Elizabeth Wood

{Hitting repeat} Sameness

I knew it was coming, and here it is. I don’t know if it’s a new phase of self-awareness, or a new confidence that Matthew has to start letting out some of these feelings he has inside, but he’s got some things to get off his chest.

So even though I knew it would come out someday, I was still devastated when he told me the other day–I don’t want brown eyes. I don’t like my eyes. I want green eyes like YOU.

{God give me wisdom}

Oh dear, I really like your brown eyes, I say.

DARK brown, he corrects me. And I NOT, he adds, shaking his head back and forth.

Well, do you know why your eyes look the way they do? Why they are that shape and why they are that color?

NO.

Because everyone born in Korea has eyes shaped like that. Korean people have brown eyes! I wasn’t born in Korea. I don’t get to have eyes like you. I have to have green eyes.

For a second, he is impressed with this information. Being born in Korea is a great source of pride to him right now. But it isn’t quite enough to tip him over. He remains gruff and grumpy with his lot in life. Isaac bounds in the room.

I love my eyes! The shape and the color! I love your eyes too, Matthew! I love your brown eyes!!!

WELL I DON’T.

If there is one thing about Matthew, it is that he has an innate ability to stand firm in his beliefs.

So we sit in the floor of the hallway and begin to discuss how we all look a little bit different. All of our hair is a little bit different. Isaac says that my hair is black (??) and I correct him that it is brown. He counters with DARK BROWN, and I don’t feel this is worth arguing about, so I say yes, I have dark brown hair. Matthew perks up immediately. He is gleeful.

Like me, mama!! You hair is dark brown and my eyes is dark brown! We the same!!!!

Yes! You’re right!!!

Then we all went and stood in front of the bathroom mirror together and stuck out our tongues. YES! Our tongues are all pink. That’s one way we are the same! We all pulled up our shirts to reveal belly buttons. Look, we all have belly buttons! The same again! We examined our arms next to each other and realized none of our skin is exactly alike. Isaac’s is pinker. Mine is very freckly. Matthew’s is bronze and clear. We examined hands and earlobes and looked for the presence of widows peaks until everybody was satisfied that we have some things in common but also many differences. Matthew’s spirits were good.

When Jason came home and sat down with us for dinner, Matthew asked with a huge grin, “Hey Dad, do you know what’s the SAME??”. He answered excitedly–my eyes and mommy’s hair. Dark brown! The same!!!

It may have been my imagination, but I believe he was sitting up straighter than ever in his chair that night.

________________________________________

Elizabeth Wood

Elizabeth is a happily married mama to 2 boys. She and her husband have a 6 1/2-year old bio son, Isaac, and her younger son (6 year old, Matthew) joined their family as a toddler through international adoption from South Korea’s waiting child program. Being only 6 months apart in age, the boys are virtual twins but couldn’t be more different. Feel free to visit their family blog, Everyday the Wonderful Happens, where Elizabeth blogs about the boys, their antics, her son’s special needs, her beliefs, adoption, and pretty much anything else that tickles her fancy.

Sameness

I knew it was coming, and here it is. I don’t know if it’s a new phase of self-awareness, or a new confidence that Matthew has to start letting out some of these feelings he has inside, but he’s got some things to get off his chest.

So even though I knew it would come out someday, I was still devastated when he told me the other day–I don’t want brown eyes. I don’t like my eyes. I want green eyes like YOU.

{God give me wisdom}

Oh dear, I really like your brown eyes, I say.

DARK brown, he corrects me. And I NOT, he adds, shaking his head back and forth.

Well, do you know why your eyes look the way they do? Why they are that shape and why they are that color?

NO.

Because everyone born in Korea has eyes shaped like that. Korean people have brown eyes! I wasn’t born in Korea. I don’t get to have eyes like you. I have to have green eyes.

For a second, he is impressed with this information. Being born in Korea is a great source of pride to him right now. But it isn’t quite enough to tip him over. He remains gruff and grumpy with his lot in life. Isaac bounds in the room.

I love my eyes! The shape and the color! I love your eyes too, Matthew! I love your brown eyes!!!

WELL I DON’T.

If there is one thing about Matthew, it is that he has an innate ability to stand firm in his beliefs.

So we sit in the floor of the hallway and begin to discuss how we all look a little bit different. All of our hair is a little bit different. Isaac says that my hair is black (??) and I correct him that it is brown. He counters with DARK BROWN, and I don’t feel this is worth arguing about, so I say yes, I have dark brown hair. Matthew perks up immediately. He is gleeful.

Like me, mama!! You hair is dark brown and my eyes is dark brown! We the same!!!!

Yes! You’re right!!!

Then we all went and stood in front of the bathroom mirror together and stuck out our tongues. YES! Our tongues are all pink. That’s one way we are the same! We all pulled up our shirts to reveal belly buttons. Look, we all have belly buttons! The same again! We examined our arms next to each other and realized none of our skin is exactly alike. Isaac’s is pinker. Mine is very freckly. Matthew’s is bronze and clear. We examined hands and earlobes and looked for the presence of widows peaks until everybody was satisfied that we have some things in common but also many differences. Matthew’s spirits were good.

When Jason came home and sat down with us for dinner, Matthew asked with a huge grin, “Hey Dad, do you know what’s the SAME??”. He answered excitedly–my eyes and mommy’s hair. Dark brown! The same!!!

It may have been my imagination, but I believe he was sitting up straighter than ever in his chair that night.

________________________________________

Elizabeth Wood

Elizabeth is a happily married mama to 2 preschool-aged boys. She and her husband have a 4-year old bio son, Isaac, and her younger son (3.5 year old, Matthew) joined their family as a toddler through international adoption from South Korea’s waiting child program. Being only 6 months apart in age, the boys are virtual twins but couldn’t be more different. They have been a family of four for just over a year. Feel free to visit their family blog, Everyday the Wonderful Happens, where Elizabeth blogs about the boys, their antics, her son’s special needs, her beliefs, adoption, and pretty much anything else that tickles her fancy.

Encore: When?

Posted January 7, 2011 on We Are Grafted In…

________________________________________

A few months after bringing Matthew home from Korea, I began my search. After a while, I thought that things were supposed to be perfect between us, and they weren’t. They weren’t close. I was scared. I scoured blogs, books, and articles. I knew adjustment periods varied to a point, but I have a logical mind, and I wanted to know when.

I wanted to know when everyday wasn’t going to feel like an overwhelming amount of work. I wanted to know when the feelings that I wanted to feel were going to be there naturally so I could stop pretending. I wanted to know when or if my agitation level would ever decrease.

I read through blogs that mentioned “a few weeks” of adjustment. I rolled my eyes and tried not to throw my laptop out a window. Someone mailed me a copy of a book about postadoption depression. I told my husband, “I really don’t think I’m depressed. I’m just scared that Matthew and I will never, ever like each other…well, I guess that is depressing.” I scanned through the book, but I have a confession: I was trying to find a passage that had the magic number, the amount of time it takes you to bond with your new child. Newsflash–it never said. Stupid book.

When we had been home with Matthew for 3 months, someone emailed me and said that her sister adopted a sibling group from Ethiopia, and it took her 6 months to feel “motherly” towards the oldest son. She said this in a way that was like, don’t worry, can you believe it took her 6 months???

I took a deep breath and told myself, 6 months, tops. I can do this. That was worst case scenario. At 6 months home, I was beginning to feel “neighborly” towards Matthew…what kind of monster was I?

I don’t know the answer to that question. All I know was, I told myself, this is my family, everyday. We finalized. We resolved to get through it, and I really believed that one day, everything was going to be good.

Matthew began getting specialized therapies through his preschool and finally getting sleep. Things slowly began to click for both of us. I had to let go of the timeline and accept that there is no formula for falling in love with your kid. I also had to accept that while it is hard for a lot of people, I still believe that our experience is on the outer limits of how hard it is for most people…and that is probably a combination of Matthew and my personalities put together.

The bad news is, if you are an adoptive parent and you are reading this, I cannot give you a definitive answer as to how long it might take you to bond with your child. It could be a few weeks or, you could be like me and struggle through months and months and wake up one day to realize that the things that used to be so hard just feel like life now. You might be cooking dinner one night and think, “Wow, things are good. When did they get so good? Or, when did they stop being so bad?”

I take that back. I think I can give you a definitive answer. Do you know when I finally fell in love with my son?

When I least expected it.

________________________________________

Elizabeth Wood

Elizabeth is a happily married mama to 2 preschool-aged boys. She and her husband have a 4-year old bio son, Isaac, and her younger son (3.5 year old, Matthew) joined their family as a toddler through international adoption from South Korea’s waiting child program.  Being only 6 months apart in age, the boys are virtual twins but couldn’t be more different. They have been a family of four for just over a year. Feel free to visit their family blog, Everyday the Wonderful Happens, where Elizabeth blogs about the boys, their antics, her son’s special needs, her beliefs, adoption, and pretty much anything else that tickles her fancy.

At the Heart of Him

Matthew is feeling alot better, but we experienced some backsliding while he was sick. It’s not anything worth going into in great detail here–-we are just having some “Who’s the Boss” moments around our house. Whereas, before he got sick, we were beginning to settle into some really nice “yes ma’am” times.

It’s frustrating, for certain, and when we experience turns of events like this, I always find myself searching for the reason. What happened? Did I drop the ball? Miss a red flag? Fail to meet some crucial need?

My mind goes first to adoption. Loss. Abandonment.

I know that adoption itself does not define Matthew. That every single aspect of his personality is not completely due to the circumstances he has lived through. But it seems like it would be reckless not to take it into account.

Sometimes I feel like a doctor examining a patient. My patient has diabetes. It is controlled but it is chronic. When that patient presents with any other symptom, I treat it, but I always have to investigate if the diabetes is causing it or if it stands alone.

Sometimes I never know why or what causes these setbacks. I just have to treat the symptom, re-establish our roles, stick with our consistent boundaries, and try to patiently await our return to the promised land of “yes ma’am”.

The key is to remind myself that while I do have to thoughtfully consider his past at all times, I also have to remember that he’s a 3 year old, a stubborn 3 year old with a strong personality who is working to make his mark in our family and in this world. I will never know why he does everything he does, just like I will never know the exact reason Isaac acts the way he acts.

So like any good doctor, I find myself again assessing him, and wondering what I can do to make it all better. I wade through his past and our relationship searching for answers, but at the same time, I have to remember that sometimes a diabetic just gets a cold.

________________________________________

Elizabeth Wood

Elizabeth is a happily married mama to 2 preschool-aged boys. She and her husband have a 4-year old bio son, Isaac, and her younger son (3.5 year old, Matthew) joined their family as a toddler through international adoption from South Korea’s waiting child program.  Being only 6 months apart in age, the boys are virtual twins but couldn’t be more different. They have been a family of four for just over a year. Feel free to visit their family blog, Everyday the Wonderful Happens, where Elizabeth blogs about the boys, their antics, her son’s special needs, her beliefs, adoption, and pretty much anything else that tickles her fancy.

What’s Worse?

There’s something I’ve been thinking about. I hope you don’t think I’m a downer–I’m usually not, but I guess this is kind of a downer topic.

I think a lot of people might think of Korea as a country that is not able to care for its orphans, which is why so many foreigners adopt from Korea. But, actually, in 2007, domestic adoptions surpassed foreign adoptions in Korea. That’s a great thing! It means that every year more and more children are staying in their country and their culture.

Great news, right? What you may not realize is that for the most part, the domestic adoptions are being completed in secrecy. I don’t mean illegally. I just mean that the adoptive couples are keeping this a secret from their friends, community, and, even more shocking, the child they adopt. We’re talking fake pregnancy bellies and/or moving to a new neighborhood immediately after adopting in order to pass the child off as their biological child.

This is probably confusing to most of us, so here is an excerpt about this practice from MPAK (Mission to Promote Adoption in Korea, lots of interesting reading there):

Parents are afraid of the possible ridicule and discrimination their adopted children may face as they grow up in the Korean culture. Children who are openly exposed as adoptees in Korea are vulnerable to other children who are not adopted. Some children (or adults) may look at adoptees as people who are less than equal. Some Korean parents forbid their children from associating with adoptees for fear their children may be negatively influenced by the children who they consider are less than equal. Some parents will not permit their children to date or marry adoptees (or people with orphan backgrounds). Some look on adoptees with pity. If an adoptee makes an ordinary mistake or gets into a trouble, he/she is judged differently from their biological children who get into the same trouble. Therefore, parents do not want to subject their adopted children to an environment of negative social stigma. Thus adoption in Korea take place in shrouded secrecy.

Okay, so why am I talking about all of this? I have blogged about the guilt I felt after bringing Matthew home. I really beat myself up about taking him away from Korea — the language, the culture, making him into a minority, not just in his new country, but in his own home.

At one point, I was talking about this with a friend who also has a son from Korea. I was saying that I thought it would have been better if a family from South Korea had adopted him. She responded in a way that surprised me–she said maybe not.

Because since he is here with us, he will know who he is. There will be no secrets, and he will know his true story. He will have the opportunity to search for his birth family, if he so decides.

If he was adopted in Korea, he would still have his language, his culture, he would not be a minority. But, would he always feel just a little bit different? Would he always have questions that no one would be willing to answer?

Clearly, it would have been best if his original family could have remained intact. Unfortunately, that did not happen.

This past year has left me thinking how these two options are different and each infused with its own kind of loss.

I would be curious to hear any thoughts on what you think of this–is either one better than another or are they both just different kinds of awful?

________________________________________

Elizabeth Wood

Elizabeth is a happily married mama to 2 preschool-aged boys. She and her husband have a 4-year old bio son, Isaac, and her younger son (3.5 year old, Matthew) joined their family as a toddler through international adoption from South Korea’s waiting child program.  Being only 6 months apart in age, the boys are virtual twins but couldn’t be more different. They have been a family of four for just over a year. Feel free to visit their family blog, Everyday the Wonderful Happens, where Elizabeth blogs about the boys, their antics, her son’s special needs, her beliefs, adoption, and pretty much anything else that tickles her fancy.

When?

A few months after bringing Matthew home from Korea, I began my search. After a while, I thought that things were supposed to be perfect between us, and they weren’t. They weren’t close. I was scared. I scoured blogs, books, and articles. I knew adjustment periods varied to a point, but I have a logical mind, and I wanted to know when.

I wanted to know when everyday wasn’t going to feel like an overwhelming amount of work. I wanted to know when the feelings that I wanted to feel were going to be there naturally so I could stop pretending. I wanted to know when or if my agitation level would ever decrease.

I read through blogs that mentioned “a few weeks” of adjustment. I rolled my eyes and tried not to throw my laptop out a window. Someone mailed me a copy of a book about postadoption depression. I told my husband, “I really don’t think I’m depressed. I’m just scared that Matthew and I will never, ever like each other…well, I guess that is depressing.” I scanned through the book, but I have a confession: I was trying to find a passage that had the magic number, the amount of time it takes you to bond with your new child. Newsflash–it never said. Stupid book.

When we had been home with Matthew for 3 months, someone emailed me and said that her sister adopted a sibling group from Ethiopia, and it took her 6 months to feel “motherly” towards the oldest son. She said this in a way that was like, don’t worry, can you believe it took her 6 months???

I took a deep breath and told myself, 6 months, tops. I can do this. That was worst case scenario. At 6 months home, I was beginning to feel “neighborly” towards Matthew…what kind of monster was I?

I don’t know the answer to that question. All I know was, I told myself, this is my family, everyday. We finalized. We resolved to get through it, and I really believed that one day, everything was going to be good.

Matthew began getting specialized therapies through his preschool and finally getting sleep. Things slowly began to click for both of us. I had to let go of the timeline and accept that there is no formula for falling in love with your kid. I also had to accept that while it is hard for a lot of people, I still believe that our experience is on the outer limits of how hard it is for most people…and that is probably a combination of Matthew and my personalities put together.

The bad news is, if you are an adoptive parent and you are reading this, I cannot give you a definitive answer as to how long it might take you to bond with your child. It could be a few weeks or, you could be like me and struggle through months and months and wake up one day to realize that the things that used to be so hard just feel like life now. You might be cooking dinner one night and think, “Wow, things are good. When did they get so good? Or, when did they stop being so bad?”

I take that back. I think I can give you a definitive answer. Do you know when I finally fell in love with my son?

When I least expected it.

________________________________________

Elizabeth Wood

Elizabeth is a happily married mama to 2 preschool-aged boys. She and her husband have a 4-year old bio son, Isaac, and her younger son (3.5 year old, Matthew) joined their family as a toddler through international adoption from South Korea’s waiting child program.  Being only 6 months apart in age, the boys are virtual twins but couldn’t be more different. They have been a family of four for just over a year. Feel free to visit their family blog, Everyday the Wonderful Happens, where Elizabeth blogs about the boys, their antics, her son’s special needs, her beliefs, adoption, and pretty much anything else that tickles her fancy.

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