When Rain Hurts by Mary Evelyn Greene

September 22, 2010

September 21, 2010

Go Gators! (Sept. 2005)

September 21, 2010.  “Annie’s not real?” Peter asks.  I don’t quite know how to explain, my previous 1,000 attempts haven’t done the job.  “No Honey, she’s acting.  It’s pretend.  Like when Sophie was in her play over the summer.  She was pretending, right?”  We watched the first part of Annie last night and Miss Flanagan’s rendition of “Little Girls” gave Peter nightmares.  “So Annie’s a robot?” he continues, undeterred.  The inflexibility of his thinking frustrates me and I struggle to remain patient as I think of ways to help him understand.  Peter at 9 still is unclear about the distinction between fantasy and reality, fiction and fact, film versus life.  If someone on TV, or even on stage, is a real, live human being, rather than a cartoon character or puppet, he stolidly clings to his belief that they are “real”, and therefore in many instances, an immediate trigger for his countless fears.  Carol Burnett’s rendition of Miss Flanagan might have hit too close to home for Peter’s fragile sensibilities to assimilate.  We don’t really know what our children consciously remember of orphanage life, if anything, but the preverbal memories are undoubtedly there, lurking in the corners, ready to spring at the slightest provocation.  Peter later tells me, on the way to the public library, that he wants to watch the rest of the movie tonight, if there’s time, and that he’s not afraid anymore.  “Why not?” I ask.  “Because that bad lady only gets mean to girls,” he answers.  It’s a valid point and I tell him so.  “Plus,” he adds, looking at me over the top of his glasses like a mini-version of his father, “she don’t talk Russian.”  That’s when I realize I’m not reading too much into our son’s distress.  He really did make the connection between his past and the movie.  Despite Annie being my favorite Broadway show when I was eleven, perhaps it isn’t the best choice for our family right now.  On the way home I distract him with chit-chat about which of his newly borrowed books we’re going to read first.  He’s dead set on reading a Magic Tree House book that’s well beyond his ability so we agree to read it out loud, together.  I don’t hold much hope for making it through the book – Peter’s not one to read (or listen) to a chapter or two a night and then continue the next day where he left off, but we’ll give it a try nonetheless.  Pat’s in the city today and I want to make sure I have a quiet, snuggly evening with the kids.  Sophie’s been out of sorts about Peter staying home from school and getting my attention all day and she could use some reassuring.  On the way home from the library this afternoon, Peter comments how Pippin, our little terrier mutt, loves to sit on my lap while I drive, preferably with my left arm draped around him.  Then he exclaims, “Mommy, I wish I was Pippin’s size!”  When I ask him why, he says because then he’d be little enough to sit on my lap all the time and be carried around.  “Wouldn’t that be nice, Mom?”  I’m so struck with the pronouncement that I have to fight back tears as my eyes meet his through the rearview mirror.  Not so many years ago, that mirror was the only medium through which Peter could tolerate eye contact.  I used to catch him staring at me in the car, his head whipping around, his gaze growing vacant, the instant our eyes met.  Then slowly, slowly, and with the mirror to cut the intensity, he began risking a brief moment of eye to eye contact.  Today, nearly 6 years our son, Peter not only looks at us directly, without the crutch of a mirror, he pines for those intimate moments -particularly with me, he either never had or was never able to tolerate.  There was a time I pined for them too, but not anymore.  Today I look at Peter and see my son, a loving, beautiful boy who greets the world with an easy smile and ready heart.  I never allowed myself to even dream that he would get to this point, that he and I would make the progress, as mother and son, that we’ve made.  So it’s true.  I’m through mourning the loss of the infant I was never able to hold, nourish, and protect.  That child is gone.  The boy in the car, the one wishing to be small again, that boy is my son, my Peter.  So tonight I plan to hold him tight, for as long as he can bear, so that together with his sister, he’ll know that intimacy, protection, and a mother’s embrace isn’t just for baby boys and furry friends.  They’re for Peter too.



  1. You are an AMAZING mom. God place these kids in your care to care for them. We are all His kids and He makes no mistakes. May you find the same blessings that Peter is receiving with your love.

    Comment by Sherrie — September 22, 2010 @ 9:14 am | Reply

  2. How beautiful. How moving. I have no words…for you have them here.

    Comment by Kathleen — September 22, 2010 @ 9:28 am | Reply

  3. Oh wow…I have the infant that doesn’t want to be held. I hope someday our relationship develops into something more like yours and Peter’s.

    Comment by Desiree — September 22, 2010 @ 10:07 am | Reply

    • I hope so too, Desiree, but all you can do is try your best. At the end of the day, if I’m able to say that I gave our kids all I had to give, then I will have done my job. And so will you. It’s all anyone can ask of us. Good luck and know you’re not alone . . . Mary 🙂

      Comment by whenrainhurts — September 22, 2010 @ 4:48 pm | Reply

      • I guess she technically is a toddler, she is over two but mentally one. She gave me my first hug today just out of the blue.

        Comment by Desiree — September 28, 2010 @ 11:23 pm

  4. I remember those rearview mirror moments! J would have his head turned at an “almost looking out the window” angle but his eyes would be strained against their corners, looking at the mirror then quickly look away if my glance landed in the mirror at the same time. He eventually moved into the “directly looking in the mirror” phase but would again look away if our eyes met. And eventually he started looking directly at me through the mirror to have conversations. When he first came into our home at the age of 2 (he’s 15 now), he wouldn’t look at anyone. He usually spent our time together with his arms and legs wrapped around me and his face buried in my chest. When he did start looking at people, it was always at their chest, which made for some awkward moments with women. It took many years of working with him, but he has been looking into people’s eyes now for quite a few years. I totally hear you on the “mirror moments”

    Comment by Christine — September 22, 2010 @ 10:11 am | Reply

  5. I keep forgetting about the buried memories until they start to surface – sometimes in good ways and others in scary ones. Last week, Nick and I were talking with a friend about visiting her, and how that would involve a plane ride. “I’ve been on planes before, when we came home from Kazakhstan.” “Yes love, you have.” “And that’s when I was in a baby cage.” Took some working to determine that he wasn’t referring to a crib (“No, mommy” said with withering disdain!), but rather to a snugli-type carrier that we only used a bit in the baby house and on the trip home, but not after. That was 3 1/2 years ago, and he was 11 months old. And perhaps the buried memories also account for the problems we’re having at pre-school following a revolving door of teachers all summer. Can you say trust issues?

    Thank you for continuing to share. I’m constantly keeping fingers crossed that the ‘educators’ get their heads out of their a$$es long enough to see the light.

    Comment by Nan — September 22, 2010 @ 10:16 am | Reply

  6. Mary,

    You are so right. Love solves everything…


    Comment by Lori — September 22, 2010 @ 4:38 pm | Reply

  7. Dear Mary,

    What beautiful sentiments in this particular entry. I’ve followed all the ones Pat sent me (since chapter 9) and read them as a single unit recently. You and Peter have come a very long way, and I’m amazed at your faith and effort and glad you never gave up.

    I pray for you and your family daily.

    Nancy Crenshaw

    Comment by Nancy Crenshaw — September 23, 2010 @ 4:22 pm | Reply

  8. I really hope you, Sophie and Peter had a lovely evening together, full of family, love and snuggles. Both our children were adopted as newborns and thankfully both attached very well to us, so to think of your little boy desperate for love and connection, struggling to be able to accept intimacy… it just breaks my heart. It is a testament to your parenting and unwavering devotion to your children that Peter now seeks your comfort and love, despite his difficult early history.
    Thank you so much for sharing your story so openly with us.

    Comment by ani — September 25, 2010 @ 2:04 pm | Reply

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