After I had a baby – as in gave birth to a baby – a friend remarked that I had the worst adjustment to motherhood of anyone she’d ever met. She was right. But I was undeterred, going on to adopt three more children. With each new child, my maternal maladjustment was refined, honed, and specialized.
Knowing that I was short on natural instincts, I made it my business to go to a lot of workshops and read a lot of books – especially after I entered the thrall of new adopted parent-ness where practically every waking moment was taken up with thinking, thinking, thinking about my new kids.
Of all the hand-wringing adoptive parent workshops I attended, just one really spoke to me. Here’s the takeaway: When all else fails, order a pizza. The theory, as explained by the expert social worker/foster parent extraordinaire, was that the hubbub and excitement of waiting for the pizza would coalesce the family into a happy hum of expectation.
I liked this concept. It spoke to me. I am big on having things to look forward to. And most of the time, the things are either food or trips.
I love our annual trip to the Florida Keys. I think about it all year — the vista, the food, the funkiness. In fact, I’m happy to say, I’m sitting in the Florida Keys as I write this.
I so love it here. Today, I saw a little homemade placque on the Seven Mile Bridge honoring a dead lady whose ashes were so obviously strewn there and felt envy. Resting with the Stingrays, it said. Wow. That’s so me.
So about three weeks after our newly adopted 7-year old daughter came to the U.S. in 1994, we packed her up in the car with her brothers and drove two days from Milwaukee to the Florida Keys, stopping to sleep in a rest stop because, oops, we forgot to make a hotel reservation in Atlanta and there was the whatever golf tournament they have down there in the spring. This was hard to explain to her — she being pretty monolingual as they say (in Spanish) and her new family (uneveningly lingual, to say the least) — and for a long time on the trip, she thought we were driving her back to Nicaragua.
Where we were driving her was to a resort on the ocean side near Marathon, Florida, where all of us, her big sister from college, and her grandparents were meeting up for a week in the sun.
It was either before or after that I attended a conference in Chicago about the problems of the Post-Institutionalized Child. The big message of the conference was that parents who adopt children from deprived settings like Romania or let’s say, Rolando Carazo Orphanage in Nicaragua, er, hum, should replicate the deprivation in their homes. Well, not totally, but they should have a very plain room, very few toys, no outside people. You get it? The idea being that kids need time to acclimate.
We didn’t do that. We went to a resort.
Where there was the ocean, a giant swimming pool, people who cooked you breakfast (my mother-in-law was paying), soft beds, TV’s, twinkly lights at night, and a lot of food. Ok – so basically, our little girl went from carrying a pot full of rice across the orphanage courtyard to her little cabin-mates to ordering her eggs over medium at the Kids Eat Free breakfast before she went swimming and sat in the hot tub – all in the space of three very short but truly transformative weeks.
When it was time to leave — to drive the reverse two days back to Milwaukee – I had to tackle her and practically karate-chop her in the stomach to get her to bend enough to get the seat belt on in the car. She was morose and angry as her new parents and brothers tried to explain that the last few days were just a trip, a vacation. Not our real life.
It was a pizza. It was just a pizza, sweetie.
Originally posted in 2012