Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Family visit, embassy appointment, first meltdown

Family visit

One of the main reasons we picked Ethiopia for our adoption was the opportunity to meet our children’s family. Last Wednesday we finally had the chance to do that. The visit went really well. First we sat on the ground outside and shared our photo album and letter. Our meeting was between us and one main person, but there were about fifty or sixty other people gathered around watching. When it was time for us to ask our questions, we moved inside the hut for slightly more privacy, though by the end there were about thirty people squeezed inside watching. Each question was translated from English to Amharic to Burji back to Amharic back to English. In the English to Amharic part at least, we could tell the translation was accurate. We felt the conversation was handled very professionally and sensitively. The person we were talking to was very open to all our questions. We were able to learn more about our boys’ lives before and after the major events that led to their adoption and about the reasons for their adoption. We got a sense of some of the important people in their lives. There are definitely huge cultural differences between the two families, and it is going to be our task to bridge these as much as we possibly can. 

One thing that I’ve heard about repeatedly from other adopting families is the difference in how most Americans and most Ethiopians view adoption. The idea that the first family has given up rights and is no longer a part of the children’s lives just doesn’t translate. I think it’s better to think of adoption from Ethiopia as a kind of extended study abroad program. We will care for the children, send them to school, love them, raise them to be Americans, but they will ALWAYS be a part of their family in Ethiopia. I would say to anyone starting out with an Ethiopian adoption that if you can’t do this, then you shouldn’t adopt from Ethiopia. The children will never be 100% yours. If you can’t share, go to another country. Adopting from Ethiopia is a commitment not only to the children, but to their family and to their culture. As for us, we will be staying in contact with the family in Burji and we’ll be bringing the kids back to visit within the next couple of years.


We went to our interview appointment at the U.S. Embassy on Monday. The boys went with us, their first outing outside the care center with us. There was so much for them to look at and they were enthralled by the people and cars and buildings. There was a bit of a wait to get into the embassy, but the actual interview was very quick. It was just a few questions to confirm that we had followed the steps we were supposed to follow for our adoption. We should be getting our boys’ completed paperwork, including their passports and visas, today, or by Friday the latest.

First meltdown

D has had many caretakers in his short little life. He has had to learn how to get the changing stream of people around him to give him what he needs and wants. He’s gotten very good at it. I’m definitely impressed by how effective he is in the care center, but it’s clear he has built up some habits that won’t work in a family. After our embassy trip, when he was already tired, he didn’t want to hear that he would have to wait his turn to play with the guitar. We got our first taste of what in another setting may have worked to get him what he wanted. It was only about twenty minutes of screaming and thrashing, but wow, the little guy has some powerful lungs. Luckily he is small enough that first I and then T could hold him and eventually he tired out. I am sure it will take many more repetitions before he learns that tantrums are counterproductive – in this case all that happened was that the guitar disappeared. He’s got to learn to trust us, he’s got to learn a more family-appropriate way to express what he wants and he’s got to learn to delay gratifications. All huge lessons. I am confident that with patience and consistency, he can do it. And we’ll also be working with A to be just a little more selfish, just a little less great of a big brother, so that he’s not always giving in to D. They’re both wonderful  kids and I’m so excited to be working on these things as a family. 

Today, after a barrage of yinei tara, yinei tara - my turn, my turn - D said yanchi tara - your turn - to a little girl. Then he looked at us for approval, which of course we gave him loads and loads of.


  1. I'm so excited for you guys! Great to hear how things are going.

  2. Love hearing all of this! Thank you for sharing; I can't wait to hear more. I hope travel is smooth and uneventful. Do your best to prep them for what to expect!

  3. I like that you have chronicled the first meltdown. Honestly, looking back on how hard both you and your kids have worked together to become a family will feel so good down the road. At least I feel that way about our little family, thinking of those first hard days. I get a swell of pride for all of us that we figured it out and can now function pretty normally (well, our own family normal - we're still not not normal by a lot of standards). So I say, both to you and your boys: Good work! Gobez!

  4. Thank you for keeping us in the loop. When I was in Senegal last summer (actually visiting my company's study abroad program)I had a very indepth conversation with our Senegalese Resident Director about our adoption and all the intricacies involved. He said to me that what we needed to remember and understand was that Africans don't draw the lines of family at blood- that they extend to neighbors and community members and everyone who has helped care for the children, and that most likely adoption translates into that same sentiment...another family, even though in another country becomes an extension of that Ethiopian family in caring for the child(ren). It's fluid. I loved that and it has made all the difference in how I frame the loss our child's family will feel. I am so glad you addressed this.Hope the rest of your trip goes well.

  5. love the first meltdown. if my experience is any map, there will be endless meltdowns and two-three therapy sessions a week to help deal with them and other things. you guys are gonna be awesome parents.

  6. Hang in there... there's sure to be more meltdowns. They are going through so much emotionally that it's inevitable for this to happen. Once you get home...set the boundaries and stick to them. Being able to communicate will bring much light to the situation as well.

  7. I love hearing your thoughts on the extension of your new family. So many people seem surprised that we will meet our child's birth family and continue to have some sort of relationship with them from far away. But we consider ourselves to be lucky to have that opportunity, and we will continue that relationship however we can in the future for her benefit, for their benefit, and for our benefit. I'm glad to hear that things seem to be going pretty well. Best wishes for a smooth journey home!

  8. Sending wishes for an as-uneventful-as-possible journey home.

    Thank you for taking time to share.