Monday, September 26, 2011

The Challenges of Adopting a Toddler

Before I begin, let me say that I know that adopting Amani at 13 months carries far fewer challenges than adopting an older child. We are blessed that we are able to adopt him so young.

BUT… there are definitely some challenges to adopting a toddler. The fact that he’s walking, and walking so well, makes things a little dicey sometimes.

When you have a newborn, you do nothing but make that child’s life better. If he’s hungry, you feed him, if he’s wet or dirty, you change him. If he wants to be held, you hold him. You can do no wrong. That doesn’t mean your child never cries but a newborn doesn’t cry because of something you’ve done.  It’s a perfect relationship: the child has needs and you meet them and that’s how you bond.

Try that with a child who can walk. Amani gets mad at me regularly. He wants to grab the trash can and I don’t let him. He wants to walk outside on to the porch area that has wide railings through which he could easily fall. Of course, I don’t let him. He wants to play on the stairs, grab the stove knobs, push the furniture around the room; he wants to push the doors open and I have to stop the door as quickly as I can before it smooshes his other hand or pinches his fingers.  He wants to bang on glass.  Outside, he wants to walk along the ledge next to the parking lot (about a 6 foot drop).  Usually I can distract him and get him moved onto a different task. But not always.  And it can involve him screaming and dropping to the floor.

It is frustrating.

I want us to be having a lovely bonding experience where I am always making life better for him.  In most ways, we are. I am giving him more individual attention than he’s ever had in his life. I try not to make him wait hardly at all for meals or for a bottle. He gets snuggles immediately when he wants them.  For the most part, we are doing great. But we have some tough times when he moves from one dangerous activity to the next and I have to follow behind being his constant fun-killer.

My heart goes out to him when he cries because I’ve stopped him from something harmful, but for some reason, his freaking out over his bottle is exasperating. He’s on formula and I have to measure the water into the bottle, then scoop the formula and shake it for a bit (his formula has a terrible tendency to clump). It probably takes all of 45 seconds. But he freaks out the entire time.  He shouts “uh uhUHUH” over and over again and grows more and more frantic until he gets the bottle.  And it starts the second he sees me pick up a bottle or grab the can of formula.  I know it is because he had to wait a long time to get a bottle when he was at the orphanage. I can NOT wait for the day when he realizes that it is coming quickly and he doesn’t need to freak. For some reason, I’m just not as compassionate with him about the bottle thing. It drives me a little crazy. Maybe I just need to get out more. J

I’ve had some of you ask me about why we can’t leave the guest house. It’s a MOWA rule. MOWA is the Ministry of Women’s Affairs here in Ethiopia. They are the ones who investigate each orphan’s background and has to write a favorable opinion to the judge in our each in order for the judge to approve an adoption.  We’ve already passed court so MOWA can’t do anything to negate our adoption, but we wouldn’t want to buck the rules and jeopardize future adoptions in Ethiopia.  It has been explained to me that MOWA says Ethiopians don’t want to see a bunch of Americans walking around with the babies they are adopting – that it reminds them too much of the problem.  I won’t say what I think about that. If you read this blog enough or know me personally, you probably already know my reaction to that.  So, the good rule-followers that we are, Kim, Jaeden, and I stay home pretty much every day. Talk about Cabin Fever!

We have figured out a couple places we can go with the boys and on Wednesday we are actually leaving the boys with a caregiver and we’re going to visit the government orphanages again. Kim and I went on our trips here for court but Jaeden hasn’t been.  And my friend Amanda who is a missionary here is going to join us. It is a tough experience but I am looking forward to the opportunity to love on and pray over those little and not-so-little ones.

And yesterday we left the boys with Marta, one of the amazing women who works here at Bejoe. The boys love her and she offered to watch them for 15 minutes so we could walk up the street for a macchiato. It was heaven. We didn’t even care that it rained on us the whole way home. It was so nice to get out of the house and be baby-free just for 15 minutes. And it’s funny how you get take-away stuff here. You have to bring your own cup. We wanted to bring a macchiato home for Marta but you have to bring them a cup. We brought a mug from the guest house but then realized we had no top for it and it was raining! I put my little travel wallet thing over it and walked as fast as I could, trying not to spill.  Living in Ethiopia makes you creative.

As for an update on when we might get to come home: no updates yet. We are going over to the Embassy in person on Thursday afternoon to check in with them. There is a small chance they will clear us then and we could have an appt Friday and fly home this weekend! If not, it is quite likely we could come home early next week.  If you are in the US, please start praying as soon as you wake up on Thursday morning… it’s likely we’ll already be up at the Embassy (we are 7 hours ahead here). Pray for a soft heart in the person that we speak with.

Please pray we can come home Friday! Amani and I want to come home! 


  1. I can so clearly 'see' you in action - there's nothing quite so challenging than a child's strong will!!! Keep smiling - you'll both survive! love & big hugs!!!

  2. Hey Kirstin! Praying you all are able to come home this weekend!
    I wanted to let you know that Ezra was the same way with the bottles. As soon as he saw me making the bottle he would start to cry and freak out until that bottle was in his mouth. I started pre-making 5 or 6 bottles while he slept. I would scoop all the formula ahead of time so all I had to do was add water. I felt like anything I could do to speed the process would help him trust me that the bottle was his. I would also occasionally make one and put it in the fridge if I knew he was going to have one in the next hour or so. Since I did that Ezra has never requested a warm bottle. He was always fine with right out of the fridge. That made life easier down the road. :) But it WILL get better. I think it took several weeks after we had been home for Ezra to start to calm down about bottles. I think it is really common and I know I have talked to a lot of adoptive moms who experienced the same thing. I know it helps me to know that others experienced the same thing and that it DOES get better. Sounds like you are a doing an amazing job! There were 2 toddlers at Bejoe when we were there and their parents were chasing them around like crazy too. One of them stayed in between court and embassy and she hired a caregiver quite often because she needed breaks to stay sane and be a better mom. Don't feel badly if you do that every now and then! Sorry for the novel!! :) Sending lots of encouragement and prayers your way!!

  3. Praying for you guys!! I have a feeling half your battle is being stuck at the guest house. It is going to be amazing when you all can get a change of scenery! Really hope you're home on Saturday!!
    Hang in there. And let me know if you need anything!!

  4. Hope you are home really soon Kirstin! Can't wait to meet Amani.


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