pretty amazing that at 22 months, this is something he decided all on his own was super important and meaningful to him.  

Dear sweet Joseph, how deep do your little thoughts go?  Please start talking so that we know.

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Lonely Adoption Problem, aka: Vampire Child (Cute By Day, Sucks Life out of Parents at Night)

Some adopted kids (but not all) come home to their forever families with issues.  Some have sensory issues or problems with textures.  Some have hoarding problems or other issues with food: eating too much or not enough.  Still others have issues with strangers or feeling distrustful of one gender or another.  Yet others have issues with forming loving bonds and attachment to their new family.  All of these can mostly, if not entirely, be battles that the parents and child can fight together during the long patience of daytime.  If they are lucky, the parents may even be able to enlist the help of other soldiers like immediate family members, grandparents, doctors, or therapists, to help fight the battles.

However, this is not true for parents with children who are battling the demons of sleep issues.  When your child has a sleep issue, you don't have the luxury of summoning up patience and love while you are at your best, but instead, you have to find the compassion and serenity (often multiple times) in the dead of night.  When people vaguely say "let me know if there is anything I can do to help" you can't say "come on over tomorrow about 4 am because that is when my child is going to wake up inconsolable and screaming, and you can deal with it while I get to sleep through it."  No, these are battles that are intimately fought solo, with only Erebus to keep you company.

The way that sleep problems manifest in the night might vary, from quiet, sleepy whimpers that only need a soft touch and comforting whisper to guide the child back into sleep to full blown meltdowns, characterized by quick, deafening, staccato screams and wild, stiff movements, sure indications that his amygdalae were working overtime again, and your poor little kiddo now has so much cortisol coursing through his veins that it will be impossible for either one of you to go back to sleep; get ready for the sunrise because you are now Up For The Day.  

For the parent of kids with sleep issues, knowing that when you lie down for the night, intending to power off and recharge like the device plugged in beside your bed, but aware that you never really get to do so, you never actually get into a deep and restful slumber.  Instead, you are still on alert, never quite shut down, never quite recharging.  

The problem is compounded when your child with sleep problems also doesn't seem to need more than 9 hours of sleep daily, and is still needing and taking a short daytime nap and therefore only getting a little more than 8 hours of rest during the night.  This means that parents who are already stressed-out and sleep deprived have zero time to enjoy a book, have a hobby, watch a movie, catch up on a TV show, or talk about life and decompress over a glass of wine in the evening but instead must send themselves off to bed minutes after the child falls asleep; it is the only way to minimize the zombie effects of spending part of the night awake to comfort a child followed by a 4 - something - o'clock wake up call that is gauran-damn-teed to happen in 8 hours.  

Imagine waking with your child 8 times between 8 pm and 4 am, and then a full-blown meltdown happens.  There the two of you are, at a time when only people catching an early flight and night shift nurses are awake.  Your child, in fight-or-flight mode, short punctuated screams emanating from his little body, not wanting comfort or anything you can provide, and you, roused once again from sleep, at first groggy and then your own amygdalae kick into action.  Your spouse trades places with you so that you can go back to sleep.  But you can't because your child already put you on high-alert and even though you are sleep deprived, you can't help but do the sleep math in your head, "Even if I fall asleep right now, I'll still only have x hours of sleep before I need to slog off to work..."  You even crawl in bed next to your daughter, hoping that her soft rhythmic snoring and warm bed will pull you into their orbit, inviting you back to sleep, but instead, you sob (albeit silently) into a pillow next to her, (simultaneously envious of the 10-11 hours of sleep she is getting and relieved that one of your children is sleeping soundly) because you are exhausted and because no one but your spouse can understand just how exhausted this is and because you cannot see an end to this madness and it is such an emotionally debilitating and lonely job. 

*I want to add that my husband, Father of the Year and Husband of the Year, does the Lion's share of the nightly care taking of our son.  That doesn't mean he is the only one effected by this.  We all are. 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Sunday Snapshot: 5 months home

5 months ago this guy joined our family!
The 3 poses:
1. Joseph, dance for me
2. Joseph, give me your BIGGEST smile
3. Joseph, do a dance and your BIGGEST smile at the same time!
He was wearing these same pants the day we met him, but at that time, they fell right off of him as he was 14 pounds lighter and were long enough to be past the end of his toes as he was many inches shorter!