Shadows in Adoption, part 2: Food

A while ago I wrote a bit about those “shadows” that you find in adoption.  I was not, and am not, talking about those big monster issues that sometimes are part of the whole adoption process: RAD, or serious attachment issues, and such….rather I’m talking about those remainders that snag here and there.  I want to shine a light, again, on those little flickers of shadow that cross our days or behaviors here in our house with some of our kids.  Because I suspect that they might well have flickered across a few of  yours as well.

So, this post is going to address that gnarly issue that so many of us struggle with: food!

Ah, food issues.  They are legion, no? Yes.  For so many of us, myself included, food has issues.  Some good, some bad, some snarly, some prideful and snobby.  It’s all over the map.  But for our adopted children, especially our children who might have been adopted a bit older (or a lot)….those food issues can be complex and run DEEP.

When we first brought our Gabey home he was 18 months old.  And he had the standard food-transition issues.  First he wouldn’t really eat, only wanted bottles of milk. So many many bottles of milk.  It was total comfort food and we were happy to provide that. In fact we did, and took him BACK to the bottle so we could cuddle and rock and feed him and have that eye contact as much as possible.

He dug it.  But, soon enough he decided that real food was appealing too, and quickly branched out.  He impressed us with his instant taste for spicy salsa (but, hey, he’s Ethiopian, we figured he had some exposure…) and his happy joy in smearing ketchup and gobbling fries and pasta and all the usual toddler  yummies.   After about six months, he seemed very much just like any toddler, some days picky, some days voracious, always up for a cookie.

So, we didn’t pay too much attention to it for awhile.  I mean, he was a busy busy toddler, seeming to be tracking on all counts.  Language?  Yup, gaining at warp speed.  Gross motor? Yup, very fast agile busy little guy; could keep up with big brother, no problem.  Fine motor? Yup, paid attention to tiny details and was in normal zone for a toddler.  Cognition? Oh my, very very sharp, figured things out fast and great memory.  No worries.

But one thing was a little skewed and it was his eating.  Over the past few years, his drive to eat has gained momentum.  And that is an  understatement.  This boy is DRIVEN for food.  He is kind of fixated on it.  Not to the exclusion of everything else.  He loves to play and go wherever someone else is  going, he wants to be in on any activity.  He will follow his uncle around like a puppy; hoping to  help with those cool tools and be allowed to use that wrench or drill or oh any tool he can grab.  But, if he’s not distracted by some fun, if any whisper of boredom hisses, he is begging for food.  Relentlessly.  And when he eats, he will eat to bursting if we let him, asking for seconds, thirds, fourths…. Unless it is green veggies or carrots. No problems there…gross.  Don’t get all shocked, we cut him off -but by redirecting the urge.  

This evolution into this obsession with eating, more more more, initially had me presuming he was simply,  um….gorging.  Then I realized that it’s more than that.  Deeper.  It’s as if his “Off” switch is broken.  Or at least gets stuck.  It is as if he is impossible to fill.  Sometimes, now and then, he will say, “I’m full.”  But not often.  Watching him ask with such need and such a push to the request has sounded a tiny bell in my head.

This boy, my boy, I think he was hungry.

I don’t know.  Not for certain. I don’t have documentation of his being hungry and I don’t want to project drama or be unfair.  But, I think he was hungry.  Not starving maybe.  But the hard facts are that he was unable to be raised by his family.  He is an orphan.  And, the government orphanages and even the best care centers aren’t exactly overrun with funds for the abundance of every nutritive need.  It doesn’t work that way.  And my boy, well, my mama heart has to wonder.  Was he hungry?  Just some? Enough that now, way deep down, he might worry about being hungry again?  Even though we have, thankfully, an abundance of food and no one goes hungry in our house (unless they are putting on a hormonal girl drama, by their own choice and standards of Oscar worthy merit).  

So, what to do? I don’t want him to become obese or unhealthy.  And, truthfully, he is getting really stout.  But I want  him to know, for now and for ever, that he will not be hungry.  Even if he doesn’t know that he needs to know, now.  He does, it seems.  Karen Purvis says, “Never deny food.”  And so, I won’t.  I can’t.

So how do you provide the security/food your child needs and requests while at the same time keeping them healthy?  Well, here is what I’ve got, so far.  [If any of you have other brainstorms, please let me know in the comments!]: I do NOT deny him food.  And yeah, go ahead, tell me to only offer him celery.  Right.  Look at that face and tell me again. 

Ha.  Rather, what we say is “You bet.”  But we also say, “First, finish your dinner (not with extra helpings).” And we also say, “Let’s count, have you counted five fruits today? Or veggies? How many? Two? How about an orange? ”  We go for fiber and produce to fill the need if we can coax him into it.  But, honestly, some days, as he comes home from school and asks for a cookie I just say, “Yup.

Because if I have to pick, I’ll pick attachment and bonding to this boy.  Easy choice, slam dunk.  That security in our love and his safety here in our family is more important than “husky” size pants.  Will I encourage him to move and run and jump and play sports? Yes!  Will I encourage him to eat healthy choices? Yes!  But will I also withhold food when he tells me his tummy is hungry?  No.  I will not.

It’s a shadow.  But one that I think is best to see in the light.  And maybe, with time and yes, good healthy cooking, this one might fade away.

Attachment tools and signals: the bandaid.

Kids love Band-aids.

Right? I mean, don’t you sometimes think, “Doh, why, oh WHY didn’t I buy stock in bandaids?” Because your kids go through them by the gross. Because you commonly walk into the kitchen or bedroom and find little discarded fluttery piles of bandaid wrapper remnants, left behind. Because, as you stand in the market and eyeball the different kinds and colors and characters and compare the ridiculous prices relative values of the choices…you think, “I went into the wrong line of business. Forget plastics. I should’a gone into bandaids. I’d have that Bahama beach house already!

No? Ok, maybe that’s just me. I admit it, I’ve been chintzy at times on the bandaids. The bandaid for the invisible booboo, it used to make me (way back when I was much younger of course, ahem) blanch at bit. Then I finally relented and thought, “Meh, whatever helps. Fine, get a bandaid.” Heck, I got all magnanimous and everything about the bandaids. I let. It. Go. Big of me, right? Sigh……

Now, after this Empowered to Connect Conference, my eyes have been opened anew to the beauty and wonder of bandaids!

No kidding!

First, the good stuff. And sure, maybe you hip and savvy moms already had this all figured out. And I’ve had my moments of understanding too, give me a little cred…but still…to have it visibly on big screen shown to me and 900+ other parental unit types….well, it brings the point home: bandaids are a fantastic tool for attachment and healing. What’s more, bandaids are a great signifier of same. What’s that? YEAH! That endless need for bandaids, if brought to you, can show a trust that YOU are the one to help heal a hurt, however small or vanishing. Right. Do to be clear, it’s not actually about the bandaid. I just use that for the catchy title. It’s about the need to be nurtured. It’s about trying to reach across that gap in trust..to grab onto your kid on the other side.

Let me back up a moment. In this conference last weekend , one of the first videos that Dr. Purvis showed was of a ‘nurture group’ (I know, the titles make me squirm sometimes, thinking how my kids might react to that term, but, still…) with teen girls in a residential treatment center. Now, I’ll tell you, I typically come to these resources thinking mostly of my newest daughter, adopted as an older child. It’s been a tougher road that one, and it’s easy to get a little stuck on the ruts there. But this video instantly had my hyper focused attention, because one of the girls reminded me so disconcertingly much of one of my other daughters. This other daughter does manifest attachment issues but due to brain injury/trauma/behavioral stuff and the sheer complexity of her little self. And it’s easy to forget that her issues are so there, there. But Friday, I sat up and had that klaxon clanging; because I could’a been looking at a possible future glimpse of my girl in manner and general attitude. Not a certain vision. A possibility. Key point, that.

Anyhow…This video was about the idea of asking for help, for nurturing, by asking for a bandaid for a hurt. And this girl, in the video, she couldn’t or wouldn’t do it. Not in that session anyhow. And Dr Purvis was her usual wonderful accepting nurturing self and didn’t make a big deal of it. Which means, that acceptance allowed/empowered that very girl (by report) to soften – she did ask for that bandaid help, the very next day. Presenting the idea of being accepting to opening up the avenue or idea of healing, allowed this child to be vulnerable enough to take one baby step forward to admit she might need a bit of it. Just one bandaid’s worth. Hugeness.

And what that also shows, is that all those zillions of times your kid(s) come to you for bandaids? Ask YOU to look, see, kiss, comment on, PUT the bandaid on their invisible or visible hurt?

Attachment, people!

I know, you already know all that probably. I did/do too, most of the time. But when you are in the trenches and/or parenting one or more kids from hard places or with needs or whatever…well sometimes that reminder can be a brick on the/my head. And the daughter that we fight so hard to find a way to, to attach to and her to us? Well golly don’t ya know she’s come to me, oh, let me think here, about 700 times I think to show me an owie or a bump or an ouch. To see it. To hear it. To kiss it. To bandaid it. Sometimes it’s not even real, really. Sometimes it’s somatic. I’ve rolled my eyes over it as she walked away. Shame on me. Because I should’a gotten on the table and danced. As Karyn Purvis pointed out this weekend, “That’s paydirt.” I can’t have long conversations with her about her attachment and her issues. She has delay issues that prevent it. But this doesn’t need conversation, it works at any level. And it showed me something that made my heart and head go “zing!” Our issues with her are less attachment than I thought all this time. Our issues with her are more cognition and anxiety (and those are many, but still…). And yes, some attachment, especially when the anxiety makes the survival skills raise their ugly head again. But, still, not as MUCH attachment as I presume too often.

Those hundreds of hurts, of complaints even, of owies that I wondered about in dismay for the past two years….”Really, you fell in the bathroom again? Your knee? Oh, ok, I’ll kiss it. Be careful, ok?” Well, even though we weren’t GETTING each other totally…we were still stepping through the attachment dance.

And it counts.

Are we done? No! Not for a lifetime, I’m guessing. But have we made progress I didn’t even see?

Oh. Yeah.

And my other daughter, the one who I had hyper radar sighting in the video? The one who does/doesn’t have attachment stuff on any given day? One of my other complicated kids? Well, we’ve had some more connected progress after this conference. Not perfection. But strides, steps. Screwups too; me. But, she’s asked me to kiss her forehead and cross it each night at bedtime and getting out of the car at school this week. And Monday she stepped on a toothpick. It hurt. And guess what?

She wanted a bandaid. No, she ASKED ME for a bandaid.

Paydirt.

Wanna know what I said?

You betcha honey. Which one would you like? “

Zing went the strings of my heart.

St Vincent de Paul: for the orphans…..

..and the widows and the poor. This saint had the big heart.  The heart that, maybe, darn near broke from compassion.  The heart that put compassion first foremost and above all.  So, for all you adoptive families and mission going gals out there – he’s your man.  Heck, for all you guilt ridden, distracted, interrupted moms out there (ok, me…), he’s a great saint to consider hitting up for prayer.  He gets it. And, it’s his feast day today!

I also gotta wonder if he wasn’t one with a sense of humor, another joyful saint.  I mean, look at that face. All the paintings and images I’ve ever seen of him show that smile and a little spark in his eyes.  Love that.  But, I digress.

Anyhow, he’s French, from the late 1500’s.  No easy time that.  But, enough, to distill what he was about, I can do no better than to excerpt one of his letters (from this morning’s Office of Readings):

“It is our duty to prefer the service of the poor to everything else and to offer such service as quickly as possible.  If a needy person requires medicine or other help during prayer time, do whatever has to be done with peace of mind.  Offer the deed to God as your prayer.  Do not become upset or feel guilty because you interrupted your prayer to serve the poor. God is not neglected if you leave him for such service. One of god’s works is merely interrupted so that another can be carried out.  So when you leave prayer to serve some poor person, remember that this very service is performed for God. Charity is certainly greater than any rule.”  {From St. Vincent de Paul’s epistle 2546: Correspondance, entretiens, documents, Paris 1922-25, 7} 

Now, c’mon moms, does that not describe your every waking moment days in a nutshell? I think so!  It does mine.  What? I’m not surrounded by the poor? Well, not in the common sense of the term, no.  However, the poor are the little among us too.  They are the ones who need help, the ones who have no voice or a very tiny small one, the ones who might get overlooked. The poor get dismissed, either because they are the classic newspaper image of poor, impoverished and not just outside our door; or because they are children, our children even, and we forget their needs are so mighty as well.  So,  yeah, they count too.  Overwhelming? Poor ALL around us?? Well, yeah.  But, happily, we get props for trying to connect and make a difference, one glass of juice at a time, one band-aid at a time, one ear to listen, to serve, at a time.  I believe it.  The trick for me is remembering to DO it.  Again.  And again.  And again…well, you get the idea.

St. Vincent de Paul, pray for us!

>Look Closer Again. And again

>
Look Closer, Again
I wrote this last year.
I think this has to be an annual post maybe.
Because we cannot should not forget.
And I don’t know how to say this differently.
So, I’m saying it again and again:
The faces are the same.
They are joined by new ones.
But, mostly, they are the same.

So, I’ll say this as many times as it needs to be said:

Today is World AIDS Orphans Day.

These are the faces of the littlest ones.

Not necessarily the youngest, I mean, the littlest.

These are the ones it’s so easy to pass over and look beyond.

But these are our children too.

We are so bombarded with causes and pictures that it’s easy to get overwhelmed, desensitized, numb.

But look at these faces.

Really, look at them.

These are kids.
They are orphans.

They lost their moms and or dads to AIDS.

See them with your heart and soul.

Do something.
Give them the dignity and humanity to really SEE them….
Then say a prayer for them, donate, reach out…
…touch them, hold them, hug them if you can, even.

They are just kids…our kids….who have a future, or should.

>Look Closer, Again

>I wrote this last year.
But I don’t know how to say this differently.
So, I’m saying it again:
The faces are the same.
They are joined by new ones.
But, mostly, they are the same.

So, I’ll say this as many times as it needs to be said:


These are the faces of the littlest ones. 

Not necessarily the youngest, I mean, the littlest.

These are the ones it’s so easy to pass over and look beyond. 

But these are our children too. 

We are so bombarded with causes and pictures that it’s easy to get overwhelmed, desensitized, numb.

But look at these faces. 

Really, look at them

These are kids. 
They are orphans. 

They lost their moms and or dads to AIDS.

See them with your heart and soul. 

Do something.
Give them the dignity and humanity to really SEE them.
Then say a prayer for them, donate, reach out…
…touch them, hold them, hug them if you can, even.

They are just kids…our kids….who have a future, or should.

>Look closer

>

These are the faces of the littlest ones. Not necessarily the youngest, I mean, the littlest.

These are the ones it’s so easy to pass over and look beyond. But these are our children too. We are so bombarded with causes and pictures that it’s easy to get overwhelmed, desensitized, numb.

But look at these faces. Really, look at them. These are kids. They are orphans. They lost their moms and or dads to AIDS.

See them with your heart and soul. Do something, even if only to give them the dignity and humanity to really SEE them, and say a prayer for them, donate, reach out.
They are just kids…our kids….who have a future, or should.