Friday, November 28, 2008

Visiting While in Process

The following was sent by a reader via email:

How often do you recommend visiting?

Do you have any special ideas on how to make trips memorable and special for the kids? Any certain activities or attachment exercises that worked for you?

What is the best way to leave your children? How do you say goodbye to the younger ones who don't really understand what's going on?

What about discipline? What do you do if your two-year-old bites you or slaps another child in the face in the middle of an orphanage full of nannies & children? I have tried firm "No's" and making it clear that I disapproved of their actions ( and rewarding & praise of good behavior) but I just got laughed at. The rod is clearly needed- but is obviously not an option with a live audience of no means of being consistent in it's application even if no one was around...

Do you have any other thoughts on this topic overall?

~My heart was really heavy when we first received this email.  The timing of it, unknown by the sender, was so sensitive.  I have spent the last couple of weeks helping my children through some grief specifically related to my multiple visits and departures during our wait.  I've felt more than unqualified to answer these questions.  

At the end of it all, though, my feelings of inadequacy came down to me not wanting to embrace a "new" aspect of pain associated with adoption.  But the truth is, it did hurt for all of us.  As an adult, I longed to spend every moment I could with them, even if I had to leave.  Was this not the right choice? Selfish?  Although hearing their pain in our goodbyes, I KNOW it was the right choice.  Before I answer, I want you to know that there are other orphanages-good orphanages that do not allow you to visit until your adoption is complete.  They believe it is what is best for the child.  Others allow it.  My was one like this.  So for the first question:
Yes, I recommend going and as often as you are able.  Although they do hurt and will at some point grieve, the good outweighs it.  At least it did for us.  I can now say to them every chance I could come to see you, I did.  I wanted to see you and I missed you.  They also learn that Mommy always comes back.  

~To make the time special, choose a song you'll sing to them on your trip and when they come home.  My children would hum the melody months after I'd left.  I also think you should take a nice piece of white paper for each child on each trip.  Have them color and then take them home.  My children love that our closet is decorated with their "baby" artwork!  

~I think it is imperative to learn how to say goodbye in their native tongue.  I would say "I am your Mommy.  You are my baby girl.  I need to go now.  I don't want to go.  I will come back." If you cannot, try to find a kind translator that will say exactly what you want them to.  Unfortunately, the truth is no one will probably comfort them even after your words and departure.  It will be sad for all of you, even the littlest ones.  If they'll let you, secure a picture to your child's crib.  We had a crib toy that sat like a triangle (on one side was a mirror and the other a slot for a picture.) in her crib.  We put our faces in there.  Our baby had that in their for at least 6months.  

~AAAH.  Discipline.  I'll let Dawn share on this.  My kids saved a lot of their "special" behavior for when we were alone.  Just remember it is not disneyland.  Be as firm as you would be at home.  Staying in their time-in spot was a huge feat!  

About the Discipline Question:
Girlie #1 was in desperate need of Biblical discipline as soon as she was transferred into our care.  The embassy visit was an absolute nightmare....out of control.  All eyes were on us.  Our orphan who had never been placed with a family....obviously felt our pain.  He was tortured for us and the obvious hell we were in for with this child who was testing every boundary known to mankind. Girlie #2 revealed her true colors as a big time sassy pants soon after she realized that she was the set apart child in the group who had these special people called "parents" who were there just for take her and her alone away to a place called "home."  Our sweet, precious baby became the witch of the group in a matter of days.  I clearly remember the caregivers watching us and whispering amongst themselves when she would act up.  They were obviously curious to see how we would deal with our new little sinner.  Well, even though she was not yet legally ours....we moved ahead as if she were....and corrected her firmly when the need arose.  When she was bratty towards another child....we lifted that child into our arms and told her, "That is rude.  Daddy and Mommy may not!"  When she whined for toys....we ignored her....unimpressed.  When she grabbed for toys...we removed them from her grasp and handed them to others...who were not grabbing.  From day one...she was treated as if she were at home. Soon (we were in country for a month) the caregivers learned to trust us with her.  They even gave us the freedom of possessing a key to the orphanage wing....and unsupervised visits around the grounds.  I believe they liked us and I'd like to think it had something to do with the way we were parenting this little girl who had been in their care for the previous 3.5 years.

If I was smacked by my child or witnessed him/her biting another kid would be standing nose to the corner with the whole world watching so fast.... his/her head would spin. Not acceptable. The seeds you are planting now....will sprout one day....sooner or later.  

And they would not leave that corner until they were ready to say, "I'm sorry for smacking/biting."  Even if they weren't really sorry....because who could possible guess at that point in time whether an apology was real or not????  At least they would be learning the appropriate words to say.       



Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Hold on tight.....and......celebrate a small/giant victory w/me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! before it all disappears into thin air as if it never happened.  

Our girlie has always had a very difficult time w/laughing or smirking during very serious and sad moments.  The first time I noticed how inappropriate her reactions were...was during the funeral of a young boy in our church who died suddenly.  As you can imagine....every single adult in attendance was crying.  I watched my girlie in the rear view mirror during  the drive to the cemetery as she tried to suppress her grin and  my heart sank.  I was raising a monster (my fear/panic.)  She had no empathy whatsoever.  At least no apparent or obvious empathy.   We have a relative in our family who has many, many issues.  This relative is known to laugh at funerals.  At her own grandmother's funeral she sang, "Another One Bites The Dust" under her breath.   I was say the raise a daughter who might grow up to be someone similar to my insensitive, dysfunctional, very much disliked (yet loved) relative.  

Girlie really does struggle with this.  Her tendency is to laugh at the most inappropriate moments.   Like when the newborn baby is screaming with gas pains....or when brother is vomiting...or when Mom has a migraine.  It is not easy to deal with.  In the flesh...I want to return evil for evil.  I want to punish.  I want justice.    

My Mom, Girlie's Nana is going through some medical stuff.  Painful stuff.  Stuff which makes her cry.  Today, Nana front of Girlie.  Girlie did not laugh out loud....but she did smirk.  She tried to hide the smirk....but it was there.  Brother noticed and was highly offended. How could Girlie smirk?!?!?!?!?!?!?  What the heck was there to smirk about?!?!?!?!?!?!?

After Nana left, I pulled Girlie close to me and asked what she was feeling.  



Blank stare.

"I don't believe you. What are you feeling?"

Long Pause

"Mom, What do you think?"

"It doesn't matter what I think.  I know why you are smirking..... 

Do you know why you were smirking, that's the  question?"

Long Pause

"Why were you smirking?"

A quivering lip and the beginnings of tears.

"Because I love Nana and I'm worried about her.  I'm afraid."


"Did Nana see you smirk?"

"I don't know."

"Well, if she you think that maybe you might've hurt her feelings?"


Do you want to call her?"


Immediate relief.  She dialed Nana's number...which she knows by heart.

"Nana, it's me.  (shaking voice) I'm just calling to tell you that I love you and that I am worried about you."

""Thank you, Girlie.  I appreciate that," was Nana's response.

Here's the celebration:   No whiplash yet.  We've had a calm, peaceful home all afternoon.  Even though things could spiral downwards soon....they haven't yet!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  MUCH MUCH MUCH to be thankful for!!!!!!!!!!!!  

Monday, November 24, 2008


In our experience, moments of growth and depth are always followed by days of turmoil.  The breakthroughs..... when they come.....are obviously frightening.  Things get off kilter.  Control shifts.  The frightened person grabs at and attempts to regain footing.  Parents experience whiplash.  Siblings experience whiplash.   Things often get ugly even though we don't want them to. We repent. Hopefully our frightened person softens and repents too.   And the family gets back on track.

There was no evidence of softening over here until a few hours ago....when I acted in opposition to what every bone in my body was screaming to do.....


....and obediently drew my girlie into an embrace and kissed and hugged..... and lifted her chin...... searching for and refusing to settle for anything less than deep eye contact.  Then more kisses and a tighter hug.  Eye contact.  Tender voice.  

"What's wrong?"..... I asked.

No answer.  


"Tell me what's really wrong?  "Why are you crying?""

A hug back and more tears.  

"I'm sad that I am sinning against you.  And trying to go my own way.  And doing this.  Making life difficult. "

"I love you."

Another hug.  Tighter.

"I love you too."

Oh Lord, please turn our hearts towards our children and turn their hearts towards us.  
Tomorrow is a new day.  



Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Center of Attention Verbage-Pt 4

We also talk about how that smile, laugh, kiss or action was pretend. (You cannot force a true reaction but you can discourage the fake one.) I will talk about how I love their real smiles, etc. and that they don't need to pretend. If they are using that pretend gesture to seek attention from a friend or relative, I will say, XX loves you because you are you. You don't need to make a pretend laugh with her. Depending on the intimacy of the relationship, it is great to be able to try again in the moment. Auntie, XX was pretending to laugh to get your attention. She wants to try again.  

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Please Note

There is a play scheduled for Phoenix.  Please email us if you'd like details. (See notes on right)

Center of Attention Verbage-Pt 3

There is a time to share what God has given you and what you are good at. But when you only want to talk about yourself, you are not being a good listener or a good friend. You are loving yourself.  The Bible says in John 15:17 that you need to love others.  You didn't choose to love your friends when you XX.  Instead, you can ask your friends how they are, what they have been doing, what did they do that day, etc. (Some of this is developmental but I am seeing over and over that attachment kids do not pick up on the social interactions/cues that their peers will. At every turn, we need to be equipping them with the right words to navigate a situation. They are being self-focused, but they also need to know the actions and the words on how to demonstrate selflessness).

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Center of Attention Verbage-Pt 2

I left the kids at my sisters for 3 hours. I came back and 2 came up with hugs and smiles. The third walked into the room, looked at me, walked around the corner and into the playroom. I had to go, find her, ask for a hug and tell her I missed her.
Not even 2 weeks later, her grandfather came to visit from out of state. She had not seen him in several months. When she saw him, she ran screaming with delight and jumped into his arms. Now this would not seem odd in some families but she NEVER does this for my husband or me. I called her to my side and whispered in her ear, "you may not be the center of attention."  She apologized, and we went on with the day. Later that night, as I tucked her in we talked in detail about her inappropriate behavior. I explained that she did not need to pretend with her grandfather. He loves her and does not need her to be the center of attention. Then we talked about the day at her auntie's. I said how it made me sad that she did not even say hi. You are my baby and when we see each other, you need to say hi, give me a hug, etc.

Now when these moments arise, I will stop her and tell her to try again. When she tries to be the center of attention with someone in our more intimate circle, I will say,(even in front of that person), "Oh, you don't need to dance or yell or be the center of attention XX loves you because you are you."

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Center of Attention

Being the center of attention is a sin. It is not seeking the interests others (Phil 2:4), and it is seeking its own (1Cor 13:5) It is not cute or sweet or just kids. Quite often what others see of your "charming," "outgoing," "talkative," affectionate," child is far from what you see in your home. They are not showing you those cute little dance moves or snuggling you when no one is looking. It is for the show of others. It is hard to believe it can be wrapped up in those tiny little bodies, with twinkling eyes and a killer smile. But it is.
~Places his head in between your face and another person-usually an adult.
~sings extraordinarily loudly when others are around (we have a lot of music in our home but you can insert talks, tap dances, claps hands as you see)
~interrupts conversation you may be having to tell nonsensical story (I ask the sample lady at costco something about the product. Girlie interrupts and begins to tell a story-out of nowhere- about nametags at dance class. Lady at costco looks at me and her like we are nuts. Smile and walk away)
~begins being uncharacteristically affectionate with Mom in public
~chats and chats and chats and chats with acquaintances/strangers

Solutions-Part one:
In the moment, I will call her to my side and hold her hand. When I have a moment, I will lean down and whisper in her ear, "when you put your face in front of Daddy when he is speaking to Mr. X, you are being the center of attention." She knows it so she will usually accept the discipline of having to stand or sit by my side. If she persists I tell her she will choose a discipline when we get home. Now, how did we get to this spot? It has happened enough in our family circle that we have talked about wanting the attention of others. When X happened, you wanted everyone's eyes on you. The Bible calls that sin because you do not want everyone to have fun and have attention (or share or hear or xxx). You want all the fun and attention on you. That is inappropriate.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day Love

No matter the outcome.....God is on the throne, He will still reign in our hearts, relationships and lives if we let Him. And He will still send us love notes in the most unexpected places! Be encouraged, beloved, we are not walking this path alone!!!

(contributed by a fellow reader)

Monday, November 3, 2008

smooth sailing

I can't help but wonder (not in a sassy way...but in a curious way) at the families I encounter who have been brought together through the blessing of adoption who communicate to the world that.... "All has been.... and is..... running soooo well and so smoothly."

In my mind, the children with the most troublesome red flags are the ones who appear to show no issues whatsoever. Isn't it virtually impossible to walk away from our first environments (orphanage, birth mother womb, bio family) without some sort of wound to our soul? Lord.....sincerely....from the bottom of my heart..... I hope so.

We are the adoptive parents of two girls home from two different countries. One has obviously had a more difficult road to travel attachment wise....but both have had their share of struggles. Even the one who adjusted more readily...and more obviously. Her heart has carried a wound....barely discernable to some....but present and in need of healing....nevertheless.