Thursday, June 20, 2013


It just kinda seemed right  after the post on regrets to go into this post. 

What does family mean?

I think for many people who adopt older children (teens) they think our children will be sooooo thrilled to get a family and that living with us they will totally "get" family right away.

That we want them, love them, provide for them. 

But often this is NOT the case. First they don't get WHY we want them.  Chinese orphans are the "low men" of their society, they  aren't treated well, as teens they are fully aware of the stigma in their society. So how do they instantly overcome the insecurity of that?

They don't. It takes time.

Add in what they are told. We (Americans) are all RICH, LARGE, LOUD, and are coming to adopt these children to give them EVERYTHING.  Daily trips to Disneyland-like parks and never a chore in sight. Yeah, right.

But this is what they are told and when we do pick up a few (even cheap snacks like we got on Phoebe's trip) on the trip they have never seen money like that being spent and believe we really ARE rich. 

(And I don't mean the "rich in children" my kids  say if someone asks if we are rich)

Another layer  of difficulty in family acceptance-- the competition aspect-- they were likely tough, rough, loud, rude, or even sly, sneaky, but this is how they learned to SURVIVE. Great in an orphanage, not so hot for family living.

It's odd how we take a child that WE SEE as "family" and really think because we love them, we yearned for them, we would walk through hot coals for them, and we expect an instant bond. Sometimes it does happen but more often NOT with an older child-  It's downright awkward during those first few days even into weeks/months, it's a "what have we done" feeling/time for the first few months. 

And it's OKAY to feel that. REALLY it is. 

It's like taking us and plunking us down in the middle of Siberia in a new-to-us family and we are expected to understand they are now our family and be IN LOVE. REALLY?

Do you think seeing a few pictures of us before adoption, with other kids, our home, pets and even a few gifts sent to them give them any idea of what a family really is?  

HOW would we feel?  Scared? Happy? Worried? Defensive? 

Because someone we don't know (guides) tell us that this is our new family we are supposed to just KNOW this "new family" are a- okay?  

That we are safe and loved by these people who----- look nothing like us, smell funny, talk another language, eat weird stuff, do weird things--- and how easily or fast would any of us adjust/accept that? Wouldn't we feel glad these people care but also wonder WHY?

And we would feel thankful they feed us, care for us, give us clothes but wouldn't we MISS our food, our clothes, smells, people, but wonder if we show unhappiness will they stop taking care of us, will this NEW FAMILY get mad? Will they send us off to the next country because we aren't "happy" enough for them?

It's not as if you learn commitment, love, caring, empathy, sympathy, even concern for ANY ONE but themselves in an orphanage. And then you have the hierarchy of orphanage care, this is where we find issues with Chase and Paisley. That deep desire of theirs to "rule the roost" even bully the younger children, be the boss as a means of survival in an orphanage.  

They do not understand that being an "older kid" means a child looks up to them and we will hold them responsible for teaching yeah or nay things.  Yep,that's how it goes in a family. 

But that the parenting job is OURS to do, Not for them.  It takes a power out of their hands, one that we have seen 2 different sides to. Chase- who did not want that power taken-- he was the "parent" of Chloe and Chance and was deeply offended that we intended to parent not just them  but him as well.  That still does not sit well with him.

He struggles. He doesn't believe when we try to tell him something to teach him that he could possibly be wrong and us correct. Nope. Never. I keep telling him he's gonna be in for a rude awakening when he gets a job because we are much easier and kinder than a boss is going to be:(

Then there's Paisley,Chloe and Chance. They have accepted we are the parents. That's totally cool to them. They have comfort and acceptance in being cared for, cared about, provided for but also expectations of.

Even with acceptance it's still constant learning. Chloe sent me a text message the other day from the school bus. She said "I am going to go  do X-Y-Z."   

And I wrote back, " I think not. You do not TELL me what you are doing. YOU ASK."  So she immediately thought I meant she couldn't do what she was saying. And I told her "I am not saying you can't do X-Y Z-- I am saying you need to ASK, so try again."  So then she did and she ASKED.  And she was given permission:) She also apologized because she was wrong-- she's very caring and wants to do the right thing.

It's something that seems odd, to teach a teen how to ask for something. Or that a behavior is not acceptable. Even Phoebe who likes to pretend crying like a baby when she doesn't get her way-- she has to be TOLD-- this is not an acceptable behavior. She DOES NOT KNOW.  

You see, our kids are immature for their number ages. They also have to learn what behaviors are okay and what aren't. We think they will just "get it" as soon as we add them to the family but they do not. And for teens they can do some really odd things. 

I've said before and will say again, we use a lot of visual learning-- we will actually go over a behavior that they do or should do. We then show them what the behavior looks like and we role play how to do it the right way because they learn the quickest this way. 

AND it takes LESS English if you have one you aren't sure how much they are understanding. So there is no question they understand. We will role play it 2-3 times over. That usually does it there. They remember this way and are able to modify the behavior.

So other than all this learning what are the kiddos up to?  PLAYING-- it's Summer Vacation after all.

That means, getting wet, of course. They got the hose going and a bucket, a ball and fun ensued.  Camden was the hose master- ha ha, that's just means he was in charge of the mess and got everyone mad at him for getting them soaked.

Chance took the bucket and was dunking his head in it. When asked exactly what he was doing he said "Seeing how long I can stay under." Okay then. Now there's a skill:)

He's got a cold now (NO MOM it's not from the cold water)and so does Phoebe. Spring colds, I guess. Sharing it for sure, Kat is sniffling now and so is Paisley. 

At least they all can sleep in and get well, no school has some advantages for sure.

 Lots more time to enjoy being FAMILY:)


Rebecca said...

I love your posts!
I so wish you were right next door, or at least in the same neck of the woods. We are driving up the east coast to canada in a couple of weeks. Maybe we can meet on the road somewhere?
Our teen is doing so well that I often have to pinch myself, or at least try not to wait for the other shoe to fall. I'd have to say our biggest challenge right now is mine and my husband's (Matt)different personalities and how we relate to the kids... All of them. He's always been the crazy, goofy, wacky, rough and tumble, yet extremely wise and gracious daddy and I have always been the compassionate, tender, protecting, discerning mommy. Abby (5, DS) is not quite sure of her new Daddy. She likes it when he plays with her, but only to a certain extent. When he tries to exercize his parental rights with her, even just asking her to go potty, she will almost always end up in tears. I am so protective of her that I fear I am making things worse sometimes by coming to her rescue when she cries. I cringe most of the times he tries to relate to her because he's just so silly about it. He's not like this with the other kids to the extent that he is with Abby. I know it's just bc it's uncomfortable for him. He talks to her in goofy voices and tries to make her laugh, but I think it just confuses her most of the time. I know it's a default mechanism for him as this is all new and he's not a natural at bonding with "other people's children." He adores her, but the bonding is slower bc she is non-verbal. The rest of us have bonded great with her, but that's bc we haven't pushed her. He seems to want to conquer her and by doing so, he intimidates her. Any advice for him? He and Ashlyn (our new 14 yr old) are doing great. She thinks he's the best dad ever. They have bonded and the trust has been established. She is slow to say I love you and initiate affection(totally understandable) but she doesn't squirm away from him when he hugs her and she likes it when he tells her he loves her. She gets his playful ways and for that I am so extremely thankful. He is an amazing father. I would just love to know if any other dads have experienced this and what advice they would offer.

Vickie said...


We would LOVE to meet up with you:)

Have you asked your hubby how he thinks he is relating to Abby? Does he feel close to her or unsure of how to communicate with her?

If you have/do ask and he is stumped maybe if he stepped back, not in a manner of ignoring her, but stepping back in the manner of letting her come to HIM. I know our girls (all but Kat) were very frightened by men (in general) and dad here is very quiet, easy going, laid back.

He waited on our girls to come to him, when they were comfortable. He didn't have to "try" he was just himself. And I did help at times, if they came to me and wanted something and I knew he was closer, knew how, knew better to do something I would say "Your dad is the person for that, ask him," where he could hear so usually he would just say "what do you need and he knew from hearing me so there was no need for them to repeat it but it got them closer to him and relying on him for things.

I worried at first needlessly that our girls would never be comfortable with dad. It's good odds that with time dad and Abby will learn about each other and all will work out, so don't fret too much. Seriously, God works out the kinks and there are kinks-- adoption is not a fairy tale, it's real life:)

Any dads want to chime in here, feel free!!!

Rebecca said...

We'll be coming up I-79, the very west side of Pittsburg. Email bc I can't find your email address.

Karen said...

Thanks for the insight Vickie! We are almost DTC for our new daughter who will be 13 in November. (though she looks MUCH younger) Sometimes I read blogs from parents that have adopted older kids and then fret over what "might" happen in regards to grieving, depression, behavior issues, bonding, etc. etc. etc.
I have to remind myself time and again, that God will not abandon us in this journey. I have turn to Him for guidance, direction, and an attitude of acceptance and love for our new daughter. I have to set the tone for the rest of the family and that's kinda scary!
I appreciate your words of wisdom SOOO much!

mom2three said...

I remember that "what have I done to our family" feeling for the first several months after we brought home our 8 year old son. Or even a "I've destroyed our family" thought here and there. It's been almost 5 years since he came home, and I can't imagine our lives without him. He is a marvelous young man who completes our family. I firmly believe God meant for him to be our son.

Dawn said...

Your blog is tremendously helpful to me!! Thank-you SO SO much!!

(I will be emailing you back in the next day or two.)

Lisa M said...

If you wrote a BTDT book on older child adoption, I would buy it. Until then I am so grateful for your blog. Thank you!!!!