Like any parents we have our struggles. Without giving you all the details, let’s just say that we’re seeking professional help and not for the first time. I don’t believe there is anything wrong with our girl, but the conventional parenting techniques (ie: Love & Logic) aren’t working, and we need an advisor to help us through our days. There are weeks and months when I feel like I can’t do anything right for her, when I feel like it’s all wrong. When I don’t know what parent she needs me to be.

We met with someone last week. When I thought about the appointment beforehand I worried I’d start crying and not be able to stop. We gave her the whole story from the beginning.

I told her about Josie’s grand entry into the world: spontaneous labor and an unplanned home birth (ie: have a contraction, get in tub, have baby). I told her about Josie’s first week of life in the ICU, and how she had a little orange bow in her hair the day we met her. I told her how Josie had complete head and neck control and cried real tears from the beginning. I told her about the time Josie got so mad at me for running out of formula that she wouldn’t make eye contact. About the crawling and the climbing and the walking and the running, oh god, the running. The running and how she ran without fear or boundaries, how she’d run into large bodies of water, off tall ledges, into traffic. I told this woman about the pinching and the biting and the hitting, but also about the hugging and the loving and the joking and her first words which were ‘owl’ and ‘hug.’ We talked about how other children cluster around her, how everyone is drawn to her, and also about the sleep problems, the night waking, the sensory seeking and the inability to calm herself. I told her I was reading the “Spirited Child” book and that Josie scored 106 on a scale of extreme behavior that only goes to 50. And, finally, I told her about the unreachable place where Josie seems to go sometimes when nothing works.

I talked about all of these things with surprising composure. It was when I got to the adoption, to the part where we talk about the birth family that I got into weepy, quiver-lipped, trouble. I mentioned a friend who had a spirited child. How the boy’s father had been the same way growing up. I thought about how wonderfully reassuring it would be to be to know Josie’s traits came from a relative and be able to say, yes, it’s okay – look at what a lovely and interesting adult she is now.

We know very little about Josie’s birth father but, for some reason, I think she gets her temperament from him. I wonder what his mother would say if she knew there was a small version of her son in the world. I wonder what her life and his childhood were like. I imagine her hearing about Josie and saying something like: Oh heavens! And putting a hand to her chest and laughing. Then saying: You have got your work cut out for you! Or something like that. That’s all. She doesn’t give me any sage advice, or answer questions. She doesn’t tell me what I already know, that this kid is going to be fine and that everything will be all right. We share a look and I get everything I want and everything I need from her eyes because I can see there is someone in this world who knows exactly what we’re going through.

8 thoughts on “Exactly

  1. Barb

    What a really, really lovely post, Katherine. Very poignant and so true. I can feel the love coming off the page. You are an amazing mother.

  2. Dakota

    I want to preface this comment by saying that I’m not attempting to give you advice, though it may sound like it. My intention is to commiserate and maybe further confirm your suspicions about heredity and temperament.
    In most ways just now, it sounded like you were describing Joseph…the early neck control, the real tears, and especially, the not looking before he leaps. In fact just last night, he picked up a hammer (that we were using just that very same hour for hanging pictures, will WE never learn), smacked it on the back door to ‘fix’ it, and it bounced back and hit him in the teeth, breaking the front tooth, that I kid you not, we have had repaired 6 times. And that’s just the beginning…jumping off our porch 8 feet down, jumping into the water with no life jacket, person waiting to catch him, or ability to swim. It’s mind boggling that a boy with so little fear could be born to a mother with so much of it. I walk into a room and scope out all the dangers he might find, warn his preschool teachers, and worry about it all day. Then there’s Joseph’s dad Clay…he has literally broken bones 30 times. Not exaggerating here. They are the same person…and despite losing his mother at age 4 and his father at age 15, Clay has become a creative, compassionate, caring, ‘successful’ man. Like you, I wish I could ask Clay’s mom about what it was like to try to keep a child like this safe and happy, but I just have to hope and know in my heart, that Joseph’s ‘zest for life’, as my brother puts it, will serve him in ways that will be incredible for him, even if I’m standing on the sidelines biting my nails.

  3. Tami

    Oh honey! Your post makes me think of what a mother in the room does for a mom in labor. When a birthing mom is deep in it, knowing there is another woman in the room who has been there and survived it, that is a grounding, calmly influence. A parenting doula — there’s a niche that needs filling.

    And let me add… you are an amazing, present, thoughtful mom. That girl is so lucky to have you.

  4. Katherine Post author

    Thanks you guys.

    Dakota – “It’s mind boggling that a boy with so little fear could be born to a mother with so much of it.” This is such a perfect statement. You are so right that these traits will serve them well. I don’t ever have to worry about her getting lost in the crowd, about her voice not being heard. This child will make a good life for herself and it will probably be something very interesting. I look forward to seeing what it is.

    In other news — I had a massage this morning and came out to find your lovely supportive comments. It all feels a tiny bit better. Thanks.

  5. peggy

    Oh, my. So lovely. And so honest, which is really really hard during the kinds of times you are sharing. Thanks so much for your clear snapshots of your experience and for your candid words. They are what makes this blog so special, and necessary.

  6. Heather

    What they said. I’m so glad you’re writing this. And I’m so in love with the fact that we have Dakota in common and that I come here and find her awesome comments along with other familiar friends.

    If anyone can do this, you can. With a little help from your friends. 🙂

    Love to you.

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