‘What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men …… That is what love looks like.’ - St. Augustine

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Rough Night, Angry Girl, Tired Mom

Last night was a very rough night. Anya came home over an hour later than I had asked, with Nastia in tow, and she did not take kindly to my reprimand. Raising a teenager is hard. Trying to parent someone who has never had a parent is even harder. Last night's discussion and eventual yelling match turned into today's endless argument. I know, I know Anya has no experience with boundaries being set, curfews and requests for phone numbers and locations of where she'll be. But we are a family now. There are compromises that need to be made, and not just from me.

Nastia feels caught in the middle. She is terrified her sister will take off again. I try to help her understand that setting limits for Anya is part of the journey to helping her become a healthy, happy person. But Nastia is scared -- last night Anya said she was leaving for good.

I could tell she didn't really have the heart to do it. Would you leave a safe home, warm bed, ample food, lots of love unless you were truly forced to? As she stormed out the door, I asked for her coat. You might think that is a horrible thing to do in Siberia. but I knew Anya wanted a reason to come back. I also wanted her to have a vivid reminder that all she has has come from me, her mother who loves her. Her shoes, her coat, her phone, even the remaining kopeks in her pocket come from me. I never ever tell her that, or, God forbid, rub it in her face. But I felt it imperative that she be reminded last night. So when she left, I said "Just make sure you do not take anything that I have provided. Just take what you have bought and earned yourself." She ripped off her coat and threw it at me. (Funny, she didn't remover her socks, shoes, clothing and underwear, but I think she got the idea.)

Nastia cried her heart out on the stairs when Anya left (my poor neighbors). She begged me to do something. I reminded her that Anya has street smarts, if not common sense, and she knows there is a 24 hour cafe around the corner. I also told her that I would bet any amount of money that Anya would be back within 10-15 minutes. Ten minutes almost to the second, the buzzer rang.

The morning I'd hoped would bring an apology and understanding, instead brought more willfulness and rage, and Anya refusing to get out of bed even by noon. After kind requests, I finally pulled the covers off her and said "NOW!" in my best impression of my father. She stomped around the apartment and said she did not want to be a part of this family anymore and went to get dressed. " I'm leaving" she announced ragefully again,  but taking time to put on make-up and heels, though.

"A child runs away. An adult stays and faces the situation." I reminded her, as she teetered on her 6 inch heels and stuffed her pockets with food. I knew this was the only way to stop her in her tracks, because she prides herself on being an adult, though she is the furthest thing from it.

She begrudgingly came back in and sat in the kitchen.

Fitfully, and painfully we tried to maneuver this impasse. I finally called a new wonderful friend on skype, who lives in Russia and has worked with children like Anya over the years. It was not appropriate for Nastia to be the translator in this situation, and the things I wanted to say were beyond my Russian-speaking capabilites. Via skype, and thanks to Christine R, we had a little heart to heart mother-daughter talk. Although Anya acted as if she did not care and was not truly listening, I trusted that hearing how I felt via Christine would help. Above all, I reminded her how much I loved her and how much I wanted the best for her. I asked for her to just take a few steps towards me in return. Christine was a huge help.

Anya retreated to her bed after the conversation. She didn't sleep, but just lay there thinking. I invited her to come be with me and Nastia.  A bold "Nyet" from under the covers was her answer. So I spent some time with a tearful Nastia, who begged me for the umpteenth time to just take her home to the US once and for all.

"It's just not working, mom. She just wants to be like my birthmother. She doesn't care." I told Nastia to just trust and give Anya time, that this process -- like hers -- would be years of work, not days or even months. Years. "We both need to support her, but I also need to set boundaries and hold Anya accountable for her actions. No one has ever done that for her in her life. It sucks, it's hard , and I know it is hard for you to watch. But you need to trust me."

 "I'm just so tired of trying, Mommy...please....I just want to go home..." When Nastia uses the word 'mommy', I know she is in need of help. She was overwhelmed, anxious and heading for a meltdown, so I decided to take both girls out for a walk, but Anya refused. Nastia and I then bundled up, headed for the door and at the last minute, I pausted and asked Anya if she would like me to bring her back something to eat. Silence, then...

 'Da, pazhousta.'

As we closed & locked the door and headed down the stairs, Anya called out to me. 'Mama?'

'Yes?' I asked behind our colossal closed door.

'Love you.'

Ahh, progress. Microscopic progress, but progress nonetheless. I'll take what I can get.


  1. Wow, a movie couldn't be more raw. I am teary eyed with joy for the baby step Anya made. The "da" alone shows realization of the difference between right and wrong and the understanding of where the boundary and expectation might be with you. I'll be surprised if next time she's an hour late. As we age we learn the times of conflict with our parents are the times they showed their love. It took becoming a parent to know this.

  2. Your best impression of your father made me smile through the lump of my heart in my throat. Isn't it wonderful that you have him to lean on, even now?

    I'm pulling for your family, Keri. I raise my teacup in salute this morning- To tenacious Mamas, eager little sisters, and the safety of love...even through a closed door.

  3. Oh this made me cry! Baby steps!

    Hugs and prayers,
    Mary in TX

  4. "Mama, Love You"..... precious words.

  5. Oh my! The last couple of lines made me tear up.
    My heart aches when I read your posts.
    Keep the faith...will be praying.

  6. Tears in my eyes. It must be so terrifying for Anya to let herself really start to trust and depend. She has been so so hurt. You did a fantastic job!!

    I can't believe how emotionally raw everything in your life is right now. I don't know how you're managing to stay in that rawness for such a prolonged period. The strength you are showing is remarkable.

  7. This reminds me of the progress you made with Dasha and Nastia. Congratulations, and thank you for sharing so truthfully.

  8. Keri,
    You are helping me understand my own two teenage boys adopted from Cheboksary 2.5 years ago. At least we're facing those challenges on our own turf - praying for you and your beautiful girls. Thanks for loving with EVERYTHING you have.

  9. I'm always amazed how you come up with just the right line when it is needed. "A child runs away. An adult stays and faces the situation", that was perfect. Bless you all!

  10. Just catching up. Hang in there, my friend. Keep remembering she's a baby in a big body.

  11. I commend you for your patience, Keri.

  12. Somehow this post made me wonder if this long process is part of the setting God is giving you in which to work out some things. If you were home, working, getting phone calls, having the usual day-to-day responsibilities, if you were trying to deal with Nastia's homework, care of the lawn, all the issues that take up our time and energy - how COULD you deal with this?

    And, undoubtedly in the US the whole dynamic with Anya would be different too - and who knows how.

    I just get the feeling that you are doing some very important things now, and are somehow in the very best place to do them - when you have the focus to give them your best, and most dedicated, self.

  13. Wow. I realize I don't know the half of what you experience on the negative side, but knowing the little I know about your kids and kids with trauma in general, but Anya's ability to respond as she did at the end was just awesome. As in Awe and Glory to the One who is faithful to bring you all together as a family and heal Anya's wounds, however that looks.

    And YOU ROCK, mama. I am so amazed at your natural (or are they learned by now?!) parenting skills. I need to keep learning from moms like you.

    Big hug!

  14. Hang in there. We totally understand what you are going through. Patience and love are the key. We are praying all the time for you.

    God Bless - the Murray's

  15. You post had tears running down my face at the end of your post. I really feel for Anya. She is a very scared little girl and I know she loves you very much. I pray things get better for you and that you will get to take her home. God Bless

  16. nice! baby steps. I know the process. Kudos to you for being brave enough to go back and walk that road again.

  17. Oh, your comments bouy me up in ways you could not even fathom. My gratitude is huge. Wish i could hug each and every one of you in person. tHis is not flattery---this is a very burdened, overwhelmed and scared heart thanking you for the lifeline you extend in words each time I come to my blog. Oh how I wish I could thank you each in person, looking into your eyes!!!!

  18. You make us all a little braver in our work with hurt kids.

  19. Praying for you... and the girls.

    I am up to 100 books and some great toys to send to my DD's former doetsky dom...

    Your words are reaching so many. I can not imagine what you and the girls face minute by minute....

  20. I think I found another soulmate. Are you familiar with this lady?

  21. Is anything at all happening in Senator Kerry's camp? I hope so.

    Sometimes just having the separation of a wall or a door, and not having the huge anxiety of looking someone in the eye, sometimes it's easier to admit your errors and be vulnerable. I think you asking her if you could bring her something back was brilliant. I know you just intended to be a mom right in that moment, and your instinct was right on.It reminded her. And she let you in. :) that's cool


  22. It's strange. I sometimes have a visceral reaction to your posts, but not in the way most folks do. At Anya's age I was also homeless, suicidal, pretty closed off from everyone. I remember my own frustration and anger whenever anyone would try to parent me (teachers, social workers, group home workers.) I mean, you don't get to 18 in that situation without developing a very strong set of skills and a definite identity. And to have someone start imposing rules on you feels like it's dismissing all of that. I don't really know how to change it, since I didn't have a person who really wanted the job, like Anya has.

    I do know that as much as I might have wanted to allow someone else to control the situation, I knew the dangers innate in it. I knew how very vulnerable it would make me. I also required that they understand that it was all well and good that they might want to help, but in the end, if I ended up alone, I would still need all those protections that I had constructed. Even my self-assurance that I could end it if I wanted to (I used to have a suicide box where I kept my various tools, should I need them.)

    I read this entry and I feel almost angry that you are trying to take that away from her, because I know how much I needed it.

    Your love has to be bigger and stronger than that need and you have to veer away from anger. Because I don't think I would have let anyone in unless they'd passed through a battery of tests much like the ones she's putting you through. In my case, no one passed until I met my husband. And by then I was well beyond the need for parenting, if not the need for comfort and safety.

    Kudos to you for trying to do this. I hope for her sake that you can make a relationship that, whatever its designation, brings you together.

    Heather Emme


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