Wednesday, March 2, 2011

ONE month HOME

Today we had our one month post placement visit with our social worker.  I can't believe it's been a month!  Sometimes it seems like she's been with us for much longer.  And as grateful and happy as we are to have Aregash home, it hasn't come without struggles.  I won't bore you with all of the fine details, but I have been feeling like writing it out at some point....for myself, but also for the families who are in the process and want to know the truth.  Most blogs have the sweet pictures of their beautiful kiddos and life seems grand.  And it IS because we're home, but it has been one big roller coaster ride of emotions.  With that being said, I would like to say that things are sooooo much better than 2 weeks ago. 

One Month Home--FIRST time in a pool

I think we all know that there isn't any much discipline in the orphanages and care centers in Ethiopia.  Which is good to a point.  We know that children are valued and loved and they are considered a precious gift...which they are.  So when the kids come home WE get to undo all of that (the non-disciplining part, not the gift part :0).  That's okay.  WE know this and we do it with full hearts.  I thought I had prepared myself for the worst.  And it wasn't the worst, but I definitely wasn't prepared for what I would encounter.  I can only imagine what COULD be the worst. Ha!  We only dealt with food issues for a few days, and we had several other issues that we conquered quickly, but the tantrums/melt-downs were unexpected.  Aregash is a happy child and we were always told this when we received updates about her, but that happiness can change at the drop of a hat.  We seem to have a combo of toddler-isms, girl drama, and plain 'ole transitional hardships.  Like when I added conditioner to her hair, when I asked her to stop biting her brothers, but mostly when it was time to get dressed.  I posted about this before.  At first I thought it was about the look....too pink...too flowery....lack of jeans (her favorite).  But I quickly learned (and not quickly enough) that it wasn't about the look as much as it was about the control.  Why didn't I think of this???  THIS is something I knew we would probably encounter!  It's in every adoption book!  So once I figured that out I began to think of the tools I could pull out to get through it.  And the biggest thing to battle control issues are choices.  You know....Love 'n Logic.  I have taken soo many classes to re-certify for my teaching degree that I could probably teach it myself!  I just don't use it like I should.  And it works when you use it.  So I picked out two outfits I liked.....laid them on the floor.....and she got to pick.  As soon as she'd go to the closet to get something else I would say, "Uh uh, THIS one or THIS pick".  And she would.  Not always happy with my selection, but she would.  And guess what?  SHE got to pick, which gave her the control, and life was better.  
This doesn't mean that she would bounce around in delight, 
but she was satisfied.  
No melt-down.  
Score one for Mommy.

At  Watiki Water park for great- niece , Karsyn's 3rd Birthday

It "looks" something like this......
body goes limp, sullen eyes, long face, no response.  Then the moan...for quite awhile.  And next comes the cry...and then the scream.  It's not fun...they never are, but these meltdowns seem to come from nowhere.  Like the time(s) I was dressing her and had the bottom half done when she decided she didn't like the clothes.  And sometimes you don't know it's happening until it's in full swing.  One minute we're all smiles and happy, next thing you know we're in the middle of a "big one".  Kinda like the look a kid gets right before he throws's THAT look.  And there's nothing you can say, there's nothing you can just has to run it's course.  I can't/won't stop dressing her right in the middle because this will tell her that if she throws a fit mommy will give in.  I'm not THAT kind of mom.  I never have been.  I have learned through three boys with 12 years under my belt, that consistency is key.  You lay down the law.....sometimes that law changes, but you stick to your guns.  This way the expectations are clear and the kiddos know exactly what to do...or not.  

the water is coming...big brothers can't wait to see the reaction

insert screams here.....she loved it

Adoption Rules can be broken, or compromised.
Each child is different, every parenting-style is different, all adoption situations and backgrounds are not alike.  Here's an example:
Aregash bit her brother.  I can't remember why, or if it was playing or out of anger. So I say, "Aregash, your brothers are nice (because she understands this word) and that hurts.  It's not okay.  You need to be nice to your brother".  Sulky eyes. She walks away, sits on the floor and pouts....then moans....then cries.  For the first couple of weeks I did what I thought I was suppose to.  Granted, I NEVER would have handled it this way with my bio kids.  So I go to her and ask her if she would like mommy to hold her (because we should never let an adopted child cry, right?).  She won't even look up at me.  I'm not sure she can.  Adopted kids have their coping mechanisms and sometimes that means shutting down.  That's what this seems it's involuntary.  She doesn't respond so I go away and check back in a few minutes later.  "Aregash, are you ready for Mommy to hold you now?" Still nothing.  I go away, and come back.  This time (or maybe the time after) she leans a little toward me.  Okay, so I think this must be it.  I pick her up....her upper body limp and her legs stiff.  This is obviously not what she wants.  But I rock her.  After two weeks of handling this type of situation this way and being completely exhausted and frustrated I decided to try something different.  

A BIG STEP.......
Not just for her, but for me too.  Now when the sulking happens (depending on what it is) it is ignored.  I realized the more attention I gave to "it" the longer it went on.  Sometimes it will just go away.  Other times I may "check in" when the moaning or crying begins.  The other night she pulled a big loaf of bread off the counter and took a big bite out of it.  This may have seemed cute the first week she was home and she didn't know our rules, but now she knows (and consider the big knife in the same spot).  SO I reminded her to ask me if she needs something. She started the "zombie-like" state as I like to refer to it.  I came looking for her after a while and by then she was ready to move on to something different.  She even gave me a hug.  I consider that progress.  She is learning that I love her unconditionally even if she isn't perfect and that she won't get her way by making a big fuss.  My favorite is when I can tell her not to do something and she responds with "okay, Mommy". 
Now she needs to teach her big brothers! :0)

We're both learning and that's the fun and the pain.  The last month has been hard, but I see a beautiful transition happening with some true progress. 
No one ever said it would be easy.  
And that it's not..
I just want to be real.


momintraining said...

Thank you so much for sharing this, Kendra. For being so open and honest and REAL. When you have three kids, you think you know pretty much everything about parenting. But, it sounds like, as adoptive parents, we have to unlearn, learn something new, and then relearn a bit. I'm sure we'll have different issues with a baby, but I am also prepared to start from square one, as if he is a newborn, and go from there. Consistency is definitely key, as any experienced momma knows. Sounds like you're doing a great job and it will become second nature for all of you in no time at all!

Sharon said...

Right on girl. I think the first solid 2 months we kept saying "She came home not knowing what 'NO' meant." And when you start whatever method of discipline is that you're going to use, you can spot the meltdown a mile away...and you know it's about to get HUGE.

At 6 months home we're now GREATLY reduced in the number of meltdowns we have. Oh we still have them, but NOT like it was in the beginning. After a couple of months I decided that I was just going to parent and discipline her the exact same way as I did with the rest of my children. This helped ME and it helped her. I will avoid all I can as far as melt downs in the grocery store, but that's about the only place I don't let things fly. Because BOY can she get loud.

It gets easier and easier. Sounds like you're doing a GREAT job!!!!

Deena said...

Great post! I can relate to so much of it!!! Thanks for keeping it real ;)
She is adorable -which is part of the problem, right? :)

SaraLyons said...

What a truly inspiring post. Thank you for your words of wisdom. When we finally bring home our little one I will be circling back to read this post to help with our transition.

Becky Nakashima Brooke said...

I love how honest you are. Thank you:) Also I love, Love and Logic. I use it a lot with my bio kids:)Keep up the good work and keep blogging:) I love your site.

Jennifer said...

I loved reading this is so helpful to read "real" life experiences with the adjustment of older children - since we will be there at the end of this year with our newest son (5yo "H"). Thank you so much for sharing!

Shonda said...

Thank you for giving such specific, real life scenarios. I KNOW adopting an older child won't be easy. In fact, I'm kind of clueless how to start parenting a 5 y/o (even if he will be my fifth kid) ... so, thanks for your advice!

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