Three months and two days ago our two oldest kids stepped out of a plane and into their new lives.
Ninety three days into this thing and it feels like we finally have a little expertise.
The first two weeks home were a crazy mix of firsts. First water fountain, first bike, first doctor visit, first American food, first time wearing shoes that tie, first time sleeping alone, first time playing baseball and basketball, first warm bath, first time seeing squirrels, first time seeing car dealerships, first time throwing toilet paper into the toilet and not the trash, never ending firsts. Those first couple of weeks were forever long in the moment and unbelievably fast in hindsight. The kids were excited; the kids were scared. We felt the same way.
After that initial adjustment period things got really hard. Sure, there were plenty of good moments. The kids both started school. Smiles started baseball. They were learning their alphabet and countless other things. But the kids didn’t trust us. They didn’t understand how things worked here. Simple requests turned into full-out tantrums. We were hit. We were spat at. I’m pretty sure we were cursed at in Tigrinya. I was home on maternity and felt like I never ever ever got a break from the kids. We would lose patience with the kids and then feel awful afterwards. We were surviving but we weren’t thriving.
But the last month- oh the last month! It seems right at two months things really turned the corner. The turning point corresponded almost exactly with me going back to work. That may be a coincidence but I am for sure a better mother when I have a little time away from my kids. Three months in and we are finding our stride! We have established routines. We know what works with each kid. (The kids are polar opposites in every way imaginable. What works with one does not work with the other). We know when to deal with a situation and when to let things slide. The kids are learning their limits and learning what it means to be a part of a family. They’re doing chores and spending their money on ice cream and Pokemon cards. The same things that would have caused major meltdowns two months ago now barely faze them.
That’s not to say it’s easy all the time- raising kids never is. But I think we can now pass for a functional family and couldn’t have said that a few short weeks ago.
Here’s a quick update on each kid:
I often feel as though we’re not giving Smiles the attention that he needs- since he’s the oldest, his needs are sometimes the last priority. He is a pretty needy kid and not very good at entertaining himself. But boy does he shine around others! If we’re going to an event with kids his age I can sit back and relax all night. This boy thrives on his friendships and asks every single day if his pals can come over! He knows everyone in the neighborhood and has made our front yard THE spot to be at. Baseball is now over; Smiles ended the season by becoming one of the best pitchers on the team. He can’t wait to play soccer next. He loves to help around the house by mowing the grass and gets paid a whole $3 to do so- but he doesn’t keep his money for long. This boy is a spender! As he’s filling up the cart at Target he tells me “Don’t worry mom. $6!” as he shows me his cash. He likes to spend his money on anything and everything, but is really into Pokemon cards right now. When he buys them he says “All my friends- wow!” His English is so superb that those who know him casually would probably never guess he has only been here for three months. It’s pretty amazing.
I LOVE having a daughter. My sweet little Diva has got to be one of the best redemption stories of all time. We were so sure this angry mean little girl would need years of counseling, but all she needed was some stability and opportunity…and some pretty dresses. She’s doing fantastic. She has such a sweet little spirit and is always eager to help fold the laundry or clear the dishes. She likes to help even if she doesn’t get paid, but when she does she saves her money. She’ll sometimes select a small thing at the store but mostly gets excited when she counts her money and there’s a lot there. She is still very shy in new situations, sometimes clinging to me or even hiding to avoid new faces, but it doesn’t take her nearly as long to open up. Last weekend we had a wedding and couldn’t get her off the dance floor! The last few mornings we know she’s awake because she sings Let It Go at the top of her lungs. Her favorite activity is learning. She went to a two-week summer school and every day she told me school was “Big good!” Her conversational English is not as far along as Smiles’ is, but she’s way better at recognizing letters and sounds. We have to bribe Smiles to do lessons in his workbook; Diva does them for hours for fun. She has a very artistic mind and sees things I don’t. She points to the roof of houses and says “Triangle” or to a tree branch and says “Y!” Before the kids got home we had serious doubts that she would be ready for kindergarten this fall. Now we’re wondering if kindergarten is ready for her!
We’re waiting for the terrible twos to kick in- Wiggles is more enjoyable than ever. He’s finally old enough to understand time-outs and they have become an effective tool. His favorite thing to do is to be chased and he says “Get me!” approximately 29,000 times a day. He is talking a ton but is hard to understand if you’re not around him every day. He LOVES to count and counts everything. The other day he learned what the name for forehead was and now every time I hold him he touches my head and forehead and says “1, 2…2 heads!” He is a night owl who doesn’t fall asleep in the car even if we’re driving home at 11:00 at night and won’t turn on a movie. He is quite agile but hasn’t figured out how to climb out of his crib yet, and we plan to keep him there until he does. He’s still sweet and loving and my kisses seem to make any injury instantly better. Wiggles loved the fireworks on the Fourth. Sometimes we would tell him to cover his ears before a loud one and this is what he did:
This crazy kid rolled over from back to stomach- like all the way rolled over, propped up on her arms- a few days before she turned three months old. She must sense she has a lot of siblings to keep up with! She is such a smiley happy baby. Wiggles literally never smiled before he turned six months old, and rarely smiled then. We called him Mr. Serious, so it has been fun for us to experience such a happy little human. I often hold her facing outwards when talking to others and inevitably they start laughing as her head bobbles and her arms twitch in excited movements as if they’re telling me the best news she’s ever heard. I was worried about her sleeping for the first few weeks, but she’s now in her pack and play and sleeps through the night most nights. Soon she will transition to her crib in Diva’s room. She is definitely not getting the attention Wiggles did, but she doesn’t seem to be complaining does she?
That’s our clan. Three months down, 18 years to go.