Monday, January 23, 2012

The Adjustment Period

I thought it might be a good idea to give a little update on things here at the Lowery house. So many of you have been so sweet to ask how things are going. As I type this, Abe is singing along with some Kids Worship music and playing with his toys. It's so nice to have an easy-going child who is content to play while Mommy works, cleans, etc. :) So thankful for that. Every now and then we of course have to take a dance party break. I really enjoy my time with him. We have waited over 9 years for a child, so we both feel like we're making up for lost time! :)

The adjustment has gone really well overall, honestly. Abe pretty much immediately took to our time zone and got on schedule. We have had a consistent routine since day 1, and I think that has really helped him. We tried as much as possible to keep him on the same routine he had at the Transition Home...within our time zone, of course. :) He sleeps well, eats well, plays well, and is overall a really happy little boy. He began recognizing us as Mommy & Daddy fairly quickly, and we started seeing good signs of attachment early on. We are not "out of the woods" yet, and we have to keep reminding ourselves of that, but things are going well.

By most "outsider" views, he would seem completely attached and adjusted. And it's even easy for us to think that from time to time. However, we do have an "insider" view as his parents and as beneficiaries of much training, and we know what to watch and look out for. We have to remind ourselves to be mindful of these things and make adjustments from time to time. This can be difficult at times for many reasons.

We had our first post-placement visit with our social worker last Friday. We really, really love her. Her name is Jackie Johnson, and she's from Generations Adoptions in Waco. She also conducted our Home Study in the fall of 2010. (Hard to believe it was that long ago!!!) We had a really good visit with her, and she was really pleased at how well Abe has adjusted to life here, life as part of our family, and his overall assimilation. As she interacted with him, and as we answered her questions and dialogued, she did give us a few things to think about in regard to his adjustment. Just some things that gave her a small amount of concern (maybe caution is the better word?). These were things we've batted back and forth, so it was really good to hear an experienced professional whom we trust give us insight.

These are things that most of us would say are really good in regard to how Abe is adjusting. For instance...he really LOVES people. Which is such a good thing! But, at this stage we need to be careful of how he reacts and responds in groups of people - basically, just being sure to channel that in a proper way. He has a tendency to reach for people - people he knows well (grandparents, other close relatives, our close friends) AND people he doesn't know so well -and want to give kisses & hugs. While of course we want this with his close family, he isn't really always distinguishing them from us, or them from other people whom maybe he isn't that familiar with. He had many caregivers in Africa and was introduced to many kids and other adoptive families. So, he is used to being around lots of people. The culture in Africa was such that the caregivers encouraged him to give kisses to everybody. We saw that while we were there. Our goal is to have him attach to us, know us as his parents, and realize the difference between close family & friends and people he doesn't really know yet. Our social worker encouraged us to watch this and try to teach him this difference by not allowing him too much exposure too often to large groups of people during this adjustment and to not allow him to just reach for or kiss just anyone. This can be challenging at times! I mean, you see those cute little lips pucker, and you just cave! But...we definitely understand that we need to be intentional about teaching him what is appropriate and what isn't right now.

When he's been with other people frequently or for long periods of time, he often "forgets" how he should respond to Mommy & Daddy. We've been told over and over by other parents that this is normal for a child his age. And we definitely take that into account, and we appreciate that encouragement. We also have to take into account that he is not completely a "normal" kid his age in that he has had a very different set of circumstances. We need to remember where he's come from, what he's been exposed to, what his culture taught him & how that differs from ours, etc. Like I said, it can be a difficult balance to strike...and it can be difficult to make ourselves strike this balance at times. :) Our hearts definitely want the BEST for him...and sometimes that may not look or feel great to us or to our friends and family. It's difficult...but it's worth it.

We've also noticed that he doesn't necessarily have a hard time being left with other people. Again, it is easy to think that this is such a great thing! It can make it really easy on us...knowing that we can leave him with grandparents, nursery workers, babysitters and not have to worry at all...sounds, great, right? Yes, and no. We've realized that there really should be some hesitancy on his part to be left, to be away from us. And when you think about it...that is a normal thing with most kids. They are sad when their parents leave...they cry, etc. This again is hard, because we don't want our son to be sad and cry, but it is healthy for him to be sad when we leave him. We are thrilled that he is so pliable, and that he is so loving. But, we do have to be sure we are channeling this in the right direction and continuing to help bond properly to us.

You know, I've had to remember we have only been home with him for 43 days! Even though Abe is around 2, he's like a newborn to us, and we are brand new to him. Yes, he can function like a 2 year old, act like a 2 year old, etc. But as far as attaching and bonding with his parents...this is still new to him. He was at the Transition Home with those caregivers for about 6 months. He was taught to call all of the ladies "Mama" and the men "Ababa" (which means Daddy). He was at an orphanage for even longer and had a different set of "mamas" and "daddies." For all he knows, this may not be permanent either. It just takes time. So, we're reminded and continuing to learn that we still have things to watch for & pay attention to. We might have to make adjustments here and there as we already have. Some of these adjustments don't come naturally, and aren't maybe what we would choose to do with a child that I carried in my womb for 9 months. But, we pray that each of our decisions are Spirit-led and in the BEST interest of our sweet boy and our family. And we just ask that you pray that with us. We are SO thankful for so much love, support, and understanding from family, friends, our church family...It is invaluable.

He is such a wonderful blessing! We are MORE than thankful for him, and we accept this challenge of adjusting and parenting willingly and with GREAT joy!!! I treasure my days with him right now...even when he's being a bit of a stinker. :) It's so much fun getting to know him and teaching him new things. We are excited about all that lies ahead. Thank you for walking alongside us!

~ Abby