Quick Note: I've got several metric tons of catching up still to do, but I've come to the realization that at the current rate I'll still be attempting to catch up on "today" several thousand tomorrows in the future so I'll be interspersing "today" posts with "catching up" posts. Where's that time-turner thing Hermione used when you need it...?!?
Todays' post isn't especially adoption-oriented but it's so strongly rooted in the core of my niece's personality (and such an excellent example of my own learning process) that I wanted to share it here.
In the Pipsqueak's adoption video, there are a number of captions where I refer to lessons needing to be learned. Things ranging from "she only plays with one toy at a time" and "you sleep when your baby sleeps" to "Mommy will be there if I need her" and "I need to learn to ask for a hug."
Apparently, the lessons continue well past the first few months of being a family. (Dude, did you just hear every parent who reads this blog ask you to tell them something they didn't already know...?) I'm not the Pipsqueak's father but -- as I have been repeatedly reminded by family & friends -- I am definitely engaged in parenting. Sometimes I do well, sometimes no so... and sometimes what should've been obvious goes blowing past me with a loud WHOOSH! that leaves me shaking my head and wondering how I could have missed the point.
The latter happened (again) on Monday.
The family schedule was its usual crazy self so I had to pick Miri up when her "day camp" (a program at the dance studio where she's been taking ballet & hip-hop) let out mid-afternoon. Since AJ was at work and our folks were involved other things, I spent about an hour cleaning the house and had the Pipsqueak chez moi for the latter half of the day. We had fun together watching music videos on YouTube, playing my guitar together (Miri can barely wrap herself around it but really wants her uncle to teach her how to play), chowing down on assorted food, and generally enjoying each other's company.
Then, suddenly, on the way to Mom & Dad's house, the happy voice was suddenly and unexpectedly replaced with an obviously upset, "I don't want to be a munchkin!" This was followed by the explanation that on Friday the camp kids were putting on a show based on "The Wizard of Oz" and that she had been told she had to be a munchkin but really really REALLY did NOT want to play the part. Miri went so far as to tell me I shouldn't tell Grandma and Grandpa about the show because she didn't want any of us to come to see it.
Already shocked by the bolt out of the blue, this last statement really knocked me for a loop. Miri loves (looooves!) performing and reviewing photos & videos afterwards and has never, even jokingly, told any of us she doesn't want us to see her perform. I tried telling her that if she was so dead-set against being a munchkin then she should just tell whoever was in charge of the show that she needed to have a different part; that it would be unfair to everyone (herself included) to wait until just before the show started to say she wasn't going to do it; that it was probably all a misunderstanding and she could play a different part if she really wanted to; and eleventy-seven other things I don't remember but which were specific "solutions" that the Pipsqueak firmly shot down in ways both logical and non. She was getting so upset, and I was getting so desperate to find a way to calm her down, that we sat in Mom & Dad's driveway long enough for Mom to get worried & come out to see what was wrong.
After a quick (and tearful) explanation by the Pipsqueak and another quick (and desperate) explanation by yours truly, Mom gave me a Mona Lisa smile and left me to continue my increasingly unhappy conversation with my niece with a cryptic "I don't think that's the problem, it's just something new." Moments later I was thrilled to see AJ's van coming around the corner, and she barely had time to get the door open before her desperate brother was filling her in on the problem.
AJ went to my car (the Pipsqueak was so upset that she was still strapped into her seat) and began trying to sort things out while I hovered nearby. Sure enough, AJ worked her Mommy magic and after a few minutes Miri began backing down the emotion scale from near-wailing to merely upset. I caught snippets of new facts as their conversation continued, and quickly realized that I had totally missed something... I just didn't know what, and AJ was too busy to stop and let me in on the secret.
Things finally reached closure with reassurances that Mommy would talk to Miss Alison in the morning when she dropped Miri off to make sure that everything would be okay, and by the time the Pipsqueak entered the house she was her usual cheerful, verbose, joking self... and I was feeling even more clueless than when the issue first broke.
Bit by bit, Mom let me in on her little secret. The issue, you see, wasn't that Miri was a munchkin, or that she wasn't as familiar with the Oz stories as the other kids. The issue was that this would be her very first speaking, non-dancing part in a performance and she was worried she'd make a mistake or forget her lines. I've always known that my niece has a perfectionist streak AND an aversion to new & unfamiliar things, but not once did it occur to me that performing her first-ever speaking part in a show in front of other families she doesn't really know in a story she was unfamiliar with might, just maybe, be at least a teeny-weeny bit scary.
There I was, doing the usual "guy thing" of trying to apply a very specific solution to a very specific problem and wondering why all I was succeeding in doing was getting a little girl increasingly upset while remaining completely and totally oblivious to the Pipsqueak's actual concerns even though I knew everything she told me about was something that would scare the bejeebers out of her.
When Mom was done chuckling at my reaction to my latest "Stupid Brian Trick," she reassured me that in general I was doing a good job and that I'd get better at dealing with things like this as time went on... and that the reason she'd recognized the real problem so quickly was that she'd had so much practice at parenting. (It wasn't until much later that evening, while laying in bed, that I realized how much of that practice had come compliments of Yours Truly. Oh, well.)
So... The next time the Pipsqueak says she doesn't want to do something or doesn't like a situation, I'm not going to take it purely at face value and will try to find out what the real issue is. Just like my mother. :-)
Oh, and the show... well, it turns out there will only be five kids there that day, so instead they're doing a puppet show and some dancing, which suits Miri just fine -- to the point where I've been reminded several times that I need to take my camera and have to be sure to do video and photos.
I'm learning as fast as I can, really, I am!
 I've recently discovered Lindsey Stirling, and encourage one & all to check out her (many) videos on YouTube. The Pipsqueak's faves are "Shadows" and "Stars Align" but I'm just blown away by the quirky lady's overall talent in all her videos.
My niece joined the family on July 12th, 2010. This special young lady's mother is my younger sister, which in classic Chinese culture makes me her Jiu Jiu (舅舅-- thus the title of this blog. Here I intend to semi-regularly post reflections, thoughts, stories, and assorted whathaveyous pertaining to our trip to China, adoption in general, and (mostly) watching my niece grow up. Since the web is a very public place, I will attempt to maintain my family's privacy while telling the story... but I invite you to follow the blog and come along for the adventure!