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Thursday, September 04, 2008

The Aftermath

I wanted to get out my concerns and sadness about how Lucy reacted after we picked her up from school yesterday. I would love any advice on how to handle such a situation and to hear your stories if your kids have reacted similarly. I really do feel better when I know that I am not alone, which I know I am not but like the reassurance. This is long. Sorry for that.

Okay. We picked Lucy up around 2 pm. She and I dropped Justin off back at home because he needed to do some stuff. Lucy and I were on a mission to find her some cute/not dorky closed toe shoes for school. We were semi successful at our attempt, by the way, but that is for another post. So, we went to the shoe store. She was totally happy in the car. She was singing with me and acting totally normal. Same at the shoe store. The girl LOVES shoes so she was prancing around the store each time I put a new pair on her. She would examine them in the mirror and was just in a great mood.

After we got some shoes, we headed to the mall. I wanted to look in one more store and for a treat, she could look at the ducks and turtles, which is one of her favorite things to do. We did the duck/turtle thing first. Again, she was totally happy and doing great. Then we started our long walk to the store I wanted to go to. She didn't get back in the stroller. She wanted to walk, which is totally fine with me. She was waving to people and talking to babies. She was so happy.

We got to the point in the mall that was the ABSOLUTE FARTHEST point from our car and something happened. Nothing specific, just something. I don't know what it was. Something in her little brain just snapped. She stopped at this jewelry store and just stood there. She wouldn't move. I kept prompting her to come on. Nothing would work. So I walked over to where she was standing and tried to pick her up. She screamed. Loudly. I walked a few steps with her in my arms screaming. I put her back down because I figured she wanted to walk. She ran back to the store window and when I tried to get close to her, she screamed again and again. I figured if I could just get her away from the window, she would be fine and we could continue on our way. I was wrong. Very, very wrong.

I picked her up off of the floor. She was screaming and crying from me picking her up. I started walking, holding her, and attempting to push the stroller. She was not only screaming and crying, but doing literally everything that she could to get away from me. I was mortified. It was not easy to move, at all. I had no idea what to do. We were SO FAR from where we were parked and I could barely hold on to her. I finally get us outside. I figured I could for sure get her calmed down once we were outside and there were far fewer people to stare at us.

I am staying really calm with her throughout all of this. I know she has just had a hugely overwhelming day and I am really staying very calm. But I am just getting nervous about how to get back to the car with her acting like this. I tried to put her in the stroller. I got her in it and strapped down, but she was trying to nose dive out of it and I was too scared that she actually might, so I had to get her back out. I was holding her again. If I put her down, she tried to run away from me and we were outside at a very busy mall. Running off was not an option. People were staring. I was sweating. She was sweating. Nothing would calm her down.

I am thinking of everything that I possibly can to get her mind distracted. Nothing would work. I was thinking of all of the animals that we talk about a lot and asking her to look for them. Again, nothing would work. I am walking at this point. We are moving at a snail's pace with the stroller and thrashing child in my arms. We are getting no where. I am starting to panic because I seriously don't know how we are going to get back to the car. I can't explain it enough - this mall is HUGE. We were so far from our car and going back inside was not an option. I really have no idea what to do at this point and I am nearing tears myself. Mostly because I could not calm her down. She would not look at me. She was throwing herself away from me. My touch and voice were making her more angry. It was horrible. I am sure that every person that saw us figured that I was beating her with the way she was acting towards me.

I continue very calmly talking to her. Despite how panicked I was, I am really proud of myself for not losing it because I was freaking out inside. I ask her to look for a flamingo. Random, I know, but she LOVES flamingos. Just like that, with the mention of flamingos, she stops. She looks right at me and says, "Look mingos momma." And that was that. She still wouldn't get in the stroller, but she stopped fighting me, she stopped screaming, and she stopped crying.

I ran with her to the car. Here is how far we were. Once she settled down, it took a solid 20 minutes to get to the car. I was still too scared to take her back inside, which would have cut our walk time significantly. I didn't want to risk anything getting her worked up again. We came straight home. She continued to not want anything to do with me for another hour or so. She wasn't crying or anything. She was just mad. But then, just as quickly as it popped up, her anger went away. She was laughing, playing with me, kissing me, etc.

She woke up about 2 hours after she went to bed in an absolute panic. I went in and she was clearly VERY mad at me again. She didn't want me to touch her, but she didn't want me to leave either. She was totally distraught. I finally just held her like a baby and let her fight me and cry. I just held her close and kept telling her that I love her over and over again. After about 15 or 20 minutes of this, she settled down. I laid her down on the bed and was right next to her. She didn't want me to touch her again. I asked her if I could hold her hand and she said no. She didn't want me to pat her back or rub her hair. She distanced herself from me as much as she could. I just laid there with her, so sad that she was so upset with me. My whole body hurt from fighting her both at night and at the mall. My arms and back ached.

After a few minutes, she rolled over and looked right at me. She said the most quiet, pitiful, and loving "Momma" that she could get out. And she rolled over to me and snuggled in as tight as she could get. She reached for my hand and held it tightly. We were both laying on our sides and she fit perfectly into my nook. My head rested on the top of hers and I just kept kissing her head. She fell right to sleep. I laid there for quite a while. So relieved that she let me back in. So sad that she was feeling these emotions.

So here are my questions. Have any of you had a similar experience? How long did it last? Do you think school is too much for her? Should we give it a few more weeks and see how she does? Should I be really concerned? Is this too much?

Today she was pretty much back to herself. Not 100%, but no meltdowns. You should know that she has NEVER ever done anything like she did yesterday. Not even close. I know that tantrums come with 2 year olds, but this is not like her. She has tantrums, but nothing like this. She was definitely tired. She only napped for 50 minutes, but again, she has been tired many times before and not reacted like this. I do not want to push her too far. I do think that a social setting without me there will be good for her. She is SUCH a mommas girl and has a hard time breaking away from me at all. Should I be concerned about this? Those of you who know her and have seen how she acts with me, is it okay? Is she having major insecurity issues? I am really questioning myself right now and I hate that. I want to do the right thing, but I don't know what it is. Am I way overreacting here and just need to give her some time?

This is one of those times that I know I am overanalyzing everything because she is adopted. I can't help it. Will this ever stop? I am constantly so concerned about attachment. I know she is very attached to me, but is it healthy attachment? Help.

58 comments:

stacy said...

Oh Kelly, my heart is breaking for you - what an awful experience for both of you! I'm sure you'll get lots of great advice from people with first-hand experience. I'd just say the former teacher side of me says to be a bit concerned, but keep with it for a bit. She did really well at school, right? That's a big thing. Keep in close touch with the teachers to make sure she's doing ok there. Is she the kind of kid that during a calmer time where the two of you are mellow and maybe involved in something else calming you could maybe ask her about when she got so upset and why? She's probably too young to get much of anywhere with that, but just a thought. Hopefully she was just so overstimulated, overtired and so forth that she just had a meltdown that she probably didn't even understand herself. Good luck with it and keep us updated!

Marlee Belle said...

I'm so sorry Kelly. I'm not sure I can give any advice but I will say some prayers for ya'll as you are deciding what is going on and/or what to do!

Stacie said...

Hi kelly,

I have a daughter 2 years old adopted from china- she has been home for almost a year and a half. She has had very similar reactions to Lucy's - they started out of no where and got progressivly worse. She was basically overstressed and the gymboree and kindermusik classes were stressing her out more (even with me there). She was also very aggressive towards other kids... started out with girls her own age and eventually it was ALL kids. We finally saw an attachment therapist- it really was a easy fix but alot of work on my part.... i don;t want to discourage you but i would say school might be too much for her right now. please email privately if you would like to know what insight we were given on our daughter- I am keeping her home with me for the next year at least because she is not ready for school emotionally- she is still very anxiously attached (she too is very much a mamas girl attached to my hip girl. She has made leaps and bounds in the last 6 months.... it is such a long process! i feel for you- this is the hardest thing as a mom to know what to do. I would trust your gut!

my email is shrabe@kc.rr.com if you would like to email me!

Hang in there,
stacie

Nicki said...

Ok first of all this post literally made me bawl. I am sitting here in total tears. I feel SO bad for both of you. So so bad.

Here's my opinion. Take it for what its worth. I would not put my child through that unless I HAD to. If I *had* to work, yes. If I *had* to put her in school for whatever reason, yes. But if I didn't have to, I wouldn't. There are other ways it might be easier for you to get out without putting her OR you through that (like hiring a mother's helper or babysitter/nanny to come to your house or a more private homey setting).

That said, I would try again. Maybe it was a fluke. I wouldn't try for WEEKS but I'd try another time or two to see if she reacted similarly or if she adjusted. It just seems like SUCH a strong reaction for something she doesn't *have* to do that I would be very inclined to hold off for a few months. in my experience a few months makes a WORLD of difference sometimes and I doubt you'd look back and think "Damn I wish I would have pushed her into it six months ago", kwim?

I have had some experience with this, with Addy. I can tell you I really regret a lot of the choices I made to continue to expose her to situations I know were not easy for her to handle even though I really had very little choice. In hindsight I see how much damage it did both of us and I feel sad about it. I have also had experience with just stopping and waiting to try again later. I can tell you that Addy at gymnastics or ballet WITH a parent is a girl full of joy and pride. Addy alone is a girl who acts abandoned and afraid. I don't want that for my girl. It just isn't necessary for her at the age of two. Our babies are still babies!!!!

I think ultimately you know Lucy best and you should really trust your instincts here. If they are screaming that this is just a minor thing and she will get over it, trust that. If they are screaming that this is more serious and not worth the benefits, trust that. You know her best.

Kelly said...

Stacy, I am planning on giving her next week - Monday and Wednesday for two more trial runs to see how it plays out. If it is awful, we are done.

Stacie - I am so thankful that you spoke up and I hope we can chat further about your points in more detail. I sent you an email.

Nicki - You comment was the one I have been waiting for. I knew what you would say, but I still needed to hear it. We are going to stick it out next week and then make a plan of action. It is definitely not worth the stress and worry that it might bring. I have been heart broken over her reaction towards me. I have to give it two more chances because a lot was playing into the scenario - being exhausted, being hungry, being overwhelmed, etc.

If you thought you were crying, try and imagine what it has been like to be living this for days. I am so torn up about it.

laura said...

Kelly, first of all, I'm so sorry for both you and Lucy. What you've been through is emotionally draining and exhausting. I can *feel* your heart break through your words. I've been there and I completely understand. Second, I will email you tomorrow. I'm too tired tonight to put together an intelligent email, but I do have some thoughts. Please look for an email tomorrow. I hope you and Lucy have a nice weekend, because this is so hard.

A said...

I feel so bad for you and Lucy for having to go through all that. Since I'm not a parent yet, I don't have any advice. I do, however, have a book recomendation. I have been reading a fairly new book called Parenting Your Internationally Adopted Child: From Your First Hours Together Through the Teen Years by Patty Cogen. It was recommended to my by our agency's Head of Social work. It is a very interesting book. It focuses a lot of coping behaviours adopted children develope and how to recognise and deal with them. I am so grateful to have this book now, before our baby comes home. Best of luck!!
Andrea
waiting for Brodie in Bac Lieu

Sharron said...

Oh My that certainly was a hard time for both of you. I agree with the person who said if you had to put her in a school it would be one thing but since you don't another year would be best for both of you. I also like the idea of a mother's helper to stay with Lucy at home. How about a mommy and me class? I think this was too much to ask of Lucy and you too. Your idea of trying for a few more days is a good idea. Maybe you can ask Lucy what she wants to do after school. Maybe she just wanted to come home. I will be praying for you and Lucy and hoping this experience will work out for the best. You are such a caring mother.

Sherri said...

I wish I could hug you and Lucy. I know that was awful for both of you. I think that you already know that my daughter was kicked out of daycare after only 3 days. And they could only take her for two hours each day before they called me (Grace can scream loudly for a really, really long time). Therefore I have no advice. I would welcome some. I think Grace needs to be with other children more. I truly think it would be very beneficial for her if she gave it a chance. Playdates seem to be tough for me to arrange with everyone's schedule. Grace is also a momma's girl. She has always stayed with a family member while I am away. Grace prefers that one on one attention. Who wouldn't rather stay with her grandmother? But as scary as it is our girls will be going to school before we know it, will they be prepared for that environment? Well this is a long post with no answers. Just a bunch of questions. Let me know if you get any insight into things. Love you both and am praying that things go better whatever you decide to do.

Anonymous said...

so heartbreaking...
while reading your post, I wondered if that jewelry store window triggered something. you mentioned she went back to that window again. Does she have any emtional responses to jewelry...just a thought.
probably the overwhelming day was the cause but I just wondered about that store. I have a 3 yr old and 19 month old, both bio kids, waiting for my third through adoption but I have to say that at 2 is very hard emotionally since expressing themselves is so difficult...and just being tired/hungry, etc. can stir up so much craziness.
Hope things get better.
prayer works miracles and I'll remember you in mine.

Courtney said...

I know you are concerned with attatchment but I say stick with it. I am so sorry that you had that terrible experience yesterday, adopted or not adopted all children will do this at some point or another. Maybe she was just over stimulated from the day. Try going home after school and just spending the time together doing something small. After she gets used to school then you could try going out for girls afternoons again. She is at the perfect age when they develop attitude and opinion. My son hit that at Lucy's exact age, and I felt helpless and I felt that he didn't love me and I must have done something. So sometimes it's just normal development. You did EVERYTHING RIGHT! Good job!

sue and gary said...

Maybe you should start off slow, a couple of hrs at a time. I don't know why, but for some reason, Sara does so much better in an in-home situation. Maybe it was just too much for her. We had no choice, we had to put her in daycare. After her 1st week, she was attached to my hip all weekend and would not let me put her down or out of her sight. Now, she goes 3 days a week and still cries, but before I get out the door, she's fine. It's actually really good for them to be around other kids without their parents.
Good luck! I think if I didn't have to leave her, I wouldn't have, but I'm glad I stuck with it!

jjm said...

I think this is a pretty normal response to starting preschool. Bex had a similar reaction. He kicked me, screamed and me, and then wouldn't make eye contact with me for hours. HOURS. He was thrilled when I picked him up from school, but as soon as we got in the car he madehis feeling known. At dinner that first night, he wouldn't eat until I left the room. It was horrible. HORRIBLE. The second day was worse, but the third day was fine and it just kept getting better. Hang in there. She WILL be ok.

Kristi said...

I'd pull her out of preschool. The separation from you just may be too much at this age. Somewhere we've gotten this idea that kids HAVE TO go to preschool the minute they turn two or three. They don't. There is nothing wrong with preschool but there is no research that shows that kids who attend preschool early, or at all, do any better in school over time. In fact, the research shows that by 3rd grade any benefit is gone.

Again, there is nothing wrong with preschool but so many moms feel like their kids "have to" go and that's just not true.

Maybe instead you could do a couple "Mommy and Me" activities together. The single best thing I've done with my girls is go to Music Together. The classes are fun, research-based, developmentally-appropriate and give little ones the opportunity to listen to a teacher, be with a mixed-age group of children and be with you!

I think one of the hardest things for me to learn as a mom was when to say "this isn't working for us" and feel ok about it.

Cathy said...

Hi Kelly,
I regularly read your blog but never comment. We had an almost similar experience with Chloe our youngest. I have 3 older kids and never once sent them to preschool, however now it seems like something to do. On Chloe's first day she cried and cried for me, it was all I could do to leave her. Once I picked her up, she was all into hugging and kissing me, but after a few hours she hated me. She went to her big sister and only wanted Melissa. It was heartbreaking. The next preschool day which was Thursday, I kept my oldest daughter out of school that morning to take her to preschool. After school, she wanted nothing to do with either of us. It was like she was punishing us, we felt terrible. I decided to take her out of preschool. She is 4 now and that was a year ago. We have her in a montessori program now, and she does fine. Emotionally I do not think she was able to go last year.

My suggestion for you is what we did. We have a competitive cheer gym nearby and they have programs during the day for younger kids. We took Chloe to mommy and me classes, then gradually added her into the individual classes. Maybe getting Lucy involved in a baby gymnastics class will help her get over the attachment. Also since we have a daughter at a montessori school we cannot speak enough great things about it. Is there one near you? Lucy is too young now, but at age 3 she may benefit from this. They allow 2 weeks at our school for the moms to sit in and be with the kids. They say it helps transition the kids. That may be another option.

Good Luck and Keep Us Updated!

Anonymous said...

Hi, I have never posted on your blog, but read it every day. I have a bio daughter who will be 2 in a couple of weeks. I also work full time and send her to a sitter. She has done something similar to this to me when I send her to our back up sitter. I think that Kylie does this to me because she is sad, mad and confused about why she is not at her regular sitter. Also, she would not do this to her dad. I think they act out with/to the person they are most comfortable with. One way to look at it is to think that because she is secure with you and most comfortable with you she feels like she can get all of her emotions out and you will still be there for her. Two is a very hard age (I also have 3 boys, so have been thru it before). They are doing new things, but do not have quite the vocabulary to voice their concerns. I think you should continue to try to send her a couple more times. Hang in there, hopefully it will get better for both of you! I also have many more stories about my boys going thru the same things (mad, outrageous temper tantrums). But will quit for now!
Enjoy this age - as I'm sure you know, they grow up entirely too fast!
Kelley

Kristi said...

I just read your "How Did She Do" post and had two more thoughts.

First, five hours is a really, really long time to be away from you. Most two-year old preschool is two hours and even three-year old preschool is only two-and-a-half hours.

Also, eating and sleeping are both "need-meeting" activities and are often the things that are triggers for kids. She did both without you and even though she did both successfully it may have been really stressful for her. Since she cried when you picked her up it may have been really upsetting for her to go to sleep and then wake up and have you still not be there.

Just my thoughts.

Or maybe she just really loves jewelery and was not going to move until you bought her some fabulous baby bling! :)

Kate said...

Hey Kelly--I have to say that I'm going through this very thing with Luci right now. This week started a week with a full itinerary. Gymanastics on Tuesday, Preschool choir on Wednesday, Chinese school on Thursday...overload. I thought that Lu would be ready and I was so wrong. She had a very similar meltdown Wednesday night and there was nothing that we could do or give her to make her happy. She was like that the whole evening. She didn't want to be near me or Brian and it was all I could do not to start bawling in front of her. (mom had cry-fest that night!!!) I guess in our case, it has always seemed that Luci was a very flexible, easy going kid that would adapt to most things. We tow her along to all our boys' events and she was always very good. So after last night, we've decided to scale back our activites and see if that works. If not, we will wait a while and try again.

I understand what you mean about overanalyzing everything because she is adopted. I tend to do the same. It's so hard to sort out attachment issues, abandonment issues...or just simply being a toddler. With us, we didn't adopt Luci until she was a year old. We are so aware that her attachment and assurance needs are very important. I struggle with how much is too much (and if there is such a thing as too much)--I hate that it makes me feel sometimes as if I'm doing "damage control".

So my advice, stay with your plan. Try it a few more times. Maybe she didn't get a solid nap or ate properly. Couple that with the fact that she was off her schedule and that adds up to major meltdown for any two year old. From reading about her reaction, it does seem that there is more. I don't think it would be because of overstimulation because you daughter seems very on the go. OR--then again, maybe THAT is it--too much on the go. Clearly I'm just rambling, so I'll stop now!

Good Luck and try not to work yourself up too much over Lucy rejecting you. You're an awesome momma. She loves you and there is no one on this planet that she'd rather be with. It's just going to take some time and patience...and maybe a martini or two! Ha!

Anonymous said...

Hey Kelly,
Austen has been doing the same thing to me lately. He was very attached to me this summer and now he will do the same things to me like him not wanting me to pat him or hug him and it makes me upset too. But then in the next hour he will be the sweetest thing in the world to me. I think it is good for her to go to school and I think it is just some independence coming out. I would have lost it if Austen was doing that. We did have a melt down like that after you guys left and we went to eat with my parents. Nothing and no one could calm him down. We had to take him out of the resturaunt and he still threw a fit. We still have no idea why. I have been feeling the same way you are lately with Austen. I think they are just getting older and are becoming more independent which is not a bad thing. The meltdown thing, WHO KNOWS!!!!!!?????
Love you guys and take care and I am glad she liked school.You should see how Jaksen has changed soooo much already!
Cayce

Jena said...

hey girl-
I think I'll just email ya....

LaLa said...

Oh sweetie...thinking of you. I know how hard it is when they "reject" you. I think they are just so little and don't have the words to express their feeling so they do it this way and it HURTS!!

We had to take Annslee to daycare when I went back to work after 4 months home from China. She literally sat in a rocking chair ALL day crying. They did not inform me of this until the two weeks of her doing it were up and she was better. REALLY??? I wish they'd told me b/c it would have explained a lot. She was then home with me for 2 years and now is in preschool and she was ready for it. She loves school but it is HARD when they can't really let you know what is going on.

I say stick with it for a week or so (like you said you are) and see what happens. Maybe the sleep thing is it...see if you can pick her up before nap??

Ginger said...

Kelly,
I don't think that I have ever posted on your blog, although I do read it frequently. This post made me want to cry. I have 3 little adopted daughters and am single so have to work. Beginning daycare/preschool is very difficult for children. It may have been easier for Lucy if you built up the time to the full day, like start at an hour or so the first couple of visits and then gradually increase the time. This is how I transitioned all of my children to daycare. The process took several weeks or a month or more depending on the child. I did not have them eat there until they had been going for more than a week or so. They didn't begin staying for naps until a week or so before I needed to go back to work. 5 hours is a really long time for a first visit. I bet she would have done much better if she had only been there for an hour or so on that first day. I agree with Nicki and I would try her a time or two more. BUT, I would pick her up before lunch and nap. I personally would not let her stay for lunch or nap until you felt that she was ready. If she continues to have these issues, I would pull her out and keep her at home with you and bring in a babysitter on a regular basis.

Also, I would go straight home with her rather than to a store. The day likely overwhelmed her and she just didn't know how to deal with those emotions. I think a telling sign is the fact that she fell asleep at nap time and had to be woken up. Poor thing was most likely exhausted from the stress of such a long day at a place she didn't really know and with people whom she had not had time to build a relationship with.

I will tell you that I have been an adoptive parent for 6.5 years and I always questioned weather something is adoption related, attachment related or just merely an age thing. I don't think that thought process ever really changes no matter how long you have your child home. Luckily, I live in an area that has great resources for adopted children and many, many families with adopted children from Asia.

Carrie & Crew said...

Hi Kelly,
I agree with Kristi about the length of the program. Is there another program that you could find that is shorter in length? My son starts a one day a week 2 1/2 year old program on Monday but it is also only 2.5 hours long.

As a teacher, I'd recommend easing into this program if you are going to continue using this preschool. Start with two hours and each time let her stay a little bit longer as her comfort level increases.

Good luck!

S. said...

ok just have a sec--first am so sorry for both of you how tough! my thoughts as mom of 3, (almost) masters in early childhood/former ps teacher

1. agree w/nicki and kristi
2. I totally think 9-12 is enough to start with--9-12 was even a long day for M. when she started ps as an almost 4 yr. old--she was wiped out the first few weeks
3. I honestly would not worry about socialization--that will come--2 yr olds don't need to be socialized, adopted or not, they need to feel totally secure first. If the point is to (understandably) give you some time, then have a teenager come in the afternoons while you are there and she gets used to it, then slowly extend the time you leave. Right now the most important thing is that she is secure in her attachment to you. I think she clearly showed she wasn't ready.
I know and totally understand how much you were wanting this to work. But I would say stop NOW (or after next week if it doesn't go well)rather than drag it out and have her have bad feelings associated with school, KWIM?
I wouldn't nec. trust the teachers opinion, she may appear to be doing fine at school, but not inside, and saving up the anxiety for you. Trust your instincts--you are her mom and know her best.

One of my good friends, director of excellent private pre-school/elementary school, phd in education, strongly feels like the toddler program is NOT for the kids, but the moms. which is fine--if the kid does OK...but they do not NEED to be there. They aren't getting anything out of it they can't get at storytime/kindermusic/playdates and many just aren't ready yet.

sorry this was short and not so eloquent, in a hurry this morning...but thinking of you and Lucy. You are a wonderful mommy to her and you will make the right decision for her, I have no doubt about that.

NeuroMama said...

Hi. I've been reading your blog for a long time, but rarely comment. I had tears in my eyes reading about sweet Lucy's behavior after her first day of school. My heart was breaking for both of you! I think this is an example of a time that you need to go with your instincts as Lucy's mother, rather than what any book (or other parent) suggests. Speaking as a mother and a psychologist, you know your daughter better than anyone and it seems like your instincts about how to handle the situation have been spot on. I can't imagine anyone handling the situation any better than you did. Personally (for what it's worth), I would probably give it a day or two more and see what happens. If she's still really stressed, maybe wait until next fall and try it again. I think it's a great sign that she felt safe enough with you to show you just how angry she was! I think that says a great deal about the bond that the two of you share. As for trying to figure out if this is an adoption-related issue or just a run-of-the-mill toddler issue is something I struggle with all the time. And, I'm not sure I'll ever stop struggling with it. Good luck and know that you're not alone in all this.

S. said...

ok just had to add in...in the toddler program at my kids Montessori school (which I think is an exception to what I stated above, lol--but that is after spending lots and lots of time in the classroom as a sub and the teacher is amazing!) they encourage the parents to stay as long as neccessary until child is ready...however long it takes. weeks, even a month or longer. Most schools don't do this, unfortunately for the kids.

Michelle said...

I am sorry Kelly, I understand your feelings and can totally relate. Reading this brought back so many unsetteling memories of my experience with Angelica and her attachment. She is 100% total mommas girl! She went through a similar experience when she was 2 at Sunday School at our church. It literally traumatized her to be away from me for 2 hours. She would cry the ENTIRE time. It was too much for her. Other parent's thought I babied her and did not understand why I wouldn't allow her to be away from me. After Sunday school she wouldn't allow me to touch her, smile at her and like you experience my voice only made it worse. After that I never made her go to Sunday School. 3.5 years later and she still refuses Sunday School even though she's done 2 yrs. of preschool and is now in Kindergarten and doing extremely well. It was a traumatic experience for her that she will never forget. Our children need to be with us, they need to feel secure and safe and understand that we will never leave them. Remind Lucy that she is safe, mommy and daddy will always be with her, and you will love her forever and always. I do this several times a day. I stayed home with her until she was 3 years old...I think she went to a friends house 1 time for a couple of hours w/0 me. I recommend reading "Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew" by Sherrie Eldridge. It definitely sounds like an attachment issue and she needs to be with you. I would take her out of school, she is not emotionally ready for that many hours away from you. She's only 2, right? I think many parent's push for their kids to gain independance (not saying this is the case w/ you) at such an early age and more than anything they just need us, especially adopted children. It's vital that they learn to trust us and feel secure. I think you already do playdates which is healthy in order for children to build relationships with their peers. Maybe look into Mommy and Me classes or Music Together classes. Next year she may be ready but for now she needs that constant reassurance that she is loved, safe, secure, etc. I do not know you but from reading your blog I think you and Lucy have a very healthy, loving bond so please don't question yourself (I know easier said than done.) I hope this doesn't offend you or anyone else, this is just my 2 cents. You and Lucy are in my thoughts. Please keep us updated.

Kate said...

KEL!!!!!!!!!!!
i am so so sad this has been so hard on you all. i am so so sorry. liza has def. had similiar experiences...limp wanting to be picked up out of the stroller then pushing away wanting to get down, repeat, repeat..forward nose dives trying to get out of my arms etc etc. we have never been 20 min away from the car. that is awful..wish i could have come saved ya! i am so glad you have so many great adoption friends out there that can help you with this. i take for granted the attachment we have and my mind never goes there so i don't even know what it's like to have that worry.(although the behaviors are similiar even with the cuddling and touching sometimes if she is not in the mood!) i wish i could take at least a day of it away from ya though!
i didn't even know there where therapists that specialize in attachment and adoption.. THAT is what i would do for sure! you know how much i love that! ha! if she was sick you would take her to the dr so if you worry about emotions..that, i would take to a dr too! :) i am praying that things turn around with school and if not, then plan B! you all are so busy anyways :)
maybe it would be good to get her before lunch or right after...
love ya and miss ya tons...
hang in there!!!!!

dana said...

Kelly,
This is so heartbreaking. My eyes are teary just reading and thinking about it. Ok, so I agree with so many of the commenters - especially Nicki, Kristi and Ginger. The whole point of her going to school is to benefit the both of you, but if that's not happening then what's the point, right? I know that Kaneu took a very long time to get to the point where he was comfortable with me leaving him at school. We had to take baby steps to get there. We did mommy and me classes - beginning with me participating with him and then working to a point where I could sit and watch from afar. It took about 2 years for him to feel secure and independent, so don't beat yourself up about this. It's difficult and frustrating to be a parent who is constantly questioning if you're doing the right thing - and the whole question of is this adoption, attachment, or personality/age related? It's tough to tell, but just follow your gut and I'm sure it will work out. I also agree w/your decision to try it out a couple more times and think Ginger made a good point about going home afterwards and having a low key afternoon in her comfort zone. Best of luck to you and I hope and pray it gets better!!

Jenny said...

I haven't read the other comments but will once the girls are down for naps.

Cams is exactly the same but not with school, when she is pissed off at nothing, me, mia or dada. And it usually surrounds sleep/eat/change in routine.

I think you need to tread carefully, if you pull her out, she may see she doesn't ever need to be away from mama and if you keep her in and she acts the same, you have no choice, but I think you need to see how a few more times at school go.

All kids are different. YOu know Lucy best, trust your instincts, it is just assvice from me.

BUT, you have been away from Lucy before without this kinda thing, so I really think it is age, sleep, schedule, food, pushing it thing. On school days, we do nothing else, no errands, no trips in the car, just home and rest time. 5 hours of play time is alot of stimulation, she may also have been overstimulated, exhausted and just out of sorts. And realized (mia has done this) the freeze brain thing, is mama leaving again?

Our girls are almost exactly the same age, adopted at almost exactly the same time. See what happens if she goes to school and you go home, watch a little dora and give her a treat...if the behavior is still there then re-evaluate.

Do what is best for little Lucy and you and your family!

and email me if you wanna talk..more. (since my kids were outta control the day after school and wouldn't stop whining, and being naughty).

-Jenny

Michelle said...

Kelly...I, too, was crying when I read this post, especially the part about you two lying on the bed together. I only "know" you from your blog, but I am certain that you are an amazing mom and I also certain that Lucy loves you very much. I would echo my opinion from several of the comments...

*I would definitely trust your instincts on this one. You know her better than anyone. I think you are wise to give it 1 or 2 more tries and then make your decision after that.

*It does seem like 5 hours is a bit long for a 2 year old. I am a previous Kdg. teacher and I know that many 5 year olds have trouble staying at school that long! A babysitter at home for a couple of hours may suit her a bit better if you need a little time alone (which is TOTALLY understandable!!).

We also have an almost 2 year old from Vietnam who we have only had for 10 months. She, too, has moments of sudden terror and acting out...like something just triggered a memory in her brain. She will literally just throw herself on the ground, face down, and scream and cry until I pick her up. Once I reassure her that I love her and that it is okay, she is suddenly fine. I agree that it is SO hard to know what to do in those instances. Sounds like you did everything right by reassuring her of your love and commitment to her.

Don't be too hard on yourself...you're a great mom and it really is wonderful to have such a great support system of others dealing with the same issues!

taran4ms@comcast.net said...

My first thought is that, because lucy is adopted, you work very hard with every bit of attatchment that you can get. I am sure this is a hard thing, for both of you. I agree with nikki, if she doesnt have to go to school then maybe she shouldnt. On the other hand, if I remember right, this was just a program for moms to get some time alone, and I think thats very important too. Of course I know that you are thinking lucys well being is more important than ME time, but there must be a solution here. I also think that is a very long time to be away, and maybe you could find a shorter program. I am a nanny, and watch a two year old. He used to be in day care before I came to this family, and he is a totally different kid now. He is learning, growing, socializing, all at his own pace and he also has my undivided attention. On his off days, we stay at home, dig for worms in the backyard, paint on the deck. On other days, we go to a play group for a few hours, or play at the park. At the program he was at, he was just learning how to defend himself from other toddler-bullies; he never had the comfort of another adult because they were always busy with the 20 other children. Sometimes, kids just need to be at home. I have had a handful of those instances where they stop and stare and you are just praying in your head that they dont do anything irrational. If you think from lucys persepective, that was a very eventful day, and she may have just been reacting to that. Kids sometimes release their stress in those type of ways (tantrums, lashing out, anger) because they havent learned another way to do it yet. Really, I think you did awesome, and I am sure no one was judging you because kids will be kids.(even if it was unlike lucy, no one else knows that) I wish I lived closer, I would come nanny for you a few hours a week. :) Maybe you could find a loving, responsible girl from your church to help you out. This is what I do for people at my church. She could come a few hours a week, lucy would be in the comforts of her own home with her own stuff, and you could get out and get stuff done...just a thought!

C-mon said...

Kelly,
You have a lot of good suggestions. The only thing I would add is a similar experience I had with Jade about six months after having her home. I went up to my school so she could see some of my kids and co-workers. Yikes she acted very similar to Lucy so I was freaking out thinking I had made a horrible mistake (I too have always been worred about proper attachment) I talk with our Adoption Specialist Phyc and she said it was probably too early to expose her to too may strangers at once and to wait to do this till later and more slowly. (I did and it has made a huge diference) Now she is able to be away rom me for longer periods of time (like church programs)Maybe see if Lucy could go for a shorter time and not as often. This may help her transition and allow you a break. I admire your honesty and patience with Lucy during an emotional time. Also Jade does meltdown more if she is tired, hungry, out too long, up half the night etc.. especially many of these factors at once. I pray you two figure out the best course of action for ya both.

Anonymous said...

I have never commented before, but I found your blog through another and love your little Lucy!! I just wanted to share that my cousin (whom I baby-sit for often) put her daughter who is now 19 months in a mother's day out at their church from 9-2 along with her other two children. She would pick the baby up at noon though so she could bring her home for lunch and a good nap. Maybe picking Lucy up at noon or 1 would be better so she can nap at home and you would still have those few hours to yourself.

Dianna said...

I see that you have plenty of comments, and I haven't had a chance to read them but I wanted you to know that Phoebe did this just about two weeks ago. She changed rooms at daycare - moved 'up' to the next age group - and she freaked. She screamed the entire way home in the car and absolutely wanted nothing to do with me. She's a little younger than Lucy, so I ended up putting her in the mai tai that I haven't used since Vietnam and carried her around for the next two hours. She was really mad at first, but then she didn't want down. She snuggled in and refused to even look at her dad or her sisters. After a couple of hours, she decided to get down and she was perfectly fine again. I was worried about taking her back to daycare (she goes twice a week), but I stayed with her for a bit on the next morning and she was obviously fine. I'd give Lucy another shot at school. Something totally new always freaks Phoebe out, and it's possible Lucy felt the same way. Hugs to you!

Sara said...

First of all -- YOU are a WONDERFUL mother. Hands down wonderful. We moms do not hear that often enough and this is sure a time when you could use a little pat on that back.

Second of all -- trust your instincts. In your gut, you know what is right for her.

Thirdly, it made my heart break and I know that it is only a fraction of the feelings you must have and are still having. Ugh. My prayers are with you as you find the "right" thing to do. Love to Lucy too! Extra hugs for that girl braving a scary new situation!

Regards.

Ryan and Heather said...

This is just my personal opinion but I would NOT bring her back to school. She's got plenty of time to socialize and you do so much with her out of the house I don't think she's hurting in that area at all. What she really needs is to be home with you.
Like I said, my opinion only but you asked for it! :)

Anyway if I HAD HAD HAD to put her in a school the ONLY school I would consider for her at this young age would be a Waldorf school. Check them out. They are awesome. SO calming and loving and the next best environment to home.

Lauren said...

I also read your blog often but have never commented. I own a preschool and I have to say, her behaviro seems very, "normal." Upsetting, but typical. She just doesn't have the verbal skills to tell you that she's angry, nervous, whatever! She may have had some unresolved issues about what happened to her (going to preschool) and she didn't know how to communicate her feelings.

My advice is to stick with it and be ready for the reactions but not anxiously awaiting them.

The change in sleeping schedule, eating schedule and schedule in general may have overwhelemed her a bit. Most children do not react well to change. This is big in Lucy's little world.

MKH said...

Kelly,
I'm sorry you all are going through this. It seems from the above comments, you've received some really thoughtful advice. I hope it helps, and I will keep you in my prayers as you get through this difficult time.
And thank you again for your help to me this week!
Megan H.

liz said...

Kelly -
I'm probably not the best to comment on this because my kids aren't adopted so the situation is different but I do have a two year old and some things hold true for all two year olds no matter their background. We have had MANY of those type meltdowns in public places (particularly when Stephen was in the hospital so often for the better part of a year and also before we knew about the wheat allergy) and I've mastered the football hold under one arm and can carry a flailing screaming child in a totally calm manner and manage not to get hit in the face and still transport her to the car rather quickly. Sad but true.

Couple of things to think about:

AGE. First, she's two. That age is HUGE for learning about their independence. I found that the whole year that Taylor was two, the days she got home from school were our hardest days. She was on her own, playing with new toys, friends and following the same routine the two days she goes to school. Then she comes home and it's just us and those days she wants to continue to assert her independence at home too - she just doesn't know how because she's only 2 so she does it in inappropriate ways - like deciding she's not walking ONE STEP FURTHER. In her mind she's done what she wanted all day because she WANTS to do what the other children are doing and what the teacher says because it's all an adventure. She's made her own decisions all day and even though it's not like I boss her around all day, I think I represent the authority figure to her and just my presence makes her want to show that she can "do it MYSEF" Combine that with the exhaustion of doing so much all day and it's a recipe for disaster.

ROUTINES: We don't really follow a routine around here but they are SO good for 2 year olds. At school she does. And she thrives on it. Lucy going to school all day totally disrupted her little routine you two have established. It will take a couple weeks for school to be part of her new routine.

STIMULATION = EXHAUSTION. Third, school is a full day with very little down time even though they nap. They are being introduced to new people, new information, new social situations - just lots for a little brain. It's great for them but it's exhausting. If Taylor only naps for a little while after school or takes a 30 minute nap at school, she's a wreck! Since Lucy usually naps around noon maybe you could ask the teachers to let her rest quietly but not rock her to sleep so that she'll take a good full nap at home. You could go pick her up an hour early so that she's not pushed too far past her limit. There are several moms who do that in Tay's class. They come at 1 instead of 2 so their kids can get a long nap at home. The fact that Lucy slept at school just shows how tired she was - 50 minutes wasn't a long enough nap. When Taylor is tired like that she is mean to me. I'm an easy target and the person she's most comfortable with. Anything that goes wrong with her little world she lashes out at ME. But although it's awful and hard on both of us, it's not all that uncommon.

Also, after school try going straight home and just hanging out in her familiar environment so she can play quietly and get a little rest. With so much stimulation all day their little brains just need a break.

I know it's different for everyone but I hope you'll stick with the idea of giving it all next week to see how she does. Whether she goes this year, the next or when she's 5, it's a new situation and it's going to take some adjusting.

Good Luck!!!

erinlo said...

Kelly- I just wanted to say that you are an AMAZING mother. You are SO in tune with Lucy and what is going on with her that I have absolutly no doubts that you will do that best thing for her.

BTW- Selah was sitting on my lap while I read your blog today and she kept pointing to pics of Lucy and saying, "It's me, mama! It's me!"

Hang in there and know you are covered in prayer!

Love,
Erin L.

Lynn said...

I'm sooo sorry that you both had such a horrible day, but you did SUCH a good job of not breaking down yourself in Lucy's presence. That is a HUGE thing to be proud of, Mom! Moms have to be calm, but with that much tension, stress, and surprising behavior, I would have been sobbing alone with her.

It sounds like you were in North Park Mall, and that's one easy to get stuck in.

Everyone has already given you such good advice, my only thing to add is this: on the days that you attempt school again, when you pick her up, GO HOME. Put all your attention on Lucy, not on anything else for those few days.

Keep us posted on how she does. I agree with others, she doesn't "have" to be in preschool/mom's day out just yet. Mommy and me classes are great. HOwever, I'm still keeping my 3 yr. old home with me for a variety of reasons.

Take care, you are a GREAT MOMMY!

Anonymous said...

It might have been just waking up early and the mall, all on the same day being too much for her, I would stick with it and just come home after school at first. My friend's daughter always goes a little haywire after school because she needs to decompress but she's fine. Maybe also send a special stuffed animal or bracelet or something with her to remember you. But it sounded like she had fun while she was there, and its good for her to socialize, and its good for you to get a break and be refreshed! So keep trying. It can take a long time to adjust and see how she really does once she's used to it, so I would give it a few weeks at least.

Willis said...

Rocco had a similar experience one time when we were outside riding horses. Luckily my neighbor is an adoption momma/advocate/social worker. She said that he was showing typical orphan behavior when he was flailing around and refusing to be comforted. He would not look me in the eye and he consistently pushed me away. The best thing I could do, and did do, was hold him regardless and tell him it was alright and that mama loved him. Eventually he calmed down. She said that something, we'll never know, maybe triggered a memory or emotion from the orphanage. The caretakers were great in VT but I know they did not react to every little cry he had like I do. With all the children it is just impossible to do so. To ensure attachment, my neighbor just encouraged me to keep doing what I had been doing. Be there for him, always assure him all is well, and mama loves him no matter what.

I think you handled your situation well.

Heather W.

Beth said...

I'm so sorry it was so rough for both of you. Since you asked, here are my thoughts, and they are just my opinion. I don't have experience in this yet.
1. From what I have read, starting preschool is very overwhelming for little ones. They are suddenly expected to "behave", "line up", "take turns", "listen", etc. Not that she hasn't done these things already, but it's different at school. So, I would recommend that after school you go straight home and give her some time to wind down, or act up. From what I understand, they will have a huge burst of energy, and misbehaving, because they've worked so hard to do so well all day and they just can't control themselves any longer. And then many times they will crash with exhaustion.
2. The schedule you said the preschool has... at 11:45 they take naps and then you pick her up after nap time. Maybe you should consider just picking her up at 11:45. I mean why be at school for nap. Just go home to nap. Then she's comfortable in her own environment. I wonder if her waking up in a strange place scared her a little? And she was probably just so happy to see you when you picked her up and then thrilled to be spending time with you afterward, until suddenly she "snapped", and showed her anger at you leaving her there. I'm not saying that to make you feel bad, so please don't. I'm just trying to see it through her eyes.
3. I'm proud of you for keeping your cool during her tantrum. I know that is SO hard to do. I'm impressed.
I hope things go better for you both in the coming days.

Sarah & Seth said...

I am so sorry Kelly. I hate when Sienna cries in front of people when she has no known (well...not known to me) problem. I can tell you that as someone that worked in childcare for almost 10 years to try to stick it out for a while. I would suggest taking her school days easy in the afternoons and evenings (at home or somewhere she feels safe) and running errands with her on her days off. I truly hope that it all works out (or you could keep a flamingo book in your purse ;)

Jennifer said...

Kelly, I am so sorry you had this experience! I am a PAP waiting to travel to Vietnam, this will be my 1st child, so I feel a little unqualified to give you any advise. Although, I have a stepson I have had since he was 3. We kept him at home with us until he was in kindergarden. I can tell you this, when he did start kindergarden, he came home so tired, it is a long, hard day for a little one. Since it was Lucy's 1st day, it was probably especially hard! A mall can be exhausting for a little one, sensory overload! I remember when Tucker came home from his 1st day of kindergarden, he was so tied! He was acting crazy, definitely not himself! As I am sure you know little ones love being home, in familiar surroundings. I would suggest going directly home after school, getting her back to familiar surroundings and feeling safe, back at home with her mom loving life! I am thinking of you, and probably in a couple of years I will be going through the same thing, having a hard time taking my own advice! You are a great mom!
Jennifer

Manon said...

Hi Kelly,

I'm so sorry, what a terrible experience! My son is not adopted but he did have cancer when he was 2. That experience triggered a lot of anger and emotional outbursts that I was not at all sure how to handle. I think it's a similar feeling of helplessness. I had to help hold him down while horrendous and painful procedures were performed...did he blame me? How can a two or three old separate what "is good for them" from what they know hurts them? I took him to a therapist at Children's Hospital and we worked through his issues. With school, I held him back even though he was clearly ready academically. So he did preschool at 4-5 and went to kindergarten at 6. It has a made a world of difference for him. He is very social and independent now...in other words he has come a long way!
I also left a message about the camera. I can't figure out how to email you but my email address is newellmd2@yahoo.com.

Sorry this is so long!

Sugar Photography said...

Oh Kelly-I have no advice whatsoever. Just want to say that I'm so sorry. That last little paragraph about her crying at bedtime just broke my heart into a million pieces. I can't IMAGINE how it made you feel.
So sorry. I hope some of your friends have good advice for you.

Christy said...

Kelly,
One of my friends adopted a baby boy from Vietnam around the same time you got Lucy and she had your blog on her blog roll... I have been reading your blog ever since!! You and your family are just too sweet!! I LOVE reading about Lucy! She is such an adorable little punkin! My husband and I live in Jacksonville Florida and we had a baby girl named Lily May 18th. What fun little girls are!!! I am so sorry about your fiasco the other day!! I am sure you will get lots of advice from those who have had the same experiences. You will get through this, and it will make you both stronger!! I will say a little prayer for ya!! Have a good weekend!!!
Christy

The Stark Family Blog said...

how do you get your black and whites to be sold bold with such contrast? i have photoshop elements too and i can't seem to figure it out. i have the Nikon D40X and i am struggling to get to know elements. can you help me? i want to make a couple fo my recent pics black and white but they never look like that. thanks!

Carolyn said...

I am so sorry for your family. How difficult and sad. My daughter has recently begun daycare, and although it is going well overall, she is regressing emotionally. She has returned to being very clingy and to preferring me over her other parent. It seems worse on the weekends when she can really let it all out. It has helped to talk a lot about how I will always come back, how we are and will always be a family, etc.

mam said...

Oh, these Lucys! As you know, I have no advice because we're in the same situation and I have no friggin' idea what I'm doing, and we haven't even gotten to the hard part when we leave here there alone yet. But I can tell you that even though either Matthew or I are staying with her at daycare so far, Lucy still bursts into tears when she sees the other of us come in. We also (sometimes) get the screaming at night, although she's not mad at us when we go in. Anyway, as I said, no advice. But I'm so sorry, and I can empathize, and I really admire how you handled it.

Oh, actually, I do have a bit of advice! This afternoon one of her teachers is coming over to our house to babysit for a few hours; would any of her teachers there be willing to do that? My theory is that Lucy will get to know the teacher better, see that we trust and like her ourselves, and have someone at the daycare with whom she has a slightly more special bond.

Summer said...

It's not like you don't already have a slew of comments to read through, but as I was reading about your experience I remembered something our social worker said to me during our last visit (my husband and I are in the process of adopting from Ethiopia). I told the social worker that I felt somewhat ill-equipped to deal with the grief aspect of adoption; I've read lots of books about multiracial parenting and adoptive parenting and the like, but haven't really come across anything related specifically to parenting a child who has experienced and will continue to experience grief. Our SW (an adoptive mom of two Chinese girls and one Ethiopian boy) told me that it's very common for a specific experience to trigger grief in young adoptees, and that adoptive parents should be on the lookout for seemingly random but SEVERE meltdowns that seem out-of-the-blue but are in fact triggered by very specific things. She said that all three of her children had one of these grief triggers (the sight of food, for instance, in the case of one of her daughters) and that once she and her husband learned to recognize the difference between a grief-induced meltdown and a run-of-the-mill toddler meltdown, they were able to bring the outbursts under control by eliminating the triggers from their children's environment (in the case of their daughter upset by the sight of food, my SW had to make sure food was stashed out-of-sight when not being eaten and ensure that every family member ate at the same time). Anyway, I just wonder if something about that jewelry store triggered an outpouring of grief in your daughter.

Lucy is beautiful, and I love your photography--someday she'll look back on all of the wonderful pictures you took of her and feel very, very loved.

Morgan's Mom said...

Kelly,

Morgan had a very similar reaction--very angry with me and screaming and pointing at me. It was horrible.

I rocked him for hours that night, letting him cry and be angry. I spoke to him non-stop--explaining that I would ALWAYS pick him up and that I would ALWAYS be there and he would never be left behind. I really think it helped to talk to him about it each day and reassure him.

He is a social butterfly and really enjoys time with the other kids at daycare--but it was a rough start.

Do what you think is best, though. You know Lucy better than anyone.

Elaine said...

I'm sure I have nothing new to ad advice wise, but I just wanted to say: if I had a dollar for every time Tank Boy had a tantrum like that in public and/or at home, I'd be a very rich woman. Just wanted you to know you aren't alone, and don't worry about the people staring at you. I know it's disconcerting at first, but when something like that happens our first priority is our child, not the people casting judgement on a situation from which they are totally removed. Oh, and btw, Tank Boy hasn't done anything like that in quite a while now, so it does get better.

Anonymous said...

welcome to having a two year old :) trying to guess why they do things is almost impossible. I don't think you can narrow it down the preschool alone, but this will be a transition for her. I would give that more try and see how she is doing. I think exposer to other children's is beneficial. She might also be testing you, and what better place to do it than a mall :)

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