The first week–the good, the bad and the ugly.

Definitely the good. She’s cute, and most of the time, happy.

Bubbles has been in the U.S. for about 1 1/2 weeks now. For 1 entire week, she has been on vacation with us. We made that decision for multiple reasons. We could have canceled our vacation, instead we thought it would be nice to leave our many, many family members behind, and let our kids bond without all the intrusions. Our kids at home had also been promised this vacation for over a year. Disappointing them would have given them a reason to resent their sister’s arrival more than her behavior already does. So, we kept it low key. Some time in Disney Land, but many hours at the pool (only dabbling her feet) and at playgrounds. Bubbles didn’t ride many rides. She spent a lot of time admiring the princesses and riding the carousel. She spent large amounts of time feeding the ducks with her sister while FPD and I took turns riding with the little men. It all seems to have gone well, up until yesterday.

Honeymoon over. She has realized she’s not going back to Ghana. And, she flipped a little. You mean THIS is my life now? With you all? The two weird white people and all these other brown children. No thanks. So, she has decided to test us in every way possible. Will you still feed me if I take one bite of everything, gag and then spit it on the ground? You say there’s always food, so why not test you? Never mind that I ate entire fish heads in Ghana, this PB and J is NOT food. GIMME FROOT LOOPS!!! FPD wants to die for EVER having fed them to her. “Gimme” Everything is “gimme”. That is the ONLY thing she’ll say, and when she does, she whispers it. This from a girl that while in Ghana was the most articulate almost three year old I’ve ever met. Her speech is VERY clear, but all of the sudden, she has gone mute. And, she has lost the ability to walk. She would rather throw herself to the ground and scream then walk ANYWHERE. Even two feet. Our choices are to carry her, or let her ride in her pink stroller. And, if anyone else brushes against her stroller, well, it’s on like Donkey Kong. She yells “I will beat you” and then commences beating. Her behavior is two years old to the extreme. We’re also back to pooping our pants again (well, mostly just her, not me). I have been informed that “toilet is finished. I use pamper now”. Great. Again, an expected regression, but hard to deal with.

These interactions are interspersed with moments of lucidity. She has told the kids she loves them. But, they’re not so sure she knows what love is. I told them that they’re probably right. They agree that it is our job to teach her, because her life before was “so sad” (their words, not mine). After all, who doesn’t know who Winnie the Pooh is? What kind of backward place did she live in? How do I answer that for them? Ghana isn’t worse, it’s just different. Her life before was worse, yes, because she was missing security. But, she had food, and someone took care of her physical needs. My kids understand that. But, they understand that she has a lot of scars. They can see them on her arms and legs. Scars that they don’t have, because she lived “rough” (again, their words). She fell and skinned her knees, and no one comforted her. They might have rubbed it and told her “sorry”, but then she was sent on her way. There were many who were far worse off. Wounds scarred because she picked them with unwashed hands until giant scars formed. No one told her not to. There were no Band-Aids to cover them. She doesn’t know how to play like other kids do, because she had no toys. They have seen pictures of her stacking rocks in the yard. She wasn’t carried before, and she obviously needed to be. So, she is making up for it now. And, she used to pee on the ground, so finding a toilet, well, it’s just inconvenient when you’re wearing a diaper. Some of the scars are unseen. These are the ones that are puzzling me right now. How do I deal with that? How deep are these scars? What is adoption behavior and what is two year old behavior? I might never know.

But, she needs to melt into our family. And, while concessions will be made, there are some places where I won’t concede. “Gimme” will not be tolerated. I can’t buy her everything she points at, even though she is pretty sure that is my role in her life. I won’t allow her to waste food. If you don’t like it, swallow it and don’t eat more, but no more food will be made right at that moment and new meals will not be ordered when the chicken and rice doesn’t meet her newly high standards. You won’t starve in the three hours until the next meal or snack. She will be asked to sit on the toilet a few times a day to “try”. Accidents are ok, but we need to try. Beating is not allowed, and neither is “shut up”. She also has a good command of some four letter words, thanks to the older kids at the orphanage who have NO clue what these mean. Even though I feel like shouting them, I don’t, and neither will she.

I spent almost an hour on the phone yesterday, at my lowest point, talking to the one person who I KNOW understands my plight. She and I fought side by side in Ghana during some of those dark moments. Now, she’s in the trenches with me as I fight to make Bubbles into a productive, well-adjusted, human being. I confided to my fellow vet, that there are moments when I wonder if I ruined my family. Then I remember that I felt this way EVERY.SINGLE.TIME we added a child to our family. While walking the floor with the Diva, I wondered if there was a flight back to Arizona that night. Now it is worse, because the behavior is more severe. Bubbles isn’t a baby, the screaming and pants pooping are on a much grander scale and come with a few other rather unflattering behaviors. There have been moments when I thought, can I just take her back? Would they notice if I just pulled into the driveway and plunked her little screaming body on the doorstep of the orphanage? Then the moments of lucidity enter, the storm clears and she’s the little girl you see in the picture above, and I realize how much I love her, and how much she’s accomplished in the week and a half that she has been here. We’ve all accomplished a lot, and we’re moving forward to a new normal. When the new normal arrives, we’ll let you know.

No one should have to feel like these feelings are wrong, so I’m putting them out there. There are people who WILL NOT talk about the good, the bad and the ugly of adding a toddler or older child to your family. And, I want Bubbles to know, when she finally does make it to that stable place, that she came a long way to become part of a family that always loved her very much. The unflattering behaviors didn’t make us love her any less. Even when she has pooped her pants while gagging on her lunch and yelling “gimme” because she sees something that she just MUST have for her very own. We love you anyway, and, this too shall pass. RIGHT? IT WILL PASS? SOMEONE, PLEASE TELL ME THAT IT WILL PASS?

who thinks she might need a Coke the size of her head.

8 thoughts on “The first week–the good, the bad and the ugly.

  1. I UNDERSTAND! šŸ™‚ It will pass, eventually…then it will be on to the “next thing” or new “trying” behaviour šŸ™‚ But what we all need to know is that we have support, friends who will listen and understand. I’m here anytime!

  2. IT WILL PASS! Okay, really, I have NO clue if it will…but I really think it will. šŸ˜€ And thanks for puting those feelings out there. One thing I LOVE about your blog is your pure honesty and the way you put YOURSELF out there. That is brave. And it doesn’t go unappreciated. My family adopted an older child. We went through a lot of hard time integrating a 13 year old into our family. We didn’t KNOW it was “okay” to have that hard time at first, we had never met anyone who had adopted an older child and we felt afraid of those negative feelings. Now, we are all well adjusted and a happy family. However, I still wish we would have talked about that “dark” time when we were all adjusting. I am SO GLAD that YOU had the courage in this post to say the way it REALLY is for you and your family and for Bubbles. THANK YOU for being so forthright and honest. šŸ˜€ Brec

  3. I love this post!!! I read it to my husband and we both cracked up at the no walking and no eating and pooping in the diapers–because we can totally see our Kendi doing the same things when she gets home. I won’t be laughing then for sure! People need to know that it’s HARD, but hard isn’t always bad. You know it will pass. You love her. And she will love you. =-)Anita

  4. I know how you feel. After 2 weeks, I really wondered if we had ruined our family and I wondered if I was the right person to be our daughter’s mother. I thought my twins were ruined for life since they were having a tough time having a new sister. I was surprised at how fast it did get better though, so hang in there.I have no concerns now that we did the right thing and everyone is adjusting great. The other day I told Lilly that she couldn’t go with me and Sierra to walk the dog because she couldn’t find her shoes….again. As Sierra and I were walking the dog, Sierra started crying because she was sad for Lilly that she couldn’t come and she even offered to help her find her shoes so she could. This was coming from the girl who a few months ago would hit and/or bite Lilly and tell her to go back to Africa. It will pass!!!

  5. One day you will read this and laugh as hard as I’m laughing. Not so funny during your melt down and her melt down! She is testing you guys big time with regressing. I’m enjoying her journey, to me she will always be our sweet little pigpen!

  6. This was an awesome post. I have asked myself many times in the last two months “what have we done?” Even today. I know that things will only get better. We love them and I really think they love being part of our family.

  7. Thank you for sharing. I can’t express enough appreciation for the preparation that posts like this and Shelley’s will do to help families like mine before adding new children into the mix. As my husband likes to say (no one ever says “and it came to stay”… only that “it came to pass”) This too shall pass.

  8. My heart goes out to you and Bubbles. I so know how this is. Our oldest regressed and would make himself throw-up – throw temper tantrums and scream at us in fante for hours that he wanted his uncle to come “rescue him” and take him back. Of course in calmer moments he said he did not want to go back and he loved it here. This switching back and forth was (and still is) so difficult. The cute, calm, and “perfect” boy has been so difficult as he regressed and pushed/s the boundaries in violence. Hugs and any love was responded to in stiffness and aggression. But it is better. He loves to curl up on my lap as I rock him in the rocking chair. I never thought that an 8 year old boy would ever love this and he does. He has become quite a mamma’s boy. The silent boy who only ever responded with “I don’t know” and stubborness, now can’t stop talking and is becoming more flexible. This is not to mean we still don’t have our really bad days (like yesterday) but we always say that we will go to bed and wake up happier tommorrow – and we do! We are working with the grief he has experienced with his other parent’s death.Our little toddler who was a hellion to begin with is still a hellion. But he loves on us and kisses us. This child is violent but now as soon as he hits his brother all it takes is a look and he immediately folds his arms and waits until he “signs” sorry and then gives his bro. a kiss where he hit him. The temper-tantrums are humiliating in public as he wants it all; but the squeals of delight at something fun are starting to happen too. With him I thought I would never sleep again, and that my life would be filled with screams and violence from him (I too wonder at the truama he has endured) but things are starting to lighten up. He now can be put on the floor and play and babble away. He now can look at me in the eyese for more than 10 seconds – whereas 2 seconds was too much for him. He now knows to “be soft” and he actually cuddles and hugs other children non-stop; whereas six months ago he hated to be with other kids. It is still not as easy as I wish it were. There will be years of working with them and with ourselves. They still wake with nightmares and real-life grief and fears. The trauma may always affect what they “would have been” otherwise; but I see the strenght they have and the coping skills they have adapted and that may serve them.This is all still fresh for us, but it is getting better. It is becoming more manageable. I cry much less (in private) as do they. Our happy moments are more frequent and it is starting to feel more managable.I feel for you and with you. Our prayers are with you and her!

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