Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Friend or foe part 2

I keep wondering why my mother won't give me her copy of the book.

I decided I did not get it because I adopted my daughters and thought they must give it out at the hospital or if I did get it I did not know because it was in Chinese.

You know what I am talking about...

The book with all the answers on raising children!

Mom seemed to have the answers and continues to!

I was reminded of this as I gave a pep talk at bedtime. Some "friends" had asked Annabel some details about her past, some that were nobody's business, but telling them that is difficult for Annabel.

Since Mom wouldn't share her book of the secrets to being a great mom, after the report of problems before their trip, I went in search of the answers, which thankfully, in the adoption community, are very close at hand.

Before we could pack for the girls' trip I knew I needed to outfit Annabel with some better coping skills. The program we attended is specifically for children who have been adopted and their parents. It was a great day spent looking at what motivates us and then how we react to situations. They spoke to the children about recognizing the characteristics of friends, both how to be one and how to have one, and knowing the difference between friends and bullies.

The program, most importantly, gave me a glimpse, some might say an insight into my daughters' personalities and potential problems, as well as their strengths.

For Annabel to stand up for herself will take some skill and a lot of practice. For too many years her whole being has been about survivial, not necessarily living, much less enjoying life.

Wth this information in my mind, as I stood there in the pre dawn hour before they left on their trip, I was quietly sending prayers to help Annabel enjoy the trip, when I realized the mothers of her roommmates were standing beside me.

I used to be someone who would confront anyone on anything, but either I have mellowed or more likely, I still feel very insecure in some of these trickier situations as a mom.

So I was very surprised at myself when I went over, introduced myself, and proceeded to tell them what their daughters had been saying to mine. No surprise that they were shocked! They immediately got on the bus and had long talks with their daughters, then were very apologetic and as I expected, thought that all three girls were best friends.

It ended up that the two roommates shared a bed and Annabel got her own and also no surprise, halfway through the trip, those two were fighting and not speaking to each other!

The trip ended up being a fantastic experience for both daughters.

Most people looked at it as a chance to see the historical sites of Texas and the first look at college campuses, but it was also the first time they had to make their own decsions about bedtime, taking showers, what to eat, what to buy, some really, to me, more important lessons they need to learn, in a fairly controlled environment, but away from me.

But I did start this post with talking about a pep talk.

While I had a chance to "handle" the situation on the trip and the problems expected there, I know I cannot be there to fend off all the problems that Annabel will be faced with so I know she has to continue to work on establishing some boundaries, some plans to handle these issues on her own. For that I wish I had that secret book Mom is hiding from me!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Friend or foe?

Can bullying be disguised as friendship?

I am dumbfounded this morning after conversations with my daughter last night.

For those of you just joining the story, I adopted my daughter from China just two and half years ago. Her first 11 years were spent in foster homes, group homes, and the orphanage. Most of her history is missing but the parts I know keep me in awe of what a fantastic child she has transcended to be.

We had problems at her last school with bullies to the point that I filed a complaint with the Department of Education after the school continued to ignore it. The children there were merciless and the teachers either condoned it or ignored it, leaving my child the victim, a term I RARELY use, of harassment due to her ethnicity.

You know it was bad when the Department of Education found them at fault and required the entire staff and all the students to go through training in an effort to correct their lack of knowledge on how to treat people who are different from you. The school even failed at this and got a second slap on the wrist. By the time the next report to the DOE was due, they had figured out how to comply.

I have chronicled the problems in my other blog, www.asisterforgrace.blogspot.com. During the investigation process I was required to take the blog down. Since the investigation is complete, I have put it back on view. We won, but who wants to be victorious in proving your child was bullied/abused?

We switched schools and I cannot say enough good things about their new school. There truly is ZERO tolerance for anything that remotely resembles bullying or harassment. The problem is addressed immediately and as Barney Fife always said, nipped it in the bud.

But we have a problem.

Her current “friends” have begun requiring her to do certain things to remain their friends.

She is responsible for providing the “friends” paper, pencils, crayons, tape, whatever they need.

If she does not have it, they are mad and can no longer be her friend.

She has to carry extra supplies with her at all times in case they want something. I picked up her bag the other day and it weighed a ton. She had a small office supply store in there. I thought she was just being prepared, but now I know she was required to bring the extra things for them.

She is responsible for carrying certain items for them to class. If they have too many books or bags, she has to carry them. If they need to go to the restroom, it is her responsibility to hold their lunch and wait, so my daughter does not get to use the bathroom.

Again, if she does not do what they demand, they are mad and explain doubtfulness that she can be their friend.

The school is taking the students on a trip.

Her “friends” have told her she will sleep on the floor because they want the bed.

She can only take a shower or use the bathroom after they are finished.

She does not cry easily but has stayed on the verge of tears when talking about the impending trip and now I know why. She does not want to make her friends not like her yet I think she knew that what they had planned just did not sound right.

These might seem minor but when friendship is based on what you must do for me, I think it is the opposite, I think she is being bullied.

Those were not words she wanted to hear last night. She is proud to have friends who are popular and smart and she wants to do everything it takes to keep them as friends.

Egos are delicate and easily bruised in middle school.

Self-esteem is scarce.

Spending your first 11 years in survival mode makes you do whatever it takes to survive even if it is detrimental to your spirit, your esteem, your self worth.

How do you teach a child to look through the veil of friendship and see what it really is?

I asked if she ever borrowed anything from her friends. No.

Do they ever hold things for her? No.

Do they ever give her things? No.

Do they wait so she can go to the bathroom? No.

Does she give them things? Yes.

Is this bullying? If your relationship is dependent on what you will do for the other person is that friendship?

I love their current school. I emailed the principal and received a reply immediately.

No, this behavior will not be tolerated was the response.

Now I just need to figure out how to help her find her self worth and not be dependent on those who exist thrive on others.

Another day of parenting!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Happy Birthday!

The headlines in the last few weeks seem to scream problems facing 13 year olds:

13 year old commits suicide!
13 year old delivers stillborn baby!
13 year old held in attack on parents.!

My Grace turned 13 last week.

When I look at her, I cannot imagine her having the problems that others do, but it does not stop me from worrying, worrying how to help her grow and mature into a safe and secure young woman.

Maybe all parents worry about how one person, one event, one grade, one teacher, one friend, can shift the direction of your child's life and the sweet Innocent baby you remember is suddenly a headline?

I don't know.

I rationalize my worries and concern because I missed the first 6 years of Grace's life, so whatever is learned during those years was taught by someone else.

Recently I have been going through boxes and stacks and piles of papers, trying to get some clutter out of this house and what remains, in an organized system. For those who know me, they know what a daunting task this is.

Anyway, going through some of my sister, Jana's things, I found all the pictures of the first minutes, days, and weeks after adopting Grace.

I think I have written recently about the first moments, when she was brought down the hall in the government affairs office, carrying a stuffed dog that was a big as she was! But that was just the beginning.

My little Grace.

Oh my. She had on a pink shirt with sequins spelling out words that did not make sense, and a pair of blue jeans, with pink shoes that were about 2-3 sizes too big for her. She had so many do dads in her hair and she was insistent on fixing it herself each time. Each barrette, clippie, and rubber band had specific places that she put them in, at only 6 years old. She giggled and laughed and loved her cousin Gillian immediately.

She loved to lead the way throughout Nanchang, as if she were our personal travel guide and this is a HUGE city. We had a great tour guide and I guess he told her where we were going, but the chance she had any idea how to get there, starting from a hotel she had never been in, was slim, but she was so confident, she would grab Gillian's hand and lead the way! The Wal Mart has three stories and is always packed, but she was the first up the escalator, grabbing Gillian's hand and the first plowing into the crowd.

The pictures show Gillian and Grace followed close behind by Jana and then Darcey, my niece, and I bringing up the rear! But it always has Grace in the lead!

She could make me laugh from the beginning. She would march in front of the bathroom door, as if she had gone to military school, shoulders back, and then crumple to the floor laughing. She finally learned to enjoy the bathtub and then could have stayed there all day!

When we went swimming for the first time, she ran ahead and jumped right into the pool, the deep end. She had never been around a body of water like a pool. Her only experience was washing clothes in a river. I was bringing up the rear carrying Darcey, whom I had to put down very quickly, so I could jump in and save Grace. It wasn't the last time she would do that. She LOVED jumping in and did not worry about the fact that she did not know how to swim!

She tolerated shopping, enjoyed any food Gillian ate, and loved to watch the Chinese version of soap operas, watching them religirously every afternoon.

I love those memories. It's not quite as wonderful if I could have started sharing our lives from her first breath, but I am so thankful for each and every moment with her.

Grace has changed a lot from those first few weeks, months, and years. She is much quieter now and rarely wants to lead the way. She remembers all details and can do a spot on imitation of most people. She reminds me more of a Southern Belle than the loud, giggling tour guide in China. She can focus all of her attention on one area and practice those skills until she has mastered a new skill. She can still make me laughter harder with her subtle observations that almost anyone.

She is 13 going on 23, but can easily slip back to 6.

So while we missed her first 6 years together, I pray we have many more together. I pray for guidance in helping the only headline she is in are about her successes. She completely changed my life and I thank God every day for that blessing.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Some musings


As you are growing up, time just creeps by. It takes forever to finish a school day, much less a week of school. It is even worse to finally get to spring break and then the last two months are the longest are you watch the clock so slowly tick until it is summer vacation.

You wait patiently for each birthday, especially those that herald milestones in life, your 5th birthday marking your admission into school, your 13th so you are a teenager, your 16th so you can drive a car, your 18th marks your planned graduation from high school and more importantly your right to vote.

But all of this takes time and when you are waiting on the next big event, time moves in slow motion.

Of course as I get older, I see the time just flying by. It seems to go faster with each day. The work week starts and before I can accomplish my long list of must items, it is over, and I am fighting to get through my long list of things I must get done at home. I blink my eyes and the weekend is over and preparations for Monday morning have begun and the list just grows of all the unaccomplished things and more and more are stacked on them.

Sometimes we want it to pass more quickly, when experiencing pain or grief, because we know time heals, but then it slows back down to when we were children and the very slight improvements are so minuscule it takes long stretches for us to realize that the healing did happen. Then we look back and wonder how we missed it. How did we not see the changes as they occurred?