Saturday, February 20, 2010

"Neither Cast Ye Your Pearls Before Swine, Lest They Trample Them Under Their Feet," Or, Don't Read This if You're Not Going to Be Nice

Don't you dare tell my mom and dad I am blogging. We all have to catch a plane in about three hours and I'm sure they're already sitting next to their suitcases with their jackets on saying, "I bet Emily and her kids are going to make us late."

From the comments I've been getting from people, it's clear I'm not going to be able to let our little "Walk to Ethiopia" go without a wee bit more explanation. Why were they attempting the 'long road home?' Well, let's just say negotiations at the Swensen Summit were falling apart on both sides.

1. Saffron's camp had fallen back to trying to force the I-am-Willa's-mom agenda, the I-roll-my-eyes-and complain-about-every-request agenda, the I-do-things-myself-without-asking agenda, and the Superior Sulking agenda.

Don't get me wrong--things are fabulously improved and quite smooth overall these days. We have very few tantrums or long periods of pouting, and many good times. It's just that after almost four months, I have lost my patience with the kind of behavior I could take in the beginning, and so I was having a really hard time dealing with this backward slide. I was struggling with the fact that I've already ruined my streak with these kids. I remember when I ruined Jasper: I had been a perfect mother for about 5 days, and then when he was still less than a week old, Steve and I had an exhaustion-driven argument in front of him. "Great." I thought. I've already ruined my streak of perfect parenthood. At least I got to let go of the gold early, and be content with the consolation round.

Also, as Steve pointed out, now that the major behavioral issues had all calmed down--now that survival mode was over--I had enough time to face all my feelings about the past few months, and to re-realize that this is going to take a long time. Yes, their English has come an amazingly long way, but it still has much much further to go before we can communicate purely. This struck me when we went skiing and I said to the instructor "their English is pretty good." My nice, soft-spoken dad then turned to him and corrected, "Their English is lousy. You'll have to show them everything." Gees, I thought. I guess that's how it looks to someone who hasn't seen every tiny progression. So, I was tired, and discouraged. This led to . . .

2. Mom's camp had degenerated to the shape-up-or-ship-out-because-I-can't-hold-my-tongue-anymore agenda. ******MIND YOU*****I did NOT mean ship out to Ethiopia--just out of the room. In other words, if Saffron grunted and rolled her eyes when I put her dinner in front of her, I would say, "That's it. You can go to your room." Period. No arguments. I knew she knew the food rules by this time. I was having a hard time not taking things personally.

And then, I broke the cardinal rule. When she complained that there was nothing to do because I wouldn't let her play computer games or watch any more TV, I said a few things like, "Well, I don't know what you did for entertainment in Ethiopia but it must have been pretty awesome because we sure can't keep you happy here in America. You always want more more more, and better better better, and maybe you just liked life better in Ethiopia. I know you wish you were back there with Etalem, but you're stuck here, with me as your mom."

Is this a little too "frank" and "honest" for the World Wide Web? I'm guessing that yes, frankly, it honestly is. But there it is. This is hard. I've been a grown-up through most of it, but recently I had degenerated into a child, saying petty things about Ethiopia vs. America-which is never, ever fair--and about their perfect biological mom vs. me. As Belinda would say, "I was so junior high."

And I knew it. I knew I was out of line. I knew I needed a change of heart, and a whoopin', which I am always good at giving myself in my mind and did continually.

Saffron, it must be said, also knew that I had NOT said I wanted her to leave. She understood that I kept saying she was stuck with us for good, but she wanted to punish me, understandably. So, she embarked on her epic journey.

I have a fear of "casting my pearls before swine" (not that y'all are swine) on the internet, so I often don't share the tender moments that get me through. But lest ye all think I'm a crazy women, I do have those moments. We all turn somewhere for comfort and inspiration--I turn to my faith. Monday night, after the runaways returned and were in bed, I asked Steve to give me a blessing. In our religion this is like a prayer, but a bit stronger, where another person, a Priesthood holder, basically prays and asks the Lord for a personal message for you.

The gist of what I felt in that prayer was reassurance that we are on the path that is right for our lives and our family, that I am doing just fine as a mother to all my children, that the Lord loves me, and that many people around me are standing ready to support me, and everything will be OK. And during that blessing I was also reminded of another major tender moment that got me through, around Thanksgiving. I never shared it here, but will now. Hopefully those readers who might not appreciate it have already gotten bored and stopped reading.

Remember the day I took Saffron to my friend Emily's house, pulled her from the car screaming and left her there so I could cool off? When I went home to take a nap, I first opened my scriptures. The fell open--literally--to the following passages:

Verily I say unto you, concerning your brethren who have been afflicted, and persecuted and cast out from the land of their inheritance--yet I own them, and they shall be mine in that day when they shall come to make up my jewels.

My bowels are filled with compassion towards them. I will not utterly cast them off; and in the day of wrath, I will remember mercy.

Therefore, let your hearts be comforted . . . for all flesh is in mine hands; be still and know that I am God.

And in that day the enmity of man, and the enmity of beasts, yea, the enmity of all flesh, shall cease from before my face.

And so I was comforted, and reinvigorated, and rose to parent another day. That got me through another 10 weeks, and I guess on Monday I just needed my own message again.

I think a lot of the struggle for me and Steve and the kids has simply been a result of readjusting expectations. When you think you're getting two very tiny girls, and end up with one small but one very big girl (especially big in presence, and attitude, and life experience), you have to travel a long way to come to terms with it. I'm sure this is also one of the biggest struggles for the girls: I can't even imagine what their expectations of life in America with a family might have been, but no doubt the reality is nothing like what they thought.

But then, most of life's challenges can be boiled down to readjusted expectations. When we got pregnant with Charles, we thought we would have a healthy baby boy. We didn't. That expectation was not fulfilled. When my friend got married, she thought she would live married forever with a loving husband. They are now divorced. Her expectation was not fulfilled. When you take a job, you assume you'll have it for years. When you're let go, that expectation is not fulfilled. When you start reading this blog post, you expect to be finished before now. Your expectation has not been fulfilled.

Now that you've fallen victim to another bout of "Emily's TMI," let me put your mind at ease before you go. I have no regrets. I am so grateful and happy to have these girls in our family. I have no doubt that in a year or two this family will run like a well-oiled machine and we won't be able to imagine it any other way. If you're thinking about it, do it! Whether it's international or older child adoption, or a risk you've always wanted to take, go for it! Here I sit right in the midst of the hard part, and I can still say Hooray! We did it! We ARE doing it. SO GRATEFUL to be doing it. So go for it.

And now we're off!! Disneyworld with all the cousins, here we come. The girls have no idea what they're in for, but they're excited anyway.


Brooke said...

Have a wonderful trip with all the cousins. I'm sure it will be fun and new and very exciting as are most things these days. Oh and probably full of challenges too!

Corinne said...

Emily, you are amazing, and here is why: you do not pretend. As a mom of a challenging child, I so LONG to hear the real things that people are going through so that I can remind myself that a bed of roses is not a reasonable expectation and that maybe things are just going to be challenging for a long time. That is a long sentence. But I really appropriate, especially, the words of your blessing, what a miracle. Heavenly Father is so aware of you and your family, just like YOU are so aware of your family. Thank you so much for writing.

Melissa said...

Have a blast man.
Thanks for the insight.

garth bruner said...

Just so you know, I read the whole post and appreciate your candor. No one needed more explanation, but I think you may not realize how many people you may help or influence with your wonderful blog! Hope you all have a nice vacation. (Jennifer B.)

Big Bahama Mama said...

I think life IS a bed of roses--only, someone forgot to de-thorn it.

Clyda and John said...

Hey Emily,
This is Steve's cousin Clyda (Uncle Marv's daughter). Anyway, just wanted to tell you thanks for your blog. I came across it from other family blogs and love reading it. Having adopted two children I can identify with many things you are going through- minus the whole culture differences. And I love the "TMI" writing. Glad to know I wasn't the only one who lost the "Gold prize" in those first few days as a mother. Enjoy Disneyland. Sounds like to much fun.

Charlotte said...

This quote has been on my fridge for the past year. It's by a woman named Vicki Pond. She spoke at a ceremony for families of organ donors about grief and her experience losing her 17 year old daughter in a car accident. "We are somehow to let go of our previous expectations of what we had set our hearts on, of how our lives were going to be, but we don't let go of our loved ones. We don't move on and forget--we move forward and remember."

I guess this doesn't apply to all of your previous expectations, but I thought you'd like it.

Anyway, thanks for sharing the pearls. I can't wait to hear about your trip.

Diane said...

Emily, I never just read the first paragraph in your blogs because I know the meat is still to come. You give an eye-opening account of what you are going through in a very frank and honest way. We don't always want everything sugar coated because life isn't that way. Congratulations on being you! And have fun at Disneyworld.

Kristin said...

LOVED this post. But as for TMI, I'm still trying to live down the 'condom' post. You're tame in comparison. You are absolutely amazing people to do what you're doing and to be so brutally honest about how hard it is. My hat is off to you. Glad you had fun at Disneyworld.

JenSav said...

Exceptional post, Emily. Thank you for being so bravely honest about it all. I Love it. -Jen