Here we are at a little past one week home. It has been hard, and it has been good. I want to document the flourishing we see in our home, but I want to protect the stories of my sons.
I also want to give those interested in adoption a real picture. I love good intentions, but keeping expectations low and realistic is where it’s really at. I’m a social worker. We’ve hosted kids from hard places. But I’ve still been a little overwhelmed.
Typical routines: All three boys wake up between 7a and 7:30a. We kept Theo and Elliot up until bedtime on the day they flew in, and we have not experienced any jet lag at all! Dan usually gets up with them, because one of the boys sometimes wakes up early and comes in to our room. Dan has been going back to lay down with him until the other wakes up. I am not a morning person, so Dan gives me grace, and I sloth out of bed around 8a some mornings. We eat breakfast as a family.
The boys are at full throttle mode right away, so we try to burn off energy right away. We usually head out to the yard or a playground right away. I’m always already sweaty, unshowered, and without make-up. We try to help them play hard until we need to go back home for Milo’s first nap. We put down Milo and have a snack around 10:30a. If Dan is home, I have sometimes snuck out to do necessary errands during this time.
We had a hard time finding things to do at home that keep them calm and happy initially. We’re slowly figuring it out. They may play outside more, play inside with toys, play music on their drums, color, or play with Play-Doh. They like helping with chores, so we do one at least one of those every day.
We eat lunch at noon when Milo is awake. We play some more. We have tried to do a nap around 1:30p most days. One of the boys sleeps and one doesn’t. The one who sleeps usually takes a long time to fall asleep at night. We’re considering skipping naps to do quiet time in their room, which kind of sounds impossible right now. Today I sat in their room and read books to them for about 30 minutes before they were over it.
Milo goes down for another nap at 3:30p, and the older boys have a snack again at that time. They say they’re hungry often, and whether or not they are isn’t for us to decide, so we’re giving them food as often as possible. More playing at home during this time. They love being outside, so we’re usually in the back yard.
When Milo gets up around 5p, we start working on dinner, if we’re making it. (Friends have been super generous to bring us dinner every other night for several weeks!) They watch Daniel Tiger during this time, because they aren’t quite to the point where they will play outside without us there. We eat dinner as a family.
After we eat dinner, we either walk down to a nearby playground, do baths, or watch a movie. Right now, we’re taking them upstairs at 7p to get ready for bed. They’re laying down with one of us by 7:30p and asleep by 8p. We haven’t yet tried to do bedtime without us laying with them. We’re going to take that slowly. If Dan isn’t home, I’ve been feeding Milo his bottle downstairs with him, taking him up to lay him down, and then starting their bedtime routine closer to 7:30p.
Language learning: Their English learning has been a little slower than I expected, but I’m okay with it. Dan speaks more French than I realized (ha!), so he has been communicating with them primarily in French for the 2.5 weeks he’s been around them. He’s trying to transition to more English, and they’re accepting it. The first unsolicited English Elliot spoke was “Hi, baby! Hi, Milo!” in the same tone I use with him. They’re using “please” occasionally, as well as “thank you.” We’re reading lots of books with animals, so I think they’re starting to pick up animals. “Cow” seems to be one they use most often. Not much more than that right now… I speak to them in French a tiny bit, but when I speak to them in English, I can tell they’re starting to understand more of it.
Hard stuff: The hard stuff is absolutely there. It seems they are used to a different kind of structure and different rules. We’re trying to implement our structure and appropriate rules. It’s also obvious that they were kept safe and nurtured. We’re doing those things, too. I’m not comfortable sharing a ton of details, but we’re seeing regular meltdowns, throwing toys, physical aggression, and attempts to run off in public. They have also had a hard time with basic routines like eating at the table, using the bathroom, sharing toys, and getting in and out of the car.
For the most part, we understand why all of this is happening. It helps a lot to consider all the changes their minds have experienced after all the loss they’ve experienced on top of other trauma we know they’ve experienced and probably trauma we don’t even know about.
Easy stuff: They love physical touch and affection. They love to be nurtured… We do lots of lotion and bandaids and feeding each other. If I sit on the couch to watch a show with them or on their beds to read books, they like to snuggle in close. When we lay down with them at night, they snuggle in to each other and in to us. Theo fell asleep forehead-to-forehead with me one night.
They love Milo, and he loves them. They’ve been really sweet with him and as gentle as high-energy 4-year-old boys can be. On our ride home from the airport, they gave him their toys and water. They tickled him on the way out of the car. They like to help put him down for naps and get him up in the morning. They are patient with him when he invades their space, and the three of them could play happily at the water table for an hour. We let them pick out his clothes sometimes, and they pick out their own clothes 100% of the time. (Elliot wore three button-up shirts on top of each other today.)
We thought Oscar needed to move in with his uncle after one hard day, but then we started seeing progress right after. We showed the boys that Oscar does not eat toys (even though he does sometimes, don’t tell!) or shoes. We showed them how much he likes fetching balls, and they got used to throwing the ball for him. We showed them how he likes to eat table food and let them feed him a plate of mac + cheese. We took a walk with them safely in the double stroller and Oscar beside them. They don’t really pet him, but they can tolerate him being in their presence with out complete freak outs now!
They’re sleeping really well once they’re asleep. One sleeps like a rock for 12 hours straight. Though the other sometimes wakes up and comes to our room a few times a night, we’re happy that he feels safe when he wakes up to not cry but come find us instead. He falls asleep easily as soon as we lay down with him again.
We have slowly ventured to playgrounds that are increasingly busy, because we weren’t sure how they would do with other kids and adults. This morning there were quite a few kids and parents at a small indoor playground we visited. Theo and Elliot were really careful and gentle around the babies, and they tried to interact with the older kids. The language barrier is still there, though.
Through the chaos, there have been plenty of moments I’ve sat back and marveled that these days are really here. They wore the Superman cape hooded towels I bought for them years ago. We read books given to them for their first birthday. We looked at pictures of them as babies. It’s still bittersweet… I haven’t forgotten the wait and the pain, and I don’t want to.
To some extent, it feels like we’re experiencing double the amount of hard stuff. But it’s double the easy stuff, too, and I’m so glad they’re my sons. They’re here to stay. They’re here to flourish. God is healing their hearts and refining mine.