A couple of times our daughter accidentally called Precious the name of the little girl who we had recently hoped to adopt- which makes me kind of sad. However, unlike that little girl [who was a year younger than our daughter and who was very mellow and would happily succumb to her role of being “bossed around” by a big sister] Precious is the same age as our daughter and is certainly just as headstrong as her, too. Herein lies the problem:
-Both girls are typically egocentrical THREE YEAR OLDS
-Both girls are accustomed to being ONLY CHILDREN
-Both girls can be DRAMA QUEENS
-Both girls are, in fact, “GIRLS” – so much estrogen in two small packages!
Needless to say, our home was full of conflict and rivalry from two three-year-old Drama Queens who both believed they should take center stage and be in the spotlight at all times. The problem is that neither one of them was willing to settle for being in the limelight.
For the most part, Precious and Madison played well together. However, like all children, they had their squabbles. Things overheard (repeatedly) over the first 24 hours include:
“I had it first!”
“I’m not a baby- YOU are!”
“You’re not going to be my best friend anymore!” (Are they three years old or thirteen years old?)
I can handle that kind of tension, but the conflict escalated and included something that we’re not used to in our home: physical aggression. I guess the good news is that Precious is so teeny that when she did hit or push it doesn’t cause serious harm to our daughter. However, it is very emotionally upsetting and confusing for my little girl who didn’t understand why she did it each time: “She just hit me again!” “Why did she just push me?” my little girl would turn to me and ask with tears in her eyes. It’s very difficult (and annoying) to watch another child- who is a “guest” in your home nonetheless- mistreat your own children. My first instinct and priority was to comfort my own daughter, but at the same time I had to stop Precious’s behavior and explain to her that hitting is not something we do in our home. I don’t know how many times I had to explain “We don’t hit in our house. It’s okay to be angry or frustrated, but it’s not okay to hit.”
As much as I resented Precious for acting out I also know that she was doing just that- “acting out” the behaviors that she’s used to. I had to continually remind myself that she’s a product of her environment, so although hitting and shoving may be unacceptable to us it is the “norm” for her.
I mentioned that both our own daughter and our foster daughter have a tendency to be “drama queens.” But my husband was spot on when he pointed out the difference between the two: Precious’s drama is trauma drama. Not only does she have a hard time sharing toys & taking turns, but she becomes overly upset SO easily (either yelling, crying like it’s the end of the world, or saying how much she “hates” something) over seemingly little things: not being able to play with a toy, bumping into something and getting an owie, not being able to get her shoes on correctly, etc. I would try to give her the benefit of the doubt and chalk it up to how scared and confused and out of control she must be feeling rather than attributing it to a naturally sour disposition.
The good news is that she would let me comfort her and she was able to attach to me. In fact, she even developed a slight separation anxiety so that sometimes if I went in the other room she would immediately ask, “Where are you going? Stay here!”
The first couple of nights with us she did fine at bedtime, but the last few days ever since she had a nightmare/night terror (flashback maybe?) she insisted that I stay in her room- so I would bring my pillow in and sleep on the floor until she fell asleep and then I would sneak out. If she woke up in the night she’d walk into our bedroom (across the hall from hers) and wake me up and say “Come back.”
The tragic part is that each time I heard Precious tell me to “Stay Here” or “Come Back!” I read a deeper meaning into her words. After all, this is the same little girl who nonchalantly told my daughter over breakfast cereal the second day she was here “My mommy ran away.” My daughter got a confused and disbelieving look on her face and turned to me and said, “Mom, she said her mom ran away!” as if she were tattling on another child for saying something as absurd and untrue as “I have a dinosaur for a pet.”
I turned to my daughter and said in a lowered voice “Honey . . . that’s part of the reason she’s staying with us.”
A mommy running away from a child is a hard enough concept for me as an adult to understand. I could only imagine what my little girl was thinking as she grew suddenly quiet and soberly went back to eating her cereal. A couple of days later I found myself pulling my daughter aside after yet another fight, and when Precious was out of earshot I explained “The reason Precious hits so much is because there was a lot of hitting at her house. That’s another reason why she’s staying with us.” I wish my daughter didn’t have to learn at such a young age that not all families and homes are safe like ours. I basically lied to her about our last placement and told her we were taking care of George because his parents were “sick” because how do you explain things like drug addiction and neglect and parents being in prison to a little girl who’s grown up in a stable, loving home? Those things are about as foreign to her as the concept of mommies running away.