Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Huh. That was weird.

Tonight was weird. You’ll need some backstory to understand, so I will do that annoying thing where I take the whole blog to get back to tonight’s story.

This entire weekend was long and overbooked. It felt surreal: I’ll admit it was unfortunate timing. There wasn’t a choice available to me other than just sucking it up and going to work. In one of the gigs, I had some wonderful solos and loved the conductor and the repertoire. In another, I’ve already asked out of some things and didn’t want to jeopardize my paycheck. In every gig I have, the fee is per service. There is no sick leave, no maternity time. Man, I sound desperate to justify the packed weekend, don’t I… sigh.

Well, it seemed to all go swimmingly. Our little bit of spiced fierceness loved meeting everybody and her brothers have always loved tagging along for symphony weeks. At break in Eugene she wanted to wander around, following the sound of the instruments. I even wished we had had more time before the second half of rehearsal.

She fell asleep as planned in the car after lunch on the way to my second gig two hours away. The boys were great, playing and giggling with her in the long stretches of the boring drive and then pointedly ignoring her when we wanted her to sleep. Honestly, she is easier than Isaac ever was as far as sleeping and schedules go.

On Sunday, she met a LOT of wonderful people at church. Most of them were pros, smiling and saying hello without invading her space, being playful and fun while following her lead. Just a couple insisted on touching her arm or trying to grab at her hands. She doesn’t freak out, just pulls back and shakes her head fast, clinging a little tighter to me with her legs. It’s hard to know what to say when people disregard her signals and push her boundaries. She’s probably fine, it’s probably standard one year-old behavior, and I don’t want to reinforce her discomfort by becoming tense and protesting myself. On the other hand she’s a pretty flexible kid, but I’d rather she not be forced to flex any more. I feel a strong urge to let her lead.

In adoption communities, there seem to be more than a few very finicky moms. They have particular words, questions, interactions they do not tolerate and (at least online) that will make them crawl right down everybody’s throat. Before we met our daughter, I thought maybe they were just difficult people, stubborn and coincidentally able to stick out the long and difficult adoption process. Now I realize it’s probably that they just don’t know what else to do when they encounter uncomfortable situations with their kids “from hard places”. They have a special knowledge of their child and her history, and they have the deep responsibility to help that child through all kinds of situations. They don’t often have many allies with similar experiences. With all our three weeks as an adoptive family, I already know that when I see others being ultra finicky and demanding online, I will be sympathetic.

We try to teach our kids to be sensitive, to weigh their actions and think about the impact they have. On the flipside of that, we work hard to help them give others the benefit of the doubt and let things roll off, taking into account all sorts of possible reasons when somebody is grumpy or offensive. We include the brokenness of humanity as a reason so many people can be unpleasant. I myself give them lots of opportunities to practice forgiving by being flawed right in front of their eyes daily. Ideally, it helps them empathize and show compassion (and the flawed part can't be helped, they're stuck!). We plan to teach Primrose to do the same, which means we need to model the same.

So I don’t say anything, but I turn my body away shielding her when she squirms. We smile and I touch the (usually) older ladies’ arms when they seem to miss her discomfort. How do you let a one year old know it’s okay to say no to more introductions? And yet by the next encounter, she is reaching out to touch fingers, ET style, with a kind and patient new friend. So then I think 'what do you know, anyway?' I am just making all this parenting stuff up as I go. Everybody is. 

Hopworks: the spicy minestrone got a big thumbs up!

She didn’t have any dramatic melt-downs, although for a while after running happily around she did want to lay on the floor at church and she would not go anywhere without being carried by me. J sat near her and they made up little peek-a-boo games that didn’t require her to stand. We had retreated to a back hallway where they pipe in the sermon for folks with babies, and it was a nice respite.

Today was low-key with my stupid Chinese cold and fatigue lingering, and tonight was outright weird. We sat on the porch watching bats fly overhead, and she shrieked excitedly at every one. Then she shrieked excitedly as Isaac practiced cello. Near the end of his session I remembered I had made some little videos for him to use for practice while we were in China, and put them on our TV so he could play along (here if you're really curious). Primrose was beyond excited shrieking about this. She started jumping in place, a mix between dancing and moshing without a pit. It was one of those toddler moments when they look happy and excited but you know they are skating on the edge of hysterical laughing and crying and careening into furniture.

Then Isaac’s TV practice video ended and “mama” disappeared from the screen. And she freaked right on out! She acted afraid, clawing to climb up on me and then wailed as though she had been physically hurt. Isaac and I were both so surprised we froze! For a fraction of a second I wondered if her tummy hurt or she had been afraid of the “me” on the screen after all but too scared to express it until I went away. Later, when she had calmed down and Jonathan was in the room, we played one of my videos again and she seemed perfectly happy all along. She took her bath and went to bed like a sane person.

See what a conundrum parenting a toddler can be? Was it the impermanence of somebody she needs that scared her? Or just the fact that it was late evening and the song she liked ended? Or something completely unrelated? Either way it was sad and I hope the calmer weeks will help us avoid creeping her out and upsetting her like that again.

Poor happy easy beautiful slightly freaked out kiddo!

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