Things That I Know Now

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Four years ago, we stepped off an airplane and started our lives as a family of three.

I have had four years of parenting under my belt. I know Davy Beach better than I know anyone. I love her to the moon and back. I would kick anyone in the teeth who tried to hurt her. I am her momma bear and she is my child. Fuck with her and there will be hell to pay.

There has been a point in my parenthood where I realized that things weren’t just right. Situations that other four year olds could handle, seemed to really throw our girl for a loop. At first I thought, it must be me, it must be that I am a shitty parent. I went to back into therapy because things didn’t seem right. I went to a parenting coach. All the stuff she had me try- really wasn’t working. On the day of our last session she said to me “maybe you should find a therapist for davy”

Now, I consider myself a fairly self away adoptive parent. i am well educated on trauma and grief. Davy wasn’t doing well. She didn’t seem happy. New situations gave her so much anxiety. She regularly growls at strangers. She has a hard time negotiating other kids. Saying what she wants and needs without using her hands (or in some instances teeth). But I chalked it up to her being very shy. Her emotions flood her and when she is seeing red, all we can do is contain her until the storm passes. It’s heartbreaking. Guess what? There is a lot of grief and trauma.

Life at home was (and often still is) WAY out of whack. Davy will argue from sun up until sun sets. Andy travels for work and when he is gone its worse. She is angry and volatile. Life is stressful.

When the parenting coach suggsteed we find a therapist for davy, a huge lightbulb went on. We need help. Davy is in pain and this pain has been with her all along. She is just maturing enough to express it more. We all need to rally around our girl and help her heart heal. We needed a lot of help.

I interviewed several therapists who deal with adoption. Several. The one we settled on, is a youngish woman in NW Portland (the other side of the bridge). She has and adoptive sibling and a foster kid. She wan’t new agey, she was pragmatic and realistic. I liked her immediately. Andy liked her too (which helps because he is allergic to therapy). All of us need to go with Davy. As long as andy is in town, he is coming with us.

So for the last few months we have been going to Davy’s “Feelings helper” whom, davy absolutely loves. We watch her rage in these session. Rage. Throw things, have fits, rage. The therapist has said that davy looks like a fairly classic case of grief and trauma. Grief and Trauma. Building up in our girl.

As Davy learns more about her story, her grief has become more palpable. Just recently she started crying in my arms longing for her first mother. Sometimes she will get quiet and Ill ask her what she thinking about. She will say “I wish A was my mommy”. As a parent who is literally prepared to give this child anything she needs, it is so heartbreaking that I can’t give her that. I understand that she can love her and me. I understand that it is an honor and my responsibility to help her mourn the loss of her first family.

As she becomes more aware and more mature she is able to express her grief. God its so hard. So heartbreaking.

I know that hearts heal. I know that our girls who has endured so much in the first months of her life, will feel better. The depth of her grief is staggering. We need to give her time, and the tools to help her. We need to support her in this and moving though it.

I wish I could go back in time and look at our girl and know what was coming. I feel fortunate enough to know that the act of letting us sooth her is because we have spent the last four years building a strong and loving relationship.

I will say it again, hearts heal. Grief has a beginning middle and end. Core beliefs shift. Our beautiful daughter is SO strong, smart, sensitive and brave. SO brave.

I am sorry this familiversery feels so heavy. We honor our daughter and her first family. All she has gained and all she has lost.

My Child is Actually Very Shy

1555338_10153308894998906_2384883300503673022_nDavy has been going to soccer for a few months now and mostly loves it. Actually, she loves the games, the running and her dear dear precious coaches. BUT getting her on the field has been incredibly challenging. The transition from not playing to playing has been really hard on her. The thing is, Davy is actually an incredibly shy kid. If you know her she is boisterous and hilarious and a clown. If you don’t she is sullen and likely to growl at you. The shyness we honor, we are seriously working on the growling.

So every week we have this push and pull for soccer. She is so excited to go, but once she gets there she doesn’t want to go on the field. At the beginning of each class the kids have to introduce themselves and answer a question (like what’s your favorite color). This seriously gives Davy an anxiety attack. Before I realized that this was the thing that was causing her anxiety, her favorite coach (coach Dan) would sit with her. She would whisper the answer in his ear and he would scream the answer on the top of his lungs, thus making her giggle. Now we just skip the into and she feels better.

Once they start playing the games and she is on the field, she is fully herself, it just takes a tremendous amount of preparation and encouragment to get there. Last week was winter break and I signed her up for Soccer camp. There she began to really know and trust the coaches. By the last day, she would run up to them and not need me at all. It was a HUGE deal for us. She felt comfortable. For a kid like Davy who is so shy, this is a big leap.

So this Thursday, you can imagine our surprise when they randomly switched coaches. Davy ran up to her two favorites, Coach Dan and Coach Kathleen and they explained that they were going to be with the little kids and she would have new coaches.

Davy went limp and just started to scream, then she started to bolt for the field with the little kids. It was horrible. I basically had to pin her to the ground and wait for her to calm down. It was so hard. When davy gets really upset she gets these gushing bloody noses. Horrible. So painful for her. It’s so painful to watch. I went over to the owner of the soccer place and very loudly proclaim “Wow you guys really fucked up”. Kids need consistency. I know I was that mother. They probably thought I was cray cray. I was sobbing with her because it felt like all of the progress she made had crumpled in one second.

After I calmed down and could actually have a conversation, the owner apologized. He had no idea that it was going to be such a big deal (there were other kids who were having a hard time too, just Davy’s was the most dramatic). We were both exhausted and freaked out. I am glad they switched teachers, Davy was mostly fine after her meltdown. Maybe i am a crazy mother. Maybe I push too much. I seriously don’t know if I did the right thing or not, but it felt right at the time. I just want my kid to have a fucking chance. The world is going to shit enough, she is going to have to learn to move past her shyness. I just wanted her to have this. God this shit is hard.

Boy Those Holidays

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I haven’t blogged in a while. Partly because we have been rearranging the house and my computer has been unplugged and mostly because it has taken me a while to process this holiday season. It was ROUGH. Call my friend Judith (the child psychologist rough). I only do a phone in with her when things are feeling out of control. She gives amazing perspective and ideas on how to help us through this rocky time. Davy has gone from the 10th percentile in height to the 40th in one year. One year. 4 inches. Her little body is out of whack and that has a direct impact on her emotional stuff.

The month of December was very very very hard. Dave’s a kid who really feels all her feelings and there were many many many that month. Couple with sugar, couple with an adult in our life who fed her an entire package of Red Jello, coupled with parties, and visitors and more parties and more sugar, well you get it

Our holidays are very long and there are many of them. We are a family who celebrates Chanukah and Christmas and New Year and Genna. That is a lot of activity. It felt to me like there was a lot of noise and a lot of fun, so much so, the regular days were rough.

Today was the first day things were back to normal. The moms during drop off Davy’s school were all lined up waiting for them to open. One mom kept uttering “sixteen days, its been sixteen days”. Today was also the day that we actually had fun. I think there is a direct correlation between normalcy and happiness.

Don’t get me wrong, I am so grateful for the holidays. I love our traditions. I love that Davy can say the Barucha over the Chanukah candles and then in the same breath profess Jesus as the King of Kings. This is our life. The religious stuff she will figure out. The love she feels, the traditions she knows. She got a book a night for Chanukah and then millions and millions of gifts for Christmas.. Her favorite thing is a bunch of books that has a little reader attached. I asked her why she like it so much and its because “She can read them herself”. Favorite Gift, books. Love her. Love that.

There were moments of great beauty and fun during this time. I love the holidays. I love our family, friends, our dearest friends who are our family and life. I am just really really really glad to get back to “normal” whatever the hell that means.
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To Davy on the Eve of Your Fourth Birthday

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Dear Davy
You are almost four now and there are things that I think you need to know. I want to tell you this because I don’t think it was ever said enough to me as a kid.

You are a kid. No longer a toddler or pre-schooler, you are big and mature and you know how to love.

You are beautiful inside and out. You will get a lot of attention for your looks, and you should because you are a stunner, but it is what is inside your heart and mind that count most. You may not like the attention now, but I do believe that life is a little easier because you are beautiful. It’s okay, just the luck of the draw. Be kind, don’t take advantage of people. Tell your friends they are beautiful too.

Sometimes when you are playing soccer I watch you run on the field and you are faster then all of the kids. You get a little self conscious and slow down. Please don’t slow down ever. You take so much joy in movement and your body. Please don’t ever feel like you need to dumb or slow your self down for others. Lead them in trying to catch you. Make everyone around you move faster. It’s your gift.

You love so big. You are so shy at first but once you let someone into your heart they are in big time. I love this about you, Those you love feel it big time. You will be a very loyal friend. I know that some of these kids that you play with now will be life long friends. You also need to learn to protect your heart from hurt. Kids can be mean and bewildering. Know that is has nothing to do with you. You are fine. As we say at home, sometimes kids can be “big jerks”. And you are fine. You are better than fine, you are great.

That said, do you ever become a “big jerk” don’t make others feel excluded or cry. Use your heart for all the bigness and love that you can muster, especially for those who need compassion the most.

People are going to ask you questions about your self and your history. You don’t have to tell them anything. It’s your story. There is no shame in your story, its just yours to share, not mine, or daddys our your friends or anyone. BUT know this. You are LOVED on two continents. LOVED big time. I think maybe this is where your giant heart comes from.

And most importantly, know this. Your daddy and I promise to always honor who you are. We love you one million precent. We know you. We are in your corner and we will always fight for you.

Happy Birthday big girl.

Contrarian

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Davy, by nature is a contrarian. Our bedtime rituals usually go like this,

Me: Hey Davo, lets read Olivia
Davy: No I want to read Thomas

Breakfast time is like this:
Me: Loooook Davy new cereal, I think your going to like it (it was Honey Bunches of Oats)
Davy: (touching it with her tongue) “It’s disgusting”

Getting dressed:
Me: Maybe you should wear your rain boots today, its gonna rain
Davy: No, I am going to wear my flip-flops

I know this is an age thing, but trust me, she is a child raised by contrary parents. We know a fellow contrarian when we spot one. Even when she plays with her dolls, they are contrary to each other.

It’s just who she is, we have figured out ways to trick her into thinking it was her own idea and ways around her contrary personality. We always tell people that when you first meet her, treat her as a semi-feral cat. Don’t look at her in the eyes and don’t’ come off as too needy. You follow those rules you will be fine.

I realize i have made a giant error when this comes to her Ethiopian identify. It’s really really important to us, that she is proud of who she is and where she comes by. I kind of find ways to work Ethiopia into the conversation all the time. I make us go to every Ethiopian event that is available to us, we buy her books and just generally work it into the conversation. It’s on my mind all the time. It’s really not on her mind that often, and i say that, because she is almost four and spends a lot more time thinking about My Little Pony (which is what she should be thinking about).

This weekend we went to an Ethiopian dance class. It was great class, but it totally freaked her out. Mostly, because she gets super overwhelmed by noise and chaos. It some point they were playing a game and she just burst into tears and ran into my arms. It was too too much for her.

It was at the class that I had a kind of epiphany. I realized that I was doing to her, what my dad did to me regarding my Judaism. He took it as a personal affront that I was never that interested in it. I still think he feels that he failed on some level because my brother and I aren’t’ very religious. It was literally shoved down my throat from an early age, and because of my contrary nature, I rebelled. If I am not careful, Davy will do the same.

I need to do a better job listening to my child and honoring her nature. I will still introduce Africa and Ethiopia into her life, but be more neutral about it. Let her come to it in her own time. Last week I bought her three books, Harry the Dirty Dog, This is Ethiopia and another one about monsters. I kept saying “lets read the Ethiopia one first” which, because she is contrary,she didn’t want to do. We read Harry a million times. I think if I just presented her the three books with out any value judgement, she would have eventually picked up the Ethiopia book. Also she hasn’t even gotten to the monster one yet, which is fine. I need to treat the Ethiopia book like the monster book, zero pressure. More neutral in attitude. Not expecting anything from her also separating her version of her African identity from what I feel like she should be experiencing.

Because we all know Davy Beach will get to it, in her own time, on her own terms. After all that is who she is.

Here’s to Chesire…. Here’s to Cheese

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When I was younger I had an album of Pete Seeger singing kids songs. I loved it. I listened to it as a kid and then got reacquainted with the album again in my twenties. Then I forgot about it again, until recently. I was getting tired of the same music I always play in the car (you can only listen to Call Me Maybe a million times before you want to stab your eyes out) and I downloaded the album.

Davy was riveted. On our road trip to California we listened to the Ramona Quimby audio books (19 hours) and she is really into listening to stories. When the song “Here’s to Cheshire… Here’s to Cheese” came on I got goosebumps. It quickly became Davy’s favorite too. I was so happy to listen to it together. We would both sing a long to the chorus together. Really, if you don’t have the album or know the song, you should. It’s really beautiful. Her other favoite is “Henry my Son” which she refers to as the “dead kid song”, because of this:

Where have you been all the day, Henry my boy?
Where have you been all the day, my pride and joy?
In the woods, dear mother
In the woods, dear mother
Mother be quick, I got to be sick and lay me down to die

We are never really in the car that long and we have to listen to the same 3 songs over and over we never really make it to the end. Today I started the album after those songs, so we can finally listen to the rest of the album.

The final song is “This Land is Your Land”. I turned off the music and told the story of how I sang that song to her on the plane as we landed in the United States from Ethiopia. Our tiny baby, our newest citizen, landed in Washing DC the weekend of July 4th. It was a beautiful quiet moment. I will never forget it. As I was telling her this story, I got a little teary. It seems like so long ago, but I can still smell her. The faint oder of Ethiopia, roasting coffee, incense, and diesel gas on her, holding my tiny daughter, singing a song that has meant so much to me. I paused to catch my breath.

She says “moooommm can we listen to the song about the dead kid again”.

alright…..

Buh Bye Binky

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Davy has used a binky since she came home. She loves her binky. At night she requires three things, binky, blankie and George. They were a trio that fallowed her around everywhere. We have been talking about getting rid of it for a long time. One night, a few weeks ago, she lost it in the middle of the night. Andy (at 3 a.m.) decided “okay your done, no more binky”. It kind of messed her up for a few days. Plus we were going out of town and leaving her for a few nights with friends and I felt like it was too many changes at once. So we decided that she could have the bink when we were gone but when we came back we needed to be done.

I asked her how she wanted to get rid of the binky, did she want to throw it away? bury it? put it somewhere special? She wanted to put it in a box “like Mezmur has” with a dancing woman on it and jewels. Gotta love my girl with her simple tastes. We found the box on Amazon. She put the binky in it. For the first week she carried her binky in a box everywhere. It was near, in its little precious box.

This week she hasn’t even asked for it. Like it or not, my little one is growing up. She is loosing those last vestiges of her baby self. It really does go so quickly.

We Are Not Outdoor People

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We always joke that we are raising an indoor child. It’s true. We are indoor people. So when our dear friends Erika and Susan asked if we wanted to go Yurt camping on the Oregon coast, we said “um okay, i guess, uh sure” we were that enthusiastic.

Truth be told, the key to vacationing with kids is to bring more kids, the key to vacationing with adults is to bring wine. Ergo, we had a fabulous time, despite our indoor nature. All of us had a good time. We all privately admitted that it was more fun than the horrible San Francisco trip.

So there is something to watching your kid run two steps and tumble into the sand laughing her head off. Getting progressively wetter and more naked as the hours ran on, until she had to ride her scooter back to the yurt in a sweatshirt and bare butt. There is something about feeding sleepy girls hot cocoa by the fire, there is something two having kind, like minded parents in your life who could take you out of your head for a bit. There is something about fresh salty air that makes us all grow a little taller

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Her Own Friends

The other day I went to pick up Davy from school, she was still asleep. I caught her three friends (funny, sweet, feisty girls like Davy) leaning over her, whispering “Davy wake up it’s time to play”.

I love witnessing her growing independence and the choices she makes.

This

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My friend Autumn took this photo of me least night. Our girls were playing and Mezmur had some tattoos she wanted to share. Davy wanted the tattoo with the purple sparkles that Mez had been saving for herself. Davy couldn’t have the tattoo and she started to cry, at first it was a vaguely fake cry of frustration. Sometimes it passes, and sometimes she forgets why she was so upset in the first place and just starts sobbing uncontrollably. That is what happened yesterday. I put Davy on my lap (she is naked because they were playing in the slip and slide) and tried to calm her down.

I never knew what these moments look like. I never really thought about what they looked like. A few hours when Autumn sent me the photo, I was kind of blown away.