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.