I’m about to ban movies and TV from my house altogether. 😉 Seems our only battles with Wes have to do with hearing a “no” regarding TV or movie. (pretty normal for any kid, but especially for those that have never seen a complete show in HD. The only TVs I saw at his orphanage were extremely snowy signal…)
Today started out wonderfully, Wes was very excited to go watch Braeden play baseball, yet he couldn’t quite grasp the fact that he wasn’t going to actually get to play…I don’t think he was counting on 6 hours of “watching”. 😉 Luckily, our team has lots of families with lots of kids to play with, so he got to play soccer and whiffle ball all morning during the 1st game, occasionally coming to check-in on who was playing, or sit with his friends on the bleachers! He is a magnet for females of all ages – it is a bit like watching a grip of monkeys preen each other. He gets petted and coddled…constantly. There are times I have to steer him away or encourage him to remove himself because what we don’t want, is for him to be so comfortable among the attentions of all these strangers that he doesn’t bond with mommy and daddy. Strangers are easy for him – they don’t ask for anything in return, they just love on him and give him back to his family.
With Mommy and Daddy, our love may be unconditional, but our relationship is a two-way street. We love him dearly and shower him with affection, but we also require things in return: “Listen to Mommy”, “Please don’t tell Mommy and Daddy no”, “Eat two bites please”, “Clean up your toys”, “Make sure all your pee goes in the potty [and not on the seat/floor]” etc. etc. The easier person to love is by far the one who asks nothing in return – i.e. strangers or new friends.
So, if you are a new friend, (or stranger), or even a close family member, please understand why we ask that you not shower him with hugs and cuddles for a while even though every stitch of his being is screaming “I’M SO ADORABLE< LOVE ME!!!” 😉 High-fives and fun conversation are fantastic, physical play like soccer and games are awesome. even small quick side hugs and greetings are just fine. But the bonding that happens and builds when he sticks like glue into another loving person is something that we need to happen with us first.
He is an interesting study. When I observe him when we are out and he’s busy making friends, he doesn’t seem to need me much – (unless he’s hungry or needs to pee) – isn’t cuddly or attached, and shrugs off physical touch or attempts at loving on him. I wonder if it’s a learned behavior from big kids at the O…? But in the morning, at 5:30am when he can’t stand to flop in his bed any longer, he crawls up into my bed and sprawls onto my chest, snuggling into my neck, and flinging his arms across me. At night, his eyes light up and he throws his arms up and says “carry me!” when he’s done with teeth and jammies and clings to my frame as he lays his fuzzy head in the crook of my neck just under my tiny ear (Yes. I have tiny ears. Like elfin size small. Like they never grew past age 8, I know, it’s weird. But it leaves a lot of room for a fuzzy brown head to fit under!). He snuggles up close and giggles through bedtime stories, and wraps his arms around my neck for goodnight hugs. I want him to be firmly attached even when others are around – but for now, he plays the aloof cool kid, I think. It will be interesting to see if that changes over time.
Back to today – he made it through an entire 1.5 baseball games before he started glazing over…I packed up Wes and Abby and headed home. When we arrived home, after a snack, they wanted to watch a movie, which was fine – but Abby was picking and for whatever reason, last minute he decided he didn’t want to watch that movie and wanted her to change it. I politely told him no, that if he wanted to watch a movie this was it. To which he sulked through about 5 minutes and then wandered off into the next room to withdraw in his frustration/sadness.
After a few minutes I followed him and tried talking to him, which was met with the (expected) stonewalling. No communication, no eye contact. I scooped him up and took him into my room where we had a battle of the wills for the next hour. It was a sweaty, horrible heartbreaking hour. I had two simple requests – please look at my eyes, and use your words to talk to mommy. I told him he could not do anything else until he did those two things. I told him we would sit there all day and all night until he followed the direction. I was exhausted, he was even more exhausted, and we had a few labored tears and audible hoarse screams at the frustration of it all. Finally, after an hour, he was so tired of fighting that he sat in my arms, limp and quiet. For the last hour I had continued to use calm words (minus the admitted few times where I raised my voice to tell him “stop” or “sit here” when needed and when pushed to exasperation), I had continued to ask him to talk to me, to look in my eyes, and for an hour he proceeded to refuse to even acknowledge my presence other than trying to get as far away from me as possible. He wouldn’t raise his eyes or use any non-verbal cues either.
After the hour long standoff, as he sat in my arms lost in his own grief, and for the 110th time, I said, “honey, Mommy just needs you to look at my eyes and talk to me. If you are sad, I need you to say “mommy, I’m sad!”. And blessed be the Lord Almighty, that little one lifted his eyes and looked right at me and said, “Mommy I sad.” Cue waterworks for Mommy. In full mid-sobbing I hugged him tight and said, “Sweetheart I’m so sorry you’re sad. Thank you for looking at mommy and using your words to tell me you are sad. When you are sad, tell mommy and I will give you big hugs and help you feel better, okay?” and he nodded and said, “okay”.
Oh man. We dried our tears and I said thank you for talking to Mommy with your words and for looking at my eyes. Would you like to go out and play now? And he said Yes…so out we went, and the rest of the night was great – he played outside with Abby and the neighbor’s 4-year old daughter, riding scooters, and singing at the top of his lungs to AJR’s “Weak” LOL that boy loves music. Sometimes he makes up his own words in Creole when he doesn’t understand what the English is saying, which is adorable.
Did I mention that this entire afternoon standoff and evening was done ALONE by mommy because the boys baseball tournament went long and they had to add a 6pm game? GRRRR. LOL I loved baseball until I had a 7-year old Haitian under my roof. 😉 Just kidding.
So – we end yet another night – exhausted, ready for bed, praying tomorrow is easier than today. But – we had a win. I got through it on my own – learned a few things, don’t really want to do that again, so I may try to deal with it a different way next time. Always researching, learning, growing – parenting a child from trauma is a new beast entirely.
Funny side note about tonight’s ordeal – at one point I was so exasperated I began praying out loud over my son, simple prayers that God would heal his heart and calm him and help him settle down – it definitely threw Wes off a bit – he recognizes a prayer when he hears one, and I think he didn’t know if he was supposed to stop his fit and pray with me, or listen or what? LOL – at least I can laugh about that now…in the moment it was not a laughing matter!
Lastly – I feel okay sharing these moments of first transitions home – they are raw and they are beautiful in their own way because over time I think we will all be able to see the progress in his little life and heart. But there will be times where I will not share, because it will be too personal, and because it won’t be my story to share, or because I don’t ever want to overshare his personal life’s struggles. For now, I choose to be real, even when it’s not always pretty.