01 March 2008

Her Strengths

This post was inspired Magpie's post in response to the call from Parent Bloggers Network and Jenifer Fox for stories about children's strenghts.

Two nights ago, Curious Girl threw a fit in the middle of our (very short) violin practice. She started crying and just couldn't stop. Suddenly, she walked away from me, clearly looking for something. "I can't find it, Mama! My Feeling Box is gone and I can't find it!" She walked around in agitation. I spotted it on the other side of the room, and she ran to it, picked it up, and dumped all the little pieces of paper out. "I"m mad, Mama!"

The Feeling Box is a shoe box, covered with CG- drawn stickers of mad, angry, and sometimes happy faces. It has some crayons in it, and it used to have small pieces of paper for drawing on it. When CG gets angry, she'll get her box--or I'll get it for her--and she'll scribble a drawing to show her feelings. She likes to keep the pictures in the box, although two fits ago, she decided to rip them all up and scatter the pieces on the floor. So now it just has tiny papers in it, suitable for throwing. I love that she has created a box that helps her deal with feelings, and that she's turning to it on her own to process hard situations.

I love that CG can be so in touch with her feelings, that she's experimenting with being wildly out of control and self-regulating all at once. I love that she talks to me about her feelings, wanting me to know just how mad or happy she is. I love that she uses words in a tantrum, and I love that she's experimenting with nonverbal ways to express and process feelings, too.

I love that CG thinks about complicated things--we're bringing dinner to Tante Mississippi and Curly Haired Cousin on Sunday. "Why are we doing that?" she wondered. I said it would help them feel better. "Tante Mississippi is still sad sometimes. I am, too. I miss Uncle Quiet. Do you feel a litle sad still." "Just a little," she said. "I'm thinking about other things, because it's more happier. But that's good that we're going to visit them." I could keep adding to my last post indefinitely, it seems: she continues to talk about her wonderful uncle in ways that make me want to laugh and cry all at once.

I love this feeling of connection I have with her, and I love watching her learn to be more independent of that connection. She does, seemingly naturally, what I've spent hours in therapy to learn to do. Maybe I could do this too, when I was five. I don't know. But she can, and it's pretty darn amazing to watch.

Curious Girl has some hard things in her life to think about. Lately, she's been saying that she wishes she still lived with her birth parents. She's starting to realize that being adopted meant that she wasn't cared for by her first parents, that someone wasn't able to keep her. I don't think she's quite put it all together, but it's coming. One night she said, "Whoever gets to keep me is the luckiest." I'm careful here-I know that she will make her own way through these issues, and I never want her to feel the need to protect me or Politica from her feelings about adoption and family. So I say things like, "I wish you knew them better," or "You are an amazing girl with a very loving heart." I want to keep the conversation going, hard though it may be some day. It's hard for me, juggling all the paradoxes of adoption. I wish CG didn't have to deal with the grief and hurt from her past. I wish CG's parents didn't have the burdens they must have had not to be able to parent. Yet life without CG...hard to imagine at this point. It's mind-boggling, the complications. And she knows that, on some level, and she's making sense of it all at her own pace. She's thinking, she's reaching for words, and she has a box full of little papers to help her with the hard stuff. And tonight, that's worth bragging on.

10 comments:

chichimama.com said...

Wonderful, and I love the feeling box idea. I may have to snag that one for use here. C is pretty good at expressing how he feels in words now, but A is having problems still.

Songbird said...

It's got to help, in the long run, that she is expressing these feelings now. No one ever suggested to me that there was another parent or parents somewhere. I felt utterly disconnected until I was 8 or 9 and began to fantasize a mother (in a trench coat! a spy?) who came to sneak visits with me around the corner from our house. Anyway, she is already doing work that was stunted and postponed for most adoptees of my generation, and she is doing it with parents who are conscious of the complexities. That's good news, even in the face of the natural sadness. You're seeing that in her response to the more immediate grief in your loss of Uncle Quiet, too. You are such a good parent!! And she is such a thoughtful girl.

Magpie said...

what a lovely post - about a lovely girl and her good mama.

Rev Dr Mom said...

I love the Feeling Box--what an incredible thing to have.

And I love how you and Politica help CG to process and articulate all these complex emotions and ideas.

Lovely post. Amazing kid and amazing moms.

Phantom Scribbler said...

She is an amazingly thoughtful and articulate girl, and I'm pretty sure she has learned those skills from seeing you and Politica model them. You guys all deserve a little bragging for that, I think.

susan said...

You guys! Thank you...the feeling box was inspired by CG's teacher. One morning CG and I walked into school both looking beat from the rough night before--I forget what Terrible Tragedy was the trigger, but Something Horrible led to an hour long tantrum complete with scratching, spitting, screaming, hitting....it took a long time to get CG quieted and asleep. I said, "CG, maybe your teacher has some good ideas about what to do when you get so very mad," and her teacher said it was always OK to be mad, but never OK to hit or spit. She said, "You could draw a picture, CG." CG thought that was worth trying, and when we got home, I thought that making a feeling box would be good, so it would always be at the ready. It was her idea to put the stickers on it. And so far, it's working (although as Mississippi Friend would say, "don't put your mouth on it"). So let's pretend we're not talking about it, OK?

jo(e) said...

I love the idea of the Feeling Box. I think I could use one myself.

peripateticpolarbear said...

I just love the way you problem-solve. I want you to be George W's mom. Maybe if he had a feeling box....

landismom said...

The feeling box is a great idea! Sounds wonderful.

JD said...

I might have to make one of those Feeling Boxes myself. I wish I'd had one when I was CG's age.