That’s my little panther, in an effort to purr. She can, you know. Like all beautiful big cats, she can purr. She can be cute and cuddly and princessy. But not all the time. That would be unnatural. Panthers can only purr while exhaling too.

We often joke she’s a hard one to tame. She’s four years old now and still has tantrums of which any two-year old would be envious. About a year ago, the neighbours even called the police because they were convinced I was doing the most horrible things to her, all throughout the day.

While all I did was

(1) close a door she just opened, to keep the snow out

(2a) slice her bread and fail to unslice it

(2b) refuse to slice her new piece of bread

(3) wash her hair every once in a while

(4) take out her shoes before going to bed

Although she might believe that is all extreme torture, the police officer just smiled and made his report. We never heard from him again. But my cute little panther didn’t relent one bit.

Of course there is some background to mention here. The Panther was adopted when she was 2,5 years old. She has a strong Ethiopian heart and a tough sense of independency.

(1) She didn’t like closed doors, after being kept in small rooms all her life. She tasted freedom and wasn’t planning on giving up one inch.

(2) She wasn’t used to making the small decisions of life like how to have her bread, so she tested her ‘nee’ (no) and ‘ja’ (yes) over and over again.

(3) She was afraid of water, because she thought it would be cold. She didn’t like it coming out of the tap too. And the showerhead reminded her of a snake or some kind of monster, if I judged her reaction correctly.

(4) She hoarded everything we gave her. The first weeks she ran around the house with all her dirty socks stuffed in her pants, with no intention of having them washed ever.

Back then, we still considered her behaviour as cute. We gave in as much as we could, and comforted her, because we understood. Although she was truly loved in the orphanage and they took excellent care of her, she wasn’t prepared for her new life. No toddler could have been.

But we couldn’t mitigate everything. We couldn’t leave her unwashed, let the snow come in, unslice her bread or change her muddy sheets every day. And most of all, we already had a 5-year old son, who was, obviously, perfectly raised until that time. So after the first weeks of adoption honeymoon came a year of absolute drama. And not only from her part.

Today she is 4 years old and she’s been with us for 20 months. I believe we have found our new family balance by now. We don’t try to tame her anymore, although it’s a standard joke we make when she’s having another Iwantmyyoghurtinagrééncup – kind of fit. Taming would be unidirectional. Taming would extinguish her flaming heart. Taming would involve little of the unconditional love we want her to trust upon.

So instead we more or less guide her. It might seem so much easier than taming her. But I can assure you it is not. In the end, trying to find the balance between the need for discipline and acknowledging your child’s freedom of spirit, is the story of any parent, I guess. The line between respecting and spoiling a child can be way too thin. Continuous parental discussions to stay on the same track, are mentally exhausting. I never even imagined I would one day debate with my husband between either two or three extra slides when we’re leaving the playground.

Sometimes I do feel this dilemma turns into a trilemma when the extra sensitivities of an adopted child are involved. In everything we do, we think about attachment and trust. We want her to attach to us as her parents, without spoiling her. We want to teach her some boundaries without damaging the trust we so carefully built up from scratch. The one time I told her I would leave the supermarket without her if she wouldn’t get up from her candy tantrum, she was devastated. It has been months since that incident, but now and then she still refers to it when I tell her she will always be my daughter.

Bonding with my daughter and raising her at the same time, was, and still is, the hardest thing I ever did. It’s like finding an untamed panther in your backyard one day. And all you have to convince this beautiful creature to trust you, is a plate of broccoli.


5 thoughts on “Purr

  1. Pingback: Puzzle | The Penguin and The Panther

  2. We have a roaring (screaming) Panther (Ethiopian) of our own. He is about to turn 4 and can still have tantrums like nobody’s business, about what I see as the smallest of things – he didn’t want his bread sliced this time, when he did yesterday; he wanted a different cup; his shoe came off, because he put it on the wrong foot; he wanted you to put his clothes/shoes on or help him go to the potty, immediately; he wanted a blanket, not a towel; or he didn’t want his sister to turn the page on the book. The reasons are endless but I can’t begin to understand what goes through his head and why certain things set him off. We give him and his sister choices as much as possible, but it never seems to be enough (or the right choices). But, when he’s not wreaking havoc he is the sweetest child on the planet. He is so affectionate and gives the best hugs and kisses. He is so friendly and fun and outgoing and will talk to anybody. He is sensitive and caring and will share anything (although not always!). He sings for me and loves me to sing to him, etc., etc. And he tells me he loves me all of the time, out of the blue, which melts my heart; but, one day it broke my heart when I realized he often says it because he thinks I might be mad at him. 😔 If only he could understand that even if I seem miserable and sad, it’s not because I am mad at him. I am mad, sad, disappointed, frustrated at the situation or at my reaction to it, or because of my flawed expectations. He is doing his darnedest to navigate his world the best that he can, and often in such a take charge, unafraid, unapologetic way. He just wants t be heard and understood (don’t we all). If only I could be like him sometimes – absolutely certain of what I want and need in the moment, or able to vent in one moment and then say sorry and I love you in the next. …
    I totally understand and relate to your comments and appreciate you sharing them. I think I have just gleaned a little insight into my son and our relationship by reading your story and sharing my own. Thank you. Honesty and candor does the soul good!

    • Thanks Amy, for the very first comment on my blog 😉

      And thanks again, for describing your panther! It all sounds SO incredibly recognizable!

      Good luck with the taming/guiding!

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