Here is the 2nd part of our FAQ posts! this will answer the other five questions we most frequently receive from curious people.
6. Do they speak any English? OR How have you handled the language barrier?
I think this is a great question and an issue just about every international adoptive family will face. Most countries in Europe now have English as part of their regular public school curriculum. In Poland this started in First Grade. What this meant for us was that our oldest daughter had received a couple years of English before we got there (think High School Spanish!). She knew a few words here and there, but not much else. The other three knew literally nothing. They couldn’t even read Polish let alone English!!! We used Google translator A LOT those first several months. Sometimes this worked and other times I have no idea what we said to them! By Christmas of 2015, six months after returning to the US, they were essentially fluent in English. Often they would mix up word order or phraseology (which was quite humorous!), but they could communicate and understand most of what was spoken to them.
One thing we learned was even if they didn’t have any idea what we said to them, they would tell us they understood. I don’t know if this was out of fear of being wrong or they thought they’d get in trouble or what. That was frustrating. We would think we had communicated something, they would do the complete opposite, we would wonder why they disobeyed….and on and on and on. Once we figured out what was going on, we took more care in communicating, and still do, especially for the younger kids. My encouragement to other families would be to go slow. Say it a number of ways, not just one, and ask clarifying questions. Make sure they fully understand before you move on.
By the time we’d been home a year…..they didn’t even remember Polish!! None of them can speak Polish now, which is kind of disappointing for us. We did buy the Rosetta Stone Polish edition so they can re-learn it or maybe even we can learn it. It’s one of the hardest languages in the world to learn….but I have to believe it’s still hidden inside them somewhere.
Bottom line with language: It’s an issue if you make it one. Take it easy and it will go well.
7. Has the adjustment been difficult?
This would be the understatement of the century. I’ve written a little about that on this blog. I wrongly believed we would pick up the kids, go back home, go back to our life just with four extra passengers, and slip right back into where we were when we left May 25th, 2015. How naive!!!
Everything has changed.
I don’t want to belabor the point here, and I’d encourage you to read more about it if you’re in the same boat. Essentially, we lost everything. We lost our identity. We lost our rhythms. We lost our understanding of who we each were in our families – all 10 of us lost that in different ways. We lost our emotions. Some say we lost our mind! We definitely lost hope and faith for a little while.
But GOD is faithful.
GOD is a redeemer.
GOD is a way-maker.
GOD is the restorer of brokenness and turns ashes into beauty.
Just look at that Easter picture. We’re even all smiling!! It’s amazing what God has done these nearly two years. I just can’t believe it. We have A LONG WAY to go, and we’re not home yet, but He will finish what He started (thank you SC2)!!!
If you’re struggling to adjust, let me encourage you. Rid yourself of expectations and guilt. Trust the process. Yield to the timing of the Lord, not your own timetable. Let it be. Love hard. Pray harder. Hold on to your spouse, and together the Lord, the hardest. God will make a way.
8. Aren’t they just so thankful?
Frankly…..no. And we don’t expect them to be. Our oldest kind of understands what has happened. But the full spiritual, emotional, genealogical, etc ramifications she doesn’t quite understand yet. The other three have no idea what has happened. Our youngest two daughters now say they remember they used to live in Poland, but that’s all they know. I suspect in the long run they won’t remember anything. Our son is definitely thankful. THAT HE HAS BROTHERS!!!! Honestly…..it was kind of hard for these kids to suddenly have parents who told them what to do, wouldn’t let them incessantly watch TV, only fed them at certain times, and made them go to bed. “Having parents is tough” is a mantra I’ve told our oldest many, many times. She’s not so thankful for that all the time 🙂
But they’ve also begun to understand, for the first time in their lives, they are fully safe. They don’t have to worry about being dumped with a relative or an abusive baby-sitter. They aren’t going to have to put up with great uncertainty in their lives. All is well. I think someday they’ll be thankful for all of this.
We’ve had some people accuse us of doing this out of a personal sense of awesome or something. That’s just ridiculous. And anyone whose ever adopted or fostered knows just how ugly the process can be. Most of the days, especially early on, we wouldn’t have wanted anyone to see us. Some other well-meaning people thought we were amazing people; heroes even.
TRUTH: We are just servants called to obey the master.
We adopted because the Lord picked us for them and picked them for us. We were just willing. He knew the ugly we’d walk through. He knew the pain we would face. He knew the issues our kids would have – both adopted and biological. He knew how much we would need Him to walk beside us. We were the wrong people for the job. We were. But God often calls the wrong people to do extraordinary things for His purposes.
So no, we don’t feel like heroes. We don’t expect our children to be grateful. We still strike out as often as we get a hit. But God is with us and with them. We follow His lead….and He’s the MASTER ADOPTER!
9. What in the world did you do for 7 weeks in Poland?
Truthfully, a whole lot of nothing!!! Had our family been a little smaller we would have rented a van and explored the country a little more. Two things worked against us: Anything over 9 passengers requires a commercial driver’s license in Poland. Well that wasn’t going to happen!! And second, our agency strongly discouraged families from renting cars.
Had we it to do over again we would have rented at least a car. We were totally and
completely at the mercy of others so the issue of exploring the great country of Poland wasn’t willingness, funds or desire….the issue was transportation!! We met a driver who had a large commercial van who we hired to do a few day trips. We visited Ustka, a resort town of sorts on the Baltic. We spent a day in Gdansk, which was very cool. And we spent a day at Malbork Castle which was PHENOMENAL. We loved that!!! We probably paid our driver $300-$400 for those trips altogether. It worked and we enjoyed our trips. Our hosts took us grocery shopping a couple of times per week, but to have the freedom to just run to Tesco or Lidl would have been nice – especially for my oldest daughter and I who need to get out now and then!!!
Once we moved to Tumiany for two weeks, we went no where besides the grocery store. We bonded wonderfully there though and our hosts were so very kind and gracious. But we were pretty bored most of the time. This pic of me in Tumiany sums up how most of us felt a lot of the time.
Our final week we spent in Warsaw. We had much to do to get ready to come home, but we were able to take the train to Krakow for a day. Krakow is one of my favorite places on earth. Just a lovely city. Just as lovely as Vienna but MUCH, MUCH cheaper. We met some friends from Czech, and our gracious friends the Healys came from the States to help us travel home. We enjoyed exploring Warsaw with them and just had a wonderful week!! Of course we were all amped up because we were about to go home!!
The advantage of Poland is the cost of living is very low, especially for Americans. The Zloty is a 4-1 exchange to the US dollar. This took some getting used to. Something would cost 100zl and I’d get a little nervous…until I reminded myself that’s only $25. I spend more than that on Chic-Fil-A!!!
10. Will you adopt again?
Let me answer this in two ways:
WOULD we do it all over again? YES!!! I think there are many things we would change were we to take another crack at this, but we would most definitely do it again.
WILL we do it again? I don’t think I can totally answer this question. OUtwardly we would say “we are good!!!” But in my heart, I can’t help but think of all the other children out there without families to care for them. If God puts it on our hearts and puts us again in the position to adopt, we would say YES. Our life is not our own. We truly believe this. When God calls us…..we will answer.
Finally…..a few pics!