Sep 9, 2009

Adoption Adjustment: Wise Giving

One thing that is difficult for some adoptive parents, particularly when they're adopting older children, is curbing the desire to heap presents on their previously deprived childrens' heads. The natural tendency is to buy goodies and treats and toys and books and clothes and everything you can see that might bring joy and fun into the life of your children, who have previously known scarcity and want, and perhaps had a barbie doll but it was likely 20 years old, chewed up with matted hair and a missing limb or two.

It says in all the adoption books not to give too many presents right up front, and if you do give them things, to be careful about not making a big deal out of it, overwhelming them with newness. The problem I have is, I already have kids. Who have toys. LOOOOTS of toys. Bringing home our two new girls without a few toys of their own felt just cruel and unusual to me, so I bought them each a pony and a barbie and a few barbie dresses, some crayons and some coloring books. And I had some long talks with Loli and Jaws about "my things" and "everybody's things." I told them they could choose five things they could put on a list of "mine." The rest of the toys in the house needed to be everybody's, and anybody could play with them on a first-come-first served basis.

I didn't anticipate that one of the toys on Jaw's list would become an issue. I naturally assumed that if I got the two new girls barbies and ponies all would be OK because my daughters generally play barbies and ponies. THey're not really big on baby dolls. Jaws has a little baby with pajamas and a few accoutrements that she received as a gift the Christmas that Squirt was born. It's kind of a tradition in the Nosurf family... youngest child gets a baby when Mom gets a baby, and they can take care of their babies together. Sort of cuts out a little bit of the displacement and sibling rivalry issues (though of course there's still a lot of that, too.)

Bella saw the baby and immediately it was her lodestar. Jaws was cheerful about sharing, but became less and less so. Bella became more and more secretive, hiding baby in spots she could find it, hoarding other "equipment" that went with various other siblings toys. I had to intervene a few times, one time had to put the toy in "time out."

OK, so one phenomenon I hadn't counted on with the new kids was the entitlement issue. I think it has something to do with going from having nothing, and absolutely no possible way of getting even some semi-basic needs met, and then coming to a place that obviously had EVERYTHING conveniently lined up on a shelf (and sometimes even right in the kitchen cupboards!) They take it really hard when I say "no." Bella especially. She'll wimper for hours. I've had to do some time-outs and those time-outs aren't fun. But they are neccessary.

But anyway I digressed. IN this case, it was getting to be too much for me. A constant daily battle over the doll. And as I saw it I had two choices: get rid of the doll forever (not really fair to Jaws, and honestly, not fair to Bella either) or get them all dolls.

So I did something completely unlike me and splurged on toys. I went to target and bought 4 baby dolls and 5 baby strollers... the kind that I would have drooled over at my kids' age. And after a family home evening about sharing and playing nice together and how to be good to each other when we play, I let them all choose a doll, starting with Loli and ending with Jaws. The old baby went to Squirt.

In all, even though I wince thinking what a crazy impulsive spoiling-my-kids sort of gesture it was, I think I made the right choice. They have looooved playing with their "babies" together. And I think it provides some good bonding and role play. Loli's got the "good mom" routine down, and Bella will watch and copy her. Quite often, children will enact their traumas through play. They are being good moms to their babies, washing and feeding them and not abandoning them. And I get the opportunity to praise them often throughout the day for their "good parenting".

Sometimes rules work, and sometimes you have to just roll with things. And these pictures are so hilarious and cute, it was almost worth it just for the photo op.


Rachel said...

my gosh so cute!

the nice one said...

yes you are such a bad parent! lol hopefully it will help and that's exciting that dolls are really a new interest to all of them! i do love the picture of them all lined up with their strollers

Anonymous said...

I would have done the same thing. They look very happy!

David L said...

Ah... You did forget but one thing... You didn't buy a doll for *my* daughter. How on earth will she ever fit in when she comes to visit?


NoSurfGirl said...


I thought of that later. Yesterday a little cousin came over to play and I made a frantic phone call to my sister... make sure Abby brings her doll and doll stroller! Otherwise she won't have anything to play with the kids! lol.

Maybe it'll wear off enough soon that their interests broaden again. We've been without dressups for the last several days, but now they're starting to come back through the wash and so I'm sure dressups will aslo be on the agenda soon. :)

Heather said...

Oh I love this story and the picture is just adorable! Sometimes it's refreshing to throw all the rulebooks away. And what a great way for your girls to bond with each other.

Putz said...

you guys are all having so much fun...what a blessing all five are

Hannah said...

I TOTALLY agree with this! Sometimes rules have to be compromised ... you just have to make sure you are still obeying the principle behind it. I think you definitely did that (not completely spoiling them and showering them with gifts and material possessions). I'll make sure my girls bring their dolls ... and their strollers when everyone gets better and we can come over again!

Allison said...

We are doing the possessive thing on a more expensive level. Computers and Ipods and cell phones. Lou Juan doesn't understand that her sisters had to earn their tech equipment.
We're also doing weird stuff about food...she wants to take a bag of Fritos to school for lunch. I mean a BIG bag. And since when do I buy fritos? Since I have a kid who wants to eat crackers, cookies, noodles,chips and nothing else. She packed her lunch last night,(Fritos) and I went back and repacked it with a whole bunch of real food that I know she will eat (banana, crackers, juice, dried fruit, bread, a small bag of fritos, a baked potato...weird for a school lunch I know, but that's what she eats) She got up this morning, had a conniption about her shanghaied lunch and said "No FOOD school" I made her take the lunch with her but when she got out of the car she yelled "NO FOOD!" So we'll see what fun awaits when she gets home.

Leah said...

made me shed a tear, gosh... I cant wait till aslynn and Makenzie can be close and play. And bryce is healed and can walk and can be a brother to Logan, OH LORD please watch over my family, let me learn from this blog and let it help my daily battles as I see their smiles of joy.

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