Monday, June 1, 2009

Adjusting and Bonding

I have really meant to make a blog entry about adjusting and bonding, but just haven't gotten around to it. Partly that is because I am still adjusting and it seems like I always have more laundry to do and more house to clean and more taxi driving to do to get the kids here and there. And then the other reason I haven't done it is because it was a bit first.

When we first brought Lilly home, as I said before, she and Madi really hit it off. That lasted for several days, then Madi would say, "Does Lilly have to follow me around everywhere?" "Can't I play with my friend without Lilly coming too?" Honeymoon over.

That being said, Madison and Lilly still get along well, meaning no fighting, playing well together, and enjoying sharing a room together. Lilly always wants to share the same bed with Madison too. I think she was used to sleeping close to someone all the time. She doesn't like to be in her own bed alone. And she is a bit afraid of the dark which surprises me since it is SO dark in Africa at night with no electricity or flashlights.

The adjustment to having a new body in the house was the hardest on the twins which took me by surprise. I should have expected it and should have done some more reading and talking with others who didn't follow birth order in their adoptions. I thought since they were twins and had each other, they wouldn't feel as threatened by a new sister who is older and bigger than they are. Boy was I WRONG.

They were very jealous of the attention she received. They were pretty mean to her sometimes. They always had something to criticize her about. They were ruthless. As a parent, this was very difficult because we wanted Lilly to feel a part of our family. We wanted her to feel welcome and loved. After a few days, Lilly said she liked everything about America except her 2 younger sisters. There was always fighting. Biting. Hitting. I wondered "What have we done?" We tried time-outs, taking away privileges, etc., but that only seemed to make things worse because now Sierra and Savannah thought they were always in trouble because their new sister kept telling on them.

Sierra and Savannah were afraid that they would get Lilly's germs if they touched her. Steve kept encouraging the girls to play together and we played all kinds of games that included physical touch. Games like ring-around-the-rosies, duck duck goose, etc. This seemed to work and we started to see some progress.

Steve took 2 weeks off work (paternity leave...we love the company he works for!) and we did some fun things as a family. We thought it was important to do some activities that would create memories that included Lilly. We went to the Children's Museum. We went to the Zoo. We went to an indoor amusement park. We went on an Easter egg hunt and met the Easter Bunny. We had picnics together and other fun things. One day, we decided to stay home for the day and do some catching up on cleaning and organizing the children's bedrooms since we had just moved them all around. Part way through the day Lilly said, "Dad, I want to ride a roller coaster." We laughed at this and thought we had probably misled her about life in America. I think she came to expect these major family fun days everyday.

Now speaking as a mother, it was really different for me to bond with a 5 year old than it was to bond with a baby. When we adopted our other 3 children, they were infants. I bonded with Madison very naturally and I would say instantly. It took a little longer to bond with the twins because they were preemies and in the hospital for a month. Then when they were home, I was not getting much sleep and still so worried about them. We had already lost a son who was born prematurely and I think I was afraid of bonding with them and then losing them too. But it still only took a few weeks caring for them to bond with them. With an infant, I was always holding them, kissing them, feeding them, caring for them in every way. With a 5 year old, it is different. She is very independent and doesn't want me to help her bathe, dress, eat, etc. She is not used to physical affection...hugging, kissing, being held. I don't think it has been a part of her life up until now. She is warming up to the idea of a hug and a bedtime kiss, but it was weird for her at first.

Lilly has been here now for two and a half months and things are SO much better. Madison still gets along well with her. Lilly has learned to give her some space when her friends come. Sierra and Savannah like having her as their sister now. They still fight sometimes, but more like sisters than enemies :). I see them standing up for each other now. Sometimes Sierra will side with Lilly instead of always take Savannah's side and vice-versa. Sometimes they play really well as a threesome. Now I say, "Look what we've done instead of What have we done." We have created a family. I can't imagine our lives without Lilly a part of it. We know she was meant to join our family and the trial of adjusting has been worth it.


Heidi said...

Thanks for sharing your experiences -- the good and the bad. You are amazing parents and I know things will only get better!

FullPlateMom said...

Thanks Narda. I needed to hear that! I'm sure we'll have those "what have we done?" moments too. I pray we'll get to where you are. It's really encouraging to hear your story.

Melissa said...

this is exactly the kind of thing that i was the most curious about. birth order, vs adopting out of order, and attachment. it all fascinates me. i am thrilled to see that everyone seems to be settling in! well done my friend. you can accomplish anything!

Lois said...

How's that for reality! "What have I done" moments with all four of my kids!!!
I saw how the twins were with her when you first got home and then a few weeks ago. A HUGE difference! Proof of this to shall pass.You guys are the BEST parents, lucky girls :)

Hoffman Family said...

It's so good to hear how things are going. I really appreciate being able to hear the reality, and not just the sugar coating. You are wonderful parents! We are getting number 5 here in 2 weeks, but he is an infant, so we won't have the same issues (we'll have issues, all right, every family does, just not the same ones) :) Congratulations, again!

Adrienne said...

Thank you for sharing. It is so helpful to hear that it is not a fairy tale life, everythings great all the time, but that it does work out with some time.

Nicole said...

Wow Narda, I must say you and Steve have a lot of wisdom and patience! You are both amazing people and I can tell by your children what wonderful parents you are!