I've got two books I'd like to review, one having absolutely nothing to do with the other. They just ended up being in our house at the same time, and one of them gets read OVER AND OVER AGAIN. Thank goodness Al and I like it! We got it at the library, so eventually they'll ask us to return it (phew!)
It's The Gingerbread Cowboy by Janet Squires. It follows the traditional gingerbread man storyline, except this guy is a cowboy and lives in Texas. As the Gingerbread Cowboy runs away from the rancher and his wife, we are introduced to a fine selection of western critters all hungry to eat the little guy -- a roadrunner, javelinas munching on cactus pads, long-horned cattle and actual cowboys shouting "Stampede!" It is the crafty coyote who finally lures the over-confident Gingerbread Cowboy to his delectable, digestive death.
Our boys LOVE this story. H. has heard the original story before, but likes this one better. The illustrations are vibrant and warmly colored, just like the desert landscape in which it takes place, and the tone is light and funny. We're going to make our own Gingerbread Cowboys on Saturday, when we're all done with our coughing illnesses (cross fingers!).
The second book is We Belong Together by Todd Parr. I received a gift certificate and purchased this one without checking it out first, which I regret now. I was disappointed because I really liked It's Ok To Be Different, as did the boys. This one is about adoption specifically, and for me, contains too many subliminal saviour messages. It's framed with "We belong together because you needed _____" and I(we) did so-and-so to provide it." The author does mention at the beginning that readers can feel free to change the pronouns as appropriate to fit one's family, but it still reads too much like the child has all of the needs to be filled, and the parents come to save the day.
I guess I would have liked it if some of the scenarios included things the A-parents needed, and the child fulfilled. And in our case, some of the examples felt uncomfortable. For example, "...you needed someone to say "I love you," and we had love to give."
If one is in an open adoption where all family members love the child, that line falls flat. I know that H and L's family love them. They told us, they showed us. And you can tell because our guys are so incredibly loving themselves. You learn love by being given love. I balked at that page especially.
I don't mean to trash it, and I'm sure there are wonderful messages for the right readers, but I would have liked a more balanced book in terms of the giving and receiving. Al and I are discovering in delightful bite-sized pieces how much the boys have given us. Even when I'm lying on the rug, semi-conscious, saying for the 37th time to Lire, "yes, sweetie, that is SOME cardboard box you've got there!," I realize that they are giving me patience disguised as exhaustion. Lately Habtam has been complimenting me a lot -- "Mommy? I like your shiny eyes," or "Habtamu like Mommy's clothes," when I'm wearing longjohns and a poly-pro thermal top (hey, give me a break, I'm sick!). They are sweet, sweet little men.
Anyway, give both books a look, if you've got the time. I'm going to return the latter book for something else -- any recommendations?
No matter how much you read about adopting internationally, about adopting an older child, about attachment challenges, nothing really prepares you for the reality of it. Maybe I should say unreality, because as I was talking to a fellow adoptive mom of two Ethiopian siblings today, neither of us were able to imagine going through those first few months again. They were surreal. As I was talking on the phone, H. and L. were crafting with doilies, scissors and glue. I looked at them as we spoke, remembering those intense early weeks of holding and screaming, of watching as every appliance in the house stopped working, the intentional peeing on the rug, (...misty watercolor memories...).
I read a lot and spoke to many people (APs and adult adoptees) before we decided to adopt, before we chose to adopt older children, before we traveled to Ethiopia. In theory, I knew a great deal more than most people who decide to adopt. Still. I was unprepared. Not to mention the boys. Geez, imagine how freaked out they must have been! I bring this up because as incredibly as they are adapting, communicating to us, all that, there is the fear of being left again. I have to keep reminding myself that little things can set off an alarm for them. Especially for H., our elder guy.
I was going to write a post about some books we and the boys have been reading, but then I read this, and then this, and my mind started racing off in another direction. Please read the posts, but I'll encapsulate: A Dutch diplomat and his wife relinquished their 7 year old daughter, a Korean adoptee, to child welfare authorities in Hong Kong. They had adopted her when she was @4 months old. Severe attachment difficulties were cited, as well as inability to adapt to their culture.
I couldn't help thinking of our own children in the same position. I imagined their little faces on the cover of a news magazine, making the rounds of the internet. I felt sick. So sadly sick. We've had some rough times, we have. Times when I wondered what in hell I had been thinking of, adopting two siblings of preschool age. Times when I wanted to run and hide from the responsibility. Times when I did run from the responsibility, leaving my poor husband to put the broken family pieces back together.
I have been paralyzed with anxiety about H. and my difficulties attaching. When I read the posts I linked to above, and the related articles, I wanted to run downstairs and hold him tightly. But then he would wake up, and that is never good. So I squeezed him tightly in my mind, and repeated the resolution we two made yesterday: "We promise no angry no more!"
The two of us have also resolved to have a BIG 'UG at least three times a day. A "really, really BIG 'UG," as H. likes to put it. And yes, we have hugged all along, but these "big 'ugs" are more like a mother holding a baby hug. And yes, I know that this is recommended from day one for an adoptee like H. But it was a struggle even getting him to look at me, never mind touching me, so this is a big deal for us.
It seems like ages since they've been with us, yet it's only been about 8 months. That's nothing. A fraction
of their lives before us, about which we are learning more every day. H. still thinks he can be sent back to Ethiopia at any time. He asks me about it now and then. I ask him if he wants to go back, and he says no. I tell him that when he is bigger, we can all go back together and visit, but he says he never wants to -- "Too 'ard Mommy."
I imagine this will change as he grows -- back and forth, I'm sure. But he isn't secure with us yet, and the fault is partially mine. When a child rejects you, it is difficult to keep coming back for more. I have given myself a time out more times than I can count when I don't think I can tolerate another act of defiance, spitting, or another negative comparison to Daddy. But I will keep coming back. And I have started telling him this, in addition to actually doing it. "Daddy and I aren't going anywhere, " or "Whether you like it or not, I'm here to stay. I'm not leaving" The latter elicits a smile. I say it for myself, too.
A few posts have been percolating, mostly on the progress of all of us here. I'd like to think on them some more, to give the subjects (the boys!) their due, so I'll leave it at that for now. On my end, after almost eight months, I think I'm finally beginning to feel like a mother. I think that's a good development.
I will leave you with another first for the guys -- decorating our ficus tree with lights and ornaments. The happiness and excitement was a wonder to behold, even now I get teary remembering. I hope they never lose their enthusiasm for life.
Note the pained expression of little L. The snow stung the boo-boo on his nose. Both boys loved the snow but did complain that it was "too cold." I think they finally get the function of mittens. I also think H. is going to ask me every day if it's going to snow -- he wants piles of it, I'm sure.