It has now been ten months since our family welcomed Yosef (age 10) and Mihret (age 7) home from Ethiopia. It's hard to believe that just one year ago at this time, we were entering into our 16th month of waiting since we accepted their referral with still no end in sight. When we were in the thick of our extremely difficult wait, we were very aware of God's presence with us. But looking back, I am absolutely astounded at how faithful God was to us during that dark time when my heart was feeling such anguish over my children. He so perfectly prepared us to be able to walk through that valley by His grace. He brought me to a place of knowing that even if my kids never did come home to me that He was still sovereign. Now, as I continue to live each day, I am so aware of His sovereignty. One of my dearest friends was diagnosed with Stage 4 Ovarian Cancer last week. Despite the intense grief I am facing right now, I am so comforted by God's sovereignty in this. That understanding of God is something that happened in my heart due to our difficult adoption. It's funny how we are able to find that place of truly trusting God when circumstances are so far beyond our control and we know that we cannot trust ourselves to change them.
With each update that I write, the process of becoming a bonded and attatched family is seeming more and more natural. Things really are very good. Increasingly, I am feeling like a "normal" (I really have no idea what that term even means!) woman trying to mother four "regular" children. What I mean is that the issues we face are seeming more like ordinary issues that all families face rather than adoption related issues.
Seven days a week, we have a conversation that goes like this:
MOM: "Yosef, you need to go take a shower now."
YOSEF: "Why do I have to take a shower EVERY day?!?!"
MOM: "Because if you don't you will smell stinky."
YOSEF: "But I don't want to! That's not fair! You don't make the other kids take a shower everyday. Why do I have to?!"
MOM: "Because you are 10 now and you're becoming a man and I don't like it when my kids are stinky, so go!"
And then Yosef goes and takes his shower. This happens every single day. It's become such a routine conversation that I think we have it just because it's part of our evening routine! I think that this is a "normal" issue and not an adoption issue!
Another example is this:
MOM: "Girls, talk nicely to each other."
KAITLYN: "Well, SHE'S bothering me!"
MIHRET: (In a shrill, manipulative, whining voice with arms crossed) "Kaitlyn's being mean to me, Mom!"
(Ten minutes later)
MIHRET: "Come on, Kaitlyn! Let's go play in our room!"
KAITLYN: "Okay! Let's play with our American Girl Dolls!"
MIHRET: "That would be fun! Let's go!"
All of my older, wiser friends assure me that their girls had these episodes at least 10 times everyday and still have these episodes with each other as adults. So, again, I think we're entering the realm of "normal" issues as opposed to always adoption related issues. What a relief!
We did put Yosef in a new class at school after Christmas break. This kid is like a brand-new child! He is doing so well in school now! He's reading at a 2nd grade reading level with pretty good comprehension. And he is so very proud of himself for this accomplishment! He's getting all A's on his spelling tests. He's getting A's and B's on his classwork. I have not seen many tests so far, but I am hopeful that he is doing well on them too. I am so thankful that we moved him to this class.
Since I teach at the same school where the kids attend, I try to respect them and not embarass them. Lucas and Mihret LOVE it when they pass me in the hallway and always want me to stop and give them a hug and kiss. Kaitlyn's need for attention at school varies with the day. Yosef, being the oldest, is really just so mortified that I might possibly embarass him. So, I usually just say hi or smile at him when I see him at school. He totally made my day the other day though when his class passed by me and he stepped out of line to give me a hug. I thought something was wrong! But he just wanted to hug me. It's the little moments like those that make me see just how far we've come. This is the same child who was going days at a time without speaking to me just a few months ago. Now, Yosef gets upset if I forget to hug him when we get home from school. Just a few months ago, his entire body would stiffen up if he even thought that I might try to touch him in any way. A hug was just torture for him. Just a few months ago, we were using TV as a means of rewarding him for being civil toward me, even if it was insincere. Now, I have to make him go play outside sometimes because I need him to get out from under my feet! God is the One who has guided us through this tricky process of attatchment between perfect strangers! He has given us such creative ideas that have worked so well for each child according to their unique little personalities.
Are we finished with attatchment? Have we figured out this parenting thing? Of course not! There's still lots of work to do. Right now, I really need God to give me a way to get Mihret to stop whining. I need to figure out how to keep Kaitlyn from getting lice....again. I wish I could get Lucas to be responsible enough to not keep a rotten banana in the bottom of his backpack until it gets smashed all over everything. And I wish I could make Yosef understand what a common noun is. Two months from now, it will be something different. But for now, I am confident that God will continue to guide us on this amazing journey called "Life" as He always has.
To those who have just recently brought home their older adopted children, hang on! Be consistent. Be listening to God's creative strategies. And take heart- those first few months don't last forever!