Friday, August 17, 2007

The Entitlement Factor

No one has to tell my kids they've had a hard life. One look at the toys Annie had all to herself for three years and they figured out most kids in America do not spend their time braiding and rebraiding the same barbies hair. But living in a culture where most of your time is spent trying to survive leads to a whole new set of issues. As a reporter, I talk to families who have lost loved ones often. Countless times I have heard, "he would have given the shirt off his back." I think that's a little easier to do when you have another one at home. Abegail had good friends at the AFAA house. Friends like you and I have. But if it came down to a plate of rice and one shirt, I'm not so sure she would give those to even her best friend. When you are just trying to survive you are not worried about others, you don't think about how others feel. You think about you and getting to tomorrow.
This mentality is not easy to break. Several times I've sat down to a meal where the food has been taken out of hands, the fork has been taken out of my mouth. Abegail and Eman share chewed gum. They have taken gum out of my mouth. Its easy for me to say no to material things to my kids. But food is hard to deny. After a few of these instances I've thought I don't want them treating others this way. I don't want them going to a friends house and eating five hotdogs. I have learned to say, I will get you what I'm eating after I'm done eating it.
There is also no level of wait a minute. I have been going to the bathroom and attempted to be pushed off because someone has to pee pee oh. If they ask you for milk and you are in the middle of something they will cry and whine until you are pouring their milk. It doesn't matter if you are on the phone or giving CPR. They want it and want it NOW. But how do you impress upon a child they will not have to worry about food or drink or even a hug ever again? Waiting a minute doesn't mean it won't happen.
I've also been asked how I 'feel' about the kids compared to Annie. I felt like they were mine from the minute I met them. I truly loved them as I love Annie. But there are definite differences. It might be their ages, it might be the cultural differences. I find myself more annoyed at my adopted children. I can tolerate Annie's whining way more than Eman's. I am not a touchy feely person and the constant hanging on me gets me in a irritated state much more than when Annie needs some affection. I also have great respect and admiration for them. Their hardiness is so attractive, how they do meet people and handle all the newness is amazing, something I'm not sure Annie would ever survive. But there is also much of the same. On Tuesday I didn't see Eman much because of his daycare schedule and my napping schedule. On Wednesday I missed him terribly and couldn't wait to hug him and spend some time with him. I now can't not imagine my life without any of my children.
We are trying to catch up in a matter of weeks what most people get from birth, whether its love, affection, attention, or food. That is hard on any parent and child. I've tried to impress upon my kids lately, the how would you feel factor. All three of them love to follow me around. One day I came upstairs and Scott said, "it's like a parade." I said either that or the sound of music as they were all lined up behind me from tallest to shortest. Finally when I could not take it any more I said to Abegail, how would you like to be followed around all day? She stopped and didn't follow me the rest of the night.
These are hard issues, I can see Emmanuel is very hurt in his own four year old way, Abegail shows signs of homesickness in her own way. But you also want them to grow up as thoughtful, generous human beings, who talk at an acceptable noise level (very funny I have issues with this since I talk loud myself) and who know and more importantly remember how to say please and thank you. If we don't, how will they ever help their birth family or their country in the future? How will they ever survive here?


Anonymous said...

Sue and Scott,
You are so honest and eloquent about all this. You must keep all this and write a book sometime down the road. It is so enlightening to those of us who cannot be there. Please keep on sharing with us for everyone's sake. It helps us all to understand and when we are with you at some time, we will know your struggle and their needs as well. I applaud your teaching them "appropriate" behavior, and also understanding the needs behind their current outbursts which make it a long term education. None of us can expect immediate change from them or deny your feelings as well. We love you all. Mom R.

Nancy said...

I can see that you are trying to perform a very delicate balancing act, and knowing when to ignore, when to discipline, when to correct and when to just understand, must be difficult to say the least. I also think that it is not only acceptable to let all of your kids know how YOU feel about certain things, but also advisable; you are a member of the family too and your feelings are important, Hey, maybe they will let me be leader of the parade for a while when I come visit, just to give you a break. Perhaps the Serentiy Prayer will be useful to you as well:
"God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference." It is often the last on that list that is most difficult!
Love and hugs to all,

The Googeg's said...

what a touching entry. Adding children (by birth or adoption) is always hard. In a year you will be amazed at how far you have come. Two of my children were adopted via foster care and we dealt with some of the same food issues, etc.

People ask me all the time if I love my children the "same". I love them just as much -- they have always been mine, but their issues are so different. Remember that old phrase? "I love you equally so I treat you uniquely" Out of our immense love we meet the needs of each child and it is often different for each one.

God Bless your journey.