Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Bonding and Attachment For Real (Celebrate the Small Milestones)

You didn't think I was done, did you?  Nope, I have tons more to say on this topic and will likely keep revisiting it or not, who knows!

Previous posts in this series:

Just remember, the purpose of this series is to convey our experiences parenting a newly adopted 3 year old from Ethiopia and is not meant to be taken as expert advice!

Part 3:  Celebrate the Small Milestones

My 4 year old son was the one to point it out.  Just last week, we pulled into the driveway after picking him up at preschool, I opened the backdoor of the car to let him and his 3 year old sister out, and he said, "Mom!  She stopped crying!  She already stopped crying!  Usually when we get home she's still crying!"

I had to think on it for a second because it was hard to focus on anything positive amid my annoyance.  Our new 3 year old, home for about 2 months at this point, had thrown a huge fit at his school because she couldn't play on the playground.  The playground has often been a point of contention with our new daughter.  You see my 4 year old son's classroom opens right out on the playground, so Little Girl sees it each weekday and some days after school it is opened for families to play on and some days (like when some children stay for and extended lunch bunch day) it is closed.  

Today was a playground closed day, I'd given Little Girl a heads-up about this fact before we even walked into the school yard, "Hey Sweetheart, no playground today."

However as we waited outside the classroom to pick up her brother, she wanted to play and I couldn't let her.  So the fit began. I had to hold her crying, tantruming self right there outside the classroom with several other parents looking on.  Thankfully his teacher had mercy on me and let my son out first even though I was not first in line and we were able to make a fast break outta there.

But still, I was embarrassed, annoyed, irritated with her behavior.  And frustrated that we were still at the point of her throwing such fits whenever she didn't get her way!

I had to wrestle her into her carseat and drive the 4 minute drive home with her screaming and kicking the back of my seat.  Lovely.

And, this little scenario has happened several times these past 2 months.  Sometimes because she doesn't get to play on the playground, sometimes because she just decides she doesn't want to be buckled into her car seat.  So, it made the whole repetition all the more frustrating.  And at times like that it's tempting to get discouraged, to think things are never going to get better.  That the hurdles of beginning to parent a child later in the game than newborn are just insurmountable.

But, my little 4 year old guy was right.

I had to take a deep breath and step back to see it.

She had quit crying in the 4 minute drive home this time.  And her fits when we first brought her home from Ethiopia lasted 20 or 30 minutes some times!

I was flooded with amazement at just how far we had come and then other things began coming to mind, all the ways God has already worked healing in our little girl.

So, my advice to other parents in the trenches is to celebrate the small (well, big to you) milestones.  Constantly be looking for forward progression in areas of behavior.  From day to day it can seem that there is no progress, but look back a few weeks, months.  Is it better?  High-fives all around!  Make cupcakes!  Celebrate!  Praise God for the progress and be encouraged that more is likely just around the corner.

And to bring some humor to the subject, now that the crying and screaming is subsiding, here's what Little Girl's fits have graduated to.  She lays on the floor silently pouting.

But, little girl is no dummy.  That floor is hard.  The pout soon moved to the comfort of the couch!

She does pouting like nobody I've ever known!

By the way, I didn't take these pictures just to poke fun at her on my blog, we've been talking a lot lately about emotions (well, on a 3 to 4 year old level) she and I, so I can help her better manage hers.  So, we make happy, sad, mad faces at each other for fun and I snapped those pictures to be able to show her and talk later when she wasn't upset about that feeling.

The next day she thought the pictures were funny and perfectly imitated her own pouting face!


  1. So glad to see you here at TT this week and oh how precious...even the pouts. Reminded me of how we, Gods children, seemingly do alot of that. Pouting that is. But yet He is ever so patient and leadin with us. Thanks for the reminder today. :) -Laurie

  2. She is such a beautiful and what wonderful progress you are making with her. Bless you for giving her a wonderful future and a hope... :) And I have to admit, that pouting face is so adorable! Have a fabulous day!

  3. Thank you. We are in the middle of adopting two brothers from Latvia. Actually, we are currently in Latvia, and will get guardianship and return to US with our boys in one week. They came to us in America through a hosting program, so we have spent the last ten weeks with them. They throw a minimum of one tantrum daily. Ages 8 and 4, that is no small potatoes in parental patience testing! They have come leaps and bounds in simple obedience (like not hitting us, or holding our hands instead of running off into the street) but some days, when they have had screaming temper tantrums for no good reason a public restaurant or store, it helps to remember just how far they really have come.

  4. thank you so much for this series! The pouting pictures are priceless :) God bless

  5. Good advice for anyone, parent or not, Celebrate the small stuff.

  6. Cannot tell you how much I appreciate your posts. We are at "only" 16 months on the waitlist and Gladney tells us not to expect a referral for our toddler/preschool aged little girl for another 10-12 months...BUT...I am bookmarking your posts and wanted to say thank you for sharing in this way. I wonder given that children are now generally spending a lot longer time in care now before coming home, if there will be more issues than before, possibly? At any rate, thank you so much for writing all this down, and know that I'm a faithful and appreciative reader/listener!


I'd love to hear what you think!