I Wish I Had a Circle

29 Apr

A circle of parents who adopted 5 yr olds that I could bounce things off of.  (Are you one?) Just when I think things are going swimmingly, questions come out. Things pop up. Fears creep in.

When it’s just Cora and I, she’s shy and reserved for the most part, very well-behaved, sings, plays, hugs, eats, talks…all good things, right? But all red flags, too, that she’s not 100% feeling safe yet.  I’ll be the perfect child for you so things are good between us!

When it’s Cora and I and one or both of the boys, she’s silly and bouncing around the room and laughing and HAPPY!!!!  All good things, right?  Except is it good that she’s more attached to my kids than she is to me?

When it’s Cora and I and Dave and no kids, she’s completely clingy to me (thank you sling!) and again, quite well-behaved.  Red flags? Probably.

Yesterday she awoke from her nap in tears, grabbed me, latched on, fell asleep for 10 minutes longer, woke up and wouldn’t even look at me for 20 minutes.  Wouldn’t leave Logan’s side and wished me away mentally.  It was just us 3 home.  I don’t know what she dreamed about or why she didn’t want to interact with me, but I respected her need for me to back off.

We went to church today for the firs time. (2 weeks home)  We kept Cora with us while the boys went to kid church.  I needed church today. Was it too early? Maybe.  She did well, but was so much happier when we were in the car on our way out. After church we came home for lunch and went to Logan’s baseball game.  Her grandparents were there and she spent a lot of time sharing toys with Grandma, sharing skittles with Miles, Logan and Appa, sharing skittles with strangers to her (but not to us) and asking to share with strangers to us (though I said no)…but didn’t share with me.  I was just the holder. Hold me, take me she-she, pick me up.  When it was time to go, she put her feet behind the stroller foot rest and wouldn’t let me put her shoes on.  Direct eye contact telling me “no”.  ALLLL normal for a typical 3-5 yr old, but when we’ve been home for only 2 weeks and we’re building a relationship, so many things to think about.

Things are going so well and then little signs start popping up. My mind says, “pay attention to them!” but then I think, “What should I do!?”

Cora and I have not spent a minute apart. And for us and our family, that is how it is working for us.  She sleeps in our room, she stays with me all day and at night, Dave and I put her to bed, but I stay until she is asleep.  We’re in our cocoon. She does let me shower now and she’ll stay with Dave, but that is my only respite. 10 minutes a day. Am I doing it right? Is she attaching in a healthy way?

Our cocoon looks a little different maybe than someone elses, but here’s what we’re doing.  No one has been to our house yet except my sister and her husband just 2 days ago (15 minutes, which wound up to be WAAAY too much stimulation, btw) and Dave’s dad unexpectedly for 30 seconds.  If anyone stops by, we stand outside. The boys have not been allowed to have friends over or go to friends houses yet.  We have not gone into anyone elses home so Cora can fully grasp that this house alone is ours and every other house belongs to someone else. If we go somewhere during the day, it’s one place (like Target for milk or something) and then we go home. (I’ll be honest and say that that one place is huge for my mental status. I’m not a homebody day in and day out.) And if I can, I’ll go somewhere farther out so that we don’t run into a lot of people yet.

Today we did church AND baseball and it was a lot.  But Dave is an assistant coach for both kids and baseball is going to be a big part of our life for a few months, always at the same place, and we brought a blanket and tried to be on our own as best as we could.

I won’t lie – I’m tired. Just being real here. I’m tired. Like weary tired.  I could use a break.  It’s been 17 days of 1-1 and if you’re a parent, you know how much you love your kids, but you also love to miss them for an hour. 😉  Dave’s making his way into the love-circle (yay!!) but not enough to let me out for a moment yet. I have people to email back, thank you cards to send, meals to plan (OOOOH how feeding my family takes way too much brain power right now. I could cry knowing that in 2 hrs it’s time to feed them again.)

Me:  Cora, I’m going to go upstairs and brush my teeth. (charades: hand back and forth on my teeth)

Cora: OK

Me:  You stay with Appa and Miles and Logan

Cora: Yes!

Me: OK! I’ll be right back. 2 seconds.  1 Brush Teeth, 2 Come down stairs

Cora: Yes!

Me: OK, See you in a minute!!

Cora: OK!

(me, walking into the foyer)

Cora: Mom!

Me: Hi Cora! I’m going to brush my teeth!

(on stair number 2)

Cora:  Mom! Come here!

Me:  Cora, I’m going upstairs. Brush teeth! Be right back

(on stair #5)

Cora: Mom!

(running to foyer)

Me: I’ll be right back down, OK?

Cora: Yes! (starts walking up stairs to me)

I can say with 100% certainty that I am not irritated or annoyed or upset or sad.  I know this is par for the course. I get that she needs to know where I am at all times.  I love her and I love being her person.  I WILL say that I am praising God for allowing moments when Appa can help and I ask you to pray with me for more of those.

Dave gets work, baseball x 2 and his own racquetball and if he can start to make it again, his early morning Thursday men’s small group.  I have Cora and Logan and Miles and Hugo.  I don’t have a break.  I have a blog. 😉 My blog is my break. But my blog doesn’t talk back or offer advice or share life with a coffee or a lunch “meeting”.

So, where are we right now? Ah, there are SO SO SO SO SO many good things going on here.  It’s amazing what this sweet Coralie is doing in our family.  She’s amazing and we are SO blessed!  She’s happy and full of joy and when she’s fully settled and trusts us, I can’t wait to see that fierce love she has for her oppas come full circle to her mom and appa. We’re still cocooning, uncertain how to fully integrate extended family. (She kissed my sister the first time she met her after Logan encouraged her to do so w/o our knowledge.  A big no-no says the therapists, but she’s her auntie, so when CAN she kiss her auntie?)  I’m feeling like all that we learned prior to bringing her home has evaporated. Are we being TOO cautious?  What should we be doing more of? What works? What doesn’t work? Should we start semi-diciplining her?  Or is it too soon?  What about food? SO much ties in to food and the ability to have it with the ability of feeling safe.

Which is why I wish I had a circle to help me walk through these things.  And a cook and a translator and a cleaner and a massage therapist and an extra me.

Staying positive, but admitting hardness at the moment.

P.S. If I owe you a thank you, I promise, I have a list going and you will get one.

P.P.S.  I had this grand idea of sending out adoption announcements. HA!

P.P.P.S. If I’ve run into you at my children’s school or my 1 place a day, I appreciate the fact that you did not comment on my ragged look I’m sporting these days.

P.P.P.P.S.  Thank you for reading andcommenting on my blog.


31 Responses to “I Wish I Had a Circle”

  1. Wendi April 29, 2012 at 8:12 pm #

    Wow.. So much to think about.

    I think you are doing amazing!!!! Simply amazing!!!!

    She is testing.. Feeling her way.. Letting everything sink in.. Her way.. Slowly.. Methodically. It’s a process.. By cocooning her you are allowing her to do this on her own time. It needs to be her time….you are doing perfect!!!

    Keep snuggling that baby girl!! Ask that social worker questions… She will have advice.

    Mia is still adjusting .. Adapting … Attaching…. It’s become a way of life.

    I am soooo happy to see her home.. Blessing into the perfectly healthy baby girl that we all know she is!!!:):)

    • Jen April 30, 2012 at 3:04 am #

      xoxo – Love you, Wendi!

  2. my3busyboys April 29, 2012 at 9:03 pm #

    I appreciate your honest posts!! I keep asking myself the same questions….are we doing what we are supposed to be doing?? And frankly the cocoon is suffocating me, but necessary…..but like you, for how long??

    • Jen April 30, 2012 at 3:05 am #

      I guess we’ll know when we know, huh?! 😉

  3. christina g April 29, 2012 at 10:34 pm #

    like your comment before shes only a week home and old.. so same aspect.. shes only new to this new family and home. shes finding her way and shes needs you to be there when she calls just like a baby who crys out for parents.

    wish u had a circle of people to walk with you and say its ok and thats just fine. I am sure you and her are on track and years from now. . its will be differenet better. do u have a couseling center that teachers social skills? mommy and me groups? libraries 4 story or activity time. I think she does need some peer interaction if she does go to school in august for kindergarden and the testing i suggested. I liked the books that were based on ur childs ages.. louise bates ames. your 5 year old. they can be found in library. as a child development learner and teacher.. it mapped out what they could be doing at whatever age the book was about.


    I am sure adoption interruptes some of these natural processes. she must attach to you all
    praying and I think you are doing great.

    • Jen April 30, 2012 at 3:05 am #

      Thanks Christina!

  4. stephanie April 30, 2012 at 12:32 am #

    Oh, how I want to meet you for coffee!! Not because I have the answers, but because I just want to sit and listen and talk. I’m sure there will be some people who have adopted this age range and will be able to offer awesome suggestions. And you will try those suggestions, as you have been trying all the stuff you learned before bringing Cora home, and you will find out what works for you. No one thing works for every kid, as you know. You have good instincts. You are attuned to her. You are an AWESOME mommy. You are an awesome wife. You are a Child of God. He did not bring Cora to you to leave you high and dry, floundering for answers. Just keep on keeping one. Be intentional about he things you can be intentional about. But do what works for her AND YOU. It IS exhausting to be someone’s “person”. Awesome, but exhausting. Find tiny ways to take care of yourself. Continue to reach out and vent and process. Maybe find one place/activity you can visit/do each day…so you always get out of the house, but there is still a sameness to it for Cora. i.e. a walk, the park, etc. Some consistent place you can go in addition to your errand for the day.
    You are her mom….and this is what her mom does.
    Trust yourself. (I’m not saying don’t ask for input or advice…just be encouraged that you are the mom that she needed all these years.)

    • Jen April 30, 2012 at 3:07 am #


      You are her mom….and this is what her mom does.
      Trust yourself. (I’m not saying don’t ask for input or advice…just be encouraged that you are the mom that she needed all these years.)

      THANK YOU! I think I needed just a big encouraging ‘atta’boy’!

  5. Yvonne April 30, 2012 at 2:00 am #

    Something we found really helpful during the cocooning phase was getting outside each day for a walk. If it helps, go somewhere other than your neighborhood so you won’t run into neighbors who want to coo, but getting out of the house and getting some fresh air helped both me and each of our children. And I’m not an expert at all, but it seems to me that she is telling you that she’s not ready yet for her circle to be bigger. But you will need to go out too! We found that when going to church and doing other things, we initially had the child in the ergo so no one would ask to hold them, they were securely next to us, and it maintained the parent/child contact. It seemed to help all of us.

    All this to say, hang in there. You are doing great! And each day, you are getting to know Cora better. I remember with each of my children that I hit this point where I was fine with the progress and then bam – I was worried about everything. Attachment, food, sleep, you name it. It really helped to talk with our social worker too. And I hope you are able to get a few more moments each day to yourself.

    • Jen April 30, 2012 at 3:08 am #

      “I remember with each of my children that I hit this point where I was fine with the progress and then bam”

      I think that must be where I am because I was totally thinking all good things as of 2 days ago! That means we’re progressing!! 🙂

  6. Mary Ann Day April 30, 2012 at 2:24 am #

    I have brought home a 7.5 year old from Ukraine 9 years ago and a couple of kids from China both at age 2.5. My first comment is that it sounds like you are doing great, and she is doing well so far. Your emotions are very normal, also. As you already know this is not a short process and you will find yourself questioning yourself almost daily for a long time. I want to highly recommend two things. One is to buy and read (if you have not already) The Connected Child by Dr. Karyn Purvis and if you have read it, read it again. Also check out http://www.empoweredtoconnect.org for many wonderful resources, videos, articles. These two resources have only been available a few years and I wish I had had them when our son came home. The second thing is to find a support group of other adoptive families. It doesn’t matter what age they came home, you will find you have similar challenges, especially in the near future. I would be happy to talk with you more by phone if that is helpful. The first 6 months were the most challenging and it will get better. Blessings to you and your family.

    • Jen April 30, 2012 at 3:10 am #

      Mary Ann,

      Thank you for those resources! I did know and read the Connected CHild, but I will again and I will check out the website, too! Thank you for validating my feelings and telling me I’m normal! 🙂 We really are doing well! I fully believe that!

  7. Anne Pirlot April 30, 2012 at 3:50 am #

    I have no advice to give, but I’m thinking of you.

    • Jen April 30, 2012 at 1:38 pm #

      Thanks Anne!!

  8. Shecki April 30, 2012 at 6:25 am #

    My dd was 3 yrs 7 mos when we brought her home from China. You’re a new mama. Jet lagged. Give yourself a lot of grace. Don’t go looking for issues. Just enjoy getting to know each other. Relax, it will all be okay.

    • Jen April 30, 2012 at 1:37 pm #

      Shecki, great advice! I will relax and stop looking. GREAT advice. That face-slap I needed. 😉 Today is a new day!

  9. grammom April 30, 2012 at 12:38 pm #

    Jennifer we continue to think about you guys and pray for you all. Lots and lots of love being sent your way

    • Jen April 30, 2012 at 1:38 pm #

      Thanks Mom! Hope you can meet her this week.

  10. Lori Davis April 30, 2012 at 2:51 pm #

    Love you Jen! You are doing it right because you are doing your best! Always praying for your family!

    • Jen May 1, 2012 at 2:58 am #

      One of my favorite friends always full of encouragement. xoxo!

  11. Sarah April 30, 2012 at 5:34 pm #

    Jen, you ARE doing it all EXACTLY right. I haven’t adopted a five year old, but I’ve adopted a 3 year old and also a 15month old and a 9.5 month old. It’s been different every single time – the process, the bonding, One thing I learned from a seminar this last go-round is that bonding is not a destination, it’s a seesaw and even after you’re sure that you’re all at the “bonded” end for good, there may be days when back down you go.

    Another perspective on the being “perfect” when you’re home alone – what if she’s not being the perfect child so that you’ll love her? What if, instead, she has no need to test you – she has you and your full attention. It could easily be either. And of course when there are other kids she’s going to forsake you – she has a playmate AND she wants to know if you’ll love her and her sibling. And you will. And you show her that with every tender touch and heartfelt word. And every time you come back down the stairs to tell her for the umpteenth time that you’re going to brush your teeth and will be RIGHT BACK and still allow her to follow you up. She clings to you when there’s another adult around and that means that she DOES trust you above all others. All of our children have chosen one parent or the other for the first while and it’s HARD to be that chosen parent. Sometimes equally hard in another way to be the unchosen parent! One trick that we learned is for the unchosen parent to take the child and leave rather than the chosen parent trying to leave – even the room. If your husband could take her out for a short walk it would give you more than a 10 minute break and it might work a lot better than you trying to leave for a short walk.

    As for kissing her auntie – you know, as far as I’m concerned, kissing her on the cheek is NOT a big deal. It’s not the same as letting Coralie be scooped up, cuddled and snuggled and loved on. In my non-expert book, it IS okay for our children to show affection toward people in our lives we would be affectionate toward. Not okay to hug a stranger, but I think it’s wonderful to show our kids early on that we can love lots of people. As long as you’re the ones “doing for her”, and it sounds like you are, then a hug or kiss here or there will be just fine!

    I’m sure this isn’t as coherent as I’d like it to be and I’m positive that I’ve missed something I wanted to touch on, but I wanted to reach out and say that what you describe, as difficult as it is, is totally and completely NORMAL and you ARE doing everything RIGHT. Some day fairly soon you will be able to look back at this labor of love and see how all the pieces fit together to make your bond what it is – and it will be STRONG.

    • Jen May 1, 2012 at 3:00 am #

      This has helped me SO SO much! You have given me so much to think about! However long this took to write…know that it left me in thought, in appreciation for so much longer! THANK YOU!!!

      • Sarah May 1, 2012 at 3:13 am #

        I’m so glad that I was able to give you things to think about and be a help to another mom. We have a fourth child on the way and she will be a few months shy of 3 when we bring her home later this year. I will be needing to heed my own advice soon! Praying for better days ahead for you and feeling so blessed to have walked this little step in your journey.

  12. Lydia Smith April 30, 2012 at 6:24 pm #

    Jen, you are doing fine. The feelings and questions you are having are TOTALLY normal!

    We adopted our daughter from Russia at 4 yrs. Immediately after that (as in the next day after our daughter finally arrived home), my husband was deployed for a month. I was thrilled to quit my full-time job to stay at home with my daughter, but 2 weeks into it I was overwhelmed, exhausted, frustrated, and ready to lock myself in the bathroom just to get 5 mins of peace. Naturally, it took our daughter a l-o-n-g time to attach to my husband. After all, in her eyes he had brought her home and left her again. A setback? Yes. But you know what..? Things turned out fine! Love conquers all!

    We also recently brought home our 6-yr-old son from Korea in December 2011. We’ve been home 4 months. Things are good, but we are in the thick of adjustment, attachment, etc. You always question what is ‘normal’ in the beginning. Although, I have to say that at this point I think my 6-yr-old boy is having a much easier time than my 4-yr-old girl did. Just an observation.

    If you’d like, you can send me a PM to Smith_Ohana through the Korea Forum. Wishing the best for your whole family!

    • Jen May 1, 2012 at 3:02 am #

      I am so aware of your family! I am so glad to hear things are going well! I will message you when I have a quiet moment! I have been to your blog hoping for updates. *hint, hint* 😉 🙂 Thank you so much for your thoughts and comment and words of BTDT!

  13. Freckles April 30, 2012 at 7:28 pm #

    You don’t know me. Someone on another group asked us to look at your post. I adopted a 6 1/2 year old girl 11 1/2 years ago and a 5 year old son 6 1/2 years ago. First your daughter has just been home 2 weeks (with you 3-4 weeks?). She won’t be “normal”. There is no normal for this. Second had your daughter been in school? Mine sounds like yours and being one on one with mom day in and day out was too stressful for her, though like yours she wanted to be with me 24/7 when she was home. My daughter didn’t settle in until she went to school. What I didn’t know then but know now is that school was very important to her and she knew the difference between orphans and kids with families was…school supplies. Kids with families had new school supplies. With both my kids I made a game of singing names so we could be out of eachother’s sight. We had to be in constant verbal contact when it was just the two of us. My daughter by the way will be graduating from HS in 5 weeks and is just a wonderfully amazing young lady. Relax for now and enjoy the ride. Cathy

    • Freckles April 30, 2012 at 7:37 pm #

      Opps wasn’t finished. Physical activity was important for both my kids. Put her on a bike with training wheels and go for a walk. Bouncing on a trampoline together helps bonding. As a friend told me when I was looking particularly harried using a DVD for 30 mins to wash your hair isn’t child abuse. Thus began my daughter’s love affair with Sound of Music. (Son preferred animal movies, daughter musical). Today daughter is an amazing singer, pianist and trumpetplayer so you never know where it will lead.

      • Jen May 1, 2012 at 3:06 am #

        Cora is TOTALLY musically inclined, too! It’s amazing!

    • Jen May 1, 2012 at 3:05 am #

      “She won’t be “normal”. There is no normal for this.” Totally get it! I wasn’t hoping for normal, just was needing a little feedback from BTDT. Thank you for being one of those who took the time for that. I’m so SO happy to hear that your awesome daughter is where she is! YAY! Cora is not in school yet, but will be in the fall. We have only 6ish weeks of school left until summer, so we will start with Kindergarten in the fall. Like your daughter, Cora went to school in her orphanage, too. I do think she will blossom and grow when she is put in school! TOTALLY taking your advice for relaxing! xoxo! Thank you for your thoughts and advice!! So helpful!

  14. Karen B May 1, 2012 at 1:46 am #

    Dear Jen – a friend of mine directed me to your blog. We adopted (internationally) our first and only as a 4 YO 11 years ago. I recall sitting at my desk at home, writing emails to my sister with my dear daughter playing under my desk while leaning against my legs – “Will she ever be able to be in a room without touching me?” Now she’s 15 and so well attached and typical you would never know what the first weeks, months and years were like. I agree with the other posters – YOU ARE DOING EVERYTHING RIGHT FOR HER! Now you might want to consider adding a few things for YOU. It is ok to take her out – the park, the playground. It is ok for you to do whatever you both need to be sure you sleep. You can’t parent without sleep. LIke an earlier poster, my daughter came from a child centered environment (18 kids together 24-7) and she found being with these two old white people very stressful! After 6 weeks, we put her in full-time daycare and she LOVED it. Finally, even if she didn’t speak our language, an environment with other kids made sense to her. She relaxed and started to pick up language. Some of her anxiety is coming from not fully understanding your language (even if she spoke English, you will sound very different to her ears.) Also it is a GREAT sign she is grieving the loss of her former home. Grieving, sadness, are all normal for her to experience – it means she was attached before to her caregivers or peers at the orphanage. This shows she can attach again. Attachment is a journey, a many year journey and you are on your way to a strong attachment in the coming years. If you ever want to chat, email or phone, I am happy to listen. kbrtmyr AT mac DOT com

    • Jen May 1, 2012 at 3:07 am #

      Karen, thank you!! From the bottom of my heart! I love hearing such great stories! I’m taking a deep breath, starting this week fresh and just riding it out! We’re going to make it! xoxo!!

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