It’s funny listening to my Polish children talk. Our now four year old swears she can’t remember any Polish at all – even though she sometimes switches seamlessly, in the same sentence mind you, between English and Polish. Sure, her English vocabulary is probably that of a 2 year old, but she does really well only speaking the language for five months. My favorite is when one of them starts a sentence or conversation in English and switches to Polish and then back to English. Or they’ll splice in one word here and there in Polish because they haven’t yet learned the English equivalency. Oh and sentence structure can really mess them up! Our nine year old is learning some grammar in our home-school, but she sometimes confuses verb, noun, and adjective positions. It can be quite entertaining.
As entertaining as language issues can be, when it comes to really important conversations and/or concepts, it can be very challenging. In fact, often, without great time, patience, and care much can be lost in translation.
We’ve been home now for nearly three months. We have been the parents, in one form or another, of our Polish kids since May 26th. We first met them in April. It’s hard to figure we’ve only known them for six months. Sometimes I still reflect on where we were a year ago, feeling like we’d never get them home, to now, trying to figure out what this new “home” is like. There’s so much we build up in our mind about how this journey will play out. I can remember idealized conversations Amy and I would have before our first trip to Poland, painting our hopes and dreams for our formerly little family. I wrote all kinds of letters and grant applications touting the beauty of adoption (to which I still wholeheartedly subscribe). Even when we faced hurdles and challenges, we still knew God was in this – He had proven it over and over again after all – and held on to our assurance of His plan. It all became kind of like a language we spoke. One of faith and hope and love. Even so, I think we kind of knew going in there’s no chance everything will turn out the way we planned it out in our hearts & heads. But we kept speaking the language, we kept our dreams for ALL of our children vibrant and healthy.
Now, I’m not saying some of that didn’t come to pass, because it did. But just like most things in life, there was much lost in translation. Things we thought would be easy or natural turned out to be some of the most difficult things we would attempt. I thought I’d spend a few minutes writing about some of the things in our language now, which weren’t when we began.
- I don’t know why people tout the adopting of only young children. As if older kids are somehow more broken and need more repair. Granted, our nine year old has lived through much more trauma in her young life than our three year old. But, frankly, the three year old has been much more difficult to bring home. Abby can reason, understand complexities, and talk things through. Our youngest cannot. We have fought much tougher battles with her and because of her survival methods than any of the others. Adopting a toddler is the hardest thing we’ve ever done.
- True bonding….like familial bonding is slow. And even slower through adoption. I’m a quick buy-in kind of guy. I can catch just about any vision and be excited about the possibilities. So falling in love with my new children was quick and all the way for me. For others in my family, it’s not been as easy a ride. Which leads me to…
- Adjusting. Is. Constant. I may have written about this before, or maybe it’s just such a huge issue it is always on the forefront of my mind. I love when we have good days and feel like we make major progress. When one of my bio kids tells me how much they love their sibling or how thankful they are we took this plunge. But then we have other conversations where I’m trying to talk them into staying in the family! (OK, not really, but you get my point!) Adjusting is just that. Everyone finding their new place in a new family. I expected our Polish kids to have a bit of a learning curve, but in our idealized language, we honestly thought we’d come home and go back to our life, just with four more kids in tow. Nothing could be further from the truth. I’ve been surprised by how much our family has been thrown into chaos. We’ve had to learn new rhythms, new schedules, new meal planning, and more. My bio daughter is learning how to share her space and have sisters. My boys are learning what it’s like to have little girls around. EVERYONE is adjusting. I even think Charlie the dog isn’t quite sure where he fits.
- Remembering their age. Not their biological age, but their emotional age. I’ve already written a snippet about this, but it’s so very hard to remember. Our bio 10 year old son has always been large for his age. When he was five or six most people thought he was seven or eight – and they’d expect him to act that way. Even for us it was sometimes hard to remember he was just a little boy. Now we have the reverse. We have maybe a 2 year old in the body of a four year old. Or maybe a 3 1/2 year old in the body of a five year old. And developmentally, this is pretty accurate as far as their life-processing ability. Talk about compounding a language problem! It’s very difficult not to expect more from them than they can deliver.
- It breaks our hearts when we think of everything they’ve lost. Not some of the big stuff (as difficult as that is) but just some basic stuff. The kids have zero sense of permanence and assurance. They are certain if they mess up they might lose their place in our family. No child should feel this way. I know we’ll conquer this at some point, but changing that way of thinking in a child is incredibly difficult. Because of their past, we’ve noticed they have very little ability to imagine. The other day, Amy sent the two little girls to their rooms to play. She left them standing in the middle of the room talking about what to play. When she came to check on them fifteen minutes later, they were in the exact same spot and told Amy they didn’t know what to play. Surrounded by toys, they couldn’t muster the imagination to get started. Further, we’ve noticed, other than food, they typically don’t know what they like or what their genuine interests are….because they don’t know! The kids have never had anyone guide them into trying new things to see what kinds of activities they enjoy. I think they’ve always just parroted one another, liking whatever someone else liked in order to fit in.
- Over time it has become more and more obvious the older children lack identity and confidence. I say the older children because I think you can identify that issue in older kids but it’s much more difficult in younger children. But, I would say it is likely an accurate statement for the younger as well. The way it manifests, however, is very different. In the older kids, as you might expect, the lack of confidence and self-identity manifests with very sensitive feelings. Anytime the slightest of harsh words are spoken to them, they immediately conclude they are not liked or cared for any more. We have spent a lot of time talking with them about TRUTH and guarding one’s heart. In the younger kids, and this is the source of our 3 year old’s issues, this manifests as control. She wants to be in control. It’s the only place she truly feels safe. If she relinquishes control to Amy or me, it feels like her whole world is slipping away. We have had this conversation over and over and over again, but her little mind just can’t comprehend what in the world we’re talking about! Control manifests with lying, deceit, independence, a refusal to ask for help (and then creating a much bigger problem), etc. Oh wow….I cannot minimize the struggle this has been and continues to be. All because these little hearts never had the chance to discover their self-identity and enjoy the safety of experimentation in a mom and dad’s love.
- When the children struggle to respond to us, it’s very hard not to take their indifference as rejection. Again, this has been most prevalent in our younger girls. A couple of weeks ago, we discovered they honestly believed they would eventually return to Poland and the home of their foster mom, whom they loved a lot. We’re glad they received such good care from her, but we also feel this belief has hindered them from bonding with us. When we tried to explain to them they would never be returning but they were now in our family forever, they wept. I guess that’s how we knew they understood. They wept. Bitterly.
Not gonna lie…..it hurt, both for them and us as well. I wanted them to want us as much as we wanted them, and to this point, that had not been the case. Who said younger kids were easier??? I know, in our idealized language, we never really considered we would have to navigate feelings of rejection. I get it, I guess, but it hurt a little just the same.
I’m under no delusion. These are just the first few things we will be working through in this journey of a lifetime as we learn to speak the same language. In the meantime, we’re going to keep talking about the wonderful hopes and dreams we have for our family and each of our kids. We’re going to keep praying bold prayers and giving God a chance to mend little hearts. We’re going to get up everyday and keep pressing forward. We KNOW God has joined us together. He brought us together and made us a family. Together, little by little, we will learn to speak this new language. And less and less will be lost in translation.
Oh, by the way, I have another blog I’d like to invite you to check out. This one is about living for God in this crazy world. You can check out my other musings by clicking HERE!!!!. Read the “About” page to see what the title means!
Also, Amy and I have decided to vacate Facebook (look for a post on this coming soon on the other blog). Many of our readers came from Facebook links, which we no longer will utilize. So if you like what we share on this page and have a Facebook profile, would you mind sharing a link on Facebook for us and/or recommending this blog to others who may be interested? Thanks so much!!!!
So much truth in this post. Toddler adoption is by far the hardest thing we have ever done. And I totally get the control thing- we have a master manipulator in our midst. Even harder than I ever imagined is loving someone who doesn’t love me back. Every. Single. Day. Jesus spoke to this when he said what is it love someone who loves you back? True love is loving those who don’t love you back. Our adoption has truly revealed sin hidden deep within me- and for this I’m grateful. It was so good to meet you in Poland and I’ve been meaning to message Amy to see how things are going. Glad to read this update. So grateful that we are not alone in this journey and are covered in HIS grace.
Thanks Nicole!! You put into words exactly how Amy has felt through trying to parent our toddler. Appreciate your comment!!