Monday, May 12, 2008

Learning to Love Max

When Max first moved in with us....or, rather, when we first started going to therapy for Max, which was a couple of months into placement...Max's therapist told us that we didn't have to love him yet. It was enough to get through the day and have him in bed, fed and safe (not abused), at the end of the day.

I'm sure that's true. At that point, that was enough. I think, though, that it gave me permission not to love him. I still don't feel love. I hug him, I read to him, I feed him, I do finger rhymes, I tell him I love him, I cuddle him. But I do those things because that's what you're supposed to do with kids, not because I really want to.

I have impulses to hug Davan. When I see her first thing in the morning, I want to pick her up and hug her. If I miss her bedtime because I'm out, I feel sad that I didn't get to say good night. I figure that's how a parent should feel about their child.

I don't know if it's a lack in me that I don't feel this for Max. Parents who have bio kids and then adopt kids talk all the time about how they don't feel differently about their adopted kids. They feel the same intensity of love, protection and devotion for all of them.

Sometimes, I must admit, I think it's because they aren't as bonded with their bio kids as much as I am with Davan. 'Cause here's the thing - my SIL is glad to have time away from her kids. She's glad when they go to school. She's exasperated by them all the time. It seems like there are very few positive remarks toward them in comparison with all the snappish/frustrated/annoyed/angry remarks. That seems pretty much like I feel about Max. So, if parents feel that way about their bio kids, then, yeah, the adopted kid wouldn't be any different, would they?

Then, of course, there is the adopted kid that just crawls right into the heart for whatever reason and the parent feels immediate love. Max's therapist tells me that this is rare. Perhaps that's really so, but perhaps it's rare for her because the people who feel that way about their adopted kids aren't taking them for therapy.

At any rate, I wonder if it's time to stop giving myself permission not to love him. Not loving him makes it so easy for me to be angry with him. I feel punitive toward him because I want him to suffer for what he's done.

When I'm well rested and objective, I can stop the downward behavior cycle with him. I inform him of the consequence or even just point out the misbehavior, accept that he's going to be a shit for a bit and forgive him that. He gets over it a lot faster that way. But, I'm awful about holding onto my grief and anger most of the time. Then he gets worse and I punish more and it's a nasty circle that I eventually break, but not until things are out of hand.

Would that happen if I loved him? I don't know, maybe still so. Never-the-less, I think I need to really try to focus on positives.

I'm going to try to post at least two things a day that are good about Max in general or that he's done that day. And, for balance, as I also seem to be focusing on Davan's more annoying traits, I'll do the same for her. Also, because my relationship with Anthony is the cornerstone of the family, I'll do the same for him. And, to give myself some positive strokes, I'll look for two positive items about me, parenting related or not.

Max giggled about the book we were reading this morning and it was cute. Max doesn't light fires (a very bad sign when coupled with attachment issues).

Girl Scouts was canceled today, which disappointed Davan, but she didn't fall into a snit about it. She acknowledged her disappointment and then has moved on with her day. Davan's memory amazes me. She's gotten into memorizing poems and can recite a good half dozen long poems off the cuff. This morning she was singing a song off of a new CD of mine that I'm sure she can't have heard more than a couple of times. I didn't even recognize it, but she's got it all memorized all ready. Amazing.

Anthony absolutely believes that I deserve every thing I got for Mother's Day yesterday, even though last year we'd agreed that we weren't going to make a Mother's and Father's Days big gift giving events. He and Davan had picked out a Sig water bottle for me and had it wrapped and ready yesterday morning. Plus, I got three new shirts at the Saturday Market. :) He is also willing to make almost anything work that will make life easier for me. For example, he rushes home on Mondays and Wednesdays with just enough time to change clothes and grab a dinner I've packed for him to take Max to flag football practice.

I am a mindful parent. I arrange fun things to do as a family. This Sunday, we're going to Great Wolf Lodge, for example. :)

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