Six months since Chris and I got the kids from the orphanage….
Six short, long, happy, hard, crazy, months.
I don’t do well writing regularly, as you may have noticed…or forgotten since you don’t expect much of this crazy lady, but these milestones seem worthy of an update. Some to satisfy someone’s curiosity and some for our own reflections…some day. Some day Chris, myself, one of the kids, etc will look back and read. Chris and I just did it yesterday. We needed a date reference for some paperwork, the computer hard drive with the pictures that would help us find the date has been possibly wiped out 😦 , so we looked to the blog. Looking back and seeing photos of that first night in the hotel, seeing them smiling and trusting from the beginning. It all seems long ago now, but six months can be long or short, depending on the season.
From the beginning, I made a mental note that the first year would probably be the hardest. Three new kids at once. Them learning about how things work in our family. Us learning more about their personalities and past than we could in those superficial classroom visits. Me not speaking Russian. Them not understanding English. And 300 other things that someone more eloquent could point out.
And here we are. Half way through the first year. Now, whether or not my prediction that the first year would be the hardest is yet to be known. After all, how could anybody really ever know which year will be the hardest? And who am I to say God isn’t preparing us for a harder year in the future? It was just a way of reminding myself, in advance, that I didn’t expect smooth sailing.
Yes, it has been hard, but not to the exclusion of not having victories and happy moments. I will say it has been the hardest year I can recall, but I don’t attribute all of the reasons to our new family size.
Communication. This has gone from me asking Chris to “Tell them, this.” and “Tell them, that.” about everything. It was so frequent that he was exhausted and at some point stopped translating everything I asked him to translate. But the kids and I were from different worlds and I felt left out if Chris was talking to them and not translating for me, or they felt left out in our regular family conversations because we didn’t want them to know what we were saying or Chris may only have translated the general idea. It is hard being the one who doesn’t understand what is going on!
The first week of church, with Chris’ mom still in town to help us, I was a frantic control freak about the seating order. (Sorry Mom.) Yes, this is my usual tendency anyway, but I expected major problems. Of what sort, I’m not sure. But I didn’t know if or when we’d be able to sit through a regular church service without issues. We do! Now this doesn’t mean there isn’t much discussion of “who” they want to sit near and strategic placement of adults and big kids between the less experienced ones, but we do it. Every week. And Chris sits at the piano until the sermon begins. They do well. Are they listening? Probably not much, but how many weeks did they sit there admirably well when they didn’t even understand what was being said? Many. It is hard enough to be good for 1 1/2 hours when you understand, let alone when you don’t.
Last spring, as we anticipated the arrival of the kids, I pulled back from every commitment possible because I didn’t know what my new reality would be. I wanted to focus on our family and the adjustment process. We wanted things to be gradual and not overwhelming for them. But it was the end of the school year so I remember attending several large events right off the bat. Mom B. had to go back to her real life in Florida. Chris had to go back to work because he had taken many days off to travel as we were visiting the kids and completing the adoption process. Then he was working so much that he couldn’t go to Florida with us for the summer, but we didn’t know how to best handle living in an apartment in a big city with so many kids, so I jetted across the ocean and we all came out alive at the end of the summer. And then they learned English along the way because they had to since dad wasn’t there to translate and the big kids didn’t want to translate parenting remarks to their new siblings. And I was impatient and angry and overwhelmed and wondered if we had chosen right or wrong by wanting to spend the summer in freedom, but away from Chris. It was hard. But they have great memories and experienced so much. And Chris finally did join us for a short while at the end.
So summer was over and we came back to our life of work and school to find our real “new normal”. Five kids at our Christian school in Kyiv. Three kids returning. Two new kids speaking functional English, but not on grade level in school. Not always bringing home a good report, but loving being at the same school as their big brother and sisters. Playing, very much, the part of the annoying little brother and sister, according to the big kids. They are still learning so many things. But they have made so much progress! Communication is no longer an issue. Not meaning they speak grammatically correct for children their age born to English speaking parents. No! Of course not, but leaps and bounds and heaps upon heaps from the amount of English they knew back then. Denya and Ana understand almost everything and can express themselves surprisingly clearly. Sometimes I ask them to repeat or tell them I don’t understand what they are saying, but the majority of the time it is amazing to realize how much they have just naturally caught onto. Edik too, but a little slower with him speaking English. He understands most everything.
Chris and I were reminded again in the paperwork process yesterday of how small Edik was at birth. It didn’t register or stick with me when I heard the initial report because there were so many other things simultaneously going on. A flood of information, if you will. He was only 28 weeks old at birth! A premie weighing only 1.2 kilos! This is the other reason it didn’t “stick” with me. I didn’t know the exact conversion and then didn’t go back and do the math. Let me tell you. This boy weighed just 2.6 pounds. That is just 1/3 the weight of my two smallest babies. He was not strong. He did not have a nurturing home environment. I don’t know how long he stayed in the hospital and what sort of care he received. Is he faring well all things considered? Yes! Could he have thrived even better in an American hospital and with different circumstances the first 4-5 years of life? I’m certain. Did he or we get to have a say in these matters? Of course not. So it is good for us to be reminded when we are impatient with bed wetting, language in comparison to his siblings, when we wonder why he doesn’t move like a “normal” kid his age. “Hello!” He is thriving. He is learning. It isn’t at the same speed as a “normal” kid, but he hasn’t had a “normal” start in life. He is happy. He is teachable. He is our son.
Lots of people ask how the other kids are with the adjustment of the new kids. They are fine. Not perfect. Not without struggles of jealousy or impatience. But everything has changed for them too. They do well. Chris and I now split our attention more ways than before and it changed all at once, not gradually. They have ups and downs just as we do. Moments and seasons of compatibility and moments and seasons of irritability. Yes, I have heard, “Why did we have to adopt?” But I have also heard, “I didn’t have anyone to play with when you were in the orphanage.” We have two little five year olds who play together exceedingly well everyday while the big kids are in school. We have two bigger boys who build forts and play Legos and soccer and boxing together. Ana loves playing with Niya and Edik each day after school. Ellie is the most nurturing and patient older sibling. They are all learning and growing through the experience. It isn’t always easy to be part of a big family, especially if you are quiet and don’t like the attention a large family draws or the noise we generate, but hard things can be good things. For example, it is teaching them life doesn’t revolve around themselves. It gives them endless opportunities to put others first, to wait patiently (whether for the bathroom or mom’s attention), to share, to be happy for another, and more.
“Has it been hard?” Absolutely.
“You are so (fill in the adjective: good, nice, patient, kind).” Yeah. Right. I guarantee people wouldn’t say things like that if they knew the thoghts I’ve had, the words I’ve said, the selfish and immature behavior I have exhibited.
While I never for a second thought “this will be easy”. It isn’t like we really knew what to expect either. Adoption has made me more aware of my sin than ever. (Both adoptions. Every day.) Everyone has different lessons to learn and in different ways, but for me, it was sort of easy to think, “I’ve got this parenting thing figured out.” It was pride, people! “I can do this.” “My kids (this and that.)” “We do (this and that).” “I trained them.” “I taught them.” Me. Me. Me. I am daily learning lessons. I have a lifetime of refining that will take place. I am not a perfect example, but thankfully Jesus is.
I have no regrets about adoption, even though it is the hardest thing we have ever done, and I absolutely believe these children were meant to be part of our family. May God bless our ongoing adjustments and growth as a family.