Halfway home

There is something about looking intently at the details of the present and seeing clearly. As I told a friend, I find it exhilarating to write from the trenches the unedited experiences & raw emotions.

Yesterday Ivy spent the 3rd full day with us. With every visit we observe changes and growth. She is more comfortable and more demanding, while we are more and more exhausted. It’s a season of driving back and forth, of mediating, and of rushed mornings and evenings.

Parenting is not for the faint of heart. And adopting a toddler comes with its own challenges.

I’m trying to look at any issue from all the angles and see and understand many points of view. It keeps me grounded. It gives me balance. And while it’s uncharacteristic of me to voice uncomfortable questions, because if I give them some time, the truth emerges, I catch myself speaking up boldly and getting the answers more efficiently from others. It’s humbling and uncomfortable. Because I feel like I’m exposing the heart of my hearts. And yet, all I can do is remain respectful and give the benefit of the doubt.

We are in the matching period, a necessary time to pursue the heart and mind of our child. We are already there, but that doesn’t make it easier. Slowing down purposefully is what we need to do.  

Ivy joined our family with incredible ease. And with the help of the foster mom, she came on her first visits to us with joy and confidence. 

At home we usually spend a few hours just with her and then Jackie returns from school (or we pick her up together, detouring through the park). And the fun continues. We bob and weave between naps and playtimes, walks and tickle matches. And we manage to keep up with work.

…I started writing this mid day, by the end of it we were pulled through the wringer. 

On the third day together, neither girl took a nap. Both were a lot more agitated, curious, in each other’s face, and in my ears, competing with excitement. Jackie keeps wanting to help Ivy, and Ivy declines stubbornly saying: “no! Mami helps me!” She knows something. She has a deep emotional wisdom. 

Just so we don’t become a broken record, I pulled Jackie aside and had a conversation about her eagerness to help. I truly appreciate her desire to get involved and serve her sister, and I thanked her for her willing heart, but I reminded her that Ivy is not her responsibility. In any way. They are sister and she ought to enjoy her sister’s company, communicate openly with us and her, share her boundaries, and let herself be loved. 

I asked her later on why Ivy asks for my help and not hers and she answered without skipping a beat, and as a matter of fact: “because she is your responsibility”. 

Ivy is trying to figure out who is her provider of comfort and help and everything she needs to thrive. Her foster mom told her I’m her mom. After Ivy studied me for a few days, she connected with me quite specifically. Maybe my reserved temperament is the type she clicks with easily and she truly feels safe with me. 

Luckily Conrad and I both work from home and we can divide and conquer, but, in the afternoon, as the girls compete for our attention, we feel overrun. 

I was playing a board-game with Jackie. Ivy came and tried to stop our game to play something else she wanted. I kindly stopped her giving her the chance to make the right decision. 

I asked her to not mix our pieces on the board. I just told her “mommy is playing a game with Jackie right now and we won’t stop it just yet. It only takes a few minutes to finish. We will play another game with her soon.” She understood. She left our board alone and said ok. But then we followed up on our promise and pulled out some puzzles and games and books.

It was a small win of understanding boundaries and expectations. I bet it will have to be repeated many times.

The other day we were on a walk, and we were trying to take a picture the four of us. Jackie was so exuberant she threw herself in the middle and knocked us over. Conrad had a talk with her, explaining she is a lot heavier now to pull stuff like that. But he reassured her she is still daddy’s girl, our beloved elder daughter, and held her in his arms. She started crying all of a sudden and they stayed like that for a while. I’m sure she needed to hear those words, and she didn’t even know it. [Side note: Conrad is reading “Raising girls” by James Dobson, and his timing is perfect!]

No matter how much you love your sister, how long you’ve waited for her, how great it will be in the future… right now it’s hard on all of us. It will take a while until we find our place in a family of four. But we expected this hardship. And more. So we stay the course and try to keep our ears and mind open. 

Tomorrow we give Ivy a chance to miss us (per our adoption guide’s recommendation) and space to process her emotions, internalize what is going on, without all the hubbub & excitement. As I write this I realize I’m the one to miss her more than I thought I could, knowing that tomorrow I won’t see her, after we had today off already.

I try to remember the particulars of this magical yet terribly hard season of meshing our lives with Jackie. I ask her now if she remembers this or that… like when she realized she is moving to Cluj to live with us forever. Or when she started calling us Mom and Dad. Or how she felt when we visited often. Some things she remembers so clearly. Others not so much. I think she remembers more how we made her feel, and less the particulars of what we said.