What Happens When It Doesn’t Work?

November 4, 2014 Attachment, Jennifer, Trust Based Parenting 5 Comments

So I’m taking a brief break from reviewing the Trust Based Parenting DVD series just because I can’t help myself. I will get back to it but I aspire towards transparency so here we go…

”What happens when it doesn’t work??”


I am convinced that there is an adoption cam at my local grocery store. They have ascertained my Tuesday shopping schedule and it follows me up and down the aisles, capturing my epic failure as an adoptive mother. We are closing in on two years together, Grace and I, and there have been enormous successes and stuck like glue attachment. As I’ve reviewed the DVD series the past few months, I have been encouraged that in the rare occasions where her behavior sends shock waves through a good ten mile radius, there is a reason and there are ways to help. The outbursts of anger and frustration come in seasons and then become shorter and further apart before appearing again.

It’s just that there seems to be a common response to the grocery store, that place where a family of six frequents on a regular basis. Please understand, I am organized, menu planned, list written out and ready to go. Happy. Optimistic. Talking up the grocery store visit like it will be kin to a trip to Disney World. Or at least the zoo. Jobs for “big girls” to help with, rewards, choices, and we have prepped the transition from the car to the store over and over and over again. Pretty sure that if the adoption cam gets jammed, the ladies at the deli counter could tell you my every move and every encouraging phrase that is uttered week after week.

This particular week, Grace went from whiny to outraged in a matter of minutes. No amount of singing songs worked. No amount of preparing for the transitions worked. No amount of eye to eye contact, hand holding, option giving or outright begging worked. I even offered the lemons. Picking out lemons and counting them into the bag is the most fun. Not today. She is too smart for my offerings. And in my mind through gritted teeth I’m saying, “Thanks a lot TCU Institute of Child Development! This isn’t working. One bit.”

We pass by the sushi counter and she yells louder. For a girl who we wonder if she even knows if she’s adopted, she sure knows that yelling loud here will elicit a response. It doesn’t matter that some of the chefs may be Japanese, she knows they are Asian and she is going for it (at least in my paranoid mind that is wondering if the sushi chefs have a live stream cam being fed into all Asian reality television stations – “Real Adoption Moms of San Antonio”). We turn the corner and a well meaning older gentleman tells me the obvious, “She sure is mad!” and here’s where my desperation turns not on her but on him. Because she is my girl. My baby.

And even though I have sweaty armpits by aisle 3, I smile and say, “I would be mad too if I was in an orphanage for the first 17 months of my life.”

I’m not even kidding. I said that. I didn’t even filter it. I knew Grace couldn’t hear me because my girl can yell. Loud. And, at this point, I’m pretty sure she was ripping off her shoes and chucking them down the aisle. As I grabbed a can of tomato paste out of her hand, the kind gentleman said that he had a handful of children and his countenance said, “I get this. I’ve been there.” Or, he was acting because I had just turned a bit scary. Scary with a smile is the scariest. I did some acting too and commented, “She is my fourth and I am not easily phased.” That statement was a half truth. I took drama in school and participated in a slew of musicals. I can fake it with a box step and bright eyes, singing “It’s a Hard Knock Life” and never miss a beat. Or one that you would notice me missing.

At this point, Grace realizes that I am no longer paying attention to her melt down and she literally turns to the gentleman and yells a very loud, “AHHHHHHHH” as if to say, “We are done here.” The gentleman and I say goodbye and I walk down the aisle talking in that scary monotone whisper voice that reminds her of the expectations in the grocery store. I am no longer bitter at Trust Based Parenting, but have slipped into just being her mom. Quietly reminding her of what is required, what can be gained and not. budging. I budge all the time (remember Sharing Control?) but this behavior is not budge worthy. I’m holding it together but the softer my voice gets the more I fear that I’m about to become scarier than the pumpkin headed goblin in the front of the store. I begin to wonder if that set her off in the first place and imagine myself hosting a little grocery store employee educational seminar. We would watch the section in Trust Based Parenting on sensory processing. And my older kids would jump out and scare them – just to bring the point home.

About aisle 8, Grace stops yelling and through sniffles that break my heart, asks if she can essentially try again next time. The grocery cart is stopped and the adoption cam is far from my mind but I really hope they are filming this. This right here. She says she wants to try again, “after later?” (“After later” essentially means anytime between now and five years from now).

“Yes,” I say warmly. “You can always try again.”

She lunges forward in the cart and wraps her arms around me. “I love you mom.”

I pet her hair and wipe her eyes, telling her I love her too, over and over again. To cover the yelling that happens over and over and the reminders over and over again. I quickly look around to find any way to give her a chance to make this right. Right here, even though there is an “after later” to hurdle next week. I pick up two bags of marshmallows. “Which one?” The blue bag or rainbow bag? She gets to choose because we can most certainly share control here. And on down the baking aisle. Choices and success and celebration. And hugs and laughter. Change just like that. Shoppers who were suffering post traumatic stress symptoms a few aisle before are passing us and smiling. They dare not stop, for fear of jinxing the joy.

What happens when it doesn’t work? You keep at it. Over and over again. Next week we march into the store singing and happy and high fiving. The sushi guys are nodding in approval. I pick up California rolls for lunch. Grace thinks it’s gross but I smile and nod as they look at her, believing she will like it.

We roll on over to aisle 2 because it. is. working.

Eat your heart out adoption cam.

– photo by Tish Goff


5 responses to “What Happens When It Doesn’t Work?”

  1. Megan says:

    This is such an honest and encouraging post. Now I’m going to go read your reviews!

  2. Chris Weaver says:

    Boy does that sound familiar!

  3. BShumate says:

    Oh my word, this is so encouraging and honest and real and also humorous for me. Thank you for being real, even for the “cameras”.

  4. Rebecca says:

    Oh wow between laughing, gasping and crying, you NAILED IT. Thank you for this!

    • jennifer barnett says:

      Friends! So glad it was encouraging and that we are in this together! Nice to know we aren’t having isolated grocery store incidents and that while there isn’t a book to help, we can laugh as we just keep trying!! 🙂

      Thanks so much for letting ME know it’s not just me!

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