Three years ago, we took the elevator to the 8th floor of an office building located in the heart of Guangzhou, China. Moments later... we became parents. And what a joy these past three years have been! So today, we celebrate Ruby's "Gotcha Day" with a brief look back at that inspiring, terrifying, joyous day when we held Ruby Xu Jun in our arms for the very first time.
Well, it's another Monday. Another chance to start in on those New Year's Resolutions I set for myself. I figured out why it's so hard to stick to healthy resolutions -- I don't wanna! When it's lunchtime and I'm hungry, and faced with the option of eating raw veggies and dip or running into the nearest Jimmy*John's, well, I'll give you two guesses which one I'll choose and the first guess doesn't count (to quote my dad).
I have been successful in flossing my teeth every night. And I've gone to bed earlier every night, although I have yet to hit my goal of 7 hours. But I've increased my sleep from 5-6 hours to 6 1/2 hours! This week I'll work on adding that last half hour. The tough thing with my sleep is, I have to get up at 3:00am to go to work. So getting 7 hours of sleep means going to bed at 8:00pm. I know my family knows I have to be up at 3:00am. And when I say I need more sleep at night, they all agree and say "no problem!" But the reality of that commitment is quite a bit different. "What?! You're going to bed? Now?! But it's so early! There's still homework to do. There's still bedtime stories to read. The kitchen's a mess. There's still clothes in the dryer..."
Anyhoo... On Saturday we met up with another family who adopted a boy that Lin knows from Shanghai. They live a little over an hour away from us, so we picked a McD's at a rough half-way point and had an early dinner. Kids are funny. And by "funny" I mean aggravating -- in a good way. Lin's friend Will was very shy and would barely look at Lin, let alone talk to her. The poor child just looked completely overwhelmed. And Lin, being the "tough girl" she is, quickly took on the attitude "Well if he's not talking to me, I'm not talking to him!" Despite my suggesting that she talk first, she wouldn't do it. Finally I was able to convince Lin to get into the play place with the other kids and after a minute or two I did hear her talking to Will. When she came back to the table I said that I had heard her talking. She said "Yeah, I say 'Why you no talk to me?!'" Whew! I fear for her future husband!
We took a couple pictures but I don't have them on the computer yet. You can see pictures on the Knisely's blog by clicking here.
Well, things are looking up in my world again, now. Lin and I had another argument on Wednesday over practicing her flute (she was goofing around instead of actually practicing, then got mad at ME for getting frustrated by the goofing around... Grrrrr).
So... I wallowed in self-pity for a good long time. I ate ice cream for lunch. I put off doing household chores and caught up on a couple TV shows (I only get to watch what I want to watch on TV about once a month, maybe less).
And then I came back to my senses. For one thing, Lin is a teenager, and she's going to be a little stinker sometimes no matter how she came to be my daughter. That's the role of a hormonal teenage daughter. And I just have to learn not to take it so personally. And for another thing, she has only been playing this role of "daughter" for six months. I think I got too comfortable with how well everything has been going, especially over Christmas. It's easy to forget that she still has a long way to go in her transition to having a family. It's my job to teach her what "Mom" is, not get frustrated when she doesn't understand.
I also started re-reading an adoption book, The Connected Child (by Purvis, Cross and Sunshine). This is the best book I've read for adoption issues, and it calmed me down immediately. I began picturing myself as the kind of mother I'd like to be -- calm, soft-spoken, loving. I don't need to be the "fun" parent. I'd like to be the quiet parent. The one person you know who gives the greatest hug you've ever had. That's who I want to be for my daughters.
So with that in mind, I came home from work. Normally I pick Lin up from school and then go get Ruby from day care, but yesterday Dave picked up the girls because I had a meeting in the afternoon. So when I got home everyone was outside playing in the snow. It was the first time I'd seen Lin since our rough night on Wednesday. She came around to my car-door and as I got out, she held out her arms for a hug.
I had a tough time with Lin yesterday. It wasn't all bad, we had some good times, too. But for a lot of the time we were together, she was trying to pick a fight with me. Testing me. As I was thinking about it again this morning, I realized that she was bullying me. It hurts.
I won't go into the specifics of each little conflict. There were a fair number of small things that just kept building on each other. But by the end of the evening, when she was again pestering me even though I asked her to stop, she again taunted me with the question "Are you mad at me?" (I'd heard that question a lot throughout the day ) I finally looked at her and said "Do you want me to be mad at you? Are you trying to fight with me?" And she laughed. It was something about her posture, the look on her face, her whole body language -- she was being a bully. I was hurt and she laughed at me. I told her that trying to make me mad is not funny. She laughed again. Despite my telling her that it wasn't funny, she kept laughing.
Then she said "I win." That stopped me. I said, this isn't a game. This isn't a competition. There is no winner or loser between mother and daughter. She said "You're the loser and I'm the winner." Yup. It hurts. A lot.
The thing is, my instinct is to walk away from a fight. I'm not going to argue with you. I'm not going to fight with you. I'm going to walk away. But is that the right response in this situation? Is it right to walk away from my newly adopted, 13-year-old daughter, who is trying to figure out what exactly a "mother" is? What exactly does it mean to be a "daughter?" Who is pushing my buttons repeatedly, intentionally, to see what happens?
I'd love you to chime in with some advice for me...
We had another exchange earlier in the day that will need some exploring, and maybe it's time for another appointment with our family counselor. Lin thinks it's funny to call me Lisa and to call her dad David. Most of the time it's harmless. But yesterday, after about 45 minutes of this "testing" me, she then started calling me Lisa. I told her that I really want her to call me "Mom" or "Mama." I tried to play it off with humor at first, but when she persisted (the bullying again) I got more serious with her. I'm your mom. I want you to call me Mom. I don't like it when you call me Lisa.
Lin said that in China she would sometimes call her teachers "Teacher" or call them by name. She would call her nannies "Aiyi" or call them by name. She said "It doesn't matter." I told her, I'm not your teacher. I'm not your Aiyi. I'm your mom. She continued with the "It doesn't matter" line. I told her that it does matter, to me. I told that I'm so happy to be her mom, and that when she calls me Lisa it makes me feel like she doesn't want me to be her mom. Again, "It doesn't matter."
Well, 2011 has started. Have you failed your New Year's Resolutions yet? I have! But I'm giving myself another chance to start fresh tomorrow... Monday. It always seems easier to start something new on a Monday. (I mean, you can't start eating healthier on a Saturday, for goodness' sake!!)
My resolutions this year are:
- Floss my teeth every day
- Eat 2 servings of fruit every day
- Eat 3 servings of vegetables every day
- Take a walk/run 5-6 days per week
- Do a simple weight-training workout 2-3 days per week
- Get at least 7 hours of sleep every night ** This one's going to be the most difficult **
Think I can make it? I am really, truly going to try. I'll keep you posted.
I also picked up a book about organizing. It gives a different organizing task to accomplish each week. When all these things are broken down into small jobs it seems manageable. Why do so many people fail at these kinds of resolutions, myself included? All I can say is I'm going to give it an honest try...
I was very happy this morning to find the girls each in their own rooms playing by themselves. It's not that I don't want to play with them, but I think it's very healthy for kids to learn how to play by themselves, without resorting to vegging out in front of the TV. And I enjoy being alone. I'm sorry, but I need space... often!
In this household, Lin tends to flop in front of the TV when she is not given something to do. And Ruby tends to wander around the house, sometimes literally just rolling on the floor, with her favorite blankie in her hand and her thumb in her mouth. It drives me crazy!!
So I was very happy to find Lin playing with her new *Barbies and Ruby playing with *Legos. Happy. Alone.