Saturday, April 10, 2010

Terrible 2's with a side dish of PTSD, attachment issues & mad self regulating skills


Eme's 2, which in itself presents normal issues like testing the boundaries, being defiant, which many would say she is establishing her independence in a typical 2 year old way. But with Eme, there is no such thing as 'normal'.

There is no such thing as typical 2 year old behavior when a child has had a life filled with disruptions and learning to not trust adults.

So far, disciplining Eme has not really been something we've had to focus on because well, she wasn't 2. We could tell her not to touch something and she listened for the most part, but now that her will is coming into play, it makes for some messy quick thinking decision making on a minute by minute basis. Eme testing me, doesn't mean she's establishing her independence, it means she's seeing if this Mom is strong enough to take care of her. Her defiance, doesn't mean she's being stubborn, it means she wants to control the situation. By her controlling the situation she feels safe in her own little world because she has learned that adults don't keep her safe.
Things are going to get a whole lot more difficult during this dethroning phase and I'm saying with the utmost of confidence, that this Mommy will prevail. Eme needs to know that we are strong enough for her to know what she truly needs. She has trust issues, she is high anxiety, she is scarred by her past and that past holds a lot of power over her current abilities to deal with her own behavior. Eme can not self regulate. I explain it like she's been strapped to a chair for the first 15 months of her life and now she has all this freedom, the ability to move, run, play, grab, touch, wiggle, jump, eat, climb & lick. It's like an open window and everything is just coming in at her full speed. She doesn't know when to listen, when to stop, when to chill, when to sit, when to stand, walk, run or play. She has to do it all RIGHT now. She has to TOUCH it, GBAB it, EXPERIENCE it. She is grabby hands extraordinaire.
Eme did not have the opportunity to learn these skills, hell, she didn't have the opportunity to learn to sit up, roll over, sit, stand, or walk until 15 months into her life. She missed the whole first year of her life physically and emotionally. She is not a typical 2 year old. She blew through those physical hurdles within 2 months of her life, but the emotional challenges are far from being on the same page.
I'm learning right along side of her as to how to parent the child that has no self regulating skills. In order for her to be able to self regulate, she has to be securely attached and once again, attachment is a process, not an instant thing that happens. So where are we in our attachment? We are chugging along. To the unknowing, the uneducated, we are rock solid, golden, beautifully connected and every ignorant person would say that Eme knows her family is forever and look how far she's come. To us, her parents that have seen the scars on her broken heart know that she is a work in progress. She is beautifully connected to us and she seeks us for her comfort, her needs, our love, but we are still growing in that attachment.
We have seen the different stages of her attachment, but yet at a minutes notice, what appears to be a rock solid attachment can turn into an anxious attachment. Eme has a lot going on and keeping her with me is the only way that she will learn to self regulate. She is not capable of handling play with other children her age. Thank God for Jaylee across the street, because she is learning right along side of Eme. We let them practice their mad play skills on each other ;0)
We RARELY go to a restaurant with her. We can not take her on more than 2 excursions a day, participate in story times, play dates, fun tumbling classes to burn her energy or let her have free play at the park because this is more than she can handle. She doesn't know how to handle herself.
So what appears to be naughty typical 2 year old behavior, is in fact not typical. We are working on a lot with Eme that the outside world doesn't see or understand and every time I hear how normal it is, I just want to poke my eyes out.
We'll get there...eventually...


Shari U said...

My little Abby was 10 months old when we brought her home in November, 2003. Around Feb and March of 2005 I was seriously scared and thinking that I just didn't know what to do next. And then, all of a sudden in June, 2005 it all came together. I think there was a moment when she realized that her world was stable and after that she just started growing emotionally and was able to trust us and let us (mostly me) out of her sight for more than 2 seconds at a time. Mind you, after 18 months of carrying her non-stop I had developed a rather serious lower back issue that required surgery ~ but, it was worth every second! (And I am 41 years older than she is, that could have something to do with that). Abby's now 7 and is the easiest and happiest child ever! I'm amazed at how far she's come. Keep doing what you're doing and it'll all come together; hopefully sooner than later. And thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences on this. When Abby was struggling I really didn't feel like I could talk about it; nobody wanted to hear it or accept it.

Anonymous said...

We have adopted both our children from China. Emmalyn was adopted at 2 and 1/2 and Ryan just came home last feb at 4 years old. We are still in the trenches when it comes to Ryan. People look at him and say "typical 4 year old boy" but we know better. We know he can not regulate either...I just smile and walk away when people say "your too protective, he just a typical 4 year old boy mom" I am his mommy and I know my son not you. Also I dont typically give other mommies in the treches advice becasue every mom/child is different. However, having her little friend who is newly adopted over for play dates is wonderfully. I will not only help you by having a freind who totally understand where you are coming from as a mommy and also Eme. She has a friend just like her. My daughters best friend in the WHOLE wide is world is another little girl adopted the same year she was. It has been AWESOME to have antother mom look and me and say. Yep I get

Shannon said...
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Linda and David said...

It was just 3 weeks past Micalee's 2nd birthday when she was placed in our arms in China. I totally understand where you're coming from! This is a very difficult age to have the attachment process begin! We really struggled the first few months, but things are getting better! Even the cloest of family members, though, still often mention "she's just a typical 2 year-old". NO SHE'S NOT! It is frustrating not having someone understand what you're going through, and just seems to dismiss your concerns & compare them to their biological children. It's just not the same! Although Micalee has shown marked improvement, and is showing a connection to us, it will be a LONG time before she is securely attached. She has just had to much go on in her first 2 years. She wasn't even in one place the whole time. The first year was in foster care & her second year, back in the orphanage. I have to consider her past in every little decision I make concerning discipline & I'm not sure if I'm always making the correct ones! I question everything I do! It's hard, but I believe it is totally worth it to have the honor of being the mother of this wonderful little girl! Hang in there! You are doing an amazing job!

Marsha said...

Hi Tracy,

I've recently adopted a sib-set from this country and although these children don't have the same experiences and Eme, they have many of the same issues. The social system in this country offers its own set of impositions on the children in it. We are in the initial stages of attachment efforts. I know it will take a long time and fortunately, we have the assistance of a counselor. But I'm just wondering what you might expect to see when you KNOW that full attachment has happened? Will it just be one of those moments or a string of moments that a mother's heart will be able to identify? Or are the "experts" telling you specific things for which to look? I so appreciate your feedback. What a convoluted and twisted road we are travelling!

Kristine said...

Right there with you...

Diana said...

You are the perfect mother for Eme..You so understand what your daughter needs and requires. I read a lot as I have a little blog addiction problem:) and not everyone see's things the same way you do..I so admire you for educating yourself. I know I made mistakes with Tyler (my 12 year old) as I think he had a lot of adoption "issue" (I am calling it this for lack of a better word)..I wish I was as educated then as you are now.

~Kristen said...

I so agree with everyone else that there is no better Mommy for that sweet Eme.
Your background being a Foster Mother and Bio Mom gives you the upper hand on all things child-rearing.
Thank you always for being so honest and always sharing the good and hard times... we could all use the lessons learned from you.
I am never in lack of awe for your knowledge and patience, especially when it comes to those "looking in"
Eme will come out of this as one amazing little girl, who will truly know the Love of a family.
XOXO, always....

Buckeyes & Eggrolls said...

Hang in there! You are doing exactly what you need for Eme! YOU are her mother and YOU know her best. I think others mean well but they just don't understand what these children have gone through. I struggled with Marty when we first came home with Maddy because he did not do any of his 'homestudy' homework. I read all the books. I'm the one who read the blogs, who payed attention to signs to look for etc. He struggled until he started doing some reading. It's a whole different ballgame with adopted children. Your instincts will guide and don't let anyone tell you any differently. :0) You are prepared!

Wanda said...


We have a lot of similar things going on with our 2 year old. I rarely talk about it, other than to my closest adoptive parent friends, because I too am tired of the "it'll pass - she's 2" comments.

Milana spent a good deal of her first 22 months in a crib and is learning everything from scratch. We're slowly catching up but she is a lot like Eme in her emotional behavior. She tests me constantly but I'm determined to be firm because I know she needs this for her security.

It is not easy - she challenges me most of the time. But I'm thankful that you share so openly and am learning a lot just reading of your experiences with Eme.

Thanks for sharing this.

Anonymous said...

TELL the doctor you want her knocked out lightly. She does not have to go through all that terror.

Lindsay said...

We are hitting a lot of bumps in the road just now and H is home over 2 years. Yes, 'it's normal' comments really, really drive me mad.

Best wishes to your family. You will prevail.