Today was a doozy. I haven't had a day this hard--this emotionally taxing--in weeks. Actually, I can't even say it was a day: it was only in the evening that things began to unravel. Just when I had begun to feel the routine fall into place, to watch everyone begin to feel at home with their new life, and my own anxieties subside, I was yanked back into the reality that four months is only the beginning of this journey. All four kids reminded me of that tonight.
At dinner, Jasper, out of the blue, popped the comment that maybe Saffron should go back to Ethiopia--in front of her. When I scolded him, he began to cry, which led us to send all the kids out of the room and have a half-hour talk with Jasper about his feelings, about why he still feels so negative about the situation. We made good headway, but it was important--and sobering--to be reminded that even if he doesn't act out anymore, he still needs a lot of time to feel good about his new life.
After Jasper, I started to comb Willa's hair before bed. Willa had, again today, begged all day to have her hair cut. Then tonight, even though it's shorter and was just washed yesterday and her scalp is getting much healthier (thanks to Dr. Ross's medicine), she still began sobbing immediately and continued to cry through every gentle tug, despite my frequent pauses for her respite. I reminded her, again, that if this crying at every combing, washing, braiding, etc., (we are supposed to comb it at least once a day) continued, we would need to cut her hair and wait until she's a little older and it's a little healthier to wear it long. She insisted she wanted to go ahead and do it, and I thought to myself, "I've discussed this with her every day for four months. She's only four, and doesn't have to have long hair if she just can't deal with it. Frankly, I can't handle this stress in our life anymore. Seems like a small thing for how much stress it creates for both of us in an already difficult situation." So, I cut it all off. I was then able to get to her scalp and clear the dead scabs. It's now about as short as Saffron's looks in the photo at the top of the blog. Actually, we all agree she looks adorable. But as soon as she saw the first big clumps, Willa began to sob uncontrollably, until she almost passed out. There was no consoling her. You may think any child would cry about a haircut, but I guarantee you you haven't seen the likes of this. It is clear, through endless comments about it made by the girls, that in Ethiopia they were taught to believe short hair is worthy of shame. That's why I didn't cut Willa's hair sooner. But we've got to recover her scalp's health, and my sanity. We've spent months trying to rebuild from the ground up the girls' understanding of beauty, and I think Willa will feel better about it in the morning.
After we got Willa cleaned up and in fresh pajamas, I could see that Saffron was not in a good place. I hugged her and asked how she felt about the haircut, or to tell me what was wrong. She then began to cry, and proceeded to tell me that she has confusing dreams where I am with her Ethiopia Mom in Ethiopia, and that she is afraid of me and Steve. She knows it isn't rational (not her exact word), that we love her, that we would never hurt her, etc., but she has fear in her tummy and in her hands every time something goes wrong and she thinks she'll get in trouble. She knows better, she says, but she just can't seem to get rid of the feeling. It's like she can't get Negat (the Wicked Stepmother), out of her mind, and it affects her reactions. This is all understandable to adoptive parents, of course, but it's still extremely discouraging to hear. So, I then had a half-hour conversation with her about memories, change, trauma, and the major difference between women in American culture vs. women in Ethiopian culture. Phew.
When I finally walked Willa and Saffron into their room at 10:00 PM to put them to bed, I discovered a very sad and dejected Ruby in her bed. She was hurt that I had called Saffron in to help with Willa's hair, not her. She was feeling good for and good at nothing, all over again. I did my best to kiss and comfort and reassure, but my heart sank to hear this final news, this issue that I naively thought was subsiding recur again. I can't put into words my love for little Ruby, and my heartbreak to think that she is again doubting her worth. Fortunately, she was too tired for a half-hour talk, and so accepted my kisses and settled in for sleep.
Ay Yi Yi. I feel that yucky, scared, overwhelmed feeling I haven't felt for many weeks. Why can't I seem to make each child feel loved enough? This is hard. At least, this time around, I know the feeling does go away, and things do get better. At least I've seen a glimpse of how good, how right this new family can feel.