Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Two years with Lilah

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It is said that an adopted child takes the same amount of time that they spent NOT in your family, to become completely comfortable in your family. That for Lilah, would be today. We got Lilah a week after she turned two and that was two years ago.

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Lilah is completely comfortable in our family. She belongs here and she remembers nothing of her foster family and time living in China.

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May 25, 2009 was a day of many changes in our lives. We were in such a comfortable spot. Our family was suppose to be complete and yet God called us very clearly to adopt. After two years of paperwork and waiting and switching programs, we finally travelled to meet this little girl that we had fallen in love with just by looking at a photo. We had no idea what to expect. And no idea how she would turn our lives around and upside down.

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Lilah hated me and refused to come to me. She would cling to Tim in terror when I came near. She cried and mourned for days and even months. She suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. She was hyper vigilant and would wake up every 20 minutes to make sure we hadn't left and her world hadn't shifted once again. She begged to go back to her "mama". Over the next 2 weeks, she slowly settled in and opened up and that glazed over, shocked, traumatic look, finally started to disappear.

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To be honest, Lilah has been a struggle from day one and 24 months later, everyday is still a struggle with her. I often wondered why God gave me Eli, who is stubborn and difficult and has a entitled personality. I now know why. Because Lilah is the exact same way, and if I hadn't had Eli, I would be at a complete emotional loss. I recently read this post and could relate to everything this mother said. This is Lilah.

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Personality:

Lilah has an entitled personality. We believe that she was very spoiled (and we know very loved) in foster care. She ate what she wanted, she was carried around and doted on by the five adults in her life, she co-slept with her foster mother. I believe that her personality was shaped by these experiences and that also it is largely her personality. Eli wasn't coddled, spoiled, etc. and he is the same way... the only difference that can make this hard, is that I was attached to Eli from day one, Lilah came into our lives at two years old, and I loved her from day one, but I don't always like her. Lilah is tiny and cute and demands attention where ever she is. The minute someone pays attention to her she plays it up big time. And she does expect this from everyone. She is really very mature in a lot of ways (she is one smart kid) and yet she loves to be completely babied.

Lilah is very controlling and becomes more so the older she gets. I understand her need for control in her life. But she is one of those very bossy little girls that is going to struggle with friendships. She needs to know what the outline for each day is, what we need to buy when we are shopping, the itinerary for our daily errands, she even wants to know exactly what day it is and what time it is. She needs to know when the meals are and what they will be. She often tries to be a parent, especially to Zoe. She tries to be self sufficient, she does not like to ask for help. I do know that she will be a very strong adult and a very successful adult because of her personality type.

Food:

The biggest issue. Lilah would spit anything out she didn't want to eat. She only wanted crackers, rice, noodles and meat. She hated fruits and vegetables. She still does. We gave into her for awhile and then slowly started changing the rules about nutrition. Lilah was very tiny, very skinny and undernourished. Her hair was unhealthy and her energy was low. We had to try many different routes to get her to eat what was expected. She would sit in her chair for 3-4 hours and refuse to eat her fruits and veggies. We would often start our next meal, while she was still finishing her previous meal. We then told her she had to eat the fruit and veggies first, before she could have the meat, rice, etc. She would still sit for hours and refuse to eat or eat so slowly... We then had to start setting a timer and put her in time outs until she was ready to cooperate. This was affecting our whole family. We could not all sit around for hours waiting for Lilah to eat, we have things to do. (This is a recurring theme with Lilah -- her time lines and dramatic behaviors affecting the whole family). Eventually, she decided to give in and start eating fruits and vegetables more quickly. She still hates it and still has moments when she will try to eat the other stuff first, if I am not looking, or she will decide that she is going to take her time today. She is still often the last one sitting at the table. I try to be careful, as I don't want this to cause any sort of eating disorders in her future, but I will say that she is much healthier.

Another issue we have had to deal with is that Lilah just expects things. If another child asks for a snack or a drink, Lilah will run to the kitchen and just sit there and stare at me, expecting me to just give her one too. She doesn't ask... just expects. If ANYONE has a snack in their hands, she would go over and stand by them and stare at them, waiting for them to give her some. We nipped this in the bud very quickly, but even now, she will still try it. We have to convince her on a daily basis to USE HER WORDS. A lady gave her a cracker at the pool the other day and when I turned around a few minutes later, Lilah was leaning across the chair staring at her.

Lilah is a tiny 24lbs. 4lbs more than she was when we got her. She has grown 4 3/4 inches.

Bringing Zoe home has been a huge help in this area. Zoe eats everything and loves fruits and vegetables. It has become a bit of a competition to see who can be done faster.

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Sleep:

This one only took a few months, but at the time felt like forever. The first few days, Lilah slept on Tim's chest. Then she slept beside him. She slept with us for the first while when we got home. We then moved her into her own room and crib. She hated it. It would take hours to get her to bed and she would wake up constantly. It was exhausting. She didn't want any comfort items. Not even a blanket touching her. After a few months, she started sleeping through the night, with a blanket and stuffies. She is a very good sleeper.

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Behavior:

Everyday brought new challenges with Lilah. We would feel like we finally overcame one issue and then she would decide to start with something else. Everyday, she would scream many times. If she didn't get her way. If she had a timeout (she still does this every time). If we gave her food she didn't want. If we told her she had to do something she didn't want to do. If we brushed her teeth or washed her hair. It was exhausting and started to drag our entire family down. I took her drama very personally. She made me feel like the worst mother ever. After about 18 months, I finally realized that I am not the worst mother ever and that I wasn't going to allow her to dictate over this family or me anymore. We were at a point where we didn't even want to go out in public for fear that she would lose it over something trivial.... because the way that she reacted and cried and carried on, you would think we had tortured her! We have a zero tolerance policy with her... there are no warnings, only obedience. Screaming over every little thing is now unacceptable and will not be tolerated. If it means the rest of the family gets to go out and have fun and she has to stay home (with me of course) then so be it. As soon as she realized how serious we were, it improved dramatically and even though she still tries to pull it off every once and awhile, she quickly realizes it doesn't work. She has five seconds to stop crying when it is inappropriate and she does.

I am sure in her head she thinks her life is the roughest and that she is the only one who is punished in these ways, she takes it all very personally. This is the way Eli often feels, he is at an age now where he can vocalize these things... Thank goodness I have gone through this once before and know that these reactions will slowly diminish as she grows up. I can already see it changing.

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Communication and Affection:

After we brought Zoe home, we realized how unaffectionate Lilah really is. Lilah loves to be carried and coddled and held, but we realized that she never reciprocated these actions. She never gave out hugs, she never wrapped her arms around you and squeezed, she never gave kisses in return. We had to start teaching her how to give affection in return. We had to tell her to squeeze and wrap her arms around us. We had to ask for kisses. This is still a work in progress...

Lilah will go to her daddy and siblings EVERY TIME, before she will come to me for ANYTHING. There are some deep underlying issues in her subconscious that need to be worked on, and are being worked on slowly. If Lilah was punished or scolded, she would go to her siblings for comfort, not her parents who she was mad at. We have had to explain this situation to the older kids and they work with us, when we give them a "look" they know to back off and not be the comforters for her. Every once in awhile we still have to regress in this area and have the kids completely back off. She would rather go with no affection, then take it from someone she is angry at. We try to get our cuddle time in at bedtime... rocking and reading. That is about all she is willing to give.

If Lilah doesn't want to talk, she won't. She will stand and stare at you and refuse to answer. This drives us crazy, as we expect all of our children to be respectful and to speak when spoken too. We often see Lilah shut down when we go off on our tangents, too many words... and she hears nothing. She often shuts down even with the simplest messages... we started saying to her TALK. LISTEN. OBEY. Just three simple words. She gets it, but at times can't even repeat it.

Two Years Later:

There are still struggles everyday. If we back off even slightly, she will take advantage of that. When Tim and I aren't around, she behaves totally different with her siblings... there are no manners, she is bossy, she whines and demands and refuses to obey. She still doesn't understand why we would punish her for anything and takes it very personally.

Lilah is beautiful and very sweet. Like Eli, she is one extreme or the other. She is full of joy and happiness most of the time. You just never know when to expect one of her outbursts. She is very smart and remembers things you would never expect her to remember. She is the strongest little girl I know, has dealt (and has yet to deal) with so much in her four years. We wouldn't trade her for anything!

I do pray that our relationship as mother and daughter, will become stronger and more affectionate. I work on this everyday. I am a very guarded person, who likes her walls, sometimes it is hard to let Lilah in to cause more pain... but she is my daughter and I try to let her in even though she may reject me again. She has told me outright that she loves me, but she loves daddy more.

Adoption can be hard. Adoption can be easy. But it is always worth it and it is always wonderful and breathtaking.

If anyone has any experiences or tips... please share.

On a side note:

We have a tentative surgery date for July 7th. The Opthamoligist has to rearrange his schedule a bit to get this date to work, so hopefully he can, and we can get this first surgery out of the way. It will be about a 2 1/2 hour surgery and she should only be in for one night.

12 comments:

Marie said...

I love your honesty. We have experienced many of those issues as well. I can relate...our oldest is a challenge, but he has prepared me to deal with all the issues with Malia. But at the end of most days I do think it is all worth it! I think you are doing an amazing job and are doing the right things. I do hope it will keep getting easier. Blessings!

The Drinkwaters said...

What a heart felt post Paige. I don't have any suggestions for you, except to continue to do what you are doing. It is so hard to open yourself up to only be pushed away, I wish you continued perserverance and strength...

Monica said...

Paige, thank you for telling it like it is. It's so easy to see that Lilah is thriving in your family environment. Perhaps that is in large part due to the discipline and nurturing that she is receiving. We too deal with many of those same issues in Saidie, and were "broken in" by her older brother Joseph. Being a parent is so hard some days, but adoption in the mix just seems to intensify everything.
Happy two years with Lilah anniversary!

Dixie-Lee said...

Your post is so honest and heart felt. My thoughts are with you always as you go through the trials and tribulations you face on a daily basis. As a visitor to your family about once a year I am amazed at the job you and Tim are doing in raising your family. I know that everything will work itself out in time and the affection you give and deserve back will be returned.

Danae said...

Paige-

Your honesty is such a blessing…thank you so much for sharing and for keeping it real.
I wish I had some words of advice but honestly it sounds like you are doing a fantastic job.
God has placed Lilah in the perfect family with the perfect daddy and mama.
Happy forever family day.

Beth said...

Wow Paige. That was so heartfelt and honest. I too don't have any advice really. I think you are very patient and wise in your approach. I see a lot of those things in our little miss as well. The stubborn streak. In the end she pretty much knows we can't 'make' her eat, sleep or get out the door when WE want. She needs so badly that control and I always wonder whether it's the age or some deep need -probably both. When she has a meltdown I always hold her and tell her "We love you, we'll take care of you, it will be OK". I read that somewhere in preparation for attachment. It always calms her down. I feel bad sometimes because I was not young for no. 1 and little miss came a decade after that and I don't have the patience (not sure I ever did). BUT like you say, it's so worth it and there are the sweetest moments ever with her so we just keep on doing our best and saying lots of prayers:)

the meaklims said...

Happy Equal Day!
I so agree that it takes that 'specific' length of time for a child to really open up and be themselves in a new family, environment, etc.

You're an amazing mother and it's obvious that your parenting skills have helped Lilah be the amazing child that she is now too. After reading this, I have so much respect for you. Our Lilah was all over me while we were in China, wouldn't have anything to do with my husband and I can still specifically remember the day she just rejected me, it was right after we arrived home and it went on for about 2 weeks. I was devastated. I cried and cried and to be perfectly honest, I took it very personally...even though I'd read all about it...it still hurt. I don't know what I would have done if she had kept it up. Thankfully it was short term. But I do believe the Lord knows who can endure what, he puts these children into our families for a reason! And He's obviously blessed you with an extra special portion of strength, patience and virtue.

My heart goes out to you.

Jill

Denise said...

I'm so glad you wrote all this out. Lilah is a very special little girl, in a very special family. I hope that her 3rd year brings some changes that make life easier for you and her. Your tenacity amazes me. You are exactly the mother she needs - God knew that. Not sure why He thought you needed another "pillager", but I know you will only be stronger for it. xo

Patrick and Christina said...

Paige...I am so thankful that you are so honest in this update about Lilah. What a blessing to be heartfelt and truthful. You are a patient, wise mother. No mistake why God placed Lilah in your loving arms, as part of your family! Your beautiful, smart, determined Lilah needs you (even though she doesn't know it yet)...hang in there!

Happy two year anniversary with your precious daugther!

I totally get the "not asking - entitlement" frustration. I hope for my own daughters sake that hers is a delay in development due to her cleft, as this behavior, coupled with the tantrums, currently brings me to the brink of insanity within a few minutes! If you find any links with advice please post as I am currently seeking counsel too as it has gotten a worse since the surgery??? I will certainly share if I find anything.

Your relationship with Lilah, her growth and development, and her surgery in June will all continue to be in my prayers.

Monica said...

This is such a wonderful, important post, Paige. I say "important" because I think the hard stories about adoption and parenting need to be shared as well as the good, so that others in the same or similar boat know they are not alone.

I have absolutely zero advice other than to keep it up. It truly sounds like you are doing everything right.

I relate so much to the "I love her but I don't always like her" comment. I feel the same way about Ren sometimes (thankfully much, much less than I used to). He too has that personality of entitlement which I have a very hard time with. He too acts as though he has the roughest, toughest life in all the world when we discipline him or correct him in some way (e.g. telling him kindly that it's not okay to punch his sister). In addition, he has a tendency to focus on small things he doesn't have instead of focusing on his many blessings (good health now being one of them). These traits drive me crazy in the moment and I worry about how he'll go through life with such an attitude.

Anyway, thanks for opening up about your challenges with Lilah. I pray things will continue to get better and that your relationship with her will flourish.

Ellie said...

I'm not sure you will see this as I am so late in commenting - however my Elijah (8) is so much like Lilah! Although he eats everything :) yikes I struggle a lot of days to feel affection - though it gets better every day!

You are a wonderful Mom and I know you will never just let Lilah off the hook. God knew that when he destined you for each other!

xo ellie

Rich, Jenn, Maisie, and David said...

Wow. I could replace nearly every "Lilah" with "Maisie". You should check out "The Highly Sensitive Child" by Dr. Elaine Aron. It has been very, very insightful for us. You can see a lot of it on amazon (dot) com free preview. Or if you just search the title, her website for highly sensitive people and children comes up, and you can find lots of info there.