It has been a rough trip, these last six or seven months, and there were times when I thought I’d never look at Rory and feel just unadulterated happiness. I thought I’d always see the shadow of the things I had trouble with — the way her arrival changed our family, the way it affected my relationship with the other kids, the fear I had that letting her fully into the family would somehow weaken the bonds I already had. There were a lot of things that helped: time, watching this little pumpkin struggle with leaving her foster family, and suddenly realizing that what seemed like sheer deviltry was Rory struggling in a different way, and watching a friend bring home a child Rory’s age, and — another realization — figuring out that adopting a three-year-old meant both making the adjustments you would for a baby, and making totally different adjustments. Not, unfortunately, making fewer adjustments — which I think is honestly what we’d thought. In other words, this was totally new and it was ok for it to be hard.
Which it was.
But we got there. Therefore all should be right and all things in the world should be of a happy rightness, except when they’re not. But now that we’re all in good shape — rolling along as a family, thinking more about speech therapy and soccer than about bonding and adjusting — I just want to be there. But not Rory — she wants to revel in it. Which means that every time I kiss her or love her up, she follows me around, touching me, leaning on me, every gesture asking for more. I try, I do. It’s not like I put out limits — sorry, only six hugs a day for you! — it’s just that I lose patience. I am not by nature a person of great snuggliness, and I am a person of a natural business, and I just — look, if I walk into the bedroom to put a book on the nightstand and then turn around and trip over you, I’m going to be frustrated, ok? I am not that interesting. You do not have to follow me quite that closely!
Then I feel like the dysfunctional boyfriend — oh, no, I only love you if you don’t call me. I draw her in, she asks for more, I push her away.
I know — I should grow up, and give a little, huh? I swear I do. But her well seems so bottomless just now. That’s a sad fact that makes me want to fill it, but I don’t know how much I’ve got. Today I sat down, and she sat on my lap, or curled next to me, for a solid hour and twenty minutes, patting me very gently, snuggling my arm, twisting my earrings. I tried to think of it as like nursing a baby — I certainly put in these kinds of hours under the other three — and that helped, some. But Rory didn’t get up until I got up, and I know she was disappointed. I know Rory loves me, and her new family, but some new mother would have had it in her to just let Rory soak and bask in her love and physical affection. Instead, poor Rory got this used-up model, happier wiping counters and baking cookies than pinned in under a child that really needs a snuggle. I’m going to do what I can to give her this. I just don’t think even the very most I can give — even when I, as a friend said to me recently, “put on my big girl pants” and do the right thing — is going to be as much as she needs.
Today I found myself setting boundaries. I love you, I said, so very much, but I’m not going to snuggle just now. And then — I love you, but I need this much space (as demonstrated with hands) just for me — because she was hovering, not snuggling, but as close as she could possibly be, and with hands out, fingering my magazine, touching my drink.
How awful is that, really? I love you, but snuggle time is over? I love you, but you need to be farther away from me now? I feel bad just writing it. Horrible. But I am who I am, and I can snuggle for a while, and then stop, or I can snuggle reluctantly until I just can’t take it any more, and all patience for the day is gone. I know she needs me. I know she needs this physical affection. I am trying.
I don’t think I realized how tough it would sometimes be to try.