When you adopt a child internationally, so much of their previous life is a mystery. Thus far, William has been unable or unwilling to share any but the tiniest and most mundane details of his time in the orphanage. Because of this, every scrap of information I can glean from other children who lived with him is a treasure. We keep in contact with the other families, and as different children begin to share we are able to fill in a few gaps and gain a better understanding of their journey.
The things we learn are both amusing and heartbreaking.
Hunger before they came into care. We knew this was the main reason children are relinquished for adoption. There simply is Not. Enough. Food. Family members must make difficult decisions in order to ensure survival: adoption or starvation. I knew this was their reality, but to hear it from the mouth of a child that I know and care about is unbearable.
Fear and mourning after relinquishment. These are real children who are separated from the only life they have ever known. Their loved ones decided to place them in an orphanage so they will have a chance at a better life; so they will survive long enough to have a better life. Unfortunately the children don’t understand that. All they know is that yesterday they were home with mommy, and now they are in a strange building with strange people and mommy isn’t coming back. How would your preschooler react in that situation? Our babies reacted the same way: crying, screaming, clinging on for dear life. I wish I could erase those memories and heal that hurt, but I can’t.
Making the best of things. We heard about how Will would get out of bed at night and start dancing to make his friends laugh (totally sounds like him, by the way), and then the nannies would get on to them. We also heard about haircuts, games of tag, and the pandemonium that a little mouse can cause (imagine boys chasing the mouse while the girls scream their heads off!). For the most part, the orphanage was a happy place. The nannies love those children fiercely and although it’s not the same as a family, they do the best they can to make it a home.
Grief shared by close friends. The children were able to laugh and play during the day, but when nighttime came, sometimes the weight of grief was too much to bear. It was at those times that William and his friend would climb in the same bed and cry together. I can’t even type that without tearing up. There is only so much that this momma’s heart can take. I’m thankful that he had friends to walk through that time with. I’m grateful to the older children who helped care for the younger ones, both physically and emotionally.
These kids have been through things that would make a grown man crumble, and yet they are willing to love, trust, and start over.
Just this afternoon William was talking about Ethiopia which, as I said, is rare.
He was talking about the day we came to get him (in the cutest accent you have EVER heard).
“I was far away in Ethiopia, and Mommy and Daddy drive car (vroom, vroom noises), and the car go ‘beep! beep!’ and the thing go bzzzzzzz (we honked the horn for the guard to open the gate). And they say ‘watch out’ and we move and the car come in. And you get out and…..”
(Huge grin and twinkling eyes)
“…You hold me!”
Yes, baby, we sure did. And we will never let you go.
Tiffany lives near Tulsa, Oklahoma, with her high-school-sweetheart husband and five fantastic kids, four by birth and one from Ethiopia. Her passions include Bible study, adoption, writing, and homeschooling. When she isn’t doing laundry or driving to her children’s activities, you can find her blogging at Stuff and Things.
Our youngest son William has been home from Ethiopia for six months now, and he continues to make great strides in his attachment process. A while back I posted Sweet Little Breakthrough about how he had started doing little things that seem like no big deal with our bio kids, but mean the world with kiddos who have been adopted at an older age (holding my hand without protest, for instance). In that same vein, the picture above represents so much more than than cute little piggy toes (and chipped nail polish).
When William came home, one of the first things we noticed was that he was obsessed with being fully dressed. First thing in the morning he would go into his closet, pick out his clothes, and get dressed all the way down to his socks and shoes. It was adorable.
It was also an institutional behavior.
I don’t know about you, but in our house the kids don’t get out of their pajamas unless they have to, and they never put on shoes until the last minute. We’ve shown up at restaurants with a barefoot kid before because we didn’t “check feet” before we left. Oh, and there was the time I was out for the day and my husband met me for dinner (dinner!) with one daughter in her pj’s. He didn’t notice and she wasn’t going to say a word.
So when William came out of the bedroom looking like Rico Suave every morning, it was a cute little quirk. We didn’t think much about it. Then, little by little, he started waiting longer to get dressed. Maybe he would wait until after breakfast one day, or wear flip flops instead of socks and shoes. The more comfortable he was in our family, the more relaxed he was about his dress. He didn’t have to be “ready to go” at a moment’s notice any more.
Fast forward a few months and just like his siblings, he doesn’t get out of his pajamas unless he has to, and he never puts on his shoes until the last minute. He’s one of us, and he’s here to stay!
Another bit of cuteness: Luke, my 5-year-old, saw William’s feet one day and said, “Look Mom! Our feet are the same color on the bottom!”
“…red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight…”
Tiffany lives near Tulsa, Oklahoma, with her high-school-sweetheart husband and five fantastic kids, four by birth and one from Ethiopia. Her passions include Bible study, adoption, homeschooling, and gourmet cupcakes (eating them, not baking them). When she isn’t doing laundry or driving to her children’s activities, you can find her blogging at Stuff and Things.