Every so often, parents via adoption are confronted with their own complete and utter inadequacy. Oh sure, biological parents are too, I know, but I’m talking that extra layer of baggage that our children carry around that we must also deal with regularly – the hurt and pain of their pre-adoption experiences that never leave them, no matter how much we love and care for them.
Two nights ago, Baby Girl awoke and without getting into the minutia of the situation, ended up having a typhoon-sized temper tantrum at midnight that lasted a full hour and woke up our entire household, if not our entire street. Yeah – THAT kind of tantrum.
It’s interesting in retrospect to analyze how her behavior reflects so much of what I’ve read in adoption psychology books, yet somehow in the moment – I am completely unable to see that, nor am I able to draw on my research about how to deal with her adoption/attachment-related behavioral challenges.
So, of course when the tantrum started, instead of recognizing that she was feeling fear and insecurity related to recent circumstances that were putting her in touch with her pre-adoption experiences, all I saw was a bratty little kid looking for attention at midnight and waking me and the rest of the family up to get it. So I snapped. I shouted at her and grounded her from TV – which is a consequence that punishes ME far more than her, trust me. I threw up my hands and enlisted Huzbo, even – who did the same thing as me.
Well, we quickly found out the next night that our strategy stank, when Baby Girl woke up at 1am and proceeded to behave in the exact same way as the night before, despite how much shit she had gotten into.
I began to throw out threats of more severe consequences, which only served to both upset and incense her further. Huzbo was far more furious than the previous night and it was in the middle of this complete shit-storm that I realized something: her behavior was not something she was trying to do against us. She was attempting to reach out for help to deal with feelings that she did not have the skills to verbalize for us. The threats we were throwing at her were not intimidating to her – we were giving her choices, and when given the choice between watching TV or receiving love and assurance if she could get it via screaming and crying – she would always throw TV to the wolves.
I suddenly remembered a line I had read somewhere:
It’s usually when they are behaving in a way that it’s hardest to love them that they need our love demonstrated the most.
So I crawled into bed with the screeching, snot-nosed cyclone of hurt that was my daughter and held her. Oh, she resisted at first – she’s a fierce little example of the “flight or fight” response that many children who were adopted demonstrate in stressful situations – but she soon calmed and I was able to speak gently with her and give words to the overwhelming feelings she was having. When she began to weep and her little body sagged down onto the bed beside me, I knew I had done the right thing and had made the correct assumptions about the sources of her seemingly unacceptable behavior.
Flash ahead to yesterday morning, where I was putting her hair in pigtails for the dance class she was going to. Out of nowhere came this question:
“Do you wish you had gotten a white baby in your tummy instead of me?”
(WHY do they always ask these kinds of questions when you’re either in a public bathroom or in a hurry to get somewhere?)
I assured her that even though I had tried to make a baby in my womb before we had started our adoption journey, it was not because that was my preference, but because it was just what parents usually did when they wanted to have a child. I attempted to make her understand that it wasn’t about what I wanted more – that it was simply what most people do, yet I’m not sure I succeeded in convincing her she wasn’t a consolation prize in my efforts to become a mother.
Never a child to leave it at just one zinger, she followed up with:
“Would you have liked it better if I had white skin?”
I got down on my knees and looked her in the eye and told I would NEVER want her to have white skin, because if she did, she wouldn’t be my Baby Girl. That her beautiful black skin was a part of who she is, and that we did not care what colour skin our child had when we were deciding to adopt. I assured her that we didn’t love her DESPITE of her black skin, but BECAUSE of it. That we embrace the differences between her and us, but we also feel a very deep connection to her that we might not feel if she had white skin, because she would be an entirely different person. I assured her that if we had wanted a white baby so badly, we most certainly would have adopted one.
This seemed to appease her, as she went off to dance class with no further questions, but the conversation has been sitting in my mind, rattling the cage ever since then.
Do white parents experience their children asking them if they’d prefer their kids to have black skin?
Of course not.
Do bio parents experience their children raging in the middle of the night because they are feeling a hard-wired pain that occurred when they were separated from the mother who gave birth to them?
Do trans-racial adoptive parents ever feel guilty that they brought a black child into a white family?
It’s a tough, heart-kicking job we signed up for, as trans-racial adoptive parents. I’m not sure we knew back then how agonizing it would be at times.
But I wouldn’t change it for anything, because at the end of the tantrum and questions – I’ve got the most remarkable, tough, strong, joyful, happy, intelligent, gorgeous, stubborn little person who calls me “mommy”.
Sadly, my Baby Girl is the one who has so much more to contend with.
Thanks for reading my blog! Feel free to share it, and if you’d like to hear more from me, slide over to the right side of your screen and “Like” my Facebook page, follow me on Twitter and subscribe to get my latest post in your email inbox – yes, that’s right – stalk me!
You may also like reading my blog posts at Conceived in my Heart on YummyMummyClub.ca – check it out!