Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Random updates

  • Around town: In the last two weeks we've done a lot of exploring around the Philly area. Part of it is for the boys, to provide them with new experiences, and part of it is for me, to get to know our new home. We have gone to the John Heinz wildlife refuge, the Philadelphia zoo, Ridley Creek state park, the Schuylkill environmental center and the car museum. We've also explored lots of the playgrounds and libraries nearby. I love that the boys like getting in the car and going places. I love that they like ponds with frogs and turtles and birds. I really enjoy being outdoors and I'm trying to nurture that in them, too. They still get tired quickly - you don't get much chance to build endurance in the tiny walled courtyard of an orphanage - but they're getting stronger every day. They walked half a mile investigating frog ponds in NW Philly and rode their bikes for a mile with their Maryland cousins at Ridley Creek.
  • New skills: D has learned to get himself on his bike, get himself moving, pedal, brake and turn. A seems ready to take the training wheels off, but when he tried it he didn't like it at all, so they're back on. Both boys LOVE their swimming lessons. On the first day A swam the width of the pool wearing a floatie, with no help from the teacher. A has also learned to pump on the swing. We are so proud of both of them, and they are proud of themselves.
  • Language: Six weeks in, we have switched to using mostly English with a small collection of Amharic phrases thrown in. We're very conscious of how tenuous the connection to Ethiopia already is, so we're making sure to take the boys to Ethiopian restaurants and to the Ethiopian church, and to read books set in Ethiopia. I've found a new Amharic tutor. So far I met with him once and it went well. He and I read a children's book in Amharic at the library while the kids were occupied with story time, then they wandered in and out of the lesson, interested, but not ready to commit themselves. 
  • Grief: I realize now that on some level I expected grief over the loss of everything familiar to look more like, well, grief over the loss of everything familiar.  But mostly it has looked like whining (one of the boys has days where he whines from morning until night). And a child crawling on his hands and knees on the sidewalk wailing for his family would be heartbreaking. But change the scenario so he is wailing for TACOS (loudly and with a two-block walk still ahead of us) and it becomes - I feel so bad for saying this - kind of amusing.
  • Cuteness: When A likes something, instead of "I like..." he says, "My name is..." as in "My name is taco!" D, almost every night as he is going to sleep says, Ke mommy gar. Hulu gize ke mommy gar. - "With mommy. Always with mommy." (Melt). Both boys love acting out feeling words. We'll say, "happy," "sad," "confused," "angry," "scared" and they will give us the cutest faces (though after a while A just ends up looking constipated).
  • Burji qonjo now?: We have some large framed photos of Burji on the wall and from the start the kids have asked us Burji qonjo now? - "Is Burji pretty?" At first we always answered by describing how beautiful Burji is, with its mountains and farmland, but the boys would vehemently disagree and say it was ugly and dirty. We asked our social worker and she suggested that maybe the boys were afraid that if we liked Burji so much we would send them back there. We followed her advice and now we say that Burji is very beautiful, and it used to be their home, but now their home is with us here in America. That seems to have worked and now the boys are agreeing that Burji is indeed qonjo.


  1. Oh yes, grief in children comes well disguised. I hope the close to your family get that, because it is exactly why so many parents who have not adopted just do NOT get it and tell you 'all kids do that' and 'children are so resilient'. You're a step ahead recognizing that it isn't about tacos.

    My son (adopted at 9 mos old) had a similar reaction when I started talking about his enat. Total rejection until I also said that while we love her and she's part of our family, he is going to stay with me and not go live with her.

  2. Sad, angry, scared, lonely, happy. It's good therapeutic work to write them on each finger (with washable marker) -- or trace their hands and write it on the fingers on the piece of paper --and then you each tell about a time you felt that emotion. It helps them distinguish between the feeling of angry and sad/scared/lonely. Because the latter three are scary and will tend to cause them to switch immediately to angry, which makes them feel in control. And it's always good to end on happy -- a reminder that they've had a lot of bad things happen, but there are happy things to remember too.

    And yes, grief looks like everything but grief. Grief is a kid backseat driving and flinging himself around in his car seat in total anger at how slow Mommy drives (72 in a 65 zone) when another car passes you on the highway. Grief is a kid running out of the playground while you're waiting for him to emerge from the jungle gym. Grief is a kid who REFUSES to let you teach him how to do ANYTHING -- ride a bike, swim, ski, put his shoes on the right feet -- you name it. Grief is a kid who sits down in the middle of the driving aisle of a parking lot and refuses to move, even as cars are backing out and driving by. Grief is a kid who indeed whines about everything or pouts about everything. Who stomps in response to every instruction. "Time for dinner." Stomp, stomp, stomp to the table. "Time to brush your teeth or put on you jammies, which do you want to do first?" No answer, just stomping off to which one he's chosen. Grief is a kid who refuses to wear a coat in a torrential downpour or when there is a fresh layer of snow on the ground. ("but it's sunny out.")

    The crawling on the knees while whining for tacos -- that is an amusing picture. It sounds like they're getting great therapeutic parenting and are doing well, and are keeping a sense of humour about it -- I think that last piece is really important. The stomping never bugged me. For S, it's like nails on a chalkboard. I figured, stomp away, if that's what you need to do to feel a little piece of control in all this.

    And yes, you will hear constantly, "all kids do that." It's a refrain that maybe reassures the other parents that their kids are not so bad? I don't know. All kids have whiny days, and all kids have grumpy times, but none of them have it to the extent that our kids do. And certainly not for the same reasons. I just yes friends and try to educate close relatives who have a lot of contact. I think my sister got a dose of my reality recently when she took T for the afternoon. She came back, handed him to me, and said, "Not it!" And she's raised two, so it's not like she doesn't know what it's like to parent. She just doesn't know what it's like to parent a child with developmental trauma/attachment anxiety. I'm like, "NOW do you understand?"

  3. My name is this post. Oh, I mean "I like this post." :)

  4. Wow...this post is like a trip down memory lane. Ayub freaked out in the car one day when I told him I liked Afar. He started crying and asked if "Ayub aeroplan?" Once I assured him that he was staying in "American," he calmed down. But he still says "yucky" every time we talk about Afar. I hope one day he is able to see the beauty. I haven't gotten around to getting our photos framed and up on the walls...need to do that.

    And the taco thing makes me laugh. Sad, but funny.

  5. They both sound so cute and funny--and it sounds like you see the humor in it, even during tough times. Very interesting about the pictures--something to think about. I love your updates!

  6. We haven't gotten the "all kids do that" because our kids behave beautifully when relatives are around. The social worker said that saving the challenging behavior for us is a good sign that they trust us.

  7. I'm so glad to have found your blog if only for the title. I love the reasoning behind it and totally relate.

    Your sons sound amazing and like they are doing very well. Grief is a difficult thing and it looks different in every child.