We went again to my parents' neighborhood pool last Saturday night to swim. The two year old stayed back with her Mamie and didn't get to swim because she had refused to take a nap in the afternoon. Must follow through with threats, right? I came home and told my husband, who did his own thing that night, about our evening, which included a nice meal outside on their deck. I was recounting the pleasant, fun moments interspersed with a good dose of crying and anxiety from Jiushu. DH said, "Uh...it doesn't actually sound like that much fun."
I laughed. Because I could see his point. But it was fun in its own way! And right now, this is our "normal." Stretches of peace and happiness interrupted by bursts of everything is still not quite OK. The day I first started writing this post, J had spent at least a third of his day crying and screaming. Screaming because I set his dish down for eight seconds to go get his milk. Screaming because I can't play the "stand-up" game for 20 more minutes. Screaming because I put his milk back in the fridge after he rejected it, throwing it aside. Screaming because I put a bit of burrito, which he likes, on his tray and expected him to feed it to himself. He would not. (Food-related anxieties have emerged, and we are trying to figure out the root of them and how to alleviate them. I did get the milk back out and he decided to drink it. And after he spent some time calming down and playing in his crib, he also magically decided to feed himself the burrito.) Somehow I have more grace and tolerance for this than I did even a few days ago. I am learning to differentiate the reasons for his cries and screams...not that that makes them any less unpleasant, but a cry of separation anxiety because I climbed out of the pool for a minute, leaving J in the arms of his grandpa, can be dealt with differently than a cry because the cherry pie and ice cream is all gone and J wants more. Oh, the injustice! Not everything is adoption-related grief and trauma. Not directly, anyway. Some issues are just I'm ticked because I want what I want when I want it which is right now and you're not complying! How normal is that?!?
I promise, my point in this post is not to be negative, but simply to talk about how we're doing and what I'm learning. I guess that's where the grace comes in...that I can write about (and experience, and endure) some of this unpleasantness without going to that dark place I've visited before. A few days ago, Jiushu was playing on the kitchen floor with some toys. He likes to fling them, but then they're beyond his reach and there's not much he can do about it. No different this time. He reached forward, sitting up, as far as he could, and then fell down on his tummy to reach a bit further. He was within inches of the toy he wanted, but could not get to it. I've tried to help him in the past, but my efforts are always met with anger. So this time I just watched. I had this strong sense that J was going to have to figure this out for himself without interference. He screamed on his tummy. Then he sat back up and screamed some more, waving his hand at the toy, as if he could teleport it to himself. My heart breaks for him, as it's painful to watch a 15-month-old get as angry as he does. A few minutes later, a calmer Jiushu managed to get himself to the desired toy...a plastic spoon, actually. I ran over and celebrated with him, clapping and exclaiming in my best sing-songy voice! He had to do it himself, and he obviously found motivation in his frustration.
I wonder if his emotional progress will take the same course. Not that we aren't doing what we can toward attachment. We are holding. We are loving. We are playing. We are feeding. But snippets of fear, anxiety, and rage are still sometimes present, in spite of our best efforts. I'm starting to think that the rest is up to God's healing work in Jiushu's soul, and time...time...much more time for all the underlying trauma to unravel. It is unraveling...I can see that it is. I see gears of understanding turning in J's mind. I see him knowing what we're saying, and deciding what to do about it. I see him starting, maybe, to believe that the food is plentiful and that it's OK to wait a minute for it. I see him settling in and relaxing in our love. I see glimpses of what "normal" can look and feel like. And it's looking pretty good.