Two conversations with Brat Three

Growing up with Brat Three.

So we are learning on the job, with support from, links from this blog, some instinct and from more love than imagined possible until we met this little someone who was a near stranger until she joined our family.

Here are two early lessons.

1. December 2012

In the annual function at her school, I had picked her from backstage after her dance was over and was planning for us to go out for lunch and then head home, as we looked for the exit gate, she noticed a large screen.

“What’s that?”

I was startled, “Your annual function… You too could be seen there when you were on the stage, dancing with the candle in your hand.”

She stares at the screen.

IHM: “Let’s go inside and watch the program.”

Inside she is stunned, staring at the stage and then turning to look at the audience. “Who are all these people?”

IHM: The parents and families of all your friends who are performing on stage. Like I have come to watch you, they have come to watch their children.”

Brat Three: “They are the mummies and papas of all these children?”

IHM: Yes, now watch the kids on the stage….”

Brat 3: All the children’s mummies and papas… so many children’s mummies and papas…? They all have mummy and papa?!!

IHM: Yes…

DSC_7061And she watched the ‘families’… toddlers, parents and children instead of the show.

Brat Three Eyes We are alike this way. Like us she is trying to understand why, when there are so many parents and so many children in this world, did some children and some parents have to be without parents and without children.

2. October 2012

“What can you do if children don’t study?”

One day when I was helping her with Maths, she asked, “What happens if children don’t want to study.”

IHM: “We explain to them why they need to study, all the stories they can read, places they can travel to, things they can understand and do if they study…”

Brat 3: “If they don’t understand, then what can you do?”

IHM: “Hmmm ….maybe explain again?”

Brat 3: “What can you do if children still don’t understand and they say they don’t want to study?”

IHM: “Maybe we tell them they have no choice? Fun and work must go together.”

Brat 3: “If they still don’t understand? What can you do if children still refuse to do their work?”

IHM: “Maybe we can send them to their room? Or cancel TV time or park time?”

Brat 3: “If they still don’t listen, then what can you do?”

IHM: “What would you do if you were trying to make such a child understand?”

Brat 3:“I know such children are sent back to the orphanage.”

IHM: “No. We won’t do that. Cancelling ice cream for a week, or park time or TV time is what we would do.”

Not sure how this should have been handled. I wanted her to see this as a simple fact, not as an attempt to reassure her. I realize now that it would have been too much to expect her to completely believe whatever I said immediately.

This is a picture from around that time.

Brat III, Older Child Adoption

74 thoughts on “Two conversations with Brat Three

  1. I am sure you would have handled it very well, i learnt a lot from your blog…. Brat is lucky to have you as her mom…….Tejaswee is happy over there smiling at you….

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  2. This was interesting. I feel because brat 3 is older she has not forgotten the orphanage and things put in her head during those times. You are very brave to go through with adoption and here’s wishing you lots of fun and happy times ahead🙂

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  3. So many children have Mummy-papa! This brought a lump to the throat, IHM

    About her fear of being sent back if she does not study– maybe she was told by the folks at the orphanage ‘to be a good kid, otherwise you’ll be sent back here’, without realizing how insecure that would make the kid feel. I think you handled the situation just right. Brat 3 is blessed to have you as her mom.

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    • Brat three was in care of unrelated people for most of her life and they would have said all kinds of things to keep these kids in line. It breaks my heart when I see biological parents instilling abandonment fears in toddlers and they grow up to be insecure and dysfunctional adults.

      @IHM,
      you are doing a great job and you are to do all the rights and wrongs of any normal emotionally healthy parent. So do not worry just enjoy. More power to you.
      Peace,
      Desi Girl

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  4. The last line was heartbreaking. Guess time will reassure her of your intentions. Kids should be loved period. Everything lose will fall into place. You are an inspiration to many. It takes a very large heart to be open to this and stay open. I’m so glad to have read this blog🙂

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  5. That first conversation. There’s just something about it that I can’t explain. The idea that a child–any child really–can’t understand the concept of not being alone in this world, of having a family around them, of having friends who care for them. Just. Wow.

    Children really do say the darnedest things.

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  6. Parents without children or children without parents, I believe the pain is equal. I could imagine her thoughts, fears and queries in both the situations. It might take a little more time for her to be reassured and feel confident. But I am sure she’s way too close to you to have had poured out her uncertainties to you. Loved the way you explained in both cases.

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  7. oh Its so sweet of you to explain it in such a wonderful way..Brat 3 is a lucky girl just as you all are lucky to have her🙂

    and she has beautiful eyes too

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  8. Adoption, esp. of older children requires a lot of patience. Sometimes one is caught unawares with their questions. Maybe the answer to this discomfort she feels in going to school could be having her home schooled for sometime , along with mixing with other children socially, till she is ready for school. Thanks IHM. You are an inspiration to many. Wishing you all the best in this wonderful journey. Enjoy the companionship. Tejaswee will be smiling from above.

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  9. You did such a good thing by adopting her. I have worked with children in orphanages for quite some time. When there is so much love that we grownups can share, it is pathetic to see so many parentless children growing up with out basic parental love! God bless your little girl and the rest of your family
    If I may please suggest, home schooling or uschooling might be a good choice. If you have already thought about it and decided against it, please ignore my suggestion. But if it is something you would be interested in, pls check this out: http://homeschoolers.in

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    • She has adjusted very well at school Iniyaal – found an amazing school, in fact two schools, I had approached two schools and both were very supportive. One academic head, who is also a dear friend, said, “If we can teach Koren students, why can’t we teach a regional language speaking child?”

      She learns at her own pace, which happens to be terrific. Let me blog about her schooling and how she is learning. There are no deadlines, just more and more exposure and loads of reading out to her and then letting her read back to us (which she started herself, I had not thought of it) – but I am learning how good it is for a child to have a childhood that has no rigid rules for learning.

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      • //”but I am learning how good it is for a child to have a childhood that has no rigid rules for learning.”//
        That just shatters this myth of the present day forced learning, doesn’t it?

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      • Happy to hear that she is coping well…Hope mathematics soon becomes easy for her… even if not, maths is not the all important factor in life. She might be able to learn it much better in daily life using fruits and vegetables, than using books🙂

        Awesome of you to have taken efforts to find her a school that suits her. We need more parents like you who let the child live her dreams.

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      • I am curious to know what kind of school she goes to , what kind of support system they offer to kids who are coming from different learning process ?
        I have seen enough main stream schools as teacher and parent and have almost always found them rigid and not inclined to accommodate customized needs of the children.

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        • It’s a regular, main stream school but there are no more than 20 kids per class. Brat Three was put with a teacher who the academic head was sure would be glad to have her in her class; and she was terrific. The teacher did not ‘check’ her, for example, for not writing (copying) the HW in diary (instead wrote it for her and showed her to write letters in words together, and to leave one-finger-space between words etc), she was not checked for not being able to do what other kids were able to do, the teacher sat with her and explained what she was supposed to do, and was fine if she couldn’t do it as well. The school also noticed (and made sure we knew and she knew) that she was particularly good at tennis, athletics, swimming, skating, dancing, art and singing.

          The problem with Brat Three was not lack of grasping the concepts, but lack of exposure; she picked up very fast, all she needed was time, guidance and one-to-one-supervision. The teacher was also always available on phone, twice for more than an hour. This was enough for Brat Three. Ten months and she is reading simple story books and understanding everything we say in English or Hindi, is pretty good in Maths and generally coping with everything – we are hoping to spend two hours a day during the summer vacations to go through UKG, first and second syllabus, but are not making it like a race for her, she is learning and enjoying the process.

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  10. Brat 3:“I know such children are sent back to the orphanage.”

    Meaning – she’s seen other adopted kids come back to the orphanage when they didn’t study?
    That is so pathetic. Then its the same thing – going to the orphanage more to get an insurance policy than a kid to raise and care because you want to.

    When these kids didn’t study – they were seen as not capable enough of being strong supports in the future?

    I wonder what happens to these kids when they were sent back. Mentally – their confidence would shatter.

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    • Mir, it is not a normal occurrence. This is fear being verbalized more than children being routinely returned to adoption agencies. There are some times when a child is returned but normally because something serious has happened or when they’ve found that the child was stolen from a family and then placed in adoption.

      Most good agencies counsel parents, some have workshops making parents aware…yeah, it isn’t enough, could be a lot better but not also that bad.

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  11. this post just wanted me to reach out through the laptop screen and hug the little one !
    Thanks IHM for sharing , you are an inspiration.

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  12. ‘so many children’s mummies and papas…? They all have mummy and papa?!!’ Things some of us take for granted.. IHM, this post had me crying, but in a good way. Its so wonderful to see how you and her have found each other. And I’m sure one day, she will never worry about being sent back to the orphanage.

    You’ve handled it so well, IHM. You are a real inspiration.

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  13. I can understand how u must have felt when she expressed her fear! I have no experience in this but I know it is instincts which help us.

    Hugs to you for handling this so well!!!

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  14. This post nearly broke my heart. I guess it will take some time for the insecurity to completely go away. With time and lots of love (not to mention your great heart) it should be ok. She is blessed and so are you! Squgs!🙂

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  15. Wow, small things that we just take for granted are really not small at all. Her questions provide so much insight.. she seems so thoughtful and sensitive. What a beautiful child you have and what a wonderful mother you are! ((hugs))

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    • Yes. Having someone in our life that will love us and support us always — even if we disappoint them somhow, is a huge thing. And all too easy to take for granted for those of us lucky enough to always have had it.

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  16. And the core issues with adoption get expressed, yet again, differently but amazing how consistently! Issues that we can help children cope with but not mitigate, a primal wound alright! It helped me to read up on this, IHM. That way, when I saw and heard, was able to relate to where it might be coming from. This fear of being left behind is something that 8 years of being, never not being has not erased.

    Also, if I might suggest, some innovative math games/approaches might be helpful to her. We have something like this in Bangalore (http://brainstarsindia.com/index1.html) – do check out the images, they did a math walkthrough that was much appreciated. While the core issue can’t be mitigated, skill and confidence in academic areas can be elevated so much easier!

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  17. What a sweet child she is, her eyes are so beautiful and intense. They speak a thousand words in the second picture. You are a wonderful mother, you will do a fantastic job.

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  18. You couldn’t have done better at that moment. I understand it is a tough phase for both her and you…She’s lucky to have you and hope you will be successful in the years to come in bringing up her…

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    • I love the series (?) too Thumbelina!! I have told her the story, making up the parts I didn’t remember and have been meaning to start reading it out to her. Gilbert (??) and the school, and their growing up, careers, marriage… I have not read, but heard the story(ies) with expert comments, detailed analysis etc🙂 ) Anne was a huge favorite of Tejaswee. Now I must find the first book and start reading it out🙂

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      • I loved Anne and for slightly younger kids maybe Heidi by Johanna Spyri? Heidi was the first “big book” I read by myself. My mother had a strategy where she would read out a chapter to me every night but I was welcome to continue reading it on my own if I wished. Being curious about finding out what happened next motivated me to continue reading the book on my own and pretty soon I had finished it.

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      • Please be a bit careful with it – it is set in older times when people adopted to get a hand to help in the home. You’ll want to get her a modern rewrite for kids and be prepared for some questions.

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        • I agree Sangitha… maybe narrations with modifications are a good idea before some actual books are read out. Have also told her modified versions of many fairy tales. Do suggest some interesting, fun-suspense-thrillers for kids – like Enid Blyton’s Five Find Outers…

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        • IHM, most eight/nine-year-olds simply love the Faraway Tree series by Enid Blyton. My ten year old daughter still thinks they’re the best books she’s read so far( followed closely by the school series by EB which she is presently reading!)

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      • Gilbert Blythe was my first crush!😀 and I grew up to be an INFP personality type like Anne, and to this day I don’t know if I loved her coz I was like her, or I became like her coz I loved her so much.

        At second thought, the first book “Anne of Green Gables” may have some sensitive content in the first few chapters. Thanks Sangitha, for catching that!

        “Anne of Avonlea” may have some good sections – Anne and Marilla adopt twins, one of whom is perfectly behaved (Dora) and the other a perfect brat (Davy). Both Marilla and Anne admit to having a softer spot for Davy, coz he needs them more (Dora was born already brought up, they say).

        Other childhood favorites:

        The Secret Island by Enid Blyton (many many fantasy games were created as a result of reading this novel – also a tale of parents lost and then reunited, please read to check for appropriateness first)

        All “Famous Five” books by Enid Blyton.

        The Chalet School series (Elinor M. Brent-Dyer)

        Picture books may be too “young” for a 8-10 year old, but I’ll confess to looking through a few of my favorite ones even at 28😛 (Where The Wild Things Are – by Maurice Sendak, anything by Dr. Seuss, any Caldecott winning book is guaranteed to be fun, and great inspiration for drawing etc. I’m always amazed at at the quality of Art in a children’s picture book.

        The Scarlet Pimpernel, by Baroness Ocrzy – This was actually a 6th grade English “text book” , and I read it over the summer holidays. Back then, it read like a Marvel super hero comic + Victorian romantic novel. Nine year old me was very taken with it.

        These came from the top of my head. I’m going to go back deep into my childhood (ok fine, I STILL read children’s books, so not too deep) and come up with a list of my favorites. Stay tuned!😀

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        • Thank You… and since she is still learning the two languages she is using English & Hindi), pictures books are great. I have only begun to read out ‘The Naughtiest Girl is a Monitor’, because I found Tejaswee’s copy, but I would love to read out books that sound more like the way we actually talk today, but she is enjoying this one too – so maybe kids comprehend and enjoy even what they don’t completely grasp.

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  19. Very touching!
    Brought a lump to my throat as I read it.
    Hat’s off to you.
    Frankly I wouldn’t have known how to handle questions like these.
    Please keep us posted with brat3’s progress and your experiences in raising her.
    Regards
    GV

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  20. Dr Suess (all of them for the common sense), Little Women, What Katy Did, Anne of the Gables. Sadly Enid Blyton is dated now. I’ll think of more and let you know.

    And the insecurity … it comes and goes. On days when she feels she’s been too naughty, she’ll bring it on herself, on days she feels she’s good, it wont be there. It is one of those things – so just explain to her that you’re there for her, unconditionally.

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  21. I am still wondering how you are able to cope up with a new grown up child. My children are grown ups now and so the workload at home has come down. Last week my niece and her two small daughters were here for 4 days. I found it very difficult to manage them, cook for them, be patient with them when they kept on asking questions. I did/handled everything well, when my own children were small. I don’t have the mental make-up now to handle 5 and 7 year old kids.

    Kudos to you! A relative of mine who is 48 years old. No kids. She wants to adopt a kid. I asked her to read your blog now. Let us see if she makes up her mind to take care of a new member in her family and be active the whole day for some years.

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    • That was my concern too. All along I thought a baby would be easier to raise… but if one has no conventional/stereotypical expectations, then an older child may be a great way to ‘build a family’ (quoting Ritu from a comment in another post🙂 ). I think Brat Three has fewer issues than we were prepared for – or the issues will crop up with time. Like she knows we are not her ‘real family’ (her words) – and attachment will take time to develop… the way I see it, if we can marry near strangers (adults) and accept their families (of all ages) as ours, if we can make life long friendships with total strangers (at all ages, of all ages), then why so many fears while adopting older children? But of course this may not work for everybody.

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      • Yes, IHM, attachment will develop through the years. You have written what I and my husband discussed this morning. When my second son was 7 years old, my neighbour who had no child, adopted one 5 months old baby from an orphanage in Pune. I used to help her in taking care of the girl baby. Then I discussed with my husband if we can have an adopted daughter – small baby. But he said that since we have got our own sons, we might show our children more affection than the adopted one. For people who have no children, it would be easier for the parents and the child to come closer. Here, our sons also should not hurt her when they grow older…so many issues. We dropped the idea. Even now I have got a soft corner to girl children in the family…everybody in the family knows it.

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        • I feel so long as we give each child we raise, the love, care, support, guidance and acceptance that every child needs, the child would do fine… and those who show more affection to one child, would do this amongst birth children too. But I agree, it’s a good idea to take any doubts seriously. Adoption should not be seen as a ‘noble act’ but as a way to build one’s family. The only reason to adopt should be that we want to have a child.

          Here’s a post I agree with: http://lifeandtimesinbangalore.wordpress.com/2011/10/02/adoption-and-some-movies/
          //When it comes to adoption, some assumptions are popular …

          1. Adoption is for people who ‘can’t have their own children’.

          2. People who adopt ‘are doing something noble’. In Tamil it even translates into ‘giving a life’ (vazhkai kodukarthu)…because of course parents are God! Not!//

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      • Absolutely loved your analogy between Marriage and Adoption. Have you explained it to her that way too?
        Her eyes are full of curiosity.
        Regarding books, Harry Potter and Chitra Divakaruni’s Conch Bearer series come to mind.Also I loved the entire Tinkle,AmarChitraKatha when I was a kid.

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  22. Hi IHM,
    I am a regular reader of your blog but never commented here. You might want to try diary of whimpy kid series and Roald Dahl’s books are really adored by kids of her age..

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    • Love Roald Dahl!! Would love books that don’t need too many explanations – which I can just read without having to pause to explain… so simple language and simple stories to begin with would be easier. Will share a list or pictures of what we are able to read as of now.

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  23. IHM I too lost my mother early and had grown up with my grandparents(mon’s parents)So it strikes a chord somewhere. It’s wonderful to see that you understand her need for security. I am an illustrator and right now working on a storybook for children with my own story. It is about this little girl who snuggles up with her grandmother and listens to her tales where they are always transported into some fantasy land and doing fun activities. Once it is finished and published I would send the first copy to my grandparents. Since you mentioned reading I would love to send her a copy too. It’s great to be part of her growing up through your blog. Thanks a lot for sharing.

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      • IHM you could read her Satyajit Ray’s Feluda detective series. Also there are some publishers doing excellent works. Please please do check Katha, Tulika , Pratham.and Tara books. Their characters are not some rosy cheeked blond kids but very brown and very Indian and so are the settings. Also they are very gender neutral. There is also a very lovely book by a Spanish illustrator Claudia Legnazzi. It’s ‘I have a home’. I don’t know the age group though but lovely pictures. Some of the picture books open up the beautiful world of creativity for the child even if it is for younger age group.

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  24. Touching post!!!! I was in tears when I read the lines “They all have mummy papa?…” followed by pics of her eyes. The world needs more pople like you, IHM. Glad to know that Brat 3 is coping well at school. She is fortunate to not be subjected to rigid rules. May your bonding grow from strength to strength.

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  25. My daugther was 4 when she came into our lives and my son was 9. It was easy because of her young age compared to the brat. It still brings a lump to my throat when I recall her asking me “whose dorm is it” pointing to all the houses when I used to take her for a walk. The most important that works for me is – I ask what would I do if my son asks this or does this and I give her the same response or treatment that my son would have got from me.

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    • Anonymous, sometimes the same response may not work though…

      I tell her the story of a quiet house where three adults watched TV, worked on laptops, talked to each other, watched movies, read books… but missed her, even though they had never met her. And how lively the house is since she entered it – laughing aloud, singing in the bathroom, dancing to the kitchen, hopping while doing anything, talking endlessly, playing hide and seek with Gabbar, asking the cat if he wants food, getting excited at the sight of a Kite outside the window… leaving a doll on the sofa … and colour pencils on my table, and how (although I would rather she didn’t leave stuff around!) it makes us all much, much happier people.

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  27. I came to know your blog through Tejaswee’s when I was browsing randomly. And read from her writings that adopting a girl was her dream and coincidently mine too, and you itself doing it deserves a salute.

    And Brat three is beautiful and lucky too.🙂

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