There’s something about fall that renews my mind and soul. The crisp air that blows in at sunset, the comfort of Starbuck’s pumpkin spice lattes, the anticipation of new activities and routines. I was that dork in college who loved buying new school books at the beginning of the semester. Unmarked pages, un-battered notebooks, unused pens. It’s that invigorating feeling of having a fresh start. A blank slate. An opportunity to begin anew.
In my personal life, I’ve been craving a fresh start. Sleep deprivation combined with hormones, figuring out the logistics of life with four kids, and handling all the details of a new school year has created a monster in me.
Grace, our adopted 3 year old, loves her new baby sister but has struggled to adjust. She is whiny, demanding, mischievous, and rebellious. She has regressed to getting into our bed every night and sucking on sheets (which was her coping tactic since her life in China). I’ll be completely honest with you and admit that I’ve not handled Grace’s behavior in a healthy manner. Yes, Grace has needed to be disciplined. But she has also needed reassurance and attention. And all I’ve wanted to do is have some space to myself. I have responded often out of anger and impatience rather than love and understanding.
I have felt like Grace and I are stuck in a vicious cycle. The wisdom from adoption/parenting books has been echoing in my mind, and I realized that there is no reason why I can’t make a fresh start and employ new parenting strategies. And there’s no reason why I can’t sit down with Grace and explain the refreshing joy of do-overs. We can set aside our patterns and try to establish new ones.
But for adopted kids, fresh starts may have a traumatic connection for them. If you think about it, any change or “new beginning” in their lives usually involved a shift in caretakers. These changes probably involved loss, sadness, and fear.
For Grace, she experienced these changes when her birthmother left her at a gate to be found…
when she left the familiarity of the orphanage nannies for the nurses at the hospital where she had surgery to remove a teratoma on her tongue…
when she left the hospital to return to the orphanage, only to once again be taken from the nannies and moved to a foster family in the countryside…
when she was abruptly taken back to the orphanage and then thrust into the arms of a strange-looking couple who would take her across the world to yet another home.
As I write this all out, I realize that the change of a new sibling (and all the attention that a newborn demands) has probably led Grace to believe she is losing me.
As I ramble through this post, my three points are these:
1) that when change comes along, adopted children usually require extra patience and care because of their background. Almost all young children struggle a bit when a new sibling joins the family. However, it’s important to remember that adopted children may need more to keep bonding strong and intact.
2) that as adoptive parents, we have the opportunity to teach our children the joy of new beginnings. We can show them how refreshing these fresh starts can be and that they don’t always involve loss. If they feel like their transition into the family or America hasn’t been as they’d imagined, they may find hope in being granted a “do-over.” Whether it’s the fun of a fall football game, or enrolling them in a new hobby, we can show them that “new” can be exciting and positive.
3) that if you feel caught in some type of cycle or pattern which seems unsatisfactory, it’s never too late to make a fresh start. We all deserve second chances. And third and fourth ones too.
So instead of beating myself up, I think I’ll go spend my energy on some quality time with my 3-year-old daughter. Happy Fall to all of you! And let’s celebrate new beginnings.