After

Oh, my goodness. The visit ends in the morning; Ruth and Cricket have been here for two full days. It’s been a discouraging time, which isn’t what I wanted or expected to be writing—and I want to start with an acknowledgement of how many hard things Cricket is dealing with right now.

  • His moms are splitting up. They’re also having him spend time with the new people that they’re dating.
  • He’s been talking a lot about the adoption, I guess, and not in a happy way—Ruth told me the night before they arrived that he’s being saying a lot of “sad or angry” things about being adopted recently.
  • There seem to be a number of rules around Cricket’s diet that appear complicated from the outside, at least; the upshot is that he didn’t eat much at all while he was here, except once or twice when I set crackers out for Joey and Cricket frantically ate all of them in an attempt to keep them from Joey.
  • Cricket was in a strange house, sleeping in a strange bed. That’s hard for me, so I can only imagine how much harder it must be for a three year old.
  • He clearly saw himself as in competition with Joey, which is really too bad, since jealousy is unattractive on anyone, and toddlers aren’t exactly subtle.

I’m going to begin at the end: tonight, Joey had finally just had too much, and was reduced to a weepy, screaming mess at bedtime. There was a trajectory that in hindsight I wonder whether I could have done more to affect: early Thursday he was curious about Cricket and slightly standoffish; later on Thursday he was following Cricket around and trying to join his games but not being pushy about it, but Cricket would push him away, hard, if Joey got too close; Thursday night, he was trying to start games with Cricket, culminating in him running at Cricket shouting “Gickle, gickle (tickle, tickle)!” and trying to tickle Cricket, who shoved him away and shouted at him; early Friday, Joey was following Cricket around and mimicking him, and got slapped for his trouble; most of Friday, Joey was still interested in Cricket but quick to give up when shoved and play by himself; late Friday afternoon, Joey had started actively avoiding Cricket, because the shoving and the shouting just didn’t let up; and Friday night, realizing that Cricket was still here (Cricket took a nap, and while he was down, Joey was so happy—we made jokes, Mr. Book and I, about his being happy that Cricket was gone, but I suspect that was the literal truth), he just lost it, wanted us both to stay with him, screamed and cried and just seemed desolated. We spent a long time with him past normal bedtime, having milk and crackers and listening to music and just spending time together as a threesome, and he slowly regained his usual good cheer.

Cricket is very difficult right now. I had worried that my desire to protect Joey would be a problem, but didn’t understand just what an enormous problem it would be for both me and Mr. Book—Cricket consistently tried to keep all of Joey’s toys away from Joey, tried to keep all food away from Joey, and shouted at and used force with Joey whenever Joey got too close to him. I don’t know how much we could have intervened; I felt as though I was on thin ice when I occasionally caught Ruth’s eye with a concerned look. We tried to distract Joey and comfort him, we made sure that he had time alone with us as well as things that he particularly likes and doesn’t get every day—and yet, and yet. Cricket is very difficult right now.

Before he went to bed, Cricket was talking to Mr. Book about when he visits again, and telling us that the footstool in the bathroom is his, so make sure to have it here when he visits again, and so forth. I was glad to hear it, and glad that he wants to come back—because as hard as this was, I don’t want him to know how hard it was for us. It’s hard enough being three without having to carry that.

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13 thoughts on “After

  1. That sounds hard all around. Although it seems a good sign, perhaps, that Cricket has words for some of his own feelings about the adoption, and feels permission to say them (I hope Ruth is responding well to that, although I am inclined to think not from your past stories).

    It also sounds like you and Mr. Book were wonderful in the midst of the hard.

    • I wish we had been wonderful—we felt very impatient at times. But leaving this morning, Cricket kept telling the Mister that he wants to come back and that he likes it here, so hopefully we didn’t display that to him.

      • Being wonderful, though, is about dealing with the complexity well–not that it isn’t hard or you’re not sometimes impatient. Sounds like Cricket is making his own connections with you and Mr. Book, and in the long run, that’s what’s important. You’re navigating a hard and ever-changing situation.

  2. Poor Cricket, and poor Joey. Wow. My daughter says very diffiucult- sad and angry- things about adoption. What seems to bring it up for her is her birthday, and seeing other babies. She expresses true disdain fo her first mother, and proclaims with authority “she does not love me.” She just turned 4, and I would say this started last year when my sister had a baby. She told me around her birthday “I don’t want to be adopted.” It is clear that she now has the understanding of the fact that most chidren stay with the mommy out of whose tummy they came. She asks about every baby she sees, even on the street “is he adopted?” Our consistency in the message that it is ok to feel however she feels, and our support seems to help, so I imagine that the choas Ruth and Nora are in is really affecting Crickets ability to process safely,

    • I’m not sure how often you’ve hosted similar visits for our of town friends or family, but for what it is worth, this sounds very typical for such young kids. There’s a reason why the general rule of thumb for playdates for toddlers or preschoolers is to keep it under two hours – as the shoving, cracker grabbing, lack of interest playing together, etc. is pretty par for the course and adults can only take it for so long before they go nuts.

      Of course two hours isn’t a realistic time frame for visits with out of town family and friends, and that’s why everybody really needs to just cut each other slack and not read too much into kids’ behavior. I have a nephew who was for years seen as an unhappy, pushy, obnoxious, jerk, overly physical child who wasn’t being taught to play nice, because he just seemed so awful compared to the other cousins. He’s turned out to be probably the most mellow and well balanced of the lot. He just really wasn’t cut out for playdates that lasted for days.

      Maybe another time, Joey could go off with a friend or grandma for the afternoon and you can could have some time to just enjoy Cricket. Maybe it would be easier for everybody if the expectations were a bit more realistic.

      • Instead of planning to send Joey out of his own home, we’ve decided just not to offer our home as a place to stay in future; if they’re in a motel, we will all have a chance to get a break, which Cricket and Joey both needed.

  3. Hope you find something that works. To me a kid going out on a playdate with a friend or off to the park with Grandma for the afternoon isn’t being “sent out of his own home” – just kind of a normal thing in life. We’ve found with those visits with out of towners sometimes dividing up the group a bit gives everyone a break. But, the big thing is just to remember it is normal for kids and it doesn’t tell you a lot about how they are at home on a regular day. Best if everyone can avoid generalizing too much and can just enjoy the time they have together. Good luck.

  4. I don’t post often but like to read your blog… I am so sorry to hear that the visit was so difficult. I can only imagine the complexity of trying to figure out the best way to handle the issues between Cricket and Joey. Like you said, Cricket has things going on that makes his life tough… but still, the pushing and such is still not reasonable and it sounds like Ruth wasn’t doing much about it??? Wasn’t she putting him in time out or SOMETHING??? To me it sounds like Cricket ran around bullying Joey while you were caught in the middle of it because Ruth wasn’t really stepping in and doing her part with Cricket. I hope that I’m understanding it wrong and that she didn’t really just let it go on like it sounds!!

    I’m sorry, it must be so hard… I wonder if things would have been better if you guys had been in a neutral place versus your home or theirs, such as a hotel. I realize dragging kids to a hotel is a pain when instead you could be in your home or theirs where you have ample toys, food, etc, available but I wonder if things would have gone better in a place where it wasn’t either of their homes. I’m not saying that is the way I think you should do it but the situation is difficult for each child… Cricket is in someone else’s home, with another child who he has to share the spotlight with, without toys of his own and also having to try to deal with getting along with another child. That isn’t easy for any little kid when they’re not used to it much less kids who don’t have siblings that they live with so therefore aren’t particularly used to these types of things. And then for Joey, he is dealing with having to share his stuff with someone else, which is particularly less desirable when the child isn’t even nice back to him!! He also has to deal with another child being in HIS house and also having to share attention with another child. It’s like they both have “the only child syndrome” and are acting like they’re the only child in their family… which sort of is, sort of isn’t the case… they don’t normally have to share toys or share the spotlight.

    Alright, looking back at my post, I don’t think I was at all helpful. Other than I wanted to say that it sounds like you did everything right… that the situation is just difficult for both kids and you guys. Also that I’m sorry that it wasn’t a more positive visit. It must be so hard for you to see things in Crickets life not being exactly as you hoped. Try to take a long nap after they leave and next time you guys get together hopefully them both being a little older will help in everyone’s favor!! Maybe a neutral meeting location would be better for everyone at this age anyway.

    ~Sara

  5. honestly it sounds like somewhat normal 3yo sibling behavior, which of course is complicated and exacerbated by the difficult things cricket is dealing with — ie, perhaps beginning to understand his adoption and the tension of his moms splitting up and dating — in other words, his very foundation is crumbling around him AND he’s just 3yo AND he was in a strange place outside his normal environment. that is a LOT to deal with for any kid, let alone a toddler who finds himself with a baby sibling.

    ugh. just so hard all around.

    neutral ground could be better. maybe getting out more too, to parks, playgrounds, beaches, walks, wherever. cricket needs somewhere else to focus his energy, besides joey. (I am also curious about how ruth deals with his behavior.) you also wrote a lot about caring for and comforting joey when he needed it. I imagine cricket may also be looking for some of your attention.

    it will only get harder with a new baby too.

    well I hope you are all recovering!

  6. I know that a lot of it was just normal three-year-old stuff—and, as someone rightly pointed out, two only children clashing. Neutral ground, or even just sleeping in different places, would I think be a huge improvement; I do wish that Ruth had chosen to get involved when Cricket was bullying Joey, since we couldn’t, aside from pulling Joey away. I know that some people are in favor of letting the kids work these things out for themselves, and to a point I agree, but I am so completely focused on Joey and how hurt he was by the situation that I did and do have a hard time seeing past that. I want to protect him from Cricket, which meant that I frankly didn’t reach out to Cricket almost at all. (Mr. Book did a much better job, but had some of the same feelings.) It helps, I think, to have a relationship and affection and closeness already to help you through some of the hardest toddler stuff, and we don’t really have those things with Cricket—it was an unfamiliar child screaming a lot and bullying our child. We have to make sure that things are set up differently next time.

    • Susie,

      I must urge you to be a little more sympathetic to Cricket. This visit was supposed to be about your relationship with HIM. This is HIS time with HIS first parents. He must be undergoing an extremely emotional time right now. His is also 3 years old- he doesn’t have the maturity or coping mechanisms to express himself.

      How about next time, spend some one on one time with Cricket? Is that something feasible? This child is three, his parents are splitting up, he is processing his own adoption, and his first parents are exclusively focused on their other child. His brother. Who his parents are raising. But not him.

      Can you see how this might be upsetting to him? Even if he isn’t able to articulate these feelings, might they be there?

      Joey is an infant, yes. He deserves to not be bullied or upset by ANY child, brother or not. But Cricket is your son too- and if you can’t give him the attention, love, and consideration that he deserves, especially given this tumultuous time, why on earth did you arrange a visit? It doesn’t seem you even enjoyed his company.

      Joey will be fine. He is being raised by two loving, stable, parents who are together. You can’t focus on Cricket everyday- he is far away. But when the little guy DOES come to visit, couldn’t you make him your priority? Even just for an hour or so while Joey naps? I was so astonished while reading this that I couldn’t help but comment.

      I read your blog because I believe you are a kind person, I believe you want to make this open adoption work. I am not trying to berate you. Cricket is a SMALL CHILD. If you do not enjoy his company, or are too concerned about the effect that Cricket’s adoption and toddler behavior will have on Joey, why do you continue the visits? Because you promised Cricket? If that poor boy knew the things you were writing about him, maybe he’d opt out.

      • I did start off the entry listing many of the things that you do; I know that this is a terribly hard time for Cricket, and I do feel guilty about not connecting with him more. I really haven’t yet figured out how to deal with the part of my brain that is more concerned with protecting Joey than anything else—but if I didn’t say it here, I should have, because I have several times in conversations with Mr. Book—none of this is Cricket’s fault. Of course. He’s at a hard stage, and he’s got a whole lot of extra hard piled on top. And he wasn’t getting the support that I wish he had from Ruth, since it’s not like tiny kids can provide self-control—they need help in not doing the worst things that flash through their brains. Part of the reason that the visit was so discouraging is that it was a failure on all sides.

        I know I should say that I can make Cricket my #1 priority when he’s here, but at least now, it’s just not true. Joey is my #1 priority, and soon it will be Joey and his little sibling. That should leave plenty of interest and love for Cricket, and the fact that it didn’t this time is, as I say, down to a failure by all of us adults, both in planning and in execution. I did ask Mr. Book, “If, and I know this won’t happen, but if they want to visit again this year—should we say no?” Because I don’t want either kid to have the experience they did this time over again. And Mr. Book started to make better practical suggestions: Have them stay in a motel, was the biggest and most sensible. But I do feel as though I don’t exactly know where to go from here.

  7. What a challenging, difficult visit. So much going on that is out of Cricket’s control, and yours. Sounds like you and Mr. Book did the best you could, and the practical ideas for future visits should help. Mostly just thinking of you all and sending love.

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