When we first brought Naika home, I danced my “already choreographed” dance for about one year. We already had four biological children; we were teaching parenting classes at church, receiving kind complimentary comments from others re: our children and our family, and feeling fairly confident (ha ha) that we knew how to “dance” as parents.
After about one year of trying to get her to join our “already choreographed” dance program, I became painfully aware that she did not like or understand our dance. She already had her own dance choreographed. In fact, she seemed to be totally wrecking our dance! Our family really was falling apart, I felt. She was destroying things in our home, lying, wetting her pants at will seemingly to interrupt a good time, hiding things, parenting herself instead of allowing us to take care of her, hiding her big “owies” but exaggerating little ones, willingly clinging to strangers, having control issues with food and drink, and on an on each day. I had never seen this dance before–ever. I hit a wall and stopped dancing. I crashed to the floor. I cried. I pounded the floor in pain–trying to hurt myself on the outside because my insides were imploding. I kicked a hole in the wall for the same reason. I wanted to be her mom and her to be my daughter. That’s how the adoption papers describe our relationship. But, I failed miserably in actions, deeds, thoughts, feelings, . . . I failed.
It was not her fault. And while I don’t blame myself for that year, I do regret not knowing/believing that dancing with Naika would be different than dancing with our prior children. My husband and I glanced at one (1) attachment disorder book before Naika came to our home. I vividly remember reading a paragraph or two to him out loud in bed about what kinds of behaviors we might expect from our daughter who spent nearly the first two and a half years of her life in an orphanage; I read them out loud. We agreed that none of it probably would apply to Naika, but if it did–we’d handle it just like we handled the behavior of our first four children. We knew how to dance!
Fact: before Naika came to our home, she and we both developed patterns, movements, belief systems, personalities . . . apart from each other.
How could we mesh these dances together? I sure didn’t know. I sought help. The Children’s Home and Aid Society in Sioux Falls, SD started me on a new path . . . one which led me to understand better the dance Naika was dancing. Once armed with education, I danced with fury and frenzy. I danced hard. I danced obsessively. I googled and read books on attachment disorder, parenting post-institutionalized children, went to support groups, talked things over incessantly with my running partner/best friend, invested in one-on-one counseling time, . . . . And all of this really really helped. Thank God. I recognized her dance. I learned a new dance. We abandoned our former parenting ways in regards to Naika and recognized more clearly what she needs from us; more than anything, she needs safety and connection–not discipline and consequences for “bad” behavior.
Having danced with fury and frenzy for quite a stretch, I wore myself out. The learning, the counseling, the gaining understanding didn’t wear me out. What has worn me out and wears me out still is implementing so much of this into our relationship with her, and yet finding that we remain at a place of disconnect.
I find myself now standing still. My daughter seems to be standing still. I have stopped the fury and frenzy, and I seem to be just mirroring her steps. . . . If she moves to the left, I move to the left. If she moves to the right, I move to the right. When I drop her off for school, if offers her cheek for a kiss, I give her one. If she offers her lips for a kiss, I kiss them. And that’s about it. She doesn’t offer much, and neither do I. She doesn’t seem to be able to receive much more than what she is capable of giving.
So, instead of dancing towards her in a frenzy, and instead of trying to force her to dance with me, I match her moves. For now, it’s a more comfortable step.