Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Older Child Adoption is Hard

"After the adoption, if we could have found another more suitable family to take him, if we could have done it without hurting him further -- we would have considered that."

"Be prepared for learning issues.  It's easy to take the skill of logical thinking for granted."

"This is going to be hard.  It will be different from what you expect.  Your newly adopted son may bite you."

Older child adoption is hard.  The above quotes come from three actual conversations I had with three different adoptive moms the summer before we traveled to China to adopt Wenxin.

It was sobering.  I expected each one to say it was hard, but some of the things they shared were not just hard, they were harsh.  These moms loved their adopted children.  They cared about waiting kids.  They were pro-adoption.  However, having lived the hard parts of older child adoption, they refused to lie. I thought the lady who mentioned biting was a nut case -- until I was actually bitten.  Thankfully, that only happened once.

Older child adoption is hard.  It can be difficult to explain to someone who hasn't lived it.  That's why I tell stories.  Stories give a glimpse of what older child adoption looks like in real life.  And honestly, it's aways a mixed bag -- so many sweet times -- and so many exhausting struggles.  When Wenxin had been home about a week, I wrote a post called The Ups and Down and All Arounds.  It's a great snapshot of the early days of our adoption, so I'm reposting it here today.

This made my day.

Wenxin let me teach him how to write his name in English and then. . . he drew our family. First, there's Mike, and then me in the green. I love the details - Mike and I holding hands with a heart between us. Next, holding on to my leg, is Wenxin. Then Nathan and Katherine. Finally, Julia - squeezed in between Mike and me.

Looks like big ears run in our family.

That sweet drawing put a smile on my face for the rest of the day.

We didn't start off so well.

This morning I tried to have "story-time" for Katherine and Wenxin. I picked fun, simple English books. I read Dr. Seuss's Hop on Pop in my silliest dramatic voice.

It was going really well. Wenxin was engaged. He was laughing.

And then he began to grab for the book. I said, "No," and continued to read and hold the book up for both kids to see. More grabbing. . . and then whining. When I insisted on holding the book, Wenxin turned his back to me and sat facing the other way. Then he walked off. Poor Katherine was left having to listen to Hop on Pop. Wenxin walked past us a time or two and made vomiting noises in our direction. Then he ran by and slapped Katherine on the top of the head. Mike and I intervened and gave Katherine lots of loving and had Wenxin apologize to her.

Our days have lots of ups and downs.

Yesterday, we learned that Wenxin enjoys jigsaw puzzles.

It's the first thing I've found that he enjoys doing by himself.

A highlight of today was writing letters and numbers in shaving cream.

The winner for the low point of the whole past week was the first day we tried to take Wenxin to the doctor. I say "first day" because it took two tries before we actually got him there.

I'd called our pediatrician to schedule a post-adoption check up for Wenxin. While we were on the phone I mentioned he was running a fever. (I don't freak out about fevers when kids otherwise feel fine. I was not planning on taking him to the doctor.)

Since Wenxin was just adopted from overseas, the doctor wanted to see him right away. I called Mike to come home from work to stay with the other kids while I took Wenxin to his appointment. Then I made a fatal mistake. I asked Mike to explain to Wenxin where we were going.

We bought a cool toy in Beijing. It's a pen that reads special books in both English and Mandarin. Mike got the vocabulary book and touched the word that said, "sick." Wenxin listened to the word for sick in Mandarin and agreed that he felt sick. Then Mike said, "Mama will take you to the _____," and he touched the word for "doctor."

Wenxin immediately began to say "no" over and over. He began to touch his head and say, "Mama, no ouch!" He smiled his biggest smile to show me he was just fine. Then, when we continued to put on his shoes, he went berserk!

We'd get one shoe on, and the other shoe would go flying across the room. He was sobbing and fighting and clawing. It became clear that there was no way I'd be able to drive him safely to the doctor.

So I called the doctor and cancelled.

When Wenxin became convinced he was out of danger, he began to say, "Mama - sleep please."
The calm after the storm

The next morning, Mike and I packed a backpack full of toys and snacks and drinks, and together, we took Wenxin to see the doctor. We decided it was a "two parent" job. We decided not to announce exactly where we were going. And this time, he did great. We're learning.

More snapshots of older child adoption in real life:

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  1. I remember reading these posts and updates. It was great insight as we're still on our "journey" today!

  2. Hey Dana,
    Love your post on grace... feeling a little more "normal" now. Tweeted the link for your blog. In the past I have written articles for sites live LiveStrong, Examiner and others. Twitter is a great way to meet other writers and promote your blog.Got my book in the mail today!Lynnmac04 is my twitter name.

    1. Lynn, I need to get "Twitter literate." I regularly use Facebook and do a little bit on Pinterest, but I've never gotten into twitter.

      Let me know if you like the book - maybe you could write a review of it for my blog -- the pay is not good (meaning I need people who write for free,) but you could influence a lot of other moms. Let me know what you think.

    2. Would love to; will let you know when I've finished it.

  3. Dana,

    I agree that older child adoption is hard and definitely not a fit for most people. I, too, read the books and knew all the risks, but living it, every day, gets exhausting. It's so nice to connect with other people who have similar issues.

    I am thrilled that you've created this site, and I will be an avid reader of every post you write, even when I don't have time to comment. We were about six months behind you, adopting a 10 year old boy from China (Wenxin and my son John know each other!) I read EVERY SINGLE ONE of your posts and learned so many great tips from you, which I used with John. We are now one year into our adoption, and I am looking forward to reading your updates of your current family life.

    Thanks for creating this site. It looks great! My adoption blog is at sevenmonkes.wordpress.com, but I haven't been posting too much there and have been focused on other writing. I do have an article coming out in LifeLines (Bethany's magazine for adoptive parents) with lessons I've learned in this first year of our older child adoption. I'll send you a link once it's out.

    Can't wait to read more of your great parenting tips!



  4. Audrey - thanks for touching base. Please send me the link to your article when it's available. I'm so glad that your voice will be heard, and I, for one, can't wait to learn from what you have to say.

  5. Dana,

    I'm so happy that you've created this blog. Before we picked up our son (also an older boy), I read every single one of your posts about your early days with Wenxin. It was extremely helpful to me, and I look forward to being an avid reader of your new blog. It looks great!

    I recently wrote an article that will be in Bethany Christian Services LifeLines magazine (for adoptive parents). It's about what I've learned in this first year. I'll send you a link once it's out. I'm not sure if I'll write much more about adoption (I think I'll leave that to you, since you do it so well!), but I write about other parenting things at sunshineparenting.wordpress.com and our adoption story is at sevenmonkes.wordpress.com.

    You are awesome and have so much good info to share. Keep it coming!


  6. When we adopted two 8 year olds from Russia 17 years ago there were no blogs, only difficult internet searches to find anything useful to help us, no doctors or others specializing in these kind of adoptions, no "community." Our kids are so special to us, but there were so many days we didn't think we'd make it. It's interesting to check in and see how much is out there now for parents like us. I wonder what would be different if we had been adopting now.

  7. I can't imagine, Julie, because the blogs of other parents (as well as the blogs of adult adoptees and the blogs of birth moms)have been a lifesaver for me. I hope you'll continue to join in this "community" because I know you have a lot of wisdom to share.

  8. I agree that adoption is hard--but it is also the most rewarding thing in the world--to see our kids overcome and blossom! It is truly a miracle!

    I had to laugh at your doctor story. We have a new one from the same orphanage as your son and she is very reticient to see the doctor--no fits because it's not in her nature--but big crocodile tears and lots of "no, no, no!" The 10 viles of blood test (the new adopted kid blood work-up) didn't help matters! We have yet to get our stool samples! LOL!

    1. Wenxin is a a big sweetheart, but he can be a fighter when he needs to be. I think it probably served him well in the past. Congratulations on your new daughter! The fear of doctors has gotten better for us over time.


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