Tough Stuff- Part 1

So, what I have not mentioned yet is what's been hard regarding our adoption.

Well, I went back and dug up a post I wrote on December 20th. We had been home exactly one month.

At the time, the feelings felt too raw to post publicly. But, I had to write down my feelings so I wouldn't forget them. I am ready to share the reality now because well, things are much, much better already. AND.....I feel like Cooper's mom now, not just like a mom who is caring for a really great kid. There is a HUGE difference.

Here in part 1 of "Tough Stuff" I'll simply post what I wrote on December 20th. In "Part 2" which is to come, I'll write about how far we've come, and what's tough now.

If you don't like hearing honest stuff, this isn't your kinda reading.


So, what's been hard about Cooper's transition into our family?

First of all, just the general change in our family dynamic. I think we are all missing the rhythms and routines of life as a family of four- like the way you miss your old slippers before the new ones are broken in. One morning when Cooper slept in, but the rest of us were up, Sawyer was playing then he said out of nowhere, "Hey- it's like it's just the four of us again." And, to be completely honest, I think we all long for that now and then. Not to be without Cooper.....let me clarify. But, we long for what feels normal, comfortable, familiar, easier. We sometimes want our old slippers back, even though we know the new slippers will be just fine in no time at all (and they are better in so many ways too).

I think Sawyer may feel this acutely without even realizing he does, because Cooper is uber-attached to Sawyer. More attached to Sawyer than any of us in spite of my best efforts. It's partially a little-boy, big-boy thing. Sawyer LOVED bigger boys too at that age, but when working on attachment, it gets in the way sometimes. Cooper will seek Sawyer out for comfort, for help, and almost exclusively for play. Cooper also will not go to bed if Sawyer is not in bed too (meaning, that's when I am SURE we would see full hysteria, but its kind of a problem, because a 7 year old doesn't need to go to bed at the same time as a three year old....although, we have been doing that lately). Cooper still needs naps, but that has proven to be the most difficult thing, because neither of my kids nap anymore, and Cooper will really cry hard when I tell him he needs to nap. We're really trying to just phase it out, but he very clearly needs one about every third day or so. 

So....the general change in our family dynamic has been hard. When I (for an example) have to lay down in bed with Cooper to nap (so he doesn't lose it) and the rest of the family is snuggled up on the couch watching a movie, I'm not going to lie, I feel something a little (sometimes a lot) like grief.  However, I also distinctly remember feeling exactly this way after Chloe was born. I'd have to nurse her to sleep, and would miss being part of Sawyer's bedtime routine (my favorite time of day with my kids). I'd be crying and wondering why I upset the apple cart by having another child and if I'd ever be ok with it. Of course, I was- and it didn't even take too long. But, you do lose some things in the change, and that's hard. Not crazy-I'm-not-going-to-get-through-this hard or I'm-gonna-need-counseling hard, but hard none the less- on all of us.

The hardest part though is that Cooper does not like Chloe. At. all. 95% of the negative emotion he displays is directed at her. If she hugs him, tries to play with him, touches him, or sometimes even just looks at him, he will shove her, pull away from her, growl at her, tell on her, yell at her or just otherwise make it very known that he is NOT interested. Often, if, say, she tries to hug him, he will yell at her and then run over to Sawyer for a hug and look directly at her as if to say, "I love Sawyer, but not you."

It is heartbreaking.

And, again, completely honestly, it makes me really angry.

Chloe is the personification of happiness and joy. She has her moments, yes. But, even while being dethroned as the baby in the family, she has welcomed Cooper into this family the best of any of us- loving him completely and wanting to express that to him all the time. As a result, yes, she's all over him like white on rice- and we're working on that. So, sometimes, I can't blame Cooper. But, other times, he is just downright mean to her, and she knows it. She will say, "Cooper loves everyone in this family except me."

And, she'd be right.

I have read enough to know this is completely normal. I have been around the block enough to know "this too shall pass". However, when it happens, that knowledge does not make it any easier on Scot, myself OR Chloe. The other thing Chloe has NOT going for her is that Sawyer is currently enamored with Cooper, and Cooper super-attached to Sawyer, so......while Sawyer and Chloe used to be the best of friends playing really well together all the time......it rarely if ever happens now. Because Cooper will actually yell at Chloe if she tries to play with them or even just with Sawyer.  But, even Sawyer tends to play with Cooper now.  I am getting all choked up just writing this. It's hard, hard, hard to watch. Chloe notices it too- and she's been having a hard time. Add to that the trouble she had when I got sick, she has been having a very difficult time. You'd not always notice it, but those of us that know Chloe best see it- and we're being very proactive about helping her with all of it.

Also, when Sawyer is in school, Chloe and Cooper are stuck together trying to make their own way, and on those days things are better. In general, too, things have improved greatly already.

The picture above is of play-doh people that Cooper made with my mom in mid-January. He wanted to make "pictures" of everyone in our family (grandma and grandpa included which is why there is more than 5). Chloe is the person with the blue face in the lower right- the only one Cooper wanted to have a mean/angry face. 

So....no big drama or fireworks. A rather smooth transition. Cooper is doing well, settling in, and fitting in really well. But, even in all the easiness of our transition, there has been some hard stuff. And, sometimes, I think, when the hard stuff is less obvious, people wonder why you are saying it's hard.

I'm saying it is hard while also totally admitting it could be a thousand times harder in our case, and I thank God every day for being merciful to us. If I'm having a hard time with this, imagine if our circumstances had been more difficult.  But, no one ever said adoption is easy (and if they did, they'd be wrong- especially when you adopt a preschooler).

And, I don't want to paint it negatively......we're having lots of fun with Cooper. He is fun and funny and sweet and snuggly and often very kind. We're growing to love him more every day, and we look forward to being able to see more and more of who he really is as the weeks and months go by.


Ally said...

I have seen and heard glimpses of the struggles you have had over the last few months and I appreciate hearing the whole story.

meg said...

oh--jenna, my heart groans....and rejoices.....both mingled....
praying for you....

La Dolce Vita: The Sweet Life said...

This honesty is such a beautiful thing. I truly can relate to some of the grieving that you mentioned for those old slippers. Great analogy, and a perfect description of the feelings I felt.

Can't wait to read part II. Thanks for being vulnerable.

rachel said...

jenna, i just tried to leave you a looong comment (probably too long!) and it got lost in blogger cyber space!

wanted to say i could relate to so much of what you are saying, especially the part about it being hard, but not "i need a counselor" hard. people ask if i experienced PAD and i say no, but it was HARD.

i can also related about the part about chloe. E much prefers J to Indi and Indi is devastated by it. E is coming around and I took a picture of them snuggling together voluntarily. it was a first! we've been home 13 months.

i think so much of the transition home relates to the child's level of hurt before coming home. e experienced pretty serious neglect and our expereicne has been HARD as a result. several families who we traveled with adopted 2-5 year olds and their experiences were CAKE in comparison. but those kids all spent minimal time in the orphanage and spent their first year(s) with their first moms. Ethiopia has pretty great attachment practices despite the poverty. i always say - infant adoption does not always mean easy. toddler adoption does not always mean hard. it just really depends on the child.

andrea said...

adoptive parents need to read more post like this....thank you, for your honesty...all 3 of your kiddos are lucky to have YOU as there mommy...your an amazing women!

God bless
emma lael's mom from new day

Football and Fried Rice said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Football and Fried Rice said...

It is so different, I think, adopting a preschooler! not young enough to blend more seamlessly and not old enough to really understand what is happening.

Language barrier. Foster family. New food. New words. new siblings. So many changes.

is it any wonder?

I have said, more than once, had i KNOWN everything - I would have said NO. There is a reason we have NO idea how children will add/change our lives :) And like I know you feel - I am SO GLAD I didn't know. I am so glad God chose to surprise me this way!!

His plan of Redemption is amazing and He wants SO much for your family and for Cooper. I often say that God must think an awful lot of me to keep showing me His love.

He thinks an awful lot of you too.

Kristi said...

So honest, so real. Thank you for sharing. In some ways I still try to block out how difficult it was bringing C home. With both of the girls it was much easier, but with him...
And sometimes I secretly am glad that we have a few more months until our lives change yet again. Yet I'll hold on to the promise that the new slippers will be comfortable in time. :)

tjp said...

I found your blog via another adoption blog and I so appreciate your honesty with this post. We have a similar adoption story (an 7-year-old bio daughter, 3 year-old- bio son and have been home 5 months with an almost 2-year-old daugher from China). While the transition has gone much smoother than many stories I read, it hasn't been easy. I was not prepared for the "hard" and the "different". I feel that adoption is too-often romanticized. Your post was encouraging in its truth and honesty. Thank you.