When I think back on the first three months together, though, I cannot believe how far our relationship has come. We knew going into Levi’s adoption that the family transition doesn’t always go as smoothly as it did with Veronica. But reading about struggles children can have and experiencing them are two completely different things.
Don’t get me wrong. Some families have extreme difficulties. Some children have RAD and other severe attachment issues that can take years to remedy. Fortunately we knew Levi could attach to people because of how quickly he bonded with Ben.
It was me he hated.
Yes, hate is a strong word, but I think it is accurate. This poor child was taken away from everything he ever knew without any control over the situation. He was not happy about this and needed to take out his anger and frustration on somebody. And that somebody was me. I was not the Mama he wanted. His reactions and emotions were completely justified. Although his behavior was completely unacceptable, it was also completely understandable.
The photo to the right is from my first time holding Levi (exactly one year before the first photo was taken). We were in a governmental office in Taiyuan, Shanxi, China. My sweet boy was so scared and sad. This was two minutes before he began to cry uncontrollably and would only calm down for Ben.
My relationship with Levi is so completely changed now that I have a difficult time believing things were ever as challenging as they were in the first few months.
For example, the first two words Levi could say were “No!” and “Mama!” He picked up the shame sign from another child and would greet me every morning rubbing his pointer fingers together in the “shame” sign and shouting, “No, Mama! No, Mama!” Then he would hit me and scream. Yes, that started my day for weeks.
Then the rest of the day would be an endless loop of him hitting me, pinching me and pulling my hair. When he was not in striking distance, he would grab a metal truck and bang it against a window, the China hutch, etc. He managed to find time to run away from me, too. Then there would be “nap time” and “bedtime” which were apparently just suggestions. I would stay in his room and attempt to comfort him as he continued to push me away – both figuratively and literally.
However, when Ben came home Levi would run to him. Levi would put his chubby arms around Ben and smile big smiles. All the games and songs he detested when I attempted, he laughed at when Ben did them. He was a delightful child – as long as I wasn’t near him.
Perhaps this is a slight exaggeration. Sometimes I think he resigned himself to my presence or just wore himself out with his fits. He did tend to behave better in public (except for his shrieking in the grocery store). In unfamiliar environments he knew he had to rely on me and that being stuck with me was better than being with strangers in a new place.
There was a lot of prayer in those early days. This experience convinced me that love is a choice. I made the conscious decision every day to love this child. Whether he was pleasant or not. Whether he deserved it or not. Whether I wanted to or not.
By about three months home, life changed dramatically. I realized that Levi listened to me most of the time. He had stopped hitting me, pinching me, and pulling my hair. He was not altogether happy with me, but gave the impression that he was accepting this new life. He continued to love Ben completely.
From about six months home ’til now, Levi has settled in remarkably well. I think he’s come to the conclusion that I’m a pretty okay mom. He likes to snuggle with me. He seeks out my approval and company. He is unguarded with his affections. He accepts my love and gives me love in return. Basically, my relationship with Levi feels as normal and natural as my relationship with all of my other kids.
What a remarkably fantastic place to be. What a truly, wonderfully ordinary place to be.
Happy Family Day to my Sweet Boy.
About the Author: This blog was originally posted on Kristin’s blog, “Trying to Control the Chaos,” which tackles topics on motherhood, adoption and parenting. She has also graciously allowed us to republish her blogs about her daughter’s cleft lip & palate surgery as well as her son’s cleft palate surgery.