Thursday, July 10, 2008

5 months home...a comparison and contrast

Today marks 5 months home for Josh and Jameson. Wow. Things are so much better. I almost giggle when I think about how desperate and despondent I was when they first got home. Silly me! Those first few weeks, I will admit now that I felt so helpless and somewhat hopeless. I had such overwhelming feelings during those first few weeks. A very wise friend shared with me that what I was feeling was normal and to just "fake it til I make it." I read and read and read about bonding and attachment, post adoption depression and parenting hurt children. I'm not convinced that I had post adoption depression. I think I had pre adoption delusion. I had an image in my head of what life was going to be like... a fairy tale like the rest of my life (ha). I had no idea some of the fears I would face; how I would question my sanity in this decision to adopt two older children. Most everyone else I knew who adopted was loving on their new babies, while I was being told, "I want to go back to Ethiopia." It somehow didn't fit into my vision of what life was going to be like. Thank God I was able to fake it until I made it. Because my friends, we have finally made it. (I think)

Let me share some 1 month fears contrasted with 5 month realities.

I was afraid they would never eat American food. "I don't like that." I thought if I heard that one more time, I was going to scream! Making 4 different dinners because they wouldn't try anything made me want throw the bowl of pasta across the kitchen. Now they eat everything in sight. They beg for hamburger pizza and bacon sandwiches. They are eating me out of house and home!

I was afraid they would never stop hiding their clothes in the toy box, the floor of the closet, behind their door, or under their beds. Not only have they stopped doing that, but they have started doing chores and putting their own clothes away. They will bring up their laundry, sort it and help me fold it!

I was afraid they would never stop throwing poopy toilet paper in the trashcan or worse on the floor. Nope. Nothing more than a kind of funny memory now.

I was afraid they would never stop chattering and laughing at us in Amharic at the dinner table....without sharing... and when we would ask what they were laughing at, they would chatter some more, point and laugh at us. Not in a good way. They occasionally talk Amharic now, but quite honestly we don't hear it that much. When Josh talked to Anteneh the other day, he had to ask me what the names of certain words were (like I would know). It's not that I want them to forget it, but I want them to be respectful of language differences and not use it as a way to make fun of people. I want them to improve their English skills. Jameson is such a little chatter box... her English is almost perfect. She talks non-stop! Josh is getting so much better and learning to talk more and more.

I was afraid that the kids would never really bond. I can honestly say the kids are bonded now. They play together, they comfort each other in times of pain or sadness. They are brothers and sisters of one family and not siblings of two families sharing a living space. Josh greets Jack in the morning with some sort of wrestling move that puts him on the floor. They sit and giggle and play games together. Josh picks up Justine and comforts her if she's sad. He laughs at her silliness. Jaiden and Jameson are practically inseparable!

I was afraid that I would never be seen as the "mother." I feared that I would forever be seen as the caregiver, the food preparer, the housekeeper, but not the mother. I don't want to ever take the place of Nebiat, but I do want a position equal to Nebiat. Jameson answered this question a few weeks ago when someone asked if she missed her parents, and she stated, "no, they're right there." I think they now see us as permanent parents in a forever family.

I was afraid I would be forever manipulated by pouting children and their refusals to speak to me. I never in my wildest dreams thought these children that I had waited for for so long would treat me this way. I had no idea they would refuse to speak to me or that they would pout if they didn't get their way. We no longer have the arms crossed, won't make eye contact pouting fits. Occasionally, Jameson will pout, but she actually catches herself doing it, stops, and even says, "Oh, I'm sorry!"

For a short while, I actually considered that I had quite honestly ruined my life and the lives of my entire family. Now granted these were fleeting moments in the mind of a sleep deprived, exhausted, overwhelmed mother, so don't judge me harshly, yet they were feelings that certainly nagged at me during those early days. I faced the fear that perhaps the attachment issue wouldn't be with them... it would be with me. I faced the fear that perhaps I wasn't the person I thought I was. I prayed and prayed and prayed. I cannot tell you how much time I have spent on my knees over the past 5 months. I prayed for everything under the sun (Son). For God to soften my heart towards them. For God to take away my feelings of annoyance. For God to bond me to them permanently. For God to make me not grieve what was my family before, but to embrace what He has made my family since. For God to give me the right words to help them as they grieve their losses; the loss of their parents, their cousins, their country, their grandmother, their friends and their culture.

Today, I can't imagine life without them. I absolutely cannot tell you what a difference 5 months makes! We are family. We have our issues, but who doesn't? We are 8 people who really, really love each other and belong together! We have grown from what we've seen; from what we've experienced. We have emerged better people; a better family because of it. I don't write this to scare any soon to be adoptive parents, but to help you realize that if you are going through this or if you ever do, IT DOES GET BETTER. Time is on our side! God Bless.


The Wilkinson's said...

Could you please write a book in the next three weeks so that I have your lessons and encouragement for when my boys come home?
I am so serious. You are such a blessing to me. Thank you for your honesty and wisdom and the courage to share it with us!

Julie said...

So how is the best way to handle the pouting do you think? My husband and I were just talking about that last night after reading about Teneh's pouting. I think I would prefer that to the whiny complaining fits of my 8 yr old but I'm not sure. But I'd love your advice.

Keep sharing. Your blog is my favorite adoption blog to read because I feel like it's helping me adjust my "pre-adoption delusion" :-)

Jenny H said...

Like we talked aout the other night, when you can tell that pieces of your puzzel are missing or maybe just misplaced. You have found two more pieces of your puzzle and I'm so glad you did. I can't wait to have them all in a couple of weeks. Love you all BIG AS TE SKY!!

SisterMom said...

Thank you Gina. Like you I had the whole pre adoption delusion thing going. Made worse by the fact I had met this perfect angel of a boy, who I was sure would never act like THAT for Heaven's sake. Delusional!!
I use your overgrown toddler analogy all the time.
Thanks again--this lets me know there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Mike & Amy said...

What a FANTASTIC post. You really should write a book! So good to be able to look back and see that God was hearing those prayers and that He knew that those kiddos were EXACTLY where they should be!
Congrats on 5 months!

Shawn said...


You took the words right out of my mouth! You've experienced EXACTLY what we've been going through and feeling and we're only at four months home with our 10 year old daughter and 5 year old son from Ethiopia. I'm feeling some hope too................finally!

Peculiar Smith Family said...

What an awesome post! Thank you so much for opening up your heart to all of us. We're adopting a 3-year old and a 4 or 5-year old, and I know we will go through some of the same family growing pains. It's good to know it just takes time.


Rebecca said...

Thanks again for sharing Gina....
I have to tell you....I was showing Dave (my hubby) your blog yesterday and he saw the pic of the girls holding hands on the road....he said it was the neatest pic he'd ever seen. I totally agree.

Chris said...

Thank you Gina!!! You are such an amazing writer. You inspire me and give me hope!!! Thank you for sharing so honestly your joys and fears. We are all blessed because of it!! I am really glad you are passed all of those phases, especially the "poopie" one! Yikes, is that what I have to look forward to. I can't wait, bring it on!!! Thanks again for being our light!

Kitchenchick said...

Gina, thanks for sharing your experiences so honestly! Gives me encouragement :)


Lisa Marie Stokes-Daugherty said...

Gina, this post is exactly what I needed to give me the strength to continue each day. To know there IS a light at the end of the tunnel. Thank you! Lisa