There are many highs and lows in the adoption process. We probably had a dozen celebratory dinners and I gnawed through three bottles of antacids. The highs are often very high and the lows often very low. I would say, though, after our first trip, we were trying to get back so fast by expediting our I-800 paperwork, nearly all the emotion was put on hold as we worked through the final “business” issues to clear the way to Poland. Once we left, all the emotions and excitement came flooding in. When we boarded that Lufthansa plane as six knowing we were coming back as ten, our emotions came flooding back. Welcome to the highest of highs in the adoption process!
We had already met the children, so while this was totally exhilarating, it wasn’t full of the emotions we felt the very first time. This time, I would describe it as relief…like coming home to your children after a ten day business trip. Glad to be united again. I certainly don’t want to minimize how we felt. That first week was full of family firsts – first meals, first night, first walk to town, first discipline, first caring for a scraped knee, and much more. Our hearts were getting fuller by the minute as each day of that first week passed. Then the calendar turned back to Monday. A new week.
I cannot understate this: The adrenaline wore off. Welcome to, not the lowest of lows…welcome to LIFE.
I mean it’s inevitable, right? One cannot live on top of the mountain forever. Eventually, even the best of climbers has to come down to reality. We always want to stay on the mountain top. It’s beautiful there. Sure the air is thin and we could die of altitude sickness, but my goodness, look at those views!! It’s amazing. But have you ever noticed nothing grows on the mountain top? I mean on REAL mountains. Great to visit, but life can’t exist for very long. As slow as the climb to the top seems to have been, the descent is 100 times faster. We have to get back to life!
For us, this happened about 8 days in. Poland requires a 45 day trip (or so). We will be in-country 46 days, leaving on day 47. That’s a LONG TIME to be away from home, from familiar things, familiar people; a long time to be stuck in a bit of an alternative universe. The descent to reality was very fast. I feel like we’re in the valley now (this is not a bad place) so I thought I’d take this post and write about what some of you coming behind us might expect on your alpine descent.
1. You’re Going to Get Homesick – This is just a reality of living a month+ abroad. You have to understand you likely won’t have the conveniences of your own kitchen, bathroom, laundry facilities, and vehicle. At first it’s quaint and charming. “Oh look, honey, we get to hang our clothes to dry on the clothesline!” Such a mountain-top type statement. By day ten you are thinking about buying a dryer at Tesco just so you can get the laundry to a manageable pile!! Also, I’ve never washed so many kiddie cups in my life. By hand. I love my dishwasher. I may hug it the longest when we get home. Definitely longer than the dog! Now, you will likely not end up with eight children like us, but nonetheless, dishwashers and dryers are a bit of a luxury in Eastern Europe. Oh, and we’re literally stuck here. We can’t go anywhere because we don’t have a vehicle. If it’s not walkable, we’re not going without shelling out hundreds of zloty (thank God for a good exchange rate!! 100 PLN is about $28) to make it happen! I’m not complaining here. I’ve made my peace. I’m just warning you…..Expect to miss home, if not for the people, for the conveniences we take for granted in our everyday lives.
2. Your Kids are Going to Test You – All of them. Yep, even the ones you took with you across the pond. Everyone is learning a new normal. Everyone is trying to figure out where they belong in this new family dynamic. We actually have a biological four year old which tests most of the limits anyway. But it’s almost like all of our children are four again. Pushing the boundaries, whining about little things, finding their place. It’s just part of the valley. This is a difficult thing for all of the children. They’re going to try and figure out where they fit. I’m happy to say, at least for our biological children, they hit the wall and bounced back a couple days later. But the adoptive children have a longer road. They’re learning new dynamics, new expectations, new norms. We don’t do whining in our family. We don’t cry every time you fall on your boodle. We rub some dirt on it and move on. Adoptive kids don’t likely have this mechanism in them – well, at least ours don’t. We’ve had tears over some pretty trivial things, in my book. To get past this hurdle in the valley, you need copious amounts of patience and endurance. Amy and I have determined we can’t expect the same things out of our adoptive children yet we expect out of our biological children. They just don’t have the ability yet. It will come through patience and training, but patience starts with us. Your kids are gonna test you. Be ready.
3. Talking to Your Children Takes A Lot Longer – Google translator. Get it. For your phone and any other device you have. It will take MUCH longer to have a conversation of any type with your adoptive child(ren) unless they are older and have learned English – or you speak fluent Polish. This sounds like a bad thing, but here’s what I’ve noticed. We parents often speak, correct, solve, expound, or pontificate so fast, we have not often thought about what we say before it flies out of our mouth. Having to translate really makes you slow down and think about communicating. How often do you say something to your child or spouse but don’t really communicate with them. We think nothing of it and move on. maybe the message was delivered, maybe not. This is not an option when you are working with a computer translator – especially in correction, instruction, or communicating love/approval. It’s long and difficult, but the slow moments of communication it produces are priceless. Slow down and let it take longer. Where else do you have to be? (most of us should apply this principle in our real lives as well!)
4. There is LIFE in the Valley! More bonding, true bonding has happened since we hit the wall, descended the mountain, and landed in the valley than all the previous time combined. I think we are often afraid of the valleys of life. They are foreboding, confusing at times, and then there’s that whole “valley of the shadow of death” thing. But truthfully, without the valley, you and I would never grow – not as spiritual beings, not as parents, not as spouses, not as people. The valley is hard; the undergrowth is thick, and the mosquitoes are relentless. But the fruit is so sweet, the water is fresh, the life blooming all around us is amazing, and God is with us. The undergrowth makes us slow down and pay attention. The difficult terrain causes us to watch where we step so we don’t tread on those we love. The mosquitoes….they’re just there to throw you off. The enemy would rather you spend your time swatting at little bugs than realize the wonderful life with which God has surrounded you. Don’t be distracted by the dishes, or the lack of a dishwasher or dryer, or the fact you can’t even go to McDonald’s if you wanted. Focus on the LIFE God is producing in your heart, the hearts of your children, and frankly, anyone else with which you may come in contact. There’s life in the valley.
Like William Wallace said (at least Mel Gibson’s version), “All men die, but very few ever really live.”