Dearest Sprout and Rosebud,
You’ve been living with your Mommy A and E for a month now. Life as a new family of four has settled into a nice pattern of routine and stability. We’ve enjoyed magic of Christmas with you, explored new places, and have shared much laughter. You’ve met countless new people this month and we are amazed by the way that you’ve opened your arms and hearts to your new extended family.
Sprout, the two characteristics that really strike me about you are your resilience and friendliness. You are such a happy, welcoming child that easily wins the heart of everyone you meet. Your favorite activities these days are trucks and play dough! You also love to play on the playground and we can’t wait until its warmer outside so we can do that more often. When we ask you what you want to be when you grow up, you always answer “A daddy!” – with your caring, compassionate soul there is no doubt in my mind that you would be a wonderful one. You are so smart and the success you are having in school learning your letters and numbers has us beaming with pride. You will go far in life and I can only hope that in some way I’ll be watching from the sidelines.
Rosebud, when I think of you, I smile – and since I think of you often, you always have me smiling! You are the cutest baby I have ever seen and I’m quite concerned that one day your nose will fall off from too many kisses. You have a warm soul just like your brother and you flash us your wide smile every chance you get. When I look into your eyes there is a distinct calmness and maturity – as if I’m getting a glimpse into many generations and a life so much bigger than I’ve ever known. You are full of love and patience and grace.
I love you both so much and I promise to stand by your side, for as long as I’m called to, no matter where this journey takes us.
All my heart,
Rosebud had her two month appointment and I was so excited to see how well she’s doing! Our peanut is up to 11lbs 12 oz and 22 1/2 inches long. A little above average on weight and a little below on height (don’t I know how that goes!) – which is awesome considering she barely even made it on the growth chart at birth. She also showed off her wonderful personality (pre-shots) and gave the doc a bunch of big smiles. What a flirt.
And then it was time for the vaccinations. It was awful. A-W-F-U-L. My sweet, good-natured Rosebud nearly threw up she was crying so hysterically. Nothing would soothe her and I fell apart inside. I know opinions about vaccines are personal to those who hold them, but being someone who doesn’t necessarily agree with the traditional vaccination schedule, it was so hard to see her tiny body pumped full of 4 vaccinations and even harder to see the bad reaction. I am going to pray that I’m never forced into that situation again ::sigh::
My poor little girl has been running a low grade fever since yesterday evening and hasn’t slept consecutively for more than an hour. It’ll be an early bed time for all of us tonight.
Yesterday evening I made a quick stop at the store on my way home from work. I was blissfully by myself. Didn’t have to lug a car seat, diaper bag, snacks, or a screaming preschooler. It’s amazing how children make you appreciate the simple things in life, huh?
After completing my shopping list, I hopped into the check out line. It was a long line, but I didn’t care. It had been weeks since I got to page through the tabloids and I had a lot of celebrity gossip to catch up on (Did you know Sim.on Co.well was leaving Idol?). About a minute in I noticed that the full cart in front of me belonged to a mom and little boy who looked about the same age as Sprout. I smiled – cute kid – and got back to my reading on Josh and Fer.gie.
Then it started. The boy was getting antsy from the wait and his fidgety whine quickly turned into an all out crying tantrum – hello familiar scene. In fact, his voice sounded so much like Sprout’s that I swear I had a moment of PTSD. My first instinct was to dive behind the checkout counter and rock myself in the fetal position. Thank goodness for the flying cereal box that snapped me back to reality because that reaction really could have been awkward.
Instead, I grabbed the cereal and a couple other items that had been flung out of the frenzied mom’s cart during her child’s rage and said “Hey silly boy, did you drop this?!” (don’t judge, it was the first thing that came to mind). He was instantly shocked into silence by this wierd stranger (wow, that was easier than I envisioned), so I followed with “let’s help by putting these things on the belt” – and he did. I know, crazy. Why doesn’t it work like that with my child? I helped her get the rest of her things out of the cart for scanning and made small talk with the little guy while she paid. He was especially excited about the picture I had in my purse of Sprout. When it was time for them to go, she gave me a wide-eyed “Thank you” and I just smiled and said “I’ve been there”.
Thinking back on the little encounter I realize how much these children have already changed me. The truth is, a few months ago I probably would have stood by avoiding any eye contact with a mom and her screaming kid in the check out line. I would have stuck my head further in the magazine and pretended not to notice. But now that I’ve been that mom…well, that changes everything.
So, thank you Sprout. Thank you for showing me an empathy and understanding I wouldn’t otherwise know. I look forward to learning so much more (though it would be nice if you could do it without the tantrums, okay?).
I’ve known for a long time that I’ve had the amazing luck of being matched with my soulmate. It’s a blessing for which I’ll never be able to fully articulate my gratitude. Those out there who’ve received the same gift know just what I mean. My wife can finish my sentences, order exactly what I’m craving off of a menu, and know how I’m feeling by the touch of my hand. She’s dried tears from devastating losses and picked me up when I’ve been crushed by life. When I’m with her I breath deeper, laugh harder, and see the beauty in life just a bit more clearly.
But I’ve come to realize that these are not the only things that make her my soulmate. There are things simpler than that – the things that we come across at 4pm on a Sunday and might even miss if we weren’t paying attention. There is a lot of stress that is placed on a marriage when you become co-parents, but I’m so very thankful that I have these things to remember…
- She tells me I’m beautiful at the end of a long day even though I have spit up on my shirt, pants, and socks, paint under my fingernails, and tears and snot in my hair.
- Our moments of low-energy, little-patience, about-to-hit-the-wall never overlap. This is key.
- At 3am when the baby won’t stop crying, and I can’t either, she swoops in without a word, stops all the tears, and gives me a kiss goodnight.
- She reminds me that we can do this at the exact moment I need to hear it – and trusts me when I tell her the same.
- We are in this together. A united front against the terror that lives inside of our little boy. And as long as we are a team, we are unstoppable.
I’ve come to realize that being soulmates is not about how she makes me feel or the ways in which she completes me. It’s much more about the shared dreams and goals. It’s about what we can accomplish in this world together.
Last Monday morning, after barely managing to schlep myself to work, a coworker cheerily asked me how my weekend was. I stared at her blankly for a moment wondering how the answer wasn’t already written all over my baggy-eyed face before answering with “Well, I survived”. And thats the truth. As much as week 1 was the honeymoon period, week 2 with Sprout and Rosebud was all about surviving.
Now we’ve completed week 3 and I can say that we are really living. My life as mom has begun. Sure, there have still been tantrums, tears, and screaming; oh my! But it all feels right. As if we, our for-now family of four, finally got our puzzle pieces clicked together. Relief. Such sweet relief.
::warning:: discussion of parenting techniques to come. I know it’s a hot-button topic and may be controversial.
Before I was a parent, I could have clearly told you my views on parenting. I could have told you my philosophical ideals of promo.ting attac.hment, pos.itive reinfor.cement, and redir.ection. I spent my academnic years doing research on the benefits of contingent reinforcement and how it trumps the effectiveness of punishment. I would have told you that according to my research and education, bribes paled in comparison to teaching real-world conse.quences.
And then I became Sprout’s foster mom. Lots of hugs, kisses, positive touch and words, my attachment parenting background served us well in helping him feel safe, loved, and at home. I’m not taking all the credit, because I know much of the success we’ve had with bonding is due to his resilience, but as far as attachment goes, I think we are doing pretty well.
However, as the attachment grew, so did the temper tantrums, talking back, sleep issues and a variety of other non-desirable behaviors. At first, I responded as I had been programmed to do: ignore the bad behavior and reward the good. Keep inundating him with love and positivity and at some point he will naturally adjust his behavior to fit into our family. But the behaviors were escalating and parenting Sprout was getting overwhelming for all involved. I began to feel as though all my years of preparation were failing me. I’ve used these techniques on so many children before, why wasn’t it working now?
Giving it more time was not an option; two exhausted moms and a child out of control was leading us right down the same road that his previous caregivers had found themselves on which ultimately ended up in their inability to parent him. Sprout has been in three different homes in the past three months and we are determined to keep him from getting to number 4 (unless number 4 is his bio mom’s, since thats the goal, afterall). So, A and I sat down and she expressed concern with the lack of consequences in our current plan. Being more of a traditionalist than I, she proposed we implement warnings, time-outs, and a bit of modified CIO (have I mentioned bed time was starting to take up to 2 hours??). So we chatted for a bit and came up with ‘The New Plan’.
The New Plan combines much of the old, with some new. It feels a bit like a tough love approach. Plenty of ‘I love you’s’ and cuddles and smiles and hugs. Clear expectations for behavior that some might consider pretty strict. We still try for redirection, but if it doesn’t work, we have a 3 minute “break” following a warning when behavior is not acceptable that always ends in a hug. Stickers can be earned. And this is a biggie: only one trip up to his room for cuddles and a hug after bed time.
You know what? I think it might be working! There has been a notable decrease in the tantrums, yelling, talking back, mean words to A, ect. We managed to get out of the house yesterday and had our first public outing without a meltdown (before yesterday, every.single.time. we left the house w/ Sprout there was crying or a meltdown of some sort). Also, bed time was amazingly smooth last night!
Possibly more indicative than any of the above is that his nightmares/night terrors have all but disappeared. Last Sunday we noted in Sprout’s behavior journal that he had 5 night terrors in which he would wake up screaming, sweating, and terrified. This Sunday he didn’t have a single one. Slept through the night and happily reported to me this morning that he “slept very well!”
Maybe its a fluke. Maybe “The New Plan” will be out the window next week and a “New New Plan” will be implemented, but I’ve learned the valuable lesson of flexibility. The lesson of parenting to the child, not to the book. The techniques and ideologies that are out there aren’t mutually exclusive nor do I need to subscribe to one over the other. I still believe in attach.ment parenti.ng philos.ophy, and may use it in the future for him and other children, but that wasn’t exactly what Sprout needed right now. What he needs is a caregiver that can adapt and modify regardless of previous expectations – I hope with all of my heart that we can be what he needs.