Tuesday, August 30, 2011

How's It Going?

That is the question of the day. 

So.  I will attempt to answer.

One week ago we all met our Lily.  One week ago tomorrow, we brought her home.

Bringing home a 2 1/2 year old is significantly different from bringing home a 9 month old.  At nine months, my other kids still needed to bond, just like Lily.  They still needed to figure out that I was their Mommy.  Lily does too.  But Grace and Josiah were babies.  They were totally dependent on me.  They had not fully developed their own will or have their own opinions. 

But Lily has lived for 2 1/2 years.  In the same place, with the same routine.  She has no concept of a Mommy.  She has been cared for exceedingly well; she has had all her physical needs met; she has had many, many people show love to her.  She is almost completely potty-trained (that's nice!), she knows how to feed herself, and she is starting to talk (some English, some Swahili).  She understands most of what I say to her, and if not, she usually understands if I switch to Swahili. 

Just like I did to help Grace and Josiah bond with me, I am making sure she doesn't leave my side, I am limiting the other people she interacts with, and only I (or Gil) take care of all her physical needs.  She has already started calling me 'Mommy.'  But does she know what that means? 

The hardest part is that she is typically two and can be a little pill.  She certainly knows how to throw a tantrum.  But how do you discipline a child who doesn't have that bond of trust with you?  Yet how can you allow a two-year-old to get away with whatever she wants? 

That is my tension right now.  Sometimes I feel elated; we are finally a family of five; our wait is over; it finally happened!  And other times it feels very, very odd.....I have a stranger in the house.  And she is moody and demanding and sees my other children only as objects of competition.  She has a bad cold with chest congestion that keeps her (and us) up at night.  She is frightened of the dogs and startles herself awake and starts screaming from disorientation.  I am simultaneously filled with compassion, pity, love, frustration, and feeling overwhelmed.  That's how it's going.

A friend of mine here in Tanzania adopted two girls when they were ages 2 and 4, a number of years ago.  Her family is wonderful and beautiful.  I asked her what was her advice on bonding and settling and forming this new family.  She laughed.  "Time," she said. 

I know all about waiting.  So I nod my head, smile, and I wait.
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