It took some work, as you can probably guess. We used the timer on our little click and shoot camera, arranged ourselves with the woods as our backdrop, and took turns running full-tilt from the deck, skidding across the slippery sidewalk, leaping over the snowberm and up the hill in less than ten seconds so we could compose ourselves with dignity and act like we had been waiting patiently for, oh, minutes, before the camera went click.
Oh, wait, not that one. Maybe it's this -
Whoops. So sorry. Hold on...
Dang. Okay, I've got it. Here you go:
See? Dignified, like I said.
You'll probably notice that one of us does not care to be in front of the camera at all. We get the stinkface, the I'm-being-poisoned face, and the blurry bolting-out-of-the-picture action shot all the time. He can be bribed with chocolate chips for Baruch's Lullaby photos, though.
Let me illustrate - pretend you can hear the Peer Gynt Suite by Grieg for full effect:
Ah, the peaceful scene of complacent children on a lawn in summer, reading a book together...
But...hark! What is this? Methinks I hear the faintest sound of a small mechanical device clicking...
(Grieg abruptly interrupted by TobyMac's Showstopper)
Dude, RUN!! She's got the camera again, I'm outta here!
I can't figure it out. Nothing happens to him when we take his picture, but he cringes. He's convinced it's to be avoided at all costs.
(Kidding. I was probably his age and I clearly remember hiding behind my favorite dog at my grandma's house when someone had a camera.)
Actually, I was the same way last week. Not cringing from photos, but from loud noises...I was sick for two days and spent those 48 hours mostly on the couch or in bed with a few staggering trips to the bathroom. Awful, awful headache and dizziness. No one else had it, just me, and every noise made me cringe - a kid yelling, a chair being scraped across the floor, a dish clinking...everything made my head pound. For days afterward I flinched whenever there was a loud noise. No one else was bothered by it, but it was real to me. The headache was gone, I was all better, there was no threat, but I had gotten used to cringing from the noise and it had turned into habit.
She's been hurt before. She knows what it's like, and she thinks it might be coming again. The pain isn't real...but the fear of it is very real.
A couple of days after I was healthy again, Reagan kept dropping a (loud) toy repeatedly during quiet time. Andrey was napping, big kids were doing assignments, and I was still cringing a little from the headache that finally wasn't there. I asked her to put away the toy and find something quiet, but she dropped the toy again. On purpose. And then again on purpose. I caught a little flicker of a smile, and she knew that I knew that she knew she was disobeying. She went to timeout, and the toy went on the counter.
A couple of minutes pass. She's calm and sitting in the corner. I pick the toy up off the counter and repeat, "Reagan, you need to put this away" as I bend over to give it to her -
- and her arm flies up over her face, and she cringes and shudders. She cowers, afraid that I am going to hit her with this toy. She is flinching in a way I have not seen since we brought her out of the orphanage. She's shrinking into the corner to get away from me, feeling a very real fear of someone who is no threat to her at all.
She's not flinching from pain itself, but from fear and memory of pain. She's experienced abuse and she's afraid of it returning. Six months is apparently not long enough to convince her that this new female, this mommy-person, is safe to be around when she knows she's gotten in trouble.
How do you rebuild trust after so much pain?
We talked about this and many other things with the social worker during our visit this week. We talked about attachment, trust, bonding...she asked if we thought Reagan and Andrey understand the adoption or the concept of family, and we don't know. Andrey probably does a little more than Reagan. But it's pretty likely that they both think that they've just landed in a really nice, small orphanage where there are only two grownups and they talk funny and their names are Mommy and Daddy. They might think that Mommy is what you call any grown up female, and Daddy is what you call all grown up men - unless they have a mustache and glasses, in which case their name is probably Grandpa.
I do know that trust is a biggie. The whole trust-obey thing is something we've had to be hypervigilant about, especially in public. Especially since any other grownup is likely regarded as a potential Mommy or Daddy to them.
[BZZZZT...We interrupt this blog post for a very important Public Service Announcement. If you see any adoptive family you know in public with their kids, please do not touch their adopted children. Please do not "help" the parents with their adopted children in any way without asking first. Failure to do so may result in outbursts, snappishness, dirty looks, and major fallout afterward...not to mention how the children might respond.]
I've mentioned here before that Reagan tends to stall on stairs. Among other things, she has issues with obedience, trust, balance, motor skills, and coordination, and all of these come into play at the top of a new set of stairs.
She knows she can hold the rail or hold our hands and take her time about it...but if a well-meaning person comes along and takes her hand after Mommy or Daddy have told her to hold the rail, then suddenly she is picking out a new Mommy or Daddy, and it's not us. It's triangulation, and it's two steps forward, twenty steps back.
"But she needs to learn to trust other people, too." Nope, she doesn't. She might go home with any stranger who gave her a fake smile. Trusting strangers is clearly not the issue. She needs to learn to trust her parents and obey them. Navigating relationships with other people is just going to have to wait. She needs to know that she belongs to a special group of people called family. Regardless of race or birth or features, she looks like us. She belongs in the picture with us.
How do you build trust after such pain? How do you teach someone that they no longer have to flinch?
I'm asking this question and I have no easy answers.
She needs to know that she's safe, that she's loved, that she's valued. These are things that are as alien to her as the concept of family. We're leading her to the stream, the living water that's deep and wide and washes all of us. Someday she'll look into that water and she'll see the One that says, "You're My daughter, you look like Me."
She'll look in the water and she'll see what she really looks like, too. She'll see that she's safe, valued, loved. She's part of a family. She's in the picture with us. Someday she'll stop flinching and realize that we're really not that scary...
...most of the time, at least. I admit, sometimes a little cropping is in order.