Days 9 & 10

Day 9 – Friday
Today was a fairly un-eventful day. We got up early to get Malachi/Mayer to his physical at the Surgery. His appt was at 9am. We aren’t far from their so we were out the door at 845 and was there by 9. We checked in and then waited. The doctor called us back about 930 am – so we didn’t wait long. It was a routine physical but there were a lot of other questions about his medical history we just didn’t know. We did have some medical records that Sister gave us, and the doctor helped us translate them – turns out that Mayer was in the hospital a lot in 2008. :( Poor guy! He had pneumonia several times as well as some sort of infection in his shoulder that got into the bone. From the records it shows they had to actually cut into his arm to relieve the infection. He was in the hospital in April, May, June & July of 2008.
His physical went well and he got the OK from the doctor to travel to the US as long as his TB comes back negative. That is what we needed this medical for – for his visa interview. His HIV test was negative, everything else we will test for when we get back to the US. The doctor looked at the spot on his arm where his TB test was administered. He said it looks fine, but we aren’t able to get the forms signed off until we come back tomorrow to get the TB test officially read. Hoping and praying it is negative!

After the Surgery we went back to the hotel for nap time and lunch. Sister Christine sent us a text during naptime and told us she was sick all night, just went to the doctor and found out she has malaria. She’s on bedrest at the convent receiving fluids.
After the nap and lunch we decided to go to the mall, as we needed a few things from the store, needed to go to the bank and wanted to look around at some of the stores. The mall here is called Garden City. It is similar to a mall in the US – a large building with lots and lots of stores. There are three or four stories full of stores, restaurants, a movie theatre, etc. Mayer had his first taste of ice cream there. He seemed to enjoy riding in his Ergo and just watching everything go by as we walked around. We tried to get him to play on the playground but he wasn’t having that at all! He also was not at all interested in riding in the cart at the grocery store. We were able to pick up the few things we needed and then headed back to the hotel. The rest of the evening consisted of playing, dinner, playing, bath and bed. Real exciting – I know. :)
At times, Mayer seems more and more comfortable with us every day. We are also seeing much more frustration and anger in him each day. When he gets mad he throws himself on the floor and cries. I’m at a bit of a loss at the best way to handle this – there are so many varying opinions. Do we just ignore him when he acts like that? On the other hand, I don’t want him to feel like we are ignoring him when our trust is still being built right now. I know what we’d do if he was a “normal” toddler in a normal parental relationship with us, but our relationship is so fragile and new I’m feeling a bit torn on what to do. I don’t want to give in to everything just to avoid a fit, I know we’re setting ourselves up for trouble later, but at the same time I don’t want to let him scream and bang his head on the floor for long periods of time either. I’m afraid someone is going to hear him and think we’re torturing the poor kid! People are suspicious of us anyway. (You should see some of the looks and comments we get! Adoption is not very common here and a lot of people don’t even seem to realize foreigners could adopt Ugandan children. I think many of them haven’t processed their opinions on the subject yet and we are their introduction to the idea.

Ok – more later.

Day 10 – Saturday

This morning we got up, had breakfast at the hotel dining room (love free breakfast buffets!) and headed over to the Surgery so that Malachi/Mayers TB test could be read. We got in quickly, the spot was measured and we got the diagnosis of non-reactive. Woo hoo! The doctor is signing off on his medical forms and sending them to the Embassy on Monday. What a relief to have that part of it done.
After the Surgery we headed back to the hotel. Again today, Mayer seems to be acting more and more angry at me. He is all about Keith now and directing his anger/frustrations at me. For example – Keith gave him a piece of bread. He was crumbling on the floor so I asked him to give it to me so I could put it in a bowl (he eats most of his food out of this bowl, so not a big deal) I showed him the bowl, and put the bread in there. The point five seconds it took was too much for him and he threw himself on the ground screaming and crying. I tried to talk to him and crouched down in front of him, he screamed and started scooting away from me. At this point he starts banging his head on the (tile) floor – pretty hard. Both Keith and I are afraid he is going to hurt himself so I pick him up. He is SO mad and is twisting trying to get out of my arms. I kneel down and set his feet on the floor. He pulls away from me so fast and runs to Keith. Keith comforts him and he stops crying. Example two: I ask him if he wants to come up on the bed . He starts to cry and runs away. Keith holds his hands out for him to come up on the bed – he comes up and scoots his body far away from me and as close to Keith as possible. Last night I tried to lay him in bed and he screamed for a long time. I went and got him out of bed (he stopped crying) and rocked him until he fell asleep. Tonight, I figured we’d have to do the same thing. I wanted Keith to be the bad guy (I don’t want to always seem like the bad guy to him!) so I asked Keith to lay him in bed and I would go rescue him later (me becoming the good guy). Keith laid him down and the kid didn’t make a peep. It is weird because most of the time he plays with me and hugs me and I carry him everwhere and he is happy about it. He gives me great smiles and highfives and generally we get a long GREAT. But then its like something hits him and I become the enemy. I do almost all of his feeding, changing, baths, etc. I carry him most of the time and we use the Ergo so we’re face to face so I can look him in the eyes, etc. I’m guessing he somehow feels threatened by me, thinking that I’m trying to replace the only “mom” he’s ever known – Sister Christine – because I’m doing these motherly duties. I’m not sure. I’m feeling a bit lost as to the best way to handle these type of situations. I don’t blame him. I don’t think anythings wrong with him. I know he’s very confused. We thought we’d see more of Sister this weekend (not sure if that would have helped or hurt more) but she’s down with Malaria so she hasn’t been around. Feel free to send me thoughts and suggestions, especially those that have been there and done that with adopted toddlers.

8 Comments to “Days 9 & 10”

  1. I think you’re doing great! Elijah did the same thing a few times. We ignored the meltdowns cuz when we would try to stop them, it would make it worse. So we would walk away from him. Elijah kept following though. He would settle down eventually and come back to his normal self.

    That’s not how I’d handle my other two but their in a different boat:) We felt like he was confused as to authority. His “mama” would hand him suckers and pick him up when he would throw a fit. We did not. When he was completely removed from the situation and away from the mama, he changed.

    Scott was the “enemy” much like say you are but don’t worry, a boy needs his mommy and he knows it already!

  2. Salem, I’m a big believer in “time in”, at least the first few months. It feels counter-intuitive–like you’re rewarding a bad behavior–but it sends the message that “no matter how naughty you are I am your mommy.” Kendi is a huge fit thrower, still. After a few months of time ins we know she’s more secure in her attachment, so we’ve changed methods. Ignoring a fit has never worked for our four kids. I pick Kendi up from the fit, get eye contact, and tell her the fit will stop NOW or there will be a consequence (nap, time in, time out in the same room, etc.). That warning is enough for her to stop most of the time.

    As far as Malachi not taking to you yet, I think that makes perfect sense. His attachment has been with a woman, so he is going to try to hold on to that attachment rather than making a new one with you. Whereas with Keith, it’s a different and new attachement–no baggage. I would keep doing exactly what you are doing. Show him that you aren’t going anywhere. You are the mommy. And definitely, you should get to play good guy right now since he’s struggling more with the attachment to you!

  3. girl, i’m so sorry he is like this right now! I wish I had advice but since I have not gone through it yet, I will just pray! Remember…it will pass, with everyday you will become more familiar to him and he will love you more and more! Hang in there girl i’m sure your doing a great job! I remember reading a book that sometimes kids take one parent on better than the other but eventually it all straightens and works out! :0)

  4. I know you don’t have a lot of internet access right now, so I’ll look up “the experts perspective” for you and get back to you…
    I think my instinct would be to sit on the floor somewhat near where he is upset, and either look at him or not, depending on which seemed to be more likely to make the headbanging stop (because that’s the only damaging part of all of this, really — tantrums are scary and annoying but they’re a necessary part of a kids development, especially a grieving child) and just *try* to calmly wait it out. maybe with a snack in your hand, but not actually offering it to him, so that he has to come to you for it — that sounds so awfully behavioristic, but with a kid that age, in those circumstances, I’d be willing to try anything… try not to get too upset, he does need to go through his grieving process, and needs to know that you will love him anyway, even when he is upset. If it seems like the “ignoring” process works best, I’d still stay close to him, with an inviting lap for him to come to when he was ready. It’s so hard when you’re not at home, especially when you feel under scrutiny from those around you, but try to block that out and not worry too much about what other people think. For me, I know that once we’re home, my kids will be more free to grieve in their own way, but while in Uganda I’m sure it’s hard to have them freaking out when you know everyone can hear it!! If the response to him crying and freaking out has always been to silence him (with the lollipop) then he may never really have had the chance to just be sad about his life so far. I know that a lot of people just want kids to have good behavior, but I think we do have to acknowledge how hard their little lives have been so far, and what a crazy time this is for them. While in Uganda, it might be easiest to just stop the tantrum however you can, but I really believe it’s important, at some point (or many points, whenever your child needs it) to just let them cry, while being as loving as you can with them — letting them know it’s ok to “talk about” their feelings, be angry, sad, furious, whatever, and that you’ll be there for them no matter what. This doesn’t mean rewarding the crying with a lollipop :), and it kind of sounds like he’s learned, at the orphanage, how to get the attention he needed, so that might actually be a good thing! :) and I think most kids attach to one parent before the other — I think you’re right, you’re the mama, you’re the one who makes him feel more vulnerable, but eventually you’ll be the one he turns to for comfort. In the meantime, lots of deep breaths :)
    big hugs, you guys are doing so well!!!!!! I hope all our stuff goes as smoothly and quickly as yours!! can’t wait to hear about your “yes”!!!
    much love,

  5. Kids do this a lot. They switch ‘parent allegiance’ so try not to feel badly about it. Over time, you will sometimes be good cop and sometimes bad cop and vice versa for Keith, and none of my kids are adopted. They also learn who does what they want at times(Keith just picked him up which was what he wanted at that exact moment:)
    The acting out against you actually shows that he is feeling more secure with you I think. He is showing some of the ‘real Mayer’ and it is probably partly frustration too, but I know from other experiences I and others have had, when kids start to relax around you you see the delightful AND not as delightful sides. I would just pick him up a lot and hold him a lot and spoil him so he feels very secure(not letting him hit or anything really bad). If he is hitting his head, pick him up and put him on the bed, or swing him around and say ‘whee’ or something else to replace the action with something incompatible with that action. He is really little, but he is a toddler and this is VERY normal toddler behavior! Also, if he doesn’t have much language, you will see frustration from that too. If it’s because he is language delayed, get him in speech therapy right away when you get back, there is no time to lose with speech(I speak from experience with Jer,should have started it earlier). Once he was able to express himself, the worst of his tantrums went away(remember Jer has a disability). At this time, it’s better to spoil him a little so you get the trust built up(without letting him hurt himself or others, but not worrying about picking him up) You can’t hold a little kid too much, no matter what people say, it doesn’t hurt them, and one day you will wish they would let you pick them up.

  6. I should add, don’t let him build that habit of head banging. Its a frustration outlet, grab him quickly when you see him just start to do it, and distract him by doing something(make a weird noise, pick him up, swing, bounce on your knee, etc.). All the waiting and rushing around is really hard on a toddler, so give him some time to just relax without asking for any response too(just sit or lay down with him sometimes without interacting so he can just relax). It’s hard not to want to interact with a baby, but they need their ‘doin’ nothin” time just like we do too…to just lay there and rest

  7. Salem and Keith,
    I agree with Aunt Becky. We had the same experience with Maria when we first met her and we visited her at 6 mos. and 8 mos. before bringing her home at 10 mos…. she would go to me, have nothing to do with Mark; then she would switch to Mark and not me…it was frustrating. But again, Mayor’s getting to know how you respond to his needs and in his way he’s already “testing” his boundaries with you two.He is starting the “terrible twos!”
    I agree that you need to “redirect” the tantrum. We’ve tried to do that with Maria and it is getting easier. It’s hard when you are in the Mall and the child throws a tantrum…for us, we don’t look “anything” like her birth parents so people stare… probably wondering if we’re kidnapping a child, but then we either leave immediately or try and redirect her attention.
    It WILL get better…the head banging needs to stop…and redirecting is best. Say, didn’t Keith’s sis, V do that when she was a baby? Sign of a strong personality! Have him ask his mom for advice!

  8. Rock him to sleep. I know it seems like a “bad behavior” to start, but it will create bonding between the two of you and it will teach him to relax before bed. I know it also seems like heading backwards but if you can get a bottle and rock him, that will also create bonding. With toddlers, it’s best to take them back and bring them forward, he will learn comfort with you in the rocking and bottles. It’s normal the favoring of Keith, he probably doesn’t remember a man “leaving” him so he’s safe. Rock and cuddle, it’s not a spoiled toddler you are dealing with, it’s a child that has had hs whole world turned upside down.

    Also as mentioned by others, time in and redirection for tantrums until the attachment begins, then you can phase into other reactions. I know it’s not always easy, but he’ll slow those down too.

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