Sometimes when we look at our beautiful children we don't see their angelic faces, but instead see only their behavior. We might see their struggles with learning, or their inability to love us the way we think they should. We might see the little boy who constantly hits his brother, or the young girl who won't stop pulling the dog's tail. We might see endless cups of spilled milk, toy chests dumped on the floor, books with pages torn out. I think this is normal. And if it is not, no one tell me. I don't want to know yet another way I am not the typical mom.
If you have been reading my ramblings for a while now then you know that the past nine months with our youngest son have been a tad difficult. Actually, the last two months have been pretty good. But the seven months before that? Hardest of my life. The bonding came easily. I had a new little shadow following me around everywhere I went before we left Russia. A few months in to our new routine at home as a family of four I was receiving lots of hugs and "kiss kiss". (sickly sweet, I know, but I say "kiss kiss' and my tiny toddler gives me the sweetest little kiss on my cheek.) But the trust and security came more slowly. The "unlearning" of the fight or flight behaviors came very slowly. And as an adoptive mother I often felt like there was nowhere to turn for comfort. My friends with biological children just have no idea the impact of twenty-four months of institutional living. These women friends are loving and intelligent and awesome mothers, but their advice is often not usable on a newly adopted child. Typical behavior modification techniques are not always the appropriate answer to the questions of self preservation behavior. And the world at large is so sweet in their collective response to the new addition to the family that an adoptive mother often feels as though she has no right to be sad, or tired, or frustrated.
Our world slowed down and started to right itself two months ago. Oh, there are occasional glimpses of that angry little boy, but more and more we see his sweet and funny disposition starting to peek out. Time, and love, and patience, makes the days easier and easier, but the memories are slower to fade. There are still times when I look at my tiny toddler and see the anger. I see the food purposely thrown on the floor and the diaper purposely removed. I see the crib sheets torn off and the toys that were thrown at me, at my husband, at the big four and a half year old. I see the tiny tornado who could single handedly tear apart a room. I see the screaming, the hitting, the constant angry outbursts. My tiny toddler can be sitting on the living room floor playing quietly with his blocks and sometimes I still see the "before picture".
But others, those people on the outside of our craziness, they see something different. And the other day I saw my tiny toddler through their innocent eyes. And it was beautiful.
The whole family went to the firefly play cafe for the big four and a half year old's China play group. Both of my boys had a great time running around, climbing, bouncing, sliding, riding toy cars and playing dress up. The tiny toddler only had a few tiny outbursts that prompted him to clear the magazines and children's books off a low table. I was calm and totally enjoying playing with my boys. A part of me was still on "alert" though, keeping a close and watchful eye on my young son in case of an unexpected tantrum. Every so often he would come and find me and lift his arms high while saying "up, momma", and I would pick him up and settle him on my hip, where he would pop his thumb into his mouth and stroke my hair with his other hand. And my adoptive mommy friends all said the same things to me. "He is really such a sweet boy." "He is so beautiful!". "Look at his smile- so precious." "He really loves his mommy, doesn't he?"
And I suddenly saw my tiny toddler through their eyes. The filter of behavior issues, messes, tantrums, and chaos was lifted. With true clarity I could see the genuine smile of my son. I could relax as I held him and enjoy our closeness without tensing up in case he started swinging. I saw his deep brown eyes full of love instead of anger. And they have probably been that way for a while now. I just wasn't looking hard enough. Once again, seeing my life through someone else's eyes brought everything into focus. Once again I am grateful to my adoptive mommy friends, for reminding me to see my baby, not my baby's behavior.