Sunday, April 6, 2014

In Which I Have Way More Power Than Is Probably A Good Idea

Friday was an extra-long day of respite care for me since our care provider wasn't able to come last week, so Eden and I had the chance to spend quite a bit of time together.  I usually use the respite care for what Eden calls our Mommy-Daughter Day; I think it's really important for us to spend some one-on-one time together every week and I think it's done a ton for our bonding process over the last few months.

So we started off with lunch at our favorite local coffee shop.  These lunches are where Eden and I have some of our most interesting conversations.  As things have settled down over the past few months, she's starting to ask more and more in-depth questions about the world around her: questions about social issues, politics, morality and ethics.

A lot of them are questions I have a difficult time answering.  "Mom, why do some people no have home?" she asked me the other day as we passed a man busking on the street.  "Why do people no give them home?"  A security camera she spotted in a store led to a long conversation about the motivations behind why people might steal from others.  A video about a man searching for his Korean birthparents prompted a discussion about the different paths of adoption and the ethical questions surrounding each.  And every time I open my mouth she's listening, questioning, building her own viewpoints about the world based on what I say.

One of the things I didn't consider about adopting an older child was that my words and actions would be actively changing the way my daughter perceives herself and the people around her.  I thought her personality and beliefs would be mostly set, and it turns out that just isn't the case; while it's true that some of that is already formed, we've seen astronomical changes in her behavior and world view in the past few months.  I think this is the first time she's had the opportunity to think about many of these things. And since I'm the one here every day, and the one she comes to with her big and difficult questions, the person who has the most direct influence over how she's forming her world right now is me.

To tell you the truth, it's terrifying.

The thought that I have that much direct influence over another human being is a very scary thought.  Not only am I probably not the best person to learn normal social skills from, but I also don't have any idea what the heck I'm doing.  And it's probably not a good idea to give me that much power over anyone or anything, as I have an overwhelming urge to do things like manage to work in bears and/or explosions into every conversation we have.  Because bears and explosions are important, okay?

I've started to hear her parrot back to her friends viewpoints that I've expressed over the past few months, and it's very strange to hear things I've said coming out of her mouth.  This obviously isn't something I've experienced with Connor (though I believe I have inspired his love of Fraggle Rock and all things dinosaur-related) so it's been a new and strange experience for me.

I've had to start analyzing exactly what it is I'm saying about myself and others around me, because my child is always watching.  She's learning how to express emotions from me too, so I have to do way more thinking than I'd ever done before about what it is I do when I'm angry, sad, happy etc. and why I do it that way so I can explain it to her when she asks.  I think I'm doing an okay job, all things said and done, but it can be exhausting at times.

I'm really glad that she's starting to tackle some of these more difficult questions; it's something I did at the same age.  And I'm going to do my best to have as many of these in-depth discussions with her as possible before she figures out from her peers that listening to her parents is totally uncool.  And as she starts putting together her own map of this uncertain, sometimes frightening world, I'm looking forward to navigating it with her as far as she'll let me go.


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