Considering we doubled the number of children in our home seemingly overnight, and before the addition the oldest child in our home (Larry) was only four, the past two weeks have been extremely joyful and equally challenging.
The Bible tells us we need to have faith like children. (Examples can be found in Matthew 18:3, Mark 10:15, and Luke 18:17.) Sometimes I am awestruck by the amount of faith our young children exhibit. When my mother was in her final weeks of life, Larry provided me a great deal of comfort. I about lost it when one night while praying he leaned over, looked at me, and said, "Mom, it is time for Mom-Mom to go home now. God has a big book...bigger than any book I have ever seen, and Mom-Mom is on the next page." Those were his words, the words of a four-year-old, whom I have never talked to about the book of life.
The same four-year-old and his two-year-old brother, Moe, have exhibited an amazing amount of faith and wisdom during a very stressful time in our home. Considering our eleven-year-old, Sporty, speaks very little English and has displaced Larry as the oldest child in the home and our eighteen-month-old, Sassy, has a very real (and very loud) fear of being abandoned, everyone in our family would have every right to be stressed beyond measure. There are certainly moments each day where the stress peaks and everyone is vying for mom's attention, but as a whole, our children are adapting exceedingly well. They talk about how God brings families together, all of our children call us mommy and daddy (and it seems and feels natural!), and they honestly interact like siblings that have been together for life.
The way I have chosen to approach the first few weeks of our new family life is do a great deal of observing. I believe this is especially important due to Sporty's age and Sassy's past experiences. Instead of assuming I understand the motives behind each child's action, reaction, or behavior, I have been watching various scenarios play out. (Now, I have also been doing a lot of boundary setting, rule coaching, and helping to establish new and unique roles for each child.) However, the primary component of these past two weeks has been observation. By doing so, I have learned a lot about Sporty, Sassy and also about how Larry and Moe are handling this transition. Instead of jumping in directing the course of action, I have been trying to understand why a particular child chose a specific behavior or action. Honestly, it has been quite intriguing! When I can see through the chaos and silence the noise, I have been in observation heaven.
I have observed that in Ethiopia, older children take toys away from younger children and consider this a form of play. Bigger and older children grab toys, food, etc. away from the younger children and then make a game out of the younger child retrieving the toy. Sassy understands the 'rules of the game', but it also seems to be a factor in her lack of trust and unhealthy attitude toward food. Larry and Moe do not understand or enjoy this type of 'play'.
I have observed that Sporty wants a real and active role in helping out around the house and caring for his siblings. He wants to be associated with his father, the man of the house, but is also interested in helping me with his younger siblings throughout the day.
I have learned not to misread nonverbal communication. Rather, I have been visiting local Amharic-speaking community members so that I can have them ask Sporty our questions directly and he can answer them directly.
I have deduced that Sassy is very loud most likely because that is how she set herself apart at the transition home and received attention. She is strong-willed, intelligent (is already speaking English and trying to potty-train), and determined to get her way.
I have learned that Sassy's fear of abandonment is going to take a good deal of time to overcome. We are going to need a lot of patience and consistency in her routine and surroundings.
I have also observed that Sassy has a very unhealthy relationship with food. She does not seem to know when she is hungry or full. If food is within eyesight, she will always want to eat it.
Mainly, we have learned that we are going to have to choose and prioritize our battles (as parents) so that we work on the most pressing issues right away that will in turn establish the foundation of our new family. There are so many moving pieces right now that we need to focus on the most important things that will serve as building blocks for everything else.
While most of us in the adoption world talk about how God perfectly matches children and families, this is no longer a blind faith statement but a living testament. God knew before the beginning of time that Sporty and Sassy were meant to be in our family and because we stepped out in obedience, we are witnessing with our own eyes how perfectly He worked out the details to bring us together.
Heavenly and gracious God, we praise you as the God of all creation. The Father to us all, who adopted each one of us as sons and daughters. We ask that you remove all from our home that does not come from you and continue in each one of us the work that you have started so that we are able to further your kingdom. Thank you, God for the blessing of our family!