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.
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.