15 March 2008

Random Update

  • I am almost, but not quite, finished with the performance reviews in my department. My colleagues are unevenly invested in performance reviews: some don't seem to take any part of the process seriously (reporting or reviewing), some take it seriously and very personally, while others take it seriously with more distance. Reviewing serves some emotional purposes that I don't think we all fully understand--and certainly haven't articulated, in our very rational review standards and processes. I've been thinking quite a bit about the emotional purposes served by performance reviews, and how different people use them (or resist them) in career development. Although this is my last year doing performance reviews, I'd like to leave the department with a framework for considering how to help this task seem more useful across the board. I hope my practice of meeting with almost everyone individually is a step in that direction, but I want to explore how reviewing might be better targeted, so people feel better understood by the system.
  • There's nothing like death and potty training to bring readers out to the comment boxes! Thanks so much for all the support and suggestions. It's been invaluable, and I can't thank you all enough.
  • A potty update: I went back to reminding Curious Girl to go potty at regular intervals, usually around every 60-90 minutes, and at significant activity shifts (before a playdate, before leaving the house, upon coming home from school, before dinner). She's had only one accident in over a week now (and that was on a playdate at a friend's). She is also more likely to say "I have to go!" when I'm generally setting the structure in place. Things are good again.
  • Anyone wondering whether a five or six year old child who is still having lots of accidents is normal should conclude that yes! it's very normal. Between the comments here, the private e-mail, and the comments on a yahoogroup I belong to, I've heard a lot of stories of older children who are still a little uneven on the potty front. Constipation is not always easy to detect, so there may be a medical component, but older kids with potty issues are not uncommon. I feel so relieved to hear that. I encourage--and always have encouraged--Curious Girl to be independent in some respects from a very early age (she started helping to clear her place at the table when she was probably two, for example). The week I spent convinced that The Authorities who think A Five Year Old Should be Indpendent with The Potty were correct was a miserable week. She needs a little reminding, and perhaps other kids do, too. Independence comes by many routes, and sometimes, teamwork with a parent is the best thing. We should talk more about such issues, as most of the mail I got from other parents in this situation expressed a bit of "but I thought my kid was the only one who..." Your kid isn't, and neither is mine. And she's splendid anyway.
  • Curious Girl attended a Jane Brown adoption playshop this week. Jane is an amazing speaker--she did a three hour presentation for parents the night before, with no notes, very graceful and eloquent and engaging--and she's also great with kids. The two hour playshop gets adopted children and their siblings playing with each other, talking about adoption. They made little braided bracelets (one thread representing their first family, one representing themselves, one their current families) and learned how braided things are stronger than the threads alone. They did a play about a general adoption story, taking the roles of birth parents, prospective adoptive parents, children, siblings. They talked about how to respond to bullying and teasing and played different responses (and did scenes with puppets, too). They talked about how people are the same and different, about how many things are the same even if, say, skin color or eye folds are different.
  • When we were watching a movie later, CG said, "the people in this movie are all the same color." Then she said, "but everyone is special. We all have eyes, and a heart inside." Tonight, she told me that she wished--in the part of the playshop where they made wishes about their birth families--that we knew more about J. and S., her birth parents. She cried a bit, told me we don't even have a picture, we don't know anything about them. "You know a little bit, but I don't know anything," she said. I told her that I would never, never, never have secrets about her first family, and that everything I know, she will know. I also said, "Sounds like you're feeling sad." So we talked about her sadness for a while, and I told her that I'm sad, too, that she doesn't know much about her first family. We ended up talking about the possibility of her having siblings in her first family, and she went to sleep planning to dream about living with her brothers and sisters and birth parents. She told me I could come in the dream, but that I couldn't live with them.
  • "Pretend you're J., and you keeped me," she said, right before she fell asleep. This is a tricky situation. Politica and I are very careful never to speak for her birth parents. We have always (in age appropriate ways) tried to show CG the multiple reasons her first parents might not have been able to care for a baby when CG was born, always saying we don't know why. On a few other occasions CG has said "pretend I came from your belly," and I have always said "no, I can't. You grew inside J." but tonight, she said, for the first time, "Pretend you're J." I pretend to be any number of other people or things (in the course of today, I've pretended to be a cat, her big sister, her little sister, her baby, her student, her teacher, her ballet teacher). Can I pretend to be J.? My instinct was no, I can't, but I'm also aware that pretending is how she works things out. I don't want to block her attempts to work out adoption issues, especially now when she is clearly on the cusp of getting her mind around the fact that being adopted means that someone didn't keep her. She's coming to terms with the loss she suffered in a way she never has, despite the fact that she's long known the general facts of her story. Those facts are starting to be interpreted in a new way now.
  • So I said, "What would J. say?" and she said, "I love you." I replied, "Go to bed, sweetheart," and she said, "remember, you're J." and I said, "Time for bed" (figuring mothers everywhere say that). She said again, "but you're J. Where's S.?" so I said, "I don't know." I was blurring the line about whether I was actually pretending to be J. or not, but the "I don't know" is factually true, and clearly not participating in what I believe her current J. and S. fantasy entails. She said, one last time, 'Tomorrow, remember, you're J." I'm not sure how this will play out tomorrow. Maybe I'll try to redirect her into play acting with some dolls or animals to play the parts. I really can't speak for J., and it's more important that she figure out what she thinks J. might say or do.
  • I know this is important for her to do, and I'm so proud of her for being willing to name her feelings and talk about things. It is also heartbreaking to watch her hurt. I don't entirely know what I think about the primal wound, but I do know that CG has healing going on that wouldn't be needed if she hadn't been surrended by her first family and adopted by us. (She'd have likely had other problems she'd be working out, of course--I'm not idealizing alternate outcomes.) It's heartbreaking.
  • Anyone want to buy a house? I should stop blogging and start cleaning. We have our first open house tomorrow, and too much clutter remains. Cross your fingers for buyers in a bad market.


Magpie said...

So fascinating to read about CG and the adoption issues. I've not know many adoptees or adopters - so I've not been around it, or thought through the issues.

Good luck with the house.

Phantom Scribbler said...

Her hurt is heartbreaking, but watching you be her parents and companions through it is awfully inspiring.

I'm typing this with crossed fingers, of course!

niobe said...

Thinking good thoughts about selling your house.

Cg's comments, requests, and your thoughtful responses make me wonder how, if, in theory, the surrogacy worked, I would handle these kind of issues. Of course, the situation wouldn't be entirely the same, but the surrogate would be the child's birth mother and, legally, the child would be adopted.

Scrivener said...

Hope the open house went well!

Reading this post, and thinking about my own kids right now, it just amazes me how strong and smart and capable kids can be. I'm only just now figuring out how to name my feelings.

I'm continually impressed with your parenting and how thoughtful you are about guiding her through the healing.

abebech said...

I'd really like to send readers over here if you don't mind, Susan.
What a hard request, "pretend you are J." -- I'm impressed with your fast thinking, being able to ask "What would J. say?" -- I might have been dumbfounded. Redirecting and having her play it out (where she plays all roles) sounds like a really smart idea.

susan said...

Abebech, of course send folks over if you like (Dawn did-hi and welcome to people coming from there!). The more we talk together, the better.

Anonymous said...

Wow. How you parent is a true source of inspiration to me. I agree: you are quick on your feet!

I am hoping you get the perfect buyer at the right price. You only need one!

Arwen (it didn't like my name?)

susan said...

*blushing*, Arwen: it's a mixed bag around here--I could have another post about the irrational angry flare I got into this afternoon when CG was rather irritatingly screaming in my ear as we were leaving a friends. I think we're trading inspiration as we all tell our stories--I know I'm a better parent for reading the stories on your blog and others, too. I'm glad we all have each other to read and respond.

abebech said...

I'm still mulling this over -- and I think I will be for awhile. I was wondering what would happen if you were to ask her to say what she would say to J (if you were J/if J were there right then) -- that might allow her the context she's looking for without you having to put words in J's mouth. It's so HARD not so fill in blanks our daughters so desperately want us to fill in!

liz said...

I love the way you work with her on her feelings and let her feel them. I also love that you are not feeling hurt that she's wondering about her birth family. I know of so many adoptive families who feel rejected when their adopted children wonder about their birth parents or wish they could meet them.

Hugs and kisses.

kathy a. said...

you are great parents! so thoughtful, so aware of letting CG feel and work through what she needs to.

sending good house-buyer vibes.

Anonymous said...

I just stumbled across this blog. I'm an adult adoptee who has been one of the volunteers working alongside Jane for many many playshops.

I'd like to commend you for your openness and ability to put her needs first.

One of the reasons I participate in playshops - even though as an adult it is emotionally painful for me - is because I never had anything like that available to me as a child and I truly see the benefit. My parents put their needs to be the "only real parents" in my life ahead of my need to work through my grief. It backfired. I participate in playshops in hope that just one child will not grow up feeling like I do.