Sunday, January 10, 2010

Update- Taking off

So much to do- so little time!  I've been plugging away at this update for a few weeks now and yet... in Shannon style-I may end up being on the plane before you ever get around to reading this.. so sorry!

When I started these updates for you all, about what 7+ months ago now... I honestly thought, by now,  I'd have covered more ground.  And yet, here it is- a few days before I take off and ... so much left!  I hope you have found them helpful, interesting and educational.

Much of the stuff that follows is the words and experience of moms and dad's that have come before me- cut this trail he and I are on. Their experience is invaluable. Yet, none of us can predict exactly what will be necessary when we get home. I only know, I am as prepared as possible- regardless of what he/I need in order to build a strong attachment as a family unit.  I'm ill prepared for much of it- but he and I will figure it out as we go.

It is at this stage- many families- will send out a 'do's and don'ts list of rules'. That isn't really my style- although I am certainly respectful of why they feel it necessary. (actually right now it seems alot quicker and easier...)  I'm hopeful that sending these updates has helped to fill in the gaps as to why somethings may seem different.  I'm not a big believer in other peoples rules. So I'm going minimalistic and we'll adjust as needed when he and I are working through it day by day.

In this episode:
- Parenting and attachment 
- The early days
- Behaviors
- Good Modeling
- What you can do
- What'll be happening in Ethiopia

Some 'experts' have written that when a child is born, if left unassisted, that child would find his/her way to the mothers breast.

How is that possible?  The child knows its mother. It is instinctive to root for food. Even in the womb the child smells and hears. The scent of her/his mother and sound of her voice is imprinted. Their attachment has already begun. 
Secure attachment - for a child- looks / feels like this:
  • My mom comes back. She is reliable.
  • I am worth coming back to.
  • I can trust my momma and people she entrusts to educate and spend time with me.
  • My affective states(feelings) are mirrored back to me, so that I can get help knowing how I feel and how others feel.
  • I want to please my parent most of the time.
  • I am rewarded for becoming competent, for my curiosity, and for my positive states.
  • I can get help with psychologically overwhelming events and feelings.
  • Momma will teach me how to deal with problems and how to solve them.
  • Intimacy is enjoyable.
  • My needs are routinely met in a timely, sensitive manner.
  • Repairs to relationship disruptions are empathic and prompt.
Thank you Deborah Gray
My boy and I have to start from scratch. He's been in this world for almost 3 years and has never heard my voice. I've lived almost 40 years without him. He's lived almost 3-- with out me. We have NO BOND. Not yet.        One step at a time...

When I first started learning about some of the parenting techniques, that are almost universally advocated for in Ethiopian adoption, some of them were far from anything I saw as my parenting style. Although, I do not expect to follow anyone else's style or rules (cause- clearly that ain't my nature) I have learned how important it is to be prepared to employ these techniques.  Perhaps more importantly- is learning his cues', and mine, for when these are necessary. 

Some of the techniques we'll be starting with and definitely employing:

Co- sleeping (believe it or not.. yes)- whether in my room- his - together or within reach, it is vital to be there to sooth at all hours. He needs to learn that I'm momma and Momma is always there.

"Baby" Wearing- The breathing, the scent, the heartbeats, reading eachothers expressions.. it goes a looong way. Yes I'm nervous about managing with my back- but long term needs are most important- the pain will subside.

Funneling- This one sounds easy- but in practice- may be difficult at times.  The idea is that all of T's needs- food, comfort, nurturing, soothing etc come THROUGH me.  This certainly does not mean that I'm the only person that will hug him for the rest of his life... it is a process. I promise aunties, uncles, grandparents, it will feel a lot better when he gives you a hug because they know you and feel safe with you, rather than the indescriminate hug you get because he is "parent shopping" or manipulating.

Cacooning- We will be sticking close to home for a while. I need to keep his world small as he will naturally be hyper-vigilant taking in sooo many new things. As we adjust together and recouperate from travel woes, we will begin to venture into more and more areas. As we do get out- I will still be learning- both of our limitations and we may have to cut activities short without notice.

Regression-  Many of the things above help to replicate some of the attachment time missed during his early years. It may appear that I'm spoiling him, babying him, or being overprotective. That is intentional. He missed alot of the nurturing in his life. I missed doing it for him. For some time, he may have baby behaviors alongside independent mini adult behaviors. This can allow rebuilding to take place and so we can both learn what being a family of two means.

Toddlers Being Toddlers- I'm learning from others- that it is quite common, that adopting during those wonderful toddler development stages can ... well... be interesting.

I can expect to see typical toddler behaviors at multiple of 10. That means all of those wonderful behaviors.. tantruming, charming flirts, manipulation, demands for independance, exploring voice levels, expressiveness, snuggly-ness, embraces etc... at at a x10 of typical toddler levels. (which is why traveling families suggest bringing ear plugs) This is completely understandable given the conflicts and compliments  of the developmental stage and situation.

I'm unsure if I actually learned this next statement in a particular class, or a combination of environments and just basic observation.  Sorry if I'm quoting someone without giving credit...
Future Santa Model

I truly believe, one of, if not the primary, job of a good father, is to be obviously, unwaveringly and overtly supportive of his wife, as the mother of his children.  By performing this one job, the father is not only modeling being a goodparent, man and husband, but also showing honorable respect for the primary woman in his childs life. (by this I, of course, do not mean financially supportive)

Someone said something like "Shannon, you are going to have enough to deal with!  You are single, how will they learn to be a good father? A good husband??"

I mention this because... of course.. I am single. There is no husband, yet.  I will forever be working hard- to make sure my son has good role models. Men, to whom he can relate, aspire, honor, learn from.  He and I are lucky to have so many good people surrounding us. Each with strengths. He and I are lucky like that.

I don't know how all of this fits together, other than it will never leave me. It is always something that is fore front of my mind- that he isn't just a child- he is a future teen-ager, boyfriend, husband, partner, father, member of society and we all learn best from those we look up to.

Funneling- may look like "Oh you want to sit with me? You can sit on Momma's lap." and guide him to me. After some progress, we will move to the next phase of "Oh you want to be picked up? ... Shannon my I pick him up?" This time, I come over and pick him up and hand him to you. This sounds easy enough- until he does that toddler thing, asserting his decision making skills at the top of his lungs - and you instinctively want pick him up.  It is hard. I recognize that this does not sound 'fair' to you. But remember- this process is the only FAIR way for he and I to attach.

All of these transitional steps- are simply that... Transitional. Every child and family is different. Some steps are needed for a week or so and others may continue for years.  Families, often look for that milestone day when the length of time together, is longer than the time when they weren't together. Attachment is a process, always building, always working- but gradually and slowly- we will make a family.  That 3 year mark is closer that it feels right now.

 MARDEN's Shopper Extroidenaire. 14+ soccer balls before

Ryan and I will be arriving in Addis, after about 31 hours traveling, on Wednesday morning. We'll check into a hotel for the first night as we get comfortable, deliver some donations, shop, and adjust.  (Ethiopia is 8 hours ahead).
Soccer Balls After- although the don't lay flat after being deflated.. I can pack 3-4 in the same space as one. Along with 2 hand pumps, these will go to 3 different places - An 'after school' program, the care center and the Guest House. Thank you Mardens for the extra mark downs.

Ryan has had no less than 5 people in contact with him, that are in Addis. So no need to worry- we have lots of local contacts!
On Thursday evening we will arrive at the guest house and join the other 8 families.  The guest house staff will provide a lot of our meals (not all of them) and will help us throughout the week  with a number of things, especially after the kids come to the house.  The next couple days, we'll spend a few hours each day at the care center getting to know the kids, playing, watching their routine etc.  One day will be a day, that we will not visit the care center at all, and will tour about 3 hours out of the city into the countryside. The next couple days we will likely be able to bring the kids back to the guest house for a couple hours or so, but they will return to the care center.  On Wednesday the 20th- the morning will be a goodbye ceremony at the care center- then we'll rush off to the Embassy for the visa interviews and lovely paperwork. FUN!  (I've heard- we are all in a small holding room, it's hot, boring, dirty and very few things for the kids to do.. ).  From then on- the kids are with us at the Guest House.

Medical Supplies, clothing, soccer balls and shoes which are harder and more expensive to obtain by locals. These will go to a couple different places that need them, including a NY family that moved over 6 mo ago to build a library, build a home for another family and start the after school program. Most everything they have is brought over by visiting families. 

The guest house grounds are high walled and gated. (this is typical in Addis).  So although, it is not advised to go off with the kids in tow- Me and the little boy will be able to go outside and play with some of the other kids. (See soccer balls above )

I wish I had a witty sign off, but my brain is cooked and my fingers are quitting. I don't know if I'll have the ability to stay in touch- either by phone or email- while gone. But I'll take notes just in case and will report back when i can. If I can get in touch, Sistah may be able to log in and send updates through email or on fB for me.

Wish us luck and pray a plenty!


kristine said...

oh shannon
safe travels
big heart to you
this post is brilliant
i will save it for my own family and friends
you are right i believe
there are no rules
but guidelines are very very very good
modeling modeling modeling
you are a beautiful soul
your son is to
your path will be twisty
but deeply good
and exactly right
i love love love the soccer ball photos
they bring me joy

Queen Of The Castle said...

Wishing you the best! Thanks for all the info./adivce. Im sure I will be needing it in a couple of weeks!!

- Shannon

Staci said...

Thinking of you and Teg. Sending lots of love!

kristine said...

did you get my post that i left when i was on the train?

just in case you didn't this is brilliant.

i love it!

i'm so happy for you!


Liz said...

Have a wonderful, wonderful trip! Don't know if you will get this in time, but there is a small kid play area in the Embassy waiting room, bring some small toys and snacks to amuse him while you're waiting.

Also, one of the attachment practices I have found really useful is sitting Elfe on my lap while we eat. I haven't bought a booster seat yet and don't plan to any time soon - it's been great not only for attachment but also for getting her to eat new foods. If she sees it on Mommy's plate, she wants to try it!

One more piece of advice - he might fight you on the regression, toddlers are all about trying to do things for themselves. Elfe really resisted a lot of the regression techniques I tried, but she is slowly letting me do some things for her. She may never agree to all of them, but I am happy with how things are going. Don't give up even if he resists the first couple of times, but also trust your instincts that some things just might not work for him.