Tuesday, August 17, 2010

What I'm thinking about: the gift of time

I'm loving this post today.  Love, love, loving it.

Because it's thought-provoking.  And real.

My sons came home from Ethiopia at 16-months-old.  They'd been institutionalized for all but a month and a half of that (when they were still with their birth mother.)  So, most of their lives had been spent in various orphanages.

Yosef had met all of his developmental milestones so far, pretty much, in spite of his environment.
Biniam had not.
Biniam was not walking.  Neither boy was talking.  Biniam had low muscle tone.  We would occasionally wonder if something more was "wrong."

People would often recommend that I get them into speech therapy...have Biniam evaluated...get some early intervention...get them caught up.

But something in me said, "wait".
Something in me said that what my sons needed was a mother, and a father, and a big sister. 
Something in me said that my sons needed love, and to learn what it means to live in a family, and to be able to truly depend on someone.

I believed the talking could wait.
The walking could wait.

We DID immediately take the necessary steps to fight off parasites, lice, and a double ear infection.  To get the boys healthy.  (Here is where I shall insert my disclaimer that it IS VERY, VERY IMPORTANT to address certain medical needs RIGHT AWAY.  I'm not saying that it's ever okay to ignore things that really need to be dealt with.)

But I was in no rush to stick my sweet little boys in multiple therapies...yet another revolving door of adults casually traipsing in and out of their lives.  They were 16 months old.  They'd only been exposed to limited English in the first place...so why SHOULD they be speaking it yet?

I would often tell people that we were waiting.  That I would give my sons time.  Part of me wondered if they thought I was a bad mom for not signing my kids up for various therapies, but the other part of me didn't care if people thought that.  :)

The thing was, I made the choice not to care if my son walked later than your son did.  (And he probably did.  Now the kid won't sit still.  Go figure.)  Or if my kids weren't talking as early as yours were.  My sons' first adoptive family decided they didn't want to parent my boys based on the fact that they weren't "where they should be" developmentally.  Well, I'm sorry, but they spent their early life being cared for by nannies, amidst lots of other needy children.  I'm so grateful that they ended up in an orphanage where they were loved and fed, but at the same time, it is not a family--where optimal development happens.

We're watching a documentary right now about a set of twins where one of the little girls was born with a particular special need, and the other was not.  This family didn't have any other children, and were able to devote tons of resources to early intervention.  In spite of her needs, this little girl was doing all sorts of amazing things not much later than a typical child might.  Pretty amazing.  At the same time, the reality is that not all of us have that situation.  We may have (several) other children to care for, bills to pay, places we need to be.  I wonder if we need to guard ourselves from making our child a "project" of sorts...setting our standards so incredibly high, deciding what is NORMAL and devoting every ounce of our strength to bring a child to that level.

I'm processing through these things because we just finished up our homestudy and soon will be able to look at files of waiting children in Ethiopia.  We are currently considering adopting a child/children with  the same need as the sweet girl in the documentary.  This is new territory for us in the sense that I had never imagined us pursuing this type of adoption, until God began speaking (whispering, really) to our hearts over the past several months.  I'm excited.  But nervous.  I've been doing a bit of reading and research about it and it's definitely something where we would potentially have lots of decisions to make in this area.

Don't get me wrong, I believe as a parent it is my responsibility to help my kids reach their God-given potential.  But I wonder what type of potential we should be shooting for?  Sure I could enroll my kids in top-notch gymnastics training programs for eight hours a day and try to help them become really great, world-class gymnasts, but at some point, I think you need to accept the fact that a child is a child.  They need love, a stable home life, attention, time with you and with their siblings.  If I have a child who is not overly gifted in math, or reading, or art, that is okay.  They are gifted in other ways.  I probably won't go overboard trying to get them proficient in calculus by the fifth grade, but I WILL do what I can to ensure they can do the math that they need for college and for life.  Meeting challenges is good.  Trying to force everyone into the same mold, at the cost of relationship and fun and childhood, is not so good in my opinion.

When adopted children come home, they need to feel safe.  They need to adjust.  To attach.  My sons certainly did.  As they began to acclimate to our family and take ownership of their new life, their milestones came naturally.  Had they not, we would have certainly pursued some type of intervention.  But it turns out we didn't have to, and I'm glad we didn't wear ourselves (and our kids) out by doing those things prematurely, when they weren't necessary.  (If you know my boys, you will be surprised that there was ever a time when they weren't talking!)

We will do whatever it takes for ANY of our children to succeed and thrive in life.  For some children, this may involve a bit more work, or intervention, or resources.  I'm prepared for that.  But we need to remember that sometimes, for an adopted child, the best gifts that you can give them are yourself, and time. 


Joanie said...


Natalie Powers in NC said...

As an adoptive parent myself, I truly appreciate your sentiment and agree with most of it! We chose to let our two adopted girls (though not 'special needs', they were decidedly delayed) progress without intervention for quite a while. I do think it's a fine line and a subsequent slippery slope to pass judgment (however theoretical and musing it is) on those who for whatever reason do want to jump gung-ho into therapies, treatments, and the like.

Still, I don't think you came off too harsh or cruel, just somewhat on a pedestal (which I know was NOT your intent). Thank you for bringing this subject up and handling it fairly well!

Anonymous said...

Hi Brianna,

I'm a long time lurker and, as such, have never commented before because it honestly seems a little weird to lurk on the blog of someone you've never met (although I seem to do it a lot). I have absolutely enjoyed following your family and learning about adoption through your eyes.

Today I decided to comment because I just couldn't resist the urge to follow up the previous commment and say that I've never thought you come across as being "on a pedestal." You are simply sharing your experience and made it clear that you were processing you own thoughts and feelings as you begin the adoption process again.

We may not all share the same viewpoint, but I've also never sensed that you were trying to force your parenting style on someone else.

Just my two cents. I look forward to hearing more of your thoughts and following along as you welcome the newest member of your family!


Brianna Heldt said...

Kristy hello! I don't think it's strange at all to lurk on blogs...I do it all the time. :) I'm glad that you commented, it's nice to "meet" you!

Thank you so much for the kind words. Blogging is maddening because the written word can be interpreted in so many different ways. I really did just want to share my perspective based on what I'd read on the blog I'd linked to, and then also in response to the general "fix-it", perfectionist culture we live in. I have no experience with early intervention for children so I really have no pedestal to stand on.

I do my best to ignore negative comments because I'm a people pleaser, and it would eat away at me, which is lame! :) So thank you again for your sweet words.


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