I've always said that I would be open and honest on my blog. While I don't want to discourage potential adoptive parents or scare anyone away, adoption is not all butterflies and rainbows. It's hard. Hard to the point that this week, I started to wonder if I had made the biggest mistake of my life.
If you are one of those people that doesn't want to hear anything negative about adoption, you probably want to stop reading now.
If you want to know what the realities of day-to-day life CAN be like, keep reading. (Disclaimer: Every family and child is different. Sara's adjustment has gone incredibly well. There are much harder stories out there. It's still hard!)
I thought it was funny that Sara was considered an "older" child when I started this process. She's only 4. That's not old. Much older kids get adopted all the time.
Four years old means four years of habits, behaviors, aggressive acts, lack of limits, etc., that have to be corrected.
Sara was well taken care of. I will always be grateful for that. However, she was moved a lot. Her last placement let her become very independent but I don't think there was a lot of structure. I have a very strong feeling that the theory was "Sara is special and cute." I'm pretty sure she was allowed to do almost anything she wanted. She doesn't really care to be told no. (What kid does?) She always wants to be the start of the show and the center of attention. (Sometimes it's cute. Sometimes it's inappropriate.) If you say no to her being the center of attention, she WILL have something to say about it.
Sara's biggest issue is her communication skills. She's learning a lot of English but she doesn't speak any. (Except for Hi, Bye, and Cow.) Even in Spanish, her communication is very delayed. The developmental pediatrician told me on Monday that I should no longer be speaking Spanish to her since she's only getting English at school. He said it was confusing her and delaying her English. I tried it this week and saw a huge increase in behaviors. She's understanding a lot but I think maybe she sees home as a safe haven where she doesn't have to try so hard to understand and be understood. (I know that when I've been around Spanish speakers all day, I yearn to speak English and I understand and speak both languages.) I went back to Spanish this weekend (after I developed this theory) and we've had a much better weekend than week.
Sara does not function well when she hasn't gotten enough sleep. Neither does her mommy. The last two weeks have been crazy busy with a bunch of new experiences. We've been up late at night and early in the morning. Our current work/school schedule doesn't allow for good nap times. By the end of the week, we are both tired and tend to get frustrated with each other.
I've come to the conclusion that Sara has some minor sensory issues. She doesn't like loud noises. She is scared of the vacuum cleaner and the lawn mower. We went to a Mexican restaurant last night. They were making drinks in a blender. She plugged her ears every time. We went to an event at work on Thursday. There were tons of people there and the walls were covered with art work. This particular event has always overwhelmed me a little bit. Sara could not handle it. We lasted 17 minutes. She was hiding under tables, behind curtains, in bathrooms. It was just too much. She was also hitting, biting, head butting. (The head butting was new. I haven't seen that before.)
Sara is an amazing child who happens to hit and bite and yell. I didn't see a lot of these behaviors in Colombia. I saw none of them when we first came home. I've seen more this month than the previous three combined. The honeymoon is over!
There are a lot of reasons that this frustrates me and makes me doubt myself and my decisions:
*No one else ever sees these behaviors. Everyone thinks she's just the greatest, cutest thing ever and that our life together is perfect.
*I teach young adults with special needs. I know what happens when kids don't learn boundaries and limits early. I know how people judge the parents of kids with behavior issues. I don't want to be that parent.
*I wonder sometimes if another, better family would have come along for Sara. One that has two parents. One that has experience raising a child with Down syndrome. One that can afford more therapies, counseling, etc for her.
*Her behaviors are getting worse; not better. Am I making them worse? Am I doing something wrong? What if they never go away? Am I prepared to deal with being hit for the next 40 years?
*Are we going to survive 11 weeks of summer together 24/7? Is it going to help us bond or kill us both?
Let me just say that I'm not expecting comments or texts or phone calls or emails telling me what a great job I'm doing. I'm not as depressed or hopeless as I sound. (We actually had a great day!) These are just the thoughts, feelings, and doubts that occasionally run through my head. I just want to get this out there. I want adopting parents to know that hard days will come. I want other adoptive parents to know that they aren't the only ones with doubts.
At the end of the day, I love my daughter with all my heart. She has added so much to my life already. She is learning and growing and changing. She's amazing. And, like every other human being, she has her struggles and her bad days. Her mommy does, too!
We will continue to struggle through this adjustment together. We'll continue to take each day as it comes. We will continue to remember that we are a family now and that we love each other no matter what.