Friday, September 7, 2012


A is anxious about being in a car and not knowing where we are going (or thinking he doesn't know). If I'm not being proactive, the conversation in the car may go like this:

A: Where are we going?
Me: We're going home.
A (at light): Go straight here?
Me: No, we turn left here.
A: Is not right. Go straight here?
Me: We turn left here. See over there? That's the fire station we passed on the way here.
A (at next light): Turn around here?
Me: See the light up there? We'll turn at that light and get on the big road.
A: Is right, Mommy? Is not right!
Me: This is right. This is the road we came on.
A: Is not right, Mommy? Which way, Mommy? This way? That way? Where are we going? WHERE ARE WE GOING????
Me: Take a deep breath. Tell me. Where are we going?
A (sheepish grin): We going home.
Me: Yes. We are going home. We'll go on this road for five minutes and then we'll be home.
A (at next light): Is right? Is not right. Where are we going?

I think the anxiety comes from being put in a car to be taken from one orphanage to another, without knowing where he was going. He's told us they were taken between Burji and Awassa more than once. I've found if I pre-emptively narrate our drive, I can get in front of his anxiety before it blows up.


Both boys are anxious about food. They have gotten over the eating habits of the first month, when they would each eat two adult-size plates of food at each meal. They still squeeze between me and the kitchen counter when I'm making dinner. I trip over them moving around the kitchen. They cry if the time between "get ready for dinner" and actually eating dinner is longer than 30 seconds. They ask for a second helping and ask for it again and again and again while I'm getting it and walking toward the table with it.

They were never malnourished, as far as I know. A says they always had food to eat and that if they didn't have food at home, the neighbors always shared with them.

If A gets hungry, he becomes a different person. I tell him he is the Incredible Hulk: "Don't make me hungry. You wouldn't like me when I'm hungry." I try to make sure he never gets hungry. I offer them snacks a lot. They can snack up to ten minutes before dinner if they want. A is becoming aware of what hunger does to him. Twice now, he has started down the road to a meltdown, and then stopped and said, "I think I need a snack." So proud of him for that. But I try to stay ahead of it by checking his mood and giving him food before he gets hungry.


D is anxious about his brother leaving him. If they are playing in their room together and A leaves to go to the bathroom, D starts to howl. A while ago the three of us sat down and talked about this. I asked D if he was scared that A was going to leave the house without him, and he burst into tears. I turned to A and asked him if he would leave the house without D. He shouted "NEVER!!!!" so vehemently that D and I both jumped.  I think D felt better after that.

The boys come into our room around 6:30 every morning. A gets in our bed to sleep a little more and D brings me to his bed to sleep so he can play without being alone.

D's anxiety about his brother leaving him is my top concern right now. A started school today, just a half day for the first day. D screamed some in the morning and whimpered all through the morning meet-the-teacher, but then he was OK and a couple of hours later it was already time to go pick A up. A's school starts full-time on Monday.


  1. Kyra, the progress the boys are making around food is great. It is helpful to me to hear what you are working on to see similarities, E also pushes his body between me and the counter when I am cooking and is constantly underfoot whenever I am in the kitchen making the little sound he makes when he wants me to put something in his mouth. He is also VERY anxious about food.
    I am anxious to hear how full day school goes, for both boys, and mama, I will be thinking of you.

  2. Ah yes, I have a little backseat driver too. I'm astonished at how well he knows his way around. It's a control thing; my son has epic control issues.

    As for food, something I think about and have started many unfinished blog posts about is the difference between some food and enough food. Big difference.

  3. I hate the anxiety monster. We too have it around many of hte issues you described. Oh And clothes. I will be sending some good juju your way on Monday for everyone.

  4. I had never tied M's backseat driving with anxiety. Face Palm.
    I am so glad that things are getting better.

  5. We have only seen the anxiety around food. Every time we were getting ready for a meal, Ayub would ask if he got to eat. And when he got in trouble, he would ask if he got to eat. It is obvious that food was withheld for bad behavior. It was about the five-month mark when he stopped asking if he was going to eat. In the car, though, he could care less. As long as he gets to go...he loves it.

  6. We used to have a little backseat driver, too. She got better over time. In her case, she would just ask over and over, "Where are we going?" But hers seems to also go hand in hand with asking questions in general. When she asks a question and gets an answer, she feels safe. I really should post about this, because we've been working on having her evaluate if she really needs to ask a question or if she can answer it herself, and it's than we anticipated. We have now progressed to level 2: giving the wrong answer on purpose and then arguing about it. Control is a big deal for kids who are afraid of the same bad thing happening to them again. It's interesting that so many of our kids exhibit the same behaviors as a result of their fear.

    And the food thing--you are right to be proud of A for figuring out what happens when he gets hungry. That's amazing.

  7. This all sounds SO familiar ... from the anxiety about where we are going, trying to tell me which way to turn in the car ... YEP!

    From the crazy monster my child turns into if he gets hungry ... YEP!!!

    Six months later, both have become much better. Sounds like your little men are making big progress too. School has been awesome for my MB, after the initial anxiety.

  8. We're one year in and our little guys is still very anxious. Your conversation is so familiar to me. That hyper-vigilance. It's exhausting for me and I cannot imagine how it feels for our little ones. you are doing SO well. We moved recently and had our first block party. Afterward as we were walking to our house my son asked,"are we going to live here a long time?", "how long?" "Until I go to college?", "How old will m be?" and so on... Hopefully once D and A get into the routine of school D will see that A returns each day and he will feel more assured. That's wonderful that A is able to recognize his triggers! Great job!

  9. Thanks everyone. It's funny how I can think my children are unique, and then realize they're a lot like everyone else's kids.

  10. Yep, that hyper-vigilance thing. Was always a rock and a hard place for me. If I announced a change in the normal routine in advance (such as we're going around the block so I can park the car in the road so you can use the driveway for your bicycle), I got a child flinging himself around in his carseat in vehement opposition. If I didn't announce it and just went ahead, I got a kid flinging himself around in his carseat at the change in expected routine. They keep us on our toes!