When I first spoke with our caseworker Sherri on the phone to set up our first Home Study visit, she gave me a nice long list of things to do: schedule physicals, get fingerprinted, have our well-water tested, get a vaccination record for our puppy, and contact our references.
“Oh, and can you have your Daycare provider write up a reference for Elise too?” she asked.
Immediately my mind went to the image of Elise chasing down one of her “friends” for a toy.
My response was delayed. “Well…” I said, “I’m sure she would. I just want you to know that Elise is going through the whole toddler-thing right now and it may not be the best time in her life for a shining reference.”
Sherri laughed and I pretended to laugh too.
“Uh, seriously though, I’m not sure-”
She didn’t let me finish my sentence (and for that I was grateful. How do you put it nicely that your kid tramples other kids for toys?).
“Just have her write a few sentences on her personality and her interests.”
She seemed to recognize the panic her initial request had created.
That’s the thing about adoption. It makes you kind of crazy:
“Oh no, I won’t be approved! My house is too dirty from our dusty gravel road!“
or: “Oh no, I won’t be approved! I got a speeding ticket four years ago!”
or “Oh no, I won’t be approved! I have lint between my toes!”
I appreciated Sherri’s understanding, so I put it on my mental list to talk to our daycare lady Karla when I saw her next.
“How’d Elise do today?” I asked. How could asking such a simple question invoke such polarizing feelings of joy and dread?
Oh no. I knew that wasn’t good.
“It was not a good day for Elise. We had a bit of trouble sharing and playing nicely with our friends.” I knew what that was code for.
I certainly won’t claim that we do everything right. But I promise you, friends, while we are affectionate and affirming, we also enforce the rules. It’s tricky business disciplining a little soul who can’t fully understand or empathize yet.
I tried to trick Elise into putting her coat on, “Elise, can you find your coat pockets?” It had worked before. Maybe it would work again.
She’s a smart cookie, that girl. She can smell bologna from a mile away.
Not literally. You know what I mean.
So distracted by her theatrics, I forgot to ask Karla to write the reference letter. Oops.
Maybe I should just ask her another day, I thought. But my urgent need to cross items off my list prevailed.
“Hello?” Karla answered the phone.
“Yeah, hey.” I said. “So… when I talked to the caseworker last week, she said she needed a reference letter from you.”
The irony was palpable. “Okayyyyy…” she laughed.
I repeated the instruction that Sherri had told me to give to her. I think she was as relieved as I had been. Thank goodness Karla loves Elise and knows that her worst behaviors are not the core of her character. In fact, I think Karla has been the greatest encouragement to me through the toils of toddler-hood. More than once she has reminded me that this is a phase – she will grow out of it. While stubborn and ornery, she is also sweet and funny and loves to be a helper.
Long story, short: despite her current outbreaks of possessiveness, someday, Elise will be a great big sister.
Because who wouldn’t want a big sister who teaches you how to stop and smell the… Easter eggs?: