365 367 days ago our two big kids left behind everything they ever knew.
Food. Culture. Language. Activities. Surroundings. Caretakers. Siblings.
Everything was new.
I love to travel and have been to some pretty cool places. But it doesn’t matter if I’m on an exotic beach or climbing mountains, after a week or two I long for the comfort of home.
How did they do it?
I think back to those early days. I think about how Smiles went absolutely freaking crazy and kicked the back of the car seat with his cleats on when we drove him to a baseball game that was at a different field than normal. Why would I expect anything different, when in his past life a change in routine meant that something was up and that something was probably not good?
I think about how Diva used to cling to me and shoot everyone else angry looks in any social situation. Why did I ever think she would be happy to see more strangers?
I think about how it took four nurses to hold Smiles down the first time he got shots. Who knows what doctors did to him in the past?
I think about how Diva used to chase my car down the street when I left for work. One time her parents left and she never saw them again.
I think about how Smiles used to storm out of the house and walk way too far down the street, angry at the world. How angry would I be in a completely new world where I didn’t know a single soul besides my sibling, being parented by strangers in a language I didn’t understand?
I think about how we had to physically restrain both kids at times to keep them from hurting themselves or someone else. How else could they express their frustration, their fears, their anger?
Adoption is hard. Really really really hard. A lot of time our society has this rosey picture of what adoption looks like. They think that some poor kid gets to leave behind their crappy life and finds this new great life with this new great family.
They don’t see that poor kid crying at night, asking why they are in America while their birth family is not.
They don’t have to answer when that child asks if you love their biological siblings more than you love them.
They don’t have to hold that sobbing child when they are missing their birth family.
They don’t have to constantly wonder what is causing a behavior- adoption related issues or just normal kid stuff?
Adoption is hard, and as I reflect back on some of these times I honestly don’t know how anyone in our family did it.
But we did! We did it! Although we still have a long ways to go, this one year mark feels pretty freaking good. It feels like a small victory, as if we can raise our hands in triumph over all the tough times we went through this year.
Now Smiles corrects us if we forget what day it is and take him to the wrong field. (Dad! It’s Friday! My practice is at other place!)
Now Diva gets in trouble for leaving me in social situations without telling me where she’s going.
Now Smiles gives the doctors his arm and doesn’t even flinch.
Now Diva sings “Bye mom!” when I leave somewhere, confident I’ll come back.
Now Smiles expresses his anger in words (very loud words, sometimes).
And now when the kids get frustrated they go to their rooms to cool down and afterwards everyone apologizes and discusses.
How far we’ve come.
In one year these kids have learned to count and read and add and write. They’ve learned how to behave with friends and how to behave in a family. They’ve learned that clothes don’t go in the freezer if they’re hot out of the dryer. They’ve learned that despite their pleading, mom and dad can’t make it snow. They’ve learned their right from their left, how to tie shoes, and the days of the week. They’ve learned how to unload the dishwasher, use the phone, and operate the shower.
So often I get so caught up in the daily routines of life. I don’t get to reflect very often. Honestly, there is so much going on and so little downtime that I just try to make it through the days. But being home for a full year is a reason to reflect.
It’s time to celebrate these awesome kids’ journeys. They inspire me! There are a zillion ways they could have reacted to this life-changing adoption (and we have probably seen glimpses of each of those zillion ways), but by and large, they are great kids! They’re loving, fun, caring, respectful (usually), independent, and funny. They love to camp and eat tacos and swim. They’ve taught Wiggles to laugh at every fart and they’ve sung The Baby countless songs. They come and cuddle us in the morning and beg to watch more movies at night. They treasure their American family but appropriately mourn their Ethiopian family. They’re special kids and we’ve been so lucky to watch God do His miraculous work in their little lives. What work he’s done!
Some families have big parties for their adoption days but we like to keep things low key. The kids brought cupcakes to school and we ate donuts after dinner (Can you even believe I’m feeding my kids cupcakes AND donuts in the same day??!!) We talked a lot about their Ethiopian family, our new family, how special adoption is, and then played a family game of Sorry! It was a great night for great kids.*
1 Year Down. We survived! Now it’s time for us to thrive.
*This is an exaggeration. In reality, Diva kept hijacking the story telling time by telling really long pointless made up stories and Smiles kept yelling at her for doing so. Wiggles whined that he couldn’t have more than one donut, the kids fought about the rules of Sorry!, and everyone got all ticked off when it was bed time. But still…it had the potential to be a great night. Maybe next year.