I love my kids. And both of them saw more tragedy in the first months of their little lives than I have experienced, well, ever. There is a reason behind every odd behavior. Maybe not every behavior from my big four and a half year old. (and yes, I know I have been referring to him as "the big four and a half year old" a lot lately, but this is how he sees himself, so I'm just going with the flow.) I am not so wrapped up into being an adoptive parent that I think that every mis-step on Matthew's part is adoption related. Basically he is a
Yesterday after school the boys and I were sitting at the kitchen table, having a snack. Well, actually, Matthew was sitting at the table, having a snack. OK, you got me. Matthew was squatting on his kitchen chair, eating a Popsicle. How he does not tip that chair over more often is beyond me. (I know what you are thinking: how many times has he fallen out of his chair? I honestly cannot say. I have lost count.) So, Matthew is "matthew sitting" in his chair and Alex is half standing, half sitting in his high chair, screaming at me and pointing in the general direction of the fridge. I am also not sitting. I am standing in the middle of the room, halfway between the fridge and my boys, fighting back the urge to see if my two year old can catch a flying piece of cheese while I fight back tears.
Here is what the food hostage exchange looked like:
me: how about a popsicle?
toddler: yes. and he shakes his head "yes".
me: hand over popsicle.
toddler: throws popsicle on floor while saying "no no no."
(repeat this exchange for every color popsicle in the box.)
me: cheese? (I say this while holding up a slice of cheese and smiling my best fake smile.
toddler: yes. and this time he smiles.
me: hand over cheese.
toddler: throws cheese at brother while screaming and attempting to rocket himself out of high chair.
me: maybe you are not hungry? I make a move to lift him out of the high chair.
toddler: screams no and takes a swing at me while signing "eat".
repeat this scenario, oh, I don't know, fifty times and you will come to understand how I finally picked him up out of the chair, set him on the floor, sat down at the table and said to his older brother: "You saw him saying "yes" to all that food, right? What is the matter with him?" And Matthew, in his always spot on four year old logic replies "That kid is crazy, Mommy."
I wish. That kid is not crazy. He is frustrated with the language barrier. He is teething. He is hungry. He is trying to assert his independence. He is two. Oh my God, he is so many things. He is not a purposely trying to drive me crazy. Although sometimes he is. I swear, sometimes he really is trying to drive me over the edge. He gets this look in his eye and makes sure that he has my complete attention before purposely dropping his food over the side of his high chair. And if he is really mad at me he will scoop it up by the handfuls and throw it. He has a moody streak, this one.
And I know what some of you are thinking. He is 26 months old. He will survive if he misses a meal. He is old enough to learn that there are consequences to throwing food and throwing tantrums. And I agree. But he is adopted. He is still bonding and learning to trust us. He has food issues that most likely stem from day after day of not getting enough to eat. I was there, at his orphanage. I witnessed snack time and meal time. And it was heartbreaking. So there is no way I am letting this boy think he is being punished or go without eating. Now, if my four year old acted this way, yes, he would be removed from the table. But his food issues are a thing of the past.
But oh how quickly we forget. I barely remember the time, when Matthew had only been home a month or so, that he bit me so hard we both landed on the floor. I was holding him, his head resting peacefully on my shoulder, and we were standing at the refrigerator, with the freezer door open. He bit me. Hard. Startled I bent forward in an effort to both push him away and prevent myself from dropping his tiny little 16 month old body. When I bent forward I let go of the freezer door, allowing it to swing back closed. Only I righted myself and stood up before the door had closed all the way, which resulted in me smacking my head, hard, on the freezer door. That was when we both went down. I remember sitting on the floor, holding Matthew with one arm and my head with the other, crying. I am sure those tears were only in small part from the pain. They were from the days of constant grunting and temper tantrums at the dinner table. They were from the near constant biting of mommy only. They were from the arm and backaches of never. being. able. to. set. this. child. down. never. ever. They were from the night terrors and the fact that I couldn't figure out why he always smelled like pee.
Yes, there were a lot of tears back then. And then, one day, it all smoothed out. And now, the tears are back. They seem worse this time around. They probably aren't, but they seem worse.
Maybe it is because Alex is older than Matthew was when he joined his forever family. Maybe I am expecting too much from this little guy. Maybe I just don't remember the occasional lows our first few months with Matthew. It's probably a combination of both. I don''t know. But one thing I do know; whatever is going on is leading to major mommy guilt.
My mantra these past few days:
it is ok to be frustrated. it is ok to me tired. it is ok to be thankful when the boys go to daycare/bed. it is ok to walk away and tag daddy in. he is not trying to drive me crazy. this is probably harder on him than it is on me. it is ok to let him scream when I pry him off of me and into daddy's arms - I have it on good authority that he immediately stops crying when I leave the room. and maybe most importantly, this too will pass.
I repeated this mantra last night over and over and over again. I sounded like Atticus Shaffer from The Middle.
If this continues much longer you may find me muttering to myself in the grocery store or curled up in the fetal position in my kitchen with a Popsicle stick in my ear. Tonight when I pick the kids up I am going to try not to drag the big four and a half year old into my drama. I shouldn't really be asking him for his opinion on his brother's behaviors. That kid already has way too much power around here...
I'm planning to color my hair tomorrow. Not related to adoption guilt, just thought you would want to know.