Thursday, December 3, 2009
A LITTLE SIDE DISH
And, no - this is not another recipe.
Rather, it is the exciting tale of the spicey little garnish Anastasia added to our Thanksgiving dinner.
Firstly....my view: Attachment is on a continuum....probably with bio kids in some cases, and certainly with adopted children. My first two, Sergei and Zhenya bonded in a near parallel to bio kids. Sergei is well into his teens and treats anyone's suggestion that I am not his "real" mom with the disgust it deserves. I don't think Zhen has even quite realized that he and his mom are in any different category than any of his friends and their moms. Anastasia is different. Probably because her attachment to her bio mom was flawed, her attachment to me is not quite so clean and perfect.
I'd say she was 5/6 ths attached. Here's the image: A little papoose bound to her mama's back by strong cords. Five of the six are knotted securely; the sixth is loose. Usually you don't even notice, but every so often if I turn just wrong, or the wind kicks up - that sixth cord will begin to flap in the wind, and create quite a distraction. Quite a rukus.
Well, I saw a perfect storm brewing as Thanksgiving approached. A BABY was coming. Anastasia is baby-obsessed. Well, many girls her age are. Lydia was. But with Anastasia it is different....I sense a darker coloration to her passion - a neediness. When she was removed from her "home" (empty shack) she was separated from her two-year-old brother. Now, picture this - mother would disappear for days at a time, leaving the children to fend for themselves. Anastasia called her baby brother "my baby" and I expect she was instrumental in his care much of the time. So separation from him was a huge loss. It still breaks my heart that he was adopted prior to our adoption of Anastasia..
So, as this Thanksgiving approached and I knew that Aidan and Susan were coming with Calvin, I knew it could be touchy. I knew that Anastasia might well be "jealous" of anyone Cal wanted to spend time with. And though I was delighted (SO delighted) that Calvin liked me, it was always difficult when he would "prefer" me to Anastasia - leaving her to run to me, or choosing to come to me rather than her. She managed this better than I might have imagined, but her stress-load was building.
That sixth strap really began to flap in the breeze on Thanksgiving afternoon. By dinner time she was in quite a state. She usually tries to control herself around outsiders, but couldn't manage it. She refused to come to the table (which I considered a good thing), but kept peeking through the dining room door and so forth in a disruptive way....saying ridiculous things.
After dinner it got worse. She did come to the table and chose to take offense to the fact that we had pie (which she hates). I was attempting to tune her out for the most part. I've learned that the more you interact with her in these moods, the more you fan the flames. Pretending she is not there and not listening to her is about the best strategy I've found. Unfortunately, I knew that Aidan and Susan wouldn't understand this, and I certainly couldn't explain it openly with Anastasia there. So, knowing they were wondering why the heck I ddn't make her go to her room, didn't add to my sense of inner calm. In fact, I was thoroughly humiliated (odd in front of someone who knows PRECISELY what sort of mother I am!)
Sometime ignoring Anastasia allows her time to cool off, or find something that will calm her, but in the midst of a holiday this was not destined to work. She revved up. As I say, I try to tune most of it out - I know [hope] she doesn't mean any of it, but I do have one vivid memory of her standing there at the table proclaiming that she was going to have a baby and not get married!
Oh - but it got worse. Eventually, her focus began to zoom in on my daughter-in-law, Susan. And, perhaps in addition to Calvin, this had really been at the heart of her anxiety. Anastasia loves, needs, craves attention. She loves Susan. Susan said at some point, as one will, toward the beginning of their visit that she wanted to "spend some time" with Anastasia. And Anastasia had realized that Aidan, Susan and Calvin were to leave the next morning, and none of the special attention from Susan had materialized So, as Anastasia began to zoom in on what was truly upsetting her, she began to proclaim that Susan hated her, Susan was a liar and so forth. Do I wish I could remember the details to share with you? Not really! Let's just say, it was ugly. Here is my daughter in law, a lovely woman - a guest in my home, no less.... being insulted by this seemingly nasty little girl. Yet, I knew that if tried to intervene, Anastasia would lose it altogether and I absolutely did not want to end up in a physical battle with her on the living room floor. I had to hope she'd get a grip and remove herself (which she is getting better and better at).
Eventually I believe she did go upstairs....but by that time I was shell-shocked.... I found myself sitting on the living room floor playing with Calvin trying desperately to keep from throwing myself down on the carpet and having my own melt-down....but somehow I was able to see some bizarre humor in the moment when I realized that Aidan was sitting on one side of the living room texting for all he was worth with Susan doing likewise on the other. Meanwhile, Sergei and Ilya were conversing in Russian! The emergence of all of these private forms of communication in one room struck me as - well, if not exactly funny, perhaps absurd (grotesque?) In any case, Aidan and Susan took this opportunity to take a video back; I used their absense to throw myself on my bed and sob.
Later in the evening, when they'd returned, I was talking to Aidan in his room when we heard a voice from the hall "I'm sorry...." Teary, strained, desperate little voice. And, immediately I realized that that was the first time that Anastasia ever apologized for melt-down behavior. Even then, in my immediate misery, I realized that this was a breakthrough. Aidan said, "You'd better apologize to Susan." She did, and Susan - good, wonderful girl that she is, figured out a way to actually take Anastasia to a morning showing of a movie the next day before they left.
On one hand I was tempted not to let her go. On the other, I felt that if she didn't spend some positive time with Susan their relationship might always be strained. Furthermore, putting myself in Susan's position - I think she really felt awful at having "promised" special time with Anastasia and not followed through. Obviously people do that to kids all the time, and it doesn't justify a meltdown... but in this case I thought Susan probably didn't want to leave things on an unpleasant note either.
Also, and here is where it gets difficult.... I do understand Anastasia's vulnerability. How many times did her mother leave and say "I'll be back." and not come? How many times was she promised, care, love, attention and have her expectations unmet? To be promise the precious gift of time and attention, and to realize that your greatest fear - being neglected, forgotten - is being realized. I can't completely blame Anastasia for not yet knowing how to cope with the enormous feelings that begin to overwhelm her. In fact, I'm not sure Anastasia herself understood what was upsetting her until her "fit" was well underway. The baby-anxiety masked, to some extent, the more painful thing that was really gnawing at her heart. She was horrified that she insulted Susan. I think she scared herself. I'm looking for opportunities to help her work on the issues. She's a smart little girl; she's come a long way. She may never be able to get that last cord completely tied, but we have to discover some ways to tuck it in when the weather is stormy...we need to find a way to secure it.