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Sunday, September 09, 2007

Adoption Q & A # 26 (Family resource plan)

This following question and answers were reprinted from another list serve called "Ichild" which is serving as a virtual India adoption platform.

What are some things that came up that you were not expecting and how did you deal with hem? What was it like to bring a toddler into your home? How was the adjustment time?

Author # 1: Bringing a toddler into your home is an adventure!!! Here's a child whose never lived in a household, has no English skills, but can run and climb and knows what s/he wants--even if you don't!!I would strongly recommend reading as much on attachment as you can. Toddler Adoption: The Weaver's Craft is a valuable read, as is Deborah Gray's Attaching in Adoption. There are a few websites--attachchina, I believe, that are really good too.

Be prepared for grieving, tantrums, sleep issues, food issues, etc.,etc. Also, please try to put yourself in the shoes of your newly-home toddler. This child must feel Kidnapped. Everything s/he has known has been ripped away. Nothing looks the same, smells the same, tastes the same...And a toddler doesn't have the brain development/language development to understand what has happened to him/her.They need a lot of TLC and a lot of grace. Also remember, this stage isn't forever. Most folks realize at around 3 mos. home that things are much calmer, then at 6 mos. realize that things are much calmer than they were at 3 mos., etc., etc.

Author # 2: Dental work. A 3 yr old can arrive in your home with a mouthful of bad teeth that all need to be repaired, and dental insurance pays only a small fraction of what the repair costs. Don't be surprised to find yourself forking out $5000 in cash for dental work for a newly adopted3 yr old. I thought that a 3 yr old with bad teeth, well the bad teeth would fall out in another year or two anyway, so why worry about it? Except that the decay can actually start to rot the underlying adult teeth.

Author # 3: My daughter, who started second grade on Tuesday, came to me at 20 months. We are remarkably okay given all the things I did less than well and sometimes downright wrongly at the beginning, the number of realities it took us months and years to figure out (intestinal infection, food allergies and AD/HD) and the many ways in which I am not the saint I remember my own mother being.

I believe that if you have no regrets than you haven't really lived. Here's my list of things I would have done differently at the start with my daughter:

I would have been more open to letting my daughter sleep in my bed or at least my bedroom sooner. I spent a long time fighting it which could have been spent sleeping. Of course, we are now trying to get her out of our bed, but still I regret more the time I wasted torturing her and me by resisting letting her sleep with me.

I would take better care of myself and ask people for help more often. I was single and working and needed more sleep than I got for the first 2 years of parenthood. As silly as it would have seemed, asking my sister, my boyfriend (now husband) or a friend to take my daughter for a few hours every now and then so that I could take a nap would have been a smart thing to do.

Find a local adoption support group. I didn't do this and wish I had. Moms need other moms to talk with, and other adoptive moms can help you deal with, or at least wallow along with you in, the "is it an adoption issue or something else?" game. It takes a village to keep a mother sane.

I would have encouraged my daughter to take a bottle from me. Despite everything I'd read about attachment, bottle-feeding seemed silly to me at the time because she was so skilled with a cup. Now that I've had the experience of nursing my son (2 years old tomorrow!), I understand what she missed out on. I couldn't have compensated completely, but bottle-feeding would have been the next best thing and would have been a source of bonding and comfort for us both. It probably would have taken some patience and persistence to get her to go for it in the beginning, but I do so wish that I had made the attempt.

Practice forgiveness. For yourself and your child. You are going to make mistakes. It's okay. Moms wing it practically every minute of every day. There are no how-to instructions. Your child is probably going to fling some abuse at you, and it's really hard in the moment not to take it personally. Especially when you haven't slept well in weeks. Forgive her. Try to look at it from her perspective. Your entire world has been changed overnight and you are trying to deal with it with a brain that is nearly two decades away from being fully developed. Put little notes to yourself around the house that remind you to remember that.

Err on the side of indulgence and take it slow when it comes to discipline. I was very worried at first about establishing my authority and 'starting as I intended to go on" and I caused myself and my daughter a lot of unnecessary grief because of it. A lot of house rules will just have to wait until you and she and the rest of the family are on solid footing as a family unit. You can't ask her to buy into the family rules until she's bought into the idea that she is part of the family.

As for adjustment period, another adoptive mom said this...or something like it... to me right before my daughter came home: "Six weeks of hell, six months of purgatory and then you have the hope of heaven." Incredibly, that was pretty much right on the mark for us.

Despite this list of regrets, there is one thing that I don't regret at all and that is adopting my daughter no matter what challenges we have faced or will face in the future. Raising her is one of the great joys and blessings of my life. The most amazing gift.

Author # 4: We brought our daughter home from India when she was 2 1/2 yrs old. She is now14 and a freshman in high school! WoW! This time has gone by rather quickly. I remember making idlis for her in an idli steamer I purchased on Devon St. (Gandhi Marg) in Chicago for her first morning in her new home? She looked at me and exclaimed, "Amma, idlis!"

One thing to remember is that toddlers can have a lot of energy and want to do it all in a day... so when they nap, it's a good idea to go down for a nap too.? We had lots of finger foods for snacks available. At this age, they like to determine what they eat, so having choices makes it a lot easier to manage.

We were also very fortunate to have a group of Telugu people who worked at a nearby church.We went to a performance of Telugu dancers. Many of the younger children were running around chasing each other... while our daughter sat glued to her chair, watching with fascination the intricate dancing! I made a mental note to sign her up for dance at the first opportunity. She loved her first movement class, and after that we signed her up for a toddler tumbling class. Then she moved on to ballet and Kathak (classical Indian dance). And by age 9, she determined that she wanted to do ballet, jazz, and modern. She now dances in a local dance ensemble that gives her a lot of satisfaction and joy.

Mostly, we just had a lot of books around, went to the library and bookstores in the area and hung out with a lot of neighborhood kids. Still, you want to watch them the first several weeks (keeping that time as your own) making certain that you keep to routine (if they are used to the morning AND afternoon naps--keep those in place!). Don't worry about offending friends and family who want to interact right away. The most important thing is to get good rest with naps and keep bedtime routines on schedule. The ayas for our daughter told us to follow up the bath with an oil rub down. That sure worked wonders in keeping her relaxed and in a slumber mode for bed time. The other thing we did was to get her a soft doll from Target, that she named Hannah. She slept with Hannah and had someone to "comfort" when she was transitioning into bedtime routine.

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