Saturday, February 14, 2009

I am a fool

I'm not the brightest bulb in the chandelier. I never will be. That I accept. This parenting thing with Jia is making it painfully clear to me - I'm not sure if I'm doing the right things or not when disciplining her. It's like I'm finding my way with her, with both kids, to find a balance and approach that works best. Is it like that with every parent? I suppose if I wasn't such a type A personality, I might be able to handle things better. Or is that a delusion on my part?

Our first adoption went so smoothly. Not the mechanics of it, but the bonding, attachment, Kenzie's acceptance of us, her quiet, easy-going ways... I kept saying she was such a great kid because of her personality, because of the kind of kid she was - that we were this happy family because we ended up with a child who was easy to parent. My husband kept saying that it was also because we were good parents... that we had a hand in her being such a good kid. I only believe part of that - if we had been abusive parents, she would not have been this happy, sweet, loving, child that we have brought up.

I had doubts about my parenting skills, but began to believe (just the faintest little bit) Roy's version of why Kenzie was such a wonderful child. In doing so, I lulled myself into thinking I could handle anything that came our way with our second child. Everyone said to me that going from one to two kids is not twice as hard, it's ten times as hard.

They hadn't met Jia.

It's not ten times as hard, it's far more than that.

From the start, we were overwhelmed with her touching everything in sight, not listening to us, and generally not taking anything we tried to teach her seriously.

Jia is super smart - I see it every day. And I don't want to dampen her exuberance. She can be a really fun and funny kid. And she is really enjoying life - eating it up like six scoops of your favorite ice cream... except I'm the one who's getting the ice cream headache.

It's been difficult... and I'm not used to having a kid (who, by the way, is more like my personality than Kenzie is) with so much going for her, but for whatever reason, she just isnt' getting it. And then I realize, it's not that she's got problems. I'm the one with the problem.

She's a normal kid.

This is what a normal kid is like. This is what REAL parenting is all about. Jia in many ways reminds me of my brother Richard. She is super intelligent - and I can tell because she is talking in fairly complete sentences and can tell you what is going on and I guarantee that you'll understand everything she's saying - and it's only been three months. She is logical, but not in calm way (how do I explain this...?) She can figure things out for herself, and is great at explaining how something is supposed to work or what order we do things in or she'll tell me what order she expects something to happen in - and her order is extremely logical.

At the same time, I have had to tell her for the thousandth time not to do something, and she'll be doing okay and then BAM! She looks you straight in the face and does it anyway. Is it forgetfulness? Is it defiance? Or is she assuming that because we let her do one thing (like allow her to play with a program on Kenzie's computer) that she thinks she can touch anything she wants on Kenzie's computer - such as the on button - to which she turned off Kenzie's computer the wrong way...) If she's testing me, then she gets what she's testing for... another time out.

At least now, with the time outs, I can sit and talk with her while she throws her kicking and screaming fits and she understands what is being said. In between, she stops and wants me to hug her, and then she lays back down and screams and kicks - frustration, mad, anger, and the ever present phrase "I'm not happy." No shit, kiddo!

I don't know about her, but I'm insanely, deliriously, giggly happy to have a kid who refuses to listen to what I say or follow my directions or take to heart my suggestions.

I have to joke about it, because if I can't make myself laugh, I'm going to be doing a lot of crying. And I don't like crying.

I think one of the hardest things for me is, she'll start a crying jag when she isn't given her way, and when I make some kind of comment about something else, she immediately stops crying and smiles, as if there was nothing wrong. So why was she crying??? Was it real hurt or anguish??? Or was it manipulation??? I have no clue - I know nothing about her life in the orphanage, so I have nothing to guide me. My philosophy is that unless I know what happened, doing nothing is better than reacting to an unknown. I pretty much ignore the crying anymore unless I know that there was an argument between her and Kenzie or that she got physically hurt.

Maybe she is settling in. Maybe I'm getting a little better. Maybe things aren't going to be all that bad after all... because yesterday was a good day. Instead of time out, I talked with her instead. Like when she took an erasable marker and marked all over a plastic bowl she had. Kenzie brought it to me and showed me (ever the little tattle tale) and I had Jia come to me. I took the marker from her and asked her if the marker was for writing on bowls. She said no - she knew she'd done wrong and was doing her best not to break down in tears. I told her that if the marker could be washed off the bowl, she could have her marker back, but no more writing with it on anything other than the book it was meant to be used on. But if it didn't come off, I would keep it until she wanted to use it for the book, but she would have to give it back to me until I was sure she would use it correctly every time.

You could literally see her holding her breath as I washed the bowl. Kenzie was, too, but I think she was secretly hoping it wouldn't come off. It washed off easily, and I told Jia she was very lucky, gave her back the marker and just said, "No more marking on bowls, plates, or cups... only use it in the book." She shook her head yes (visibly relieved but also big tears in her eyes). I hugged her and let her go on to play.

And the whole day was like that - no getting angry, no "monster mommy" getting crazy with her head spinning in circles (a joke between Kenzie and me - something that makes her laugh at me because I am not always a calm person). I spent yesterday talking with Jia to let her know what she was doing wrong and what she could do right. Until the evening.

I dunno about you, but goofing off with a tooth brush in your mouth, not brushing your teeth when told to, and running around with the tooth brush in your mouth is a capital offense in my house. (Ok, that's a joke - but the running around with the tooth brush in her mouth is something she knows she's not supposed to do, and too dangerous not to emphasize with time out. That is, time out with a talk while she is being punished.)

The one thing I am grateful for is that she is learning she can ask me for things. Last night, she asked for me to hold her. So I did. I held her and rocked her. And we had plenty of cuddle time for both of them yesterday... so maybe that was also a factor in keeping calmer - for all of us.

I know Jia will begin to catch on to our rules and family dynamics. I'm hoping Kenzie's jealousy will calm down a bit. Things will begin to settle down at some point. And I am working to calm the "monster mommy" inside to a purring kitty cat.


Super Mommy said...

Julie - this is the way it is - you have to have one challenging child!! My girls were the same way. Jade was the perfect child - but she was also very laid back. Jasmine is not high strung - but she is mini me for sure. I have to to check myself with her daily. Yes Jia is testing you and will continue to do so - millions of times. Stay consistent. Enjoy it.

mncfi said...

Wow - you articulate the challenges here so clearly. Your girls are clearly both dearly beloved, and each brings something special to your family.
I have kids like Kenzie - sweetly compliant almost all the time. And I have a spunky little boy who can make me crazy if I let him. But how I love the way he faces challenges - head-on, let me at 'em, and with a smile on his face. It's such a breath of fresh air. I have to do a lot of re-assuring and a lot of pep talking round here. I love it of course, but I also love my little wild boy who just leaps at the next page. I reckon Jia sounds a bit like him.
~ Fiona

cabbagemintor said...

Just some ideas from my own experience.
Kenzie's "jeolousy": She must have some doll she loves very much. Show her she might wish to love Jia as much as her favorite dollie. Point out older sisters to her and tell her that she and Jia will be good friends for life just like them. Plan joint projects for them in the house, garden, or granny's place. Give Kenzie a role in comforting or teaching Jia. Ask Kenzie to tell you why she is upset about mei mei and in future, ask her to write down her "complaints." I remember a note by the little terror (aged 9) to me: "Da Car Chair (cantonese for eldest sister) hit me very hard on my shoulders today. Is she allowed to do that? Please don't tell her off as I am very kind-hearted." And the eldest(aged 8): "W is the worst sister ever. She has no brains." LOL!!

I think Jia is very very clever if she has such a logical mind. She does not know yet how to relate to your rules, so she relapsed back to her usual defiance, throwing tantrums etc. Those acting up are also comforting to her because that was what sustained her in the past. She will find better ways to react in no time. Watch this space.