Sunday, March 13, 2011

Manic Monday

The Overwhelmingness of it all!

"Did you think it would be easy?" That is the question Yvan asked me?

Nope, I didn't! I really didn't think it would be easy at all.

But I certainly wasn't prepared for how hard parenting actually is.

O.k. I know...I should have been prepared somewhat....shouldn't I have?

But let me ask you this? How do you prepare?

We were encouraged to "borrow our friend's kids" for a day or a weekend. But that wouldn't do it justice. In the back of your mind you would always be thinking "This is hard and these kids are little hellions but they will be going home to their parents in a couple of hours".

The option is not there when you are faced with a wee one in your home who is yours. It's not really a realistic view of what parenting will be like because they aren't your kids. You can't set the rules and boundaries. You can't decided what time they will go to bed or have their lunch or take a nap. Those things are already in place.

We could have taken parenting classes and we looked into them. Unfortunately, in our small city all the parenting classes are geared towards birth families and newborns. Maybe I wasn't looking hard enough but I think I was.

We also had a moving target age wise. Ade was 6 months at referral. A year when we found out the adoption might not go through. 18 months when our documents finally hit Nairobi for Visa and Immigration. All the time we were thinking "We will bring him home any day now"! I ordered books on raising a 1 year old, a 2 year old and 3 year old to cover the bases because we just didn't know when we would get him home.

And yes! I know! I asked for this. I moaned for it! I cried over it for hours, days, and weeks on end.

I still want it.

Adoption books were scattered all over the house from my reading frenzy prior to going to Ethiopia. I gathered them together when we got home in an attempt to read all of them at once because I needed the answers to so many questions and the most important question of all was "How are we going to do this without screwing him up?"

I honestly thought we were going to cause long-term, permanent damage to him if we didn't do everything perfectly and in every detail described in the many, many books on attachment and bonding I had been diligently collecting since we started our adoption.

I was so overwhelmed by it all! I was setting myself up for failure.

Where had the parents in Ethiopia gone? We were so free and unencumbered during our time there. We parented by instinct and it was working. We were happy and enjoyed each day with Ade as we set out on new adventures as a family of 3.

It was if we had just met Ade for the first time the moment we walked through our front door (actually the back door because we park in the garage). We froze! Well I did for sure. Yvan set about living life as normally as could be with our new addition.

It was me. I admit it. I froze. I got scared. Scared out of my wits. Who was I to be in charge of a 2 year old. How was I supposed to get him through each day alive? What was I suppose feed him? How do I keep him entertained? Should he nap for 1 hour, 2 hours...what time was the best bed time? All of these questions and more ran in a continuous loop in my brain.

I became obsessed with making sure he was attaching to us. Playing with him, sitting with him, sleeping with him....were we doing it all right? Did he want us? Was he happy? So much so, that what ended up happening was I became exhausted from thinking, planning and hoping it would all turn out so perfectly.

It won't turn out perfectly. We aren't perfect. Life isn't perfect. Why did I suddenly think parenting would be anything but imperfect?

I forgot to make sure I was o.k. I forgot to give myself breaks. Yvan would say to me "Go to the gym. I will watch the boy." I wouldn't go...for some reason I felt I shouldn't leave Ade or Yvan. I wouldn't be a good mom. He would resent me if I left him for even a minute. This what I had waited so long for and now I was going to go to the gym?

The overwhelmingness of it all took over.

Then the reality of having a child at home who we had been entrusted to raise entered in the ever-running loop of crazy thoughts in my head. At bed time, I would start thinking about the next day and what it would bring. Then I started thinking about all of the days ahead. At once!

The anxiety took over and panic set in as I imagined each day of BREAKFAST, SNACK, LUNCH, NAP, SNACK, SUPPER, BEDTIME...REPEAT FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE!

I couldn't sleep thinking this what my life had become. I would be 50 years old and raising a 2 year old....I couldn't see beyond this stage. Yvan was kind to remind "He won't be 2 forever you know." And all I could think was "HE WILL BE 2! FOREVER!!!!!"

I became paralzyed...didn't want to leave the house because I HAVE A 2 YEAR OLD! How do you leave and do anything normal ever again with a toddler who is 2!

I felt like I couldn't breathe...I was suffocating...trapped....doomed.

This is how my brain worked. No matter what I told myself or others told me.

It was awful! As my one friend said to me "It is so gross!"

It wasn't isn't what life will really be like..but at that moment, in my head...that was it...all that life would hold...the raising of a 2 year old and never, ever leaving my house again.

The fact it was -35 for the first 3 weeks we were home didn't help because we weren't actually leaving the house because it was so cold. This only compounded my fear.

Thankfully, I knew enough to ask for help. I asked Yvan. We asked his parent, my parents, our friends...I talked.

To anyone who would listen. I talked. And talked and talked.

I am still talking. It is doing me some is doing us some good.

We also remembered how much Ade loves to be out and about. So we are going out. And about.

It is getting better.

I have my hard days.

Ade has his hard days.

Yvan has his hard days.

Then we have our good days...and they are really good.

We are figuring it out together.


Julie said...

Oh Rana. I wish we lived closer. Melese just turned two and the parenting just jumped from difficult to "Are you fucking kidding me?" 2 years is HARD. It just is. And I get the guilt thing. I had my first workout attempt with him at the childcare and it was a debacle. If we were neighbors our hellions could tear it up together while we drank and ate caramel cake like the one in your post below. People tell me it gets easier. I choose to believe them. Hugs to you.

lyndsey&kevin said...

Keep talking... if it helps... and roller derby?? That is awesome!!!

I am trying to come up with a great name for you.... I'll let you know if I do. I might HAVE to come back to Saskatoon if you are a roller derby diva!!!

hugs my friend.

Ranavan said...

Uh ya, Julie!!! 2 is FUCKING HARD!

Oh how I wish we lived closer to you guys...dreaming of the day we come for a visit!

Sarah said...

Thank you for your honesty and for sharing your experience. It must be so difficult to jump right into parenting a 2 year old, never mind all the stress and crazy before you even brought him home! I am sure it will get easier and in the meantime, please keep sharing. I love reading your blog.

Karen said...

For us, it seemed like our little guy woke up on his second birthday and decided firmly that, from that day forward, he was going to make our lives miserable (well, minus all the cute stuff). And we already had a year of parenting him under our belts. I'm guessing that coming home with a two-year old adds many layers to the already difficult challenge.

I think we (i.e. adoptive parents) put such crazy expectations on our ourselves, we can't possibly meet them (and take care of ourselves at the same time) when reality hits.

I'm glad you are talking, getting help and getting out a bit. And, yes, let Yvan take care of the boy, so you can go to the gym. Or go out for some beverages. :)


Kendra said...

Thanks for sharing Rana. I am taking it all in and hoping I remember it all for the future.

darci said...

oh IS hard..and honestly you jumped into parenting at what lot's and lot's of people consider that hardest craziest age...two! Those little ones are old enough to KNOW THEIR OWN MIND and express it freely, but too little to be able to express it in ways we self-control, no fear of danger, etc is a hard age, but it WILL get better, and easier, and you will be yourself again, andyou will have your marriage back again...really! I can say this because I've been there--although a completely different situation in ways, but still remembering the absolute overwhelming feeling of 'my life will never be the same', it's not, but it is so GOOD, and although I wouldn't call it 'easy' :) it's good..I pray my way through a lot of times! :) hang in there. praying for you today. darci

Kari --- said...

Oh my word, I could have written the exact same post.. but I birthed mine.. and I tell you, when he hit 2, my feelings were the same. I kept thinking "WTF? Did the forceps squish his little head?", "Why did I let them use forceps?", "Have I ruined him forever?", "Who is this alien creature?", "Where the hell did my sweet little boy of my dreams go?"... "Am I doing something wrong?"... then I remembered my favourite quotes...

“Anyone can give up, it's the easiest thing in the world to do. But to hold it together when everyone else would understand if you fell apart, that's true strength.”


“Promise me you'll always remember: You're braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think." -Christopher Robin to Pooh

Claudia said...

This is absolutely hilarious - about day five of parenting, J and I lay in bed and said 'right.... so how long until they go to school?' Because it just feels like it's ALWAYS going to be like this. You wrote this perfectly - tell it like it is!!

Anonymous said...

It is CRAZY hard!! Some days you want to scream (and I have OUTLOUD)...just go away and leave me alone for 5 f'ing minutes! And then you feel guilty and then we repeat over and over again.

It is hard. We all had our googles on how great it would be when we got our wee ones and we forgot about ALL the STUFF that comes with it.

Big hugs, I can't wait to see you this week!!

Sharla said...

You are doing so well. Truly Rana. No parent is ever perfect...that's how therapists make their living!

I hope that you are able to find a way to put less pressure on yourself. I'm glad to hear that you are having good days here and there. There will get to be more of them.

2 is hard even for experienced parents. Being stuck in the house because it's freezing outside with a 2 year old is honestly torture for any parent. I am so thankful that spring is coming. And to be really honest, at the moment, I'm glad that we are past the "terrific twos" stage at our house!

Just think, someday, you'll be one of those parents who knows what it's like to have a 2 year old but now has a 3 or 4 year old who is easier to entertain and just plain easier in general. I'm sure that Ade is a sweetie, but 2 is a tough age no matter how you cut it and being thrown into parenthood with a 2 year old as your introduction must surely not be a cakewalk!

Carolyn said...

Well said sister!!! Adam said the same thing to me when we got home "what did you think this would be like?" I do not think that you can prepare. You can read and look after other kids all you want but it is just not the same. There are days when I sit on the toilet with my little man standing right next to me and I ask aloud "will I ever be able to pee in privacy again?" It is hard and I can relate to all that you have said.

Major hugs to you!


The Gaboury's said...

Love your manic Mondays. You are so right, parenting an adopted child is so much harder than ever imagined, especially when the child you have been dreaming about is so different than you could ever imagine. I remeber those first couple of months to be so hard. Our daughter had angry out bursts of 3-4 hours every day. You are a good mom and Ade is so lucky to have you.


Liz said...

It is SO much harder than anything anyone prepared me for - you just can't be prepared for it! And taking care of someone else's kids is just not the same, there isn't the same level of pressure to get it right and if they misbehave it has nothing to do with you - their parents did it to them. I was a much better parent before I actually had a kid...

Get out of the house as much as you can once the weather gets warmer, go grocery shopping with him or whatever you can think of - I'm also a better parent in public than I am at home...

Ramona said...

Ok I didn't even get through the whole post- too many tears. I so hear you. It freezes you with panic. And I've had 2 kids before! I still get moments that make me stop and think "what do I do with them?" And the feeling of being stuck in this for the rest of my life... Oh Rana. From experience I know I won't be in the place forever, but at the time, it doens't change that you are in it! There is no way to prepare yourself. None. Some days I give myself a time out- to re-group my thoughts and give myself the courage that I can do this for the next moment. The first 6 months were the hardest I have even lived through. Especially up to week 6. And M was exactly the same age and although P was almost 4, developmentally he was at the same place. Feel free to call me if you want to chat or cry or scream or anything. I wish we lived closer- although I have 2 demanding sick littles right now...
Remember that you aren't alone. Reach out to what might help you- whether that's a break, the gym or a nap. You don't have to be strong all the time. And don't beat yourself up with the guilt that comes form "But I wanted this so badly" and the feelings that you aren't doing all you need to. I remind myself that a 2 year old adapting to the trauma of a move etc really won't remember everything I did wrong or how much I sobbed my way through those early days.
You have Ade in your home and together, you will heal as a family. It takes time and tears, but it will come. You aren't alone and you won't ruin Ade is things don't go quite how you wish they would.
PS To answer Carolyn: you probably won't ever pee in privacy again- and if you try, they'll just bang on the door and yell at you- they always find you! OR they beat you there...

Carey said...

Hi Rana and Yvan,

I so hear you, I battled the same issues you have talked about since being home. And Yes the weather definetly made things hard, we are starting to get involved in play groups, as Mikiyas really misses kids his age and gets so excited when he sees a little kid in a store or church. Overwhelming yes, and bring on the good weather. The best days we have are when we have outside play time. We are are looking into a toddler program at our gymanastics club, I see you did a drop in. Anyway I am running on, Just wanted to say one when I have shown Mikiayas Ades picture he can identify him so cute, I know I need to send you the pictures, second I will talk to you soon. This is all normal as far as I am concerned, but I love that you have wrote about it, and yes I am one of those lurkers that is riding off your shirt tails, sorry........but man you have helped me the past few weeks as well.


emily and mike said...

Yup, big hugs to you. Parenting a two year old is non-stop. And if Ade is anything like Moses he can't be trusted alone or he will destroy my house!!!
I totally get your panic over the whole "breakfast snack play lunch snack...." is this what I am going to do for the rest of my life????????
I really look forward to the day my kids can wake up and make their own breakfast while this mama can chill and sip her coffee!!!

Anonymous said...

I love this post Rana, I was exactly the same way. I wanted to be perfect but to be honest, my little guy did not care and he was six when I adopted him. I found it hard, why couldn't I be more patient, less frustrated, more involved, better at bedtime, at making nutritious meals, at teaching him chores, at.......etc, etc, etc,. Really now that I am 5 years on in his adoption, I actually think it was a good thing. I learned to be a Mom to him and he learned to be a kid with a Mom because it was all new for him too.
It gets better and the feelings get better, just take a day at a time. I found going from no child to one child the hardest thing I have done in my life. Now I have two and that was hard but you are a bit more prepared because you know what it is like woth one.

Good luck, and give yourself a break!


Anonymous said...

Ok, I'm with Ramona. I couldn't get through this without crying. You are writing out what loads of us are feeling or have felt. This post was fabulous!

And 2? Fucking hard. But... but... but... it will get better. It will get easier, and most of the parenting mistakes you make, you can fix. I have a 2 year old right now, and this is my third time at it, and it's the first time I have managed to have a bit of perspective on how it won't last forever. A bit. :)

I love your manic monday posts. You are so brave and strong and brilliant.

Also, if you see a mom who you like how she parents, and you like her kids, hang out as much as possible. You will learn really quickly what you like, what works, etc.

Oh. And if something's not working, change it up. There are no rules. Also, never, ever, forget that you are the grown up. I do that all the time and it gets me into trouble. :)

Anonymous said...

Dear Rana,

Well said ... all of it! Every single little word of it!
Two year olds are like bipolar energizer bunnies and really, what the hell are we supposed to do with that? Those romantic parenthood moments are not about parenting a two year old that is for damn sure!
All I can say is that you are not alone!
Sending hugs,
Jen D

Connie said...

I don't think I can say anything here that hasn't already been said. You are certainly not alone. We all know what you're feeling and we're here for you. Don't feel guilty and don't be afraid to ask for help.

Brendan and Mary said...

Yup, you've seen my terrorist, I mean 2-year-old in action. I love bubbles to pieces, but it is freaking exhausting. Good for you for doing all these things now and not waiting until a year later when you've got virtually nothing left in you. The warmth, parks, zoo, sun, and mojitos are just around the corner for us! And there is nothing wrong with a mojito in the afternoon ;)

Littleone said...

It is so great that you are sharing... it will help you and others around you cause sometimes it feels like you are so alone.
I truly believe that parenting is one of the hardest yet most rewarding things in life. Some days I still have to walk away and hide for a few minutes just to save my sanity. It is so hard and I absolutely hate when people say this is what you wanted when you mention you are having a rough time or even try to vent. sigh, hang in does get better.

Anonymous said...

oh you are so right about being afraid that doing one thing wrong will wreck their lives. And thinking you have to follow every book every second.

Also this kind of makes me happy I skipped straight past 2 to 4. Heh.