Loving the Stranger Under My Roof

We had our family pictures today, which of course meant that we had to wear coordinating outfits. So my husband and I went in search of new coordinating clothing on our “date night” last night.

We decided that “the boys” would wear gray sweaters with bright blue matching Superman t-shirts underneath. The girls would wear gray sweater dresses with pops of hot pink. It was our first official representation of ourselves formally as a family. A pretty big deal.

On the way home, my husband and I chatted about whether we would wash the clothes before wearing them. There really wasn’t time to wash them before bedtime, and there certainly wasn’t time to wash them when we got up. So we decided to cut off the tags, and call it good.

The kids were delighted in their new clothes. We showed them how we were all going to match, and they thought that was hilarious.

I set out our daughter’s clothes on the ottoman in her bedroom for the next morning, and told her to take off her clothes for a shower because it was bedtime. I left the room to throw away the tags from the clothing, and returned to find her sitting on her new clothes, bare-bottomed, with urine running down her legs all over the new clothes, and even into the ottoman and carpet.


Was it because she had too much fun with the babysitter and was too busy to pee? This is her third wetting accident either while a sitter is here, or right after they have left. Is it because we left her with a sitter and so she is getting back at us? Does she have poor bladder control because of an infection, neurologic problem,  or is it just “normal” for her? I find it hard to believe that at six she is not fully toilet trained, when African children toilet train very early.

I must admit, I was angry. My husband was even angrier.  There was a bathroom 3 feet from her. She peed on her brand new clothes. To be so disrespectful of her new clothing is just baffling.

It’s this and a hundred other moments that I admit make it hard for me to love her. I don’t understand her. I don’t know who she is. The longer I know her, I realize the less I know about her. To strangers, she is a giggly little girl whose smile gets her anything she wants. But it’s just an act, and I know that. I know that as soon as I walk out of the room, the rules for behavior go out the window, and she does as she pleases. I know our sweet little girl is mean to other children at preschool and refuses to share toys. I know she can tease her older brother to the point of tears, and I can’t understand a word she says.

Even though she is my daughter, we are still strangers living under the same roof. I realize that I cannot love her in my own human strength. I need God’s love to love her through my hands, arms, and voice. It’s just too hard to love a child who is mischievous and misbehaving in her worst moments, and to not be able to trust her in her best moments. But she needs the love of a Savior who commands me to welcome her in His name. God, give me strength.


5 responses

  1. I really hope that you are seeking some sort of help for her behavior issues. They are really very common for adopted children, especially at an older age. You may want to reach out to your local social worker and ask for a recommendation of a therapist experienced with adoption trauma. I’m no expert, but my guess is that she is testing you to see if you’ll “take her back” for being naughty. She really hasn’t been with you long enough to understand what a forever family means. My son also has potty issues around times of stress, and he was almost five when he came home. He will sometimes wet himself in the car, when we’ve just left somewhere with a bathroom or just gotten to somewhere with a bathroom. But we’ve realized that it’s usually around a time of stress (i.e. he doesn’t know where we’re going or doesn’t know the people we’ve been spending time with). I know in a previous post you mentioned that you’d read the books on adoption and thrown them out, but please go back and read again. I felt the same way when we were first home, but now I see that my children are damaged and need to be handled differently than other children. I highly recommend the Karen Purvis DVD: Trust Based Parenting. You can purchase it at http://www.child.tcu.edu/DVD%20sales.asp. We have found it to be really helpful with some of the behavior issues we’ve experienced. Beyond that, please hang in there. This is REALLY, REALLY hard. You are not imagining it.

    • Thanks for your thoughts! I’ve done all of the Karen Purvis stuff, including the conference, and it’s pretty much language-based so it does us no good. We saw a developmental psychologist yesterday, which was a gigantic waste of time. I also see a personal counselor who specializes in families with difficult backgrounds. There could be lots of reasons for her wetting her new clothes, as I said. But when you neither know a child’s age, developmental capabilities, nor share a language, there is absolutely no way to figure it out. Yet.

      • You are absolutely right…they are very language based and we were very unable to use them for a while. But, we found that if we just repeated the words, even thought he didn’t understand them, it was setting a foundation. When he would rage and tantrum, we would hold him and repeat “gentle and kind…gentle and kind” until he would calm down. Now, some of those catch phrases are consistently a part of his language. I think he actually thinks “listenandobey” is one word! The language will come, but we found it useful to go ahead and implement some of the strategies early. Granted, right now you’re not ready for a “do over,” but you’ll get there, too.

  2. We lived many of those same issues and with very violent outbursts following the need to comply. I think it is control. She has lost control about everything in her world. It would be interesting to just leave her as a kid, ditch school and power struggles for learning and back off and let her be a spectator. Not buying into baby talk but telling her she needs to watch her brother and learn from him and not from you. There is also a HUGE part of this that is directed at you because you are the mother. Don’t forget the mother is the one who most likely dropped child at orphanage …I love you, be good, bye bye. Now you are telling her you love her, be good bye bye, and she needs to control that something big isn’t going to happen. Kids from trauma can control two things what goes in and what comes out.
    The other thought I have is the babysitter. She may just be trying to figure out the babysitter relationship. Can I go home with her? There is no expectation. From babysitter, no chores, no have tos, just fun. No power struggles to do anything.
    Not reality but leads a clue if she is behaving for the sitter.
    Call anytime or shoot me an email, walking through this with you, praying….remember my line, Lord help me to love this child another day…when I first heard it from a pastor I thought wow his life must be rough, now I realize his life was just that of a parent with a child who requires mor compassion than my tank starts with each morning.
    I had better got going after a rough bedtime, Snow White declared she isn’t going to school today. Wish me luck.
    Ps u guys are doing amazing under so many attacks….GOD is n control, even though some days it seems like He has taken His eyes off the road 🙂

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