>Toddler adoption; tag along

>You know, there are things no one tells you about adoption, about parenting in general, but about some adoption issues in particular. These are the things you can’t really guess at because they are in that “who knew” zone.

You read all the books and then some. Or I do. I am a consumate researcher, I can’t help it. It’s why I stayed in school forever and then went back for more. I LOVE a library. I LOVE a bookstore even more. I love researching, in it’s own way. It’s the control freak in me, I know.

But this is all to say thay you think you know all the big things and the minor issues and you are as prepped as you can be. Which is important, and good.

But what I didn’t read in all those books and memoirs and studies are the passing mentions of the quirky things. Maybe they were there all along and I just glossed over them. But here is where I am thinking, maybe this whole ‘net thing, this blog thing, might just have it’s own strength and beauty. Because I can throw out to the net, to the whole nine people who read this blog, a question or two. And I can throw out some of the things we’ve gone through and tell for real, the good bad ugly and weird and wonderful.

So, I’m asking, what about toddler adoption? I know every kid and every circumstance is different….yah yah yah. But still: What are the quirky things that you experienced? Was it a language delay? Was it physical maturing slow, then fast? Was it an odd lag somehow and then a warp speed race to catch up? Was it reversed?

All that is to say….we are in an unexpected spot with Gabriel now. Not a bad one, at all! Good in so many ways, but different than what we had anticipated. In a way it is similar to what I went through with my two boys who were large as babies, physically. It’s this: Gabriel is a little like a Baby Huey ( I know, Disney on the brain…sorry, it’s this whole So Cal vibe I’m soaking in). So he’s a big boy to look at, but he’s babyish on the inside…which makes it a bit tricky at times. (more on that, different post).

Gabriel has regressed to a point of a about a year old baby. But he is totally the size of an almost two year old. Now intellectually I understand this and I welcome it. I read about trying to intentionally regress a newly adopted toddler into some of the baby stages/bonding phases that hey might have missed. So I think this is, on that level, fantastic and very welcome: essential.

But on a day to day level, it continues to be odd. Because Gabe feels like he’s been here for so long. He feels like he is part of us, period. It’s like I missed the first part of the movie somehow and it’s blank there and I hate that, but really, he feels like he’s been with us from, well, forever, instead of just one month. And there is this unexpected grief that you have missed so much. Physically, the feel and look of him being small and all that brings. And beyond that, the sadness of missing so much, just that bulk of time. And yes, his background and his story makes him exactly who he is, but at the same time it is an odd ‘missing’ feeling too. It doesn’t jive. It’s an unexpected quirk of adopting a toddler.

It’s super easy to go through a day and just mosey along in your standard kid/toddler mode. And then you forget, kind of, that this boy doesn’t understand, or doesn’t have words (except for Mama, in distress or real glee, but really even not so much with this anymore). He doesn’t have the social skills others had or have at this age. He doesn’t really understand toys. He doesn’t understand his own strength. He doesn’t understand ‘gentle’ or ‘just a minute’…except for the tone and some body language. He is a baby. He doesn’t “look” like a baby. But he is. He is a baby. And for who knows how long, not that I’m in a rush to move beyond, but he is. For now.

Now, I knew some of this from reading about adopting a toddler, especially from half a world away. But reading it and living it is different. And adopting a toddler is different from having one who has been with you from very young.

On the other hand, they don’t really tell you how electrifying it is to have that first word come out, directed at you. Or to have his face light up when he sees you and makes a beeline to give you his hair-pulling hug. Or how wonderful and melting sweet his head-hugs are. For the whole family, watching him discover the world and us in it for him, is keenly felt and shared with laughs and smiled gazes. It is at least as amazing as when your little baby does it for the first time, perhaps more so because you can really almost ‘see’ the links click into place in his mind. It’s so cool. And when you reaches for you and grins and smears you with a kiss, it is the sweetest kiss ever as it is REAL, it is earned trust and new love.

So, I don’t know, I’ve been thinking about this so much on this trip stuff swirling through my brain, not in any good form or order. As I introduce him to many new relatives and old friends, as we sit having simple easy time on a beach, as our life has slowed to the essentials here…it’s easier to see and then ponder some of this. Not that I am making any really good sense of it (I’ll blame that on the sun, ahem). But, well, it’s different. No less wonderful, or glorious. But it is different this time, of course. Worth every moment, every effort. But for those of you adopting a toddler, it IS different from older child or baby adoption. It is unique. It’s better than I dreamed.
For Gabriel Tariku, each day is an adventure, a discovery….and we get the unique privelege of being able to tag along…and in a quirky way, I get to relive some tiny bit of that baby-time with my bigger by the minute little boy.

7 thoughts on “>Toddler adoption; tag along

  1. >I have just (one month ago) brought home two children from Haiti. Both children have a few, minor developmental delays. But, I expected and welcomed them. I wanted to see as much of their development as possible, so the fact that they are a little behind, mostly from lack of exposure, isn’t really bothering me. Both kids already have unbelievable receptive language skills. They understand everything that is said to them. Neither child uses English words very often, but they have only been in the US for a month. What has been hard is the fact that there were no toys in our orphanage. None! The kids play is physical and rough, to the point where they are not safe with their same aged peers. I have had to sit down and teach the kids how to play with toys. Oh that and they insist on taking baths in cold water. The least bit warm and they declare it “Cho (hot)!” It makes me uncomfortable just thinking about being in cold water.

  2. >Thank you for posting this- these are some of the things I wonder about.I have not BTDT, but all I can think is this: how much must he trust you, to regress into a more dependent state? And as you consistently meet his needs, how much more does he understand trust, permanence, consistency, and love?Good job, Mama.

  3. >FABULOUS post! Been working on writing some of this about our own journey. But the “writing” is still in my head and not out on the keyboard yet. Eventually, I will. The only thing you forgot to write about was the BACK! …. man my back FEELS the “big baby” of Arsema! HA! :)Thanks for sharing … many families will be helped and encouraged by this.~Shelly

  4. >See, this is awesome. You are so in tune with your boy… that you can see this weird mixture of baby and big boy… this is classic in toddler adoption. And it is okay! They best part is that you’re willing to go backwards with him. Both of my sisters who were adopted as toddlers did this. And you go with them on the journey to re-live babyhood, the right way this time. You rock them, hold them a LOT (hip slings are good for this), and even let them have a bottle if they want one (but YOU give it to them, while rocking them and gazing into their eyes). Kids know when they are safe, and they know when mommy will allow them to heal. This is your sweet boy healing with his mommy, being that baby he always wanted to be, and also moving forward simultaneously. This is so, so beautiful… the restoration of a little life. And you’re the restorer. BEAUTIFUL! becca

  5. >Oh my goodness, Shelly, you’re right! how could I forget that part? My back…oh and ouch. Me too. Slings or not, just the up and down of this 26 pound boy has my back spazzed out and will for some time.No complaints, I’ll take it, but I THOUGHT I was in shape for this and well, I guess not. Work out ladies, start now! ON the other hand, I’m gonna get “buff!” Ha!

  6. >We finalized the foster-adoption on our two children in 2005 … after fostering them for three years. Christopher was 2-1/2 when we got him, Sarah 6 months. They are now 8 and 6, and STILL go through “seasons of regression” with the “goo goo, ga-ga” and mimicking baby behavior from time to time. Sarah especially seems “young” for her years.Part of what they are experiencing (and this may be relevant to your situation as well) is the grieving process of losing their family of origin. In your case, they lost even more — language, cultural cues, etc. We are so happy to have these kids in our lives, we sometimes forget the trauma they have been through, or the fact that their sense of loss may not go away as quickly as we would like it to. Sometimes we can help by giving them the words for what they are feeling: “Sad.” “Lonely.” “Angry/Mad.” “Remembering.” We can comfort them and reassure them. But we cannot take away the pain. We can only walk through it with them.Great post!Heidi Saxton(A.K.A. “Mommy Monsters”)

  7. >Heidi, You are so right. It’s one of the reasons I will be happy when he starts understanding words, so we can help with ways for him to connect that stuff. We have these issues w/ our adopted girls (Little Man seems to be too young yet…), one of them more than the other and her medical issues launched some attachment stuff. It can be very hard. But I agree, mostly you can only ‘walk through’ it with them…but even that is SO important, critical, and huge. Your writing is great stuff, honest and helpful in so many ways. Thank you!


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