I've written about my children's attachment issues and what transition looks like many times on my blog. I've shared the good, the bad, and the ugly.
I even wrote a story to help people understand what it's like for a child here.
I have six children through adoption already, and they have all come home at different ages, stages and trauma levels. They have all developed at their own pace and each relationship has stretched, grown, and refined me along the way.
I have learned a lot and know that I will never know it all, but I wanted to share some thoughts and ideas I have about adoption, transition, and relationship.
First, I believe as adoptive parents, we set ourselves up quite a bit. Especially if it is our first time. You see, the process of the adoption itself can become such a mountain to overcome that we lose sight of the fact that in reality it is really just a moment in time. Character building to be sure, but it is only a means to an end. Other than you have a child at the end, nothing about the process of adoption contributes at all toward actual relationship with your child.
I will repeat that. NOTHING ABOUT THE PROCESS OF ADOPTION CONTRIBUTES TOWARD ACTUAL RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR CHILD.
Sometimes the adoption process is so long and difficult, so stressful and agonizing, that we think once the child is home, we are home free. After all, we were stretched and waited and prayed and were uncomfortable and sad and lonely and away from our families and we trusted and believed...we did what God asked, so now it's time for the blessing, but when our kids come home, that just isn't the case at all!
There might be screaming, and food issues, and health issues, and attachment issues, and rejection, and spitting, and hitting, and...the list goes on. This is not what we planned for. The hard part is supposed to be over, right?
How can we think this way? That is like saying a wedding is a marriage. In a wedding, we save and plan and work and discuss for months, sometimes years. Then it is all over in a matter of hours and you are left in the arms of the one you love.
Just like adoption...not!
In a marriage, there was already RELATIONSHIP with your spouse, the wedding marked the point at which the two of you became one, and afterward, (ideally) your relationship continues and deepens.
In an adoption, everything before the child comes home is one-sided. YOU are working hard toward uniting with your child. YOU are falling deeper and deeper in love with this person...
WHO HAS NO IDEA THAT YOU EXIST
OR THAT YOU ARE COMING FOR THEM
OR WHAT FAMILY MEANS
OR WHAT LOVE MEANS
OR WHAT IT MEANS TO HAVE NEEDS MET
OR WHAT IT MEANS TO NOT BE HUNGRY
OR HAVE YOUR PAIN ADDRESSED
OR WHAT IT MEANS TO TRUST
How is any of that magically supposed to occur just because you did a lot of paperwork?
The answer is that it can't.
This is where the real work begins. The adoption process was just a trial run, a warm-up for the real work.
So, how am I going to bridge this gap for these 4 new children? How do I create relationship with each of them individually while maintaining and growing the relationship I have with my spouse and children already in the family?
First, I will not try to "catch up" as fast as possible. Masha is 16, Sasha is 12, and Alina will be 11 and Vika will be 6. It would be very unwise to try to treat them like any other American child their age.
What do I mean by that? Lets take Masha as an example. Most 16 year olds have a cell phone, Facebook, email, drive, activities, etc. So why wouldn't I try to give her that right away?
I suppose if my goal were to just give her the "typical" American life, I would. However this is not my goal.
Our goal is relationship.
Our goal is to give her true family.
If I have no established relationship, no foundation of trust or mutual respect, all of those things are going to create more distance between us. These are some of the reasons we have chosen to homeschool. By getting to know who our children are, how they think, what their strengths and weaknesses are, through the vehicle of schooling, we can custom fit solutions to meet those needs, correct or adjust those attitudes, and act out- LIVE OUT creating relationship. That would be a lot more difficult to do if they were out of the house 8-10 hours a day 5 days a week. If I added email, and cell phone, and Facebook, that's even more stuff in the way of our connection.
In order to connect at all, I must commit to do what it takes, and what it takes is to slowly build a foundation. It's just like having a baby. You don't give any of those things to a baby.
WE MUST REMEMBER THAT EMOTIONALLY OUR CHILDREN ARE INFANTS IN THEIR CONNECTION WITH US, and just like we increase sleep, food and activity gradually with a baby, we must do those same things gradually with our adopted children. You don't give a starving person Thanksgiving dinner and you don't give a relationally and emotionally starved person all of American culture at once. (Depending upon what it is, maybe not at all.) If we crowd all of that STUFF into the space that already exists between these new children and us, how can we hope to reach them?
Please understand that I don't mean to impose any of the specific methods we are using in our home, like homeschooling, I just encourage you to consider the thinking behind it and try to create similar situations in your own family. It is only through meeting our kids where they are that we can hope to get them on the road to where they deserve to be.
Anyway, those are the thoughts and processes that we have done so far and will continue to do with the new kids, and by God's grace we trust that He will be glorified.