A snapshot of my life fifteen minutes ago will help explain why the long delay between posts. Kids in three different rooms for naptime, my oldest sleeping peacefully, my four-year-old in a full rage screaming at the top of his lungs because he’s been separated from his brother (because he doesn’t let his brother sleep), and my baby fussing because she fell asleep in the car this morning for twenty minutes and threw off her nap schedule. Just before he went to sleep my six-year old caught me on my way between screamers and said “Mommy, Noah outside!” That would be our dog. Who probably slipped out when we were on our way in. Twice I’ve had neighbors bring him home recently because they found him running around in the street or their yard. Must get that fence. Sure enough, when I finally get a chance to go downstairs he is on the back porch panting like he’s just run a big race. Wonder where he went? Just glad I didn’t have to go searching for him.
We are in our seventh week home from Ethiopia now with our three kids. Weeks four and five were a wonderful reprieve from the screaming rages we’d been dealing with during weeks two and three. As if the kids figured out and accepted the basic boundaries and lived in harmony until week six when it was time to test at the next level. In the last four days we’ve experienced two of the worst rages I’ve seen from Alex, our oldest. He even began trying to bite himself or hurt himself in other ways, so it’s involved holding him in a basket hold with a hand on his forehead to prevent his teeth from reaching flesh.
Here’s what we observe; their love tanks are very empty, and their fear of trusting makes it hard for them to accept what’s available to them. I honestly think that holding them during a screaming rage at least satisfies their need to be held on some level. We have made baby steps though. For example, this morning the boys were wrestling in the kitchen. Why were they allowed to wrestle in the kitchen you ask? Well because it was keeping them out of my way while I tried to finish making waffles! At any rate, Melkam bumped his head pretty hard on a cabinet, and I picked him up and rubbed his head and held him while he cried for four or five minutes. And he let me. Yes, that was the progress part. Six weeks ago, even three weeks ago, he would have pushed me away and retreated to a corner of the room and shot me dirty looks through his tears. I think it’s a big step. He didn’t even run away in disgust when I finally put him down.
Alex has these massive crazy rages that sometimes last at some level for two hours. The next morning he might act like nothing happened.
Now remember, they’ve not had enough English to express themselves well thus far, but they’ve made great strides during their seven weeks home. I talked to Alex yesterday about his screaming fit from the previous night because he was acting grumpy in the afternoon. I said “Alex, you seem angry, are you feeling angry?” (they know the names of basic emotions now). He said “Yes.” I then asked him if he knew WHY he was angry, and he wasn’t able to answer. But at least we are having the start of a conversation about it.
We have used consequences like losing privileges in some cases to work on the kids’ behavior. Alex has started volunteering that he doesn’t want to ride his bike the next day, for example, to show that he doesn’t have to do what we ask. To point out that it doesn’t matter to him. Last night he had lost the privilege and I had a chance to take Melkam alone to the park on our bikes for some after dinner riding and playground time. What a gift to have one on one time! All the kids need it and it’s so refreshing for Mom! Alex was also very jealous and realized that the consequence did matter to him, so maybe that will impact things in a positive way as well.
While we trudge through these challenges, we’ve continued to have busy lives and fun activities as the kids learn and adjust to their new family. We went on a road trip to Ocean Shores to visit Nana and Grandpa which was really fun. We’ve been out on the lake on the boat several times and the boys have learned to keep themselves upright in their life jackets and are starting to try kicking and paddling. They were in the 4th of July Childrens’ Parade and then enjoyed watching the big parade and the fireworks. They’ve eaten Vietnamese Pho and have now tasted cherries, nectarines and peaches for the first time. They are starting to speak to each other in English.
All the kids love the water and have enjoyed a few days on the beach here in Sandpoint.
And now my five minutes of peace are over and I must go parent kids some more!