Sunday, November 18, 2012

Feeling it

I have been meaning to write about how the battle against Penny has been going lately.

One of Penny's big criticisms has been that I'm not "feeling it" enough. Penny has read a lot of adoption blogs where people report falling head over heels in love with their children. Penny has been telling me that even if I'm taking good care of my children, if I'm not loving every minute of it, I'm coming up short.

Here's a story:

During Christmas of 2001, I was in South Africa. A friend and I decided to go rappelling (abseiling) down Table Mountain. It is the highest commercial rappel in the world, starting at 1000 meters up, then dropping 112 meters down a cliff overlooking Cape Town. I had never been rappelling before, so this was an ambitious way to start. I was pretty terrified. I vividly remember inching backwards over the edge of the cliff, hanging onto the rope for dear life.

At the top, the woman in charge of the rappel cheered me on. I have been thinking about this woman a lot, because she was the best cheerleader ever. Every inch my shaking foot moved, she whooped and hollered. Right foot one inch - "You are soooo good at this!!!" Left foot one inch - "I can't belieeeeve it!!!" Right foot one inch - "I'm going to lose my job! They're going to give you my job!!!" And so approximately five thousand hours later, I made it to the bottom of the cliff.

So I ask Penny, was this woman "feeling it"? Did she honestly think I was the best rappeller ever (unlike, say, my friend who descended the entire 112 meters in about 90 seconds)? Clearly, she did not. But she got me down the cliff, she did damn fine work, and I was very grateful for her. I would never in a million years argue that because she wasn't feeling it, she didn't do a good job. Nor would I have preferred that she shout more honest assessments of my progress.

So for the last couple of weeks, I've focused on becoming a better cheerleader. I've been using the words "best in the whole world" a lot. I have been over-the-top gushing over my boys. And it works really well. D "helps me" fix the porch screen by scattering nails all over the ground? "You are the best helper in the world!!!" I exclaim. His eyes get big. "The best in Greece? The best in Addis Ababa?" And then he tries harder to live up to the title, managing to actually bring me the tools I need, as I need them. My cheerleading makes him happy and proud of himself. A pretends to not like it, but the cheerleading makes him happy and proud of himself, too.

I'm making my children happy and proud of themselves. I feel that. Penny can't argue and she gets quieter.

http://www.abseilafrica.co.za/

28 comments:

  1. I am really struggling wtih feeling it. And it has been tearing me up the last 8 weeks (crap,have my new kids been home that long). I really owe them some better cheerleading and smiles. Even if my head is saying something different. Thanks for this.

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    1. Really? You? I read your blog and think you have got it all together. Will confess to feeling envious of how together you have it. And that you have time to write regular blogposts complete with beautiful pictures. I think you are doing an AMAZING job.

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    2. Let's knock me down off the pedestal so you can know, one of my kids in particular drives me nuts and it's such a deep shame that I cannot blog about it. Attachment is a two way street and I suck at driving the bus these days. Kinda unbloggable until I feel I am in a better place. But know you are not alone.

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  2. Penny is unrealistic.
    We've been home 15 months and there are times when I don't 'feel it' either. I love my kids and cannot imagine life w/o them BUT being a mom is a really hard job. During our first several months (which were harder than hard) my own mother had to reassure me that it was ok that I wasn't 'loving' the whole mothering journey. Yes there were fleeting moments of joy and rushes of love and affection; but it seemed more often like a relentless slog. And when it wasn't a slog someone was throwing a huge tantrum...

    It's really hard Kyra; please give yourself some credit. From what I read here and on FB you are doing a tremendous job.

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  3. Guess what? When we finally decided to take our kiddo that struggles to a therapist a little over a year ago, guess who spent far more time with the therapist than our kid? Me. My Penny (hmm, should probably think of a name for her) had gotten a hold of me so strongly that I needed more therapy than my kid did. As Penny began to fade into the background things with our struggling kiddo got easier. Said kiddo still struggles. A lot. But sometimes (I mean, most of the time) the biggest determining factor on how crazy it get is how loud Penny's become in my head. I still don't "feel it" with this kid more often than I do, but I do feel it more often than I used to. In fact, just an hour ago or so I stopped and looked at Brent and just marveled in how good this parenting/family stuff can feel (and particularly mothering our kid that struggles when they're not struggling so much). Hang in there Mamma. It sounds like you've developed a good strategy for right now!

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  4. I've noticed something ... has anyone ever heard a bio parent agonize over feeling it? I know a lot of bio parents, and they do not beat themselves up for feeling frustrated, tired, fed up and not madly in love with their kids every minute of the day. They joke about tricking other people into watching their kids, hiding from their kids, etc. I think sometimes when we adopt, we hold ourselves to different standards. (I suspect this is true even for APs with bio kids.) In a way, that makes sense. Our adopted kids have different needs; we start with a love and care deficit. And we've spent a lot of time and energy proving to strangers what wonderful parents we will be. But at the same time, we're human. I think ALL parents have times when we don't feel it. We just stumble on doing our best anyway, and it sounds like you're doing a great job.

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    1. Barb - this is so true - I think we DO hold ourselves to (unrealistic) higher standards and being kind to ourselves is the thing we don't do well enough. And yes, some of our kids do come with a love deficit and we work hard and long to fill up the holes.

      Kyra - you are doing what you can and when you can ...being a great cheerleader is a job in itself. Know that your friends (virtual and real life) are with you on this journey. Cheers for you.

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    2. You are spot on Barb. The expectations we hold for ourselves will never be met if we don't cut ourselves some slack. We are human, not machines. It's never easy this entire journey we are all taking. :)

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  5. I'm off to have a conference with my Penny- to see what she wants me to call her. Turns out, the four letter word I usually use (that starts with a B) is probably not the right approach. I need to make friends with her. Yup. Tell her she's the best Penny (or whoever she is) in the whole wide world. Thanks for this.

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    1. I hadn't thought of that - cheerleading Penny. Maybe that will shut her up.

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  6. Everyone here is spot on with what they are saying. Someone once told me, "fake it til you make it." I think that more than applies to all kinds of mothering.

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    1. I was just going to write that, S. That was the first piece of advice other APs told us when we started the journey. Never really knew if I could do that, but sometimes, even as a waiting parent, I fake it to others... 'Oh, yes, it's great. Waiting is great. etc etc'

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  7. We have 'pennies' at this end of the world as well! It seems we're all in the same boat. Life with children... Some days are great, some not so. Some days I am just bored to death of the cooking, cleaning, the same routines everyday, some days are full of surprises with laughter and cuddles (+ no one complains of mum's cookings and cleans their dirty socks from the floors). There are days when my Penny shouts at the top of her lungs but I have taught myself to tell her to shut up - she sometimes listens. This mothering thing - it is by far the most demanding job I ever had and I'm doing the best I can.

    I say you're doing great!

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    1. It feels very "Feminine Mystique," doesn't it?

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  8. We are a year in and still struggle too. Some days we feel it, some days we don't. That includes my three bio kids, adjustments going on for everyone. I think the more history you build together helps. Shared experiences, holidays, regular days, all build that feeling.

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    1. That is a very good point, about building history together. Thank you.

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  9. As a parent of biological kids, I echo the not feeling it experience all the time. Even when I'm not feeling it, though, I know I love them. I have no choice.

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    1. I'll tell you more at Thanksgiving. Love you.

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  10. I struggle with feeling it on the days I think my kids need me to feel it the most; I hate that. I love this story that you've shared. I can totally get behind that kind of enthusiasm, feeling it or not. Thanks so much for sharing.

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    1. The best part is, often that insincere enthusiasm ends up making you feel more positive and becomes sincere!

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  11. This is suuuuuuch a great post on every single level. Stupid penny. I want to beat her to a pulp.

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    1. I've found that getting mad at her doesn't work. Just ends up adding layers of self-criticism. I've found it's better to just let her have her say.
      So glad for your recent good news!

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  12. Build it. Penny or no Penny. She's seemingly always there, whether lingering on the sidelines, or front and center.

    Give her a glance, but not the attention she craves.

    And as Kim says above, build it together...piece by piece.

    Feeling it or not feeling it, you are building history.



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  13. In reading this I had many of the same responses as others above did. First, I think ALL parents feel this; not just those who adopt. I know many a new (biological) mother who has reported similar feelings. Sure, they're not dealing with attachment issues and struggling to assimilate young children to a whole new world, but they're feeling the same doubts and worries and even the "why did I do this?" feelings. I am certainly one of them, too - I feel like utter crap when I don't love every second of my new and long-awaited life. And second, the whole "fake it 'til you make it" thing has truly worked wonders for me in the past. Penny does sound like a true PITA but I hope you keep finding ways to keep her at bay. The cheerleading approach is a great one! I'd suggest therapy, too (it's my best friend, and I'm aching to try to find a way to get back to it with a baby in tow), if that's something you're open to. There's nothing like talking through your feelings to help with some self realization and self-worth building. (Of course blogging helps with that, too!) Hang in there, mama - you are doing a great job by your boys.

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    1. Thank you, Kelly, I really appreciate the support!

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  14. I needed to read this again today. I haven't been a very good cheerleader lately. More like Nagger of the Year, Dream Killer, Sucker of All Things Fun. SO....I stopped by for another reminder. Thanks.

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    1. Sorry, but you don't get those titles... Penny does. And if you are giving those titles to yourself, then your Penny deserves them, too.

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  15. Jeesh, it seems like forever since I've been to your blog. Love catching up and love everything about this post. I suck at cheerleading. You just inspired me to do better, because it is so important and it does work.

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