Quite the week we've had. We had our home study visit by the social worker this past week as we update our paperwork for Baby Sister. This of course meant that I spent two days prior acting like a manic scullery maid even though I know that they don't reject you as an adoptive parent for having some crumbs on the floor. I was so crazy I even did every stitch of laundry in the house out of concern for the fact that she might see a full hamper and write, "These people soil their clothing." Stupid is as stupid does. Color me stupid, then. Bambina was of course all very excited to show the nice lady around our house. That is, until the nice lady actually arrived and Bambina refused to even look at her for longer than 3 seconds. As the nice lady and I chatted she said, with great insight, "I can tell in our brief interaction that Bambina is a strong-willed child." I laughed and replied, "Oh, you noticed?" Turns out that she has a daughter born in China who is now a teenager. We were agreeing that the key to parenting a strong-willed child is Picking Your Battles. Which is why Bambina wears whatever the hell she wants to as long as it is age and weather appropriate. Which is why I let her do her own hair no matter how crazy it ends up looking. Which is why I spend stupid extra money on "personal sized" fruit cups, yogurts and other food items. Because if she can't open it herself she doesn't want to eat it. And if there is one thing Bambina can do without consequence it is eat. We just went to her 4 year-old annual check-up where she weighed in at a whopping less-than-30 pounds. I've mentioned my angst about her size in these pages before, being a former fat kid from a proudly zaftig family tradition (ie, too thin = sick; extra 10 pounds = healthy). So, the number on the scale notwithstanding, it's just good to know that she is totally proportionate height/weight-wise, completely healthy, developmentally on target and even ahead...and destined to be about 100 pounds soaking wet fully grown. As my girl JulieG's sister (a doctor) said: "The growth charts aren't the SAT. You don't HAVE to be in the 90th percentile to be okay." The pedi said the same thing: If you're on the chart and growing consistently, you're fine no matter what percentile you're in. That's what a percentile is; if everyone were in the 90th percentile, there'd be no 90th percentile.
The mini-drama at the doctor visit concerned the dreaded 4 year-old vaccinations and blood work--which I had thought were the dreaded 5 year-old vaccinations and blood work. Oops. So poor Bambina (and poor Mama) arrived to learn that there would be some bloodlettin'. Bambina was NOT on board with that at all and made it clear via lung capacity that she was havin' none of it. Two shots and a vial of blood later, Bambina was one lollipop and a promise of some dinner from our favorite local Chinese restaurant (the one with the amazing three-flavored fortune cookies that we have to hide from her until she actually eats the actual food) richer. But she was no happier. I have yet to tell her that she has 2 more shots to get before she's done for this year. Because I'm still immune-suppressed and not entirely vaccinated myself, she can't get her MMR or chicken pox until my doctor and I figure out how we can swing that with both of us in the same house (had I known the shots were imminent I'd have asked before yesterday). I'm waiting to hear back from him on how to proceed. I'm thinking the MMR will probably be fine, but the varicella will be problematic. With that shot, there is a minor chance that the child can get a mild case of chickenpox. And if she does, she'll be shedding the virus before we know she's got it. And that is dangerous with a capital D for me. At the same time, if you've read my irritated posts about moms who choose not to vaccinate, I'm less inclined to have my kid exposed to chickenpox than myself. So I'm hoping we can find a way to get her fully immunized soon--without, of course, putting me in the hospital.
So in addition to the external stuff we were doing this week, we have hit Bambina's Every-Three-Month Serial Drama time. She's just a totally sweet kid; strong-willed definitely. But sweet. And then we have weeks like this where she will throw a tantrum about--I kid you not--the fact that she wants her markers to draw but they are up in her room and Mama go get them for me. My answer: If you want your markers, go get them yourself. Her answer: No! YOU GET THEM!! My answer: Do not speak to Mama in that tone. If you would like your markers, simply walk upstairs, pick up the box, and bring them down. Her answer: NO! YOU GET THEM FOR ME! My answer: We are not discussing this anymore. If you want your markers, you know where they are. Her answer: GGGRRAAAAEEEAEEEAAAAHHHHH! Cue the total freak out, crying, stomping, jumping, tears, red face, yelling. Me looking at her calmly. Her freaking out more. Me asking her if she needs to pull herself together. Do you need a hug to help pull yourself together? Her: NOOOOOOOO!! Stomp! Cry!
Replay that for 35 minutes. THIRTY FIVE MINUTES. Then she burns herself out, walks upstairs and gets her markers. Only now I have to tell her that we no longer have time for drawing because we have to get dressed and leave for our previously-scheduled appointment. More drama as I try to explain that the time we spent stomping around was our drawing time, and now it's getting ready to leave time. Needless to say, it was ugly. But one of my guiding theories of parenting is that of natural consequences. (Except in issues of safety or long-term stuff where the consequences do have to be imposed). You throw a fit for half an hour, you've lost half an hour of fun and now that time is gone. You leave your markers with the covers off and they no longer work, then you are out some markers. You leave your beloved homemade Tom Petty paper doll lying around and it gets ripped, then you need to not leave Tom Petty on the floor next time. I sometimes feel like a really mean Mama, but how else can you teach your kid personal responsibility? Do I wait till she's 10 and has a decade of being picked-up after under her belt to teach her to take care of things she values? To all of a sudden try to convince her that, as special as she is to me, that the world don't run on Bambina Time, nor does it bend to Bambina Whims. It's tough, because at the age of 4, they really do developmentally think the world revolves around them. And while my world certainly does revolve around her in every conceivably relevant way, it also doesn't and can't in all the others.
Happily, as quickly as the storm appeared, Bambina's joie de vivre once again kicked in and we are once again fooling ourselves into thinking that she never throws tantrums. Until maybe September when we have our next quarterly dramatic episode. Until then, we're just doing our thing and enjoying every minute of watching her become the person she is becoming. She's been very interested of late in all of her adoption books. All of the ones that you buy and put on the shelf and maybe read now and again until the child herself decides she actively wants to read it. That time is now, so I'm absolutely seizing the moment. Because, as all the good lit says, even if your child isn't asking you about adoption (or doesn't know what to ask you, in the case of a 4 year old), it doesn't mean she's not thinking about it. And I can tell she's interested based on some of our conversations of late, especially as we excitedly talk about and await the arrival of her cousin:
"Mama? Where do babies come from?"
"Every single person in the world starts out in their mother's tummy. I did, Dada did, and so did you."
"Well, then some different things might happen. Lots of times the baby stays with the mommy whose tummy she was in, and that lady is her Mama forever. Like Aunt J; her baby is in her tummy and she will be the baby's mommy forever. Other times, the baby is adopted by another lady who becomes her Mama forever. So you grew in your Chinese mother's tummy, and I am your Mama forever."
"How does the baby get into the mother's tummy?"
Oh. Dear. God.
"Good question! How do you mean? Like how does it get in there? Or something else?"
"How does the baby fit in a vagina?" (I feel wobbly...)
"Oh, it grows from a very small cell into a baby while it's in the mommy's tummy; it's not big when it starts." (Am I even answering her question? What the hell am I saying?!)
"Okay. Do you want to play Mancala?!!"
And then we move on. Until the next day when we talk about it again. She loves hearing the story of the day I got The Call about her. I made the mistake of telling her the full truth, and now she LOVES the story in all its inappropriate glory. I share it with you now because I know you will not laugh at me. When I got The Call I was working on a project that had a deadline of tomorrow. I had 4 scheduled conference calls with various major foundation people that could not be rescheduled on penalty of death. Where I was sitting in my office, I knew I had to leave NOW to get to the adoption agency before they closed to see my daughter's photos. They told me I could come tomorrow, but give me a break! Would you delay seeing your kid's face because of traffic?!! NOT. So I told everyone I was leaving (but didn't say why, still feeling a bit superstitious that mentioning it to anyone would invite The Fates to ruin it). So I did my calls while driving to the agency, which was about 50 minutes away. When I got within about a mile, I found a Taco Bell parking lot where I could park, finish my last call, and still get to the agency with an hour to spare. Only, I really had to pee. And I couldn't get off the phone. And I couldn't wait. I was really, really about to wet my business suit. So there, in the (empty, I might add) parking lot of a Taco Bell. I, Mother of the Year, peed into an empty water bottle while simultaneously conducting a Very Important Conference Call and Not Giving A Shit Because I Just Wanted To Go See My Kid. And so, for all the obvious reasons, my child, when she wants to hear her story, wants to hear all about China. She does. But then she really really really just wants to hear how Mama peed in the car because she was so excited.
I obviously need to write a heartwarming book about adoption. With apologies to Jamie Lee Curtis, I'll call it, "Tell Me Again About the Day You Peed In The Car, Mama."
And PS--If you're an adoptive parent looking for a great book, we just got The Three Names of Me. The book description reads: Ada has three names. Wang Bin is what the caregivers called her at her Chinese orphanage. Ada is the name her American parents gave her as the three traveled home. And there is a third name, a name the infant Ada only heard whispered by her Chinese mother. That name, unknown but treasured, is someplace in Ada's heart. I love this book because it makes the Chinese mother real. I love that there is an illustration of Ada as a baby being held by her first mother. So many books about adoption skip over the actual personhood of the birthmother. Not intentionally, I suppose, but the omission is noticeable after reading so many books. So I love--and I can tell Bambina loves--that there is a picture of Ada with her Chinese mother. For a four year-old you definitely will have to edit some of it since it's probably more for a 7 year-old age level. But the gist of the story is wonderful in the way it helps to integrate all the different parts of Ada that make her who she is. She talks about how all the things she can touch about herself are from her Chinese parents: her black hair, her eyes, her hands; and there are things she likes that she wonders if she got from her birthparents too. And then she talks about all the stuff she loves to do with her mom and dad and friends. And how she doesn't like when people stare at her family because they don't look alike, but how she does like soccer and hot dogs, etc. It's a beautifully-written story that, like I said, I have to edit, partly for Bambina's age and partly for my potential for tears when I ponder what her birthmother must have felt. I bet Bambina did have a name given to her by her birth mother. And that name is just as important as any she's been given by anyone else. This book honors that, and in so doing, honors both mothers and their child.