Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Big Picture with Samantha

As I was out walking this morning I had time to reflect on the bigger picture of the last week w/ Samantha struggling to adapt to first grade. The adjustment has been harder than we thought since she did fine with two years of preschool/preK and one year of kindergarten. This school day is much longer and harder and she's feeling it big time. As a home schooler, I struggle w/ whether it's healthier for her to be home w/ me; in the past I was convinced her being away at school was the best thing for her her well-being overall. With her sensory processing dysfunction, she found it extremely difficult to "just be a kid" at home and was demanding, out of sorts, and more needy in general. At school she was well-adjusted, happy to be with her peers, and enjoyed the routine. It gave her a place to not feel threatened by authority and feeling the need to compete with older siblings. We always felt that a neighborhood friend would have made a tremendous difference with our issues at home, but God didn't provide that for us so we've had to manage the best we could.

So the big picture - the positives of this experience of separation anxiety and "forced labor" in the classroom.

First, God is affirming that Samantha has truly attached to me as an adoptive child should. I have not really questioned this before since I felt her behavior issues were from her sensory problems, not lack of attachment. But as a parent it's always nice to have concrete evidence that when your child is in crisis they want you. Even my 17 yr old son demonstrated this when he first had leukemia. He was more open to touch, holding his hand, etc. than a boy naturally would be with his mother at that age. Samantha has expressed a lot of missing me, wanting me, and coming to me for comfort in the midst of all this. She's been waking up early and wanting me. She demands I put her to bed instead of Dave. All signs of "regressing" in a sense but normal for a child in pain.

Second, I have become more convinced that my age is a great comfort to Samantha. As I think about it, all the authority figures in her life have been mid-age women, including her foster mom in China. Her pre-school teachers are either my age or older. Her kindergarten teacher is probably in her fifties. Guess what, her 1st grade teacher is in what I'm guessing to be her late twenties. Samantha says she seems like a "sister" to her, meaning she's uncomfortable with how young she is. This has been strangely helpful to me and my role with Samantha because I've sometimes felt like I'm too old for her. I'm going to be in my sixties when she graduates high school. I've wondered if she views me as a grandma, not a mom. Her birth mom is probably much younger than me. Now I know she feels safe with an old hag like me (chuckle, chuckle). That's a good and positive thing.

Third, I'm seeing more evidence that Samantha's overall needs for growth and development require outside help. We can't do it ourselves. She and I have too volatile of a relationship, and our family situation and my health have put so much pressure on us that I don't want school work to become another source of contention. She literally demands to do things her own way when I attempt to work with her, writing things in reverse order, picking and choosing which part of the lesson she's willing to work on, reading only certain books that appeal to her (which is very confusing why she rejects so many), etc. But in one week's time, I've been amazed with the productivity I'm seeing coming home in her backpack. And since the example's been set at school, she then willingly does her homework, following the instructions! Sometimes I misunderstand the instructions and she makes sure to clarify what she's supposed to be doing!

Samantha has always struggled with hard work, be it small motor, large motor, potty training, picking up toys, etc. We've given her seven years to learn how to be a normal kid and tried to accommodate her as much as possible. But she needs to grow up. We'll still "baby" her at home as much as she needs, but she needs the balance of moving on in life. We know she's got it in her! She just doesn't know it, but she'll get it in time.

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