Thursday, June 23, 2011

He Packed Up All of His Stuff.

Yesterday was a hard day.  One of the hardest days yet...maybe the hardest.  Actually, the morning went all right and we're getting into a routine, but Seth A. had a whack of major tantrums from about 2:00 through 9:00pm...with a few ten-minute breaks and a break for supper and play time.  It's really wearing to endure all of that screaming: piercing shrieks; heart-wrenching sobs; pathetic whimpers.  I was hit, kicked, bitten, clawed, spit on, and the target of flying objects.  Lots of fun.

It's the hardest being alone when all three kids are screaming or having issues.  Though frankly, even if only one is screaming, I can't leave any of the others alone with each other.  Ever.  We're just not at that point yet, so there's trouble within seconds of my leaving any one, two or three of them alone.  Just yesterday morning, while peacefully playing with lego on the boys' bedroom floor, I thought, hmm, this is great...everyone's getting along, we're all feeling restful and happy; I'm just going to run down to the laundry room and get Lizzie S.'s sheets so I can re-make her bed while we're up here.  Big mistake.  I had barely gotten to the main level of the house when the screaming started.  Seth A. and Lizzie panicked because I'd left them, and were screaming "mommy, mommy...," and Matthew voluntarily undertook to 'help' me by shutting the bedroom door so that the younger kids couldn't leave while I ran for the laundry.  I never made it to the laundry room, and it took almost twenty minutes for everyone to calm down after that fifteen-second sojourn.  Lizzie S.'s bed didn't get made until later.

By late afternoon, Seth A. was on his fourth or fifth major tantrum of the day.  He had scrambled under his bed so that I couldn't hold him, or look at him, and so that he didn't have to look at me.  So I brought the other kids into the boys' bedroom and we pulled out some lego and crafts to work on, while he raged and screamed on and on and on.  Whenever he took a breath, I talked to him and told him it would be ok.  When he finally quieted (about 45 minutes later) down to an occasional whimper, I lay down on Matthew's bed and let Matthew and Lizzie climb on to me; they pulled up my shirt and proceeded to give me wicked mouth farts on my stomach - you know the ones...where they blow onto skin and create disgusting noises??  This is one of the kids' odd, all-time favourite things to do and I have to say that having a large and soft stomach actually comes in handy for this sole purpose, because it makes incredibly terrible noises and because a three-year-old child can actually bury her whole face into a soft stomach!  Anyway, my hope was that Seth A. would be enticed out from under the bed by all of the  laughter.

Well, he did creep out from under his bed, but sadly it wasn't to join in the fun.  The poor little lad went to the closet to get the bag in which we had packed all of his post-court gifts (the one we left for him).  That fabric bag and the things that filled it when he was still in Ethiopia are amongst his few prized possessions and just yesterday morning he finally started to unpack it and place things onto the shelving unit beside his bed that is his to store/display things on.  Just yesterday morning he started to unpack that bag of treasures...trusting enough that we wouldn't touch them on his shelves.  And now, hours later,  while the other kids blew noises on my stomach, that beloved little five-year-old collected his bag and carefully and doggedly proceeded to put everything into it that he had just put onto his shelving that morning.  He then picked up the craft that he had completed in the morning and placed on the shelf, looked at it for a moment, and then put it back...I think he chose to leave that one because it came from his new mom/home.  Anyway, he put all of the stuff in, sealed up the velcro at the top, slung the bag over his shoulder, and headed out of the bedroom and down the stairs.  I truly think he thought that this was it:  he was leaving, and going - I don't know where he thought he was going...back to the Transition House??  It just broke my heart to watch him.

I made some excuse with the other two kids to get up from Matthew's bed, and I went to the top of the stairs with them to watch where Seth A. was going.  He left his bag at the front door, and disappeared into the kitchen.  We three then went downstairs and I was able to distract Seth A. enough to have him appear to forget about his plans.

But the intention was there.  The desire to leave.  I don't know how far he would have proceeded without his beloved sister, and maybe that's what stopped him - I have no idea.  But that just tells me that, no matter how well things are going in the scheme of things, we have a long way to go yet.  He still thinks that, ultimately, he's on his own and has to take care of himself.  And frankly, with less than two weeks under his belt with his new family, and having lost one family already, why should he trust us/me any more than this?

Last week, when we went to see our doctor for the kids' general physical exam, the resident who first examined the kids (after we'd been home for less than 36 hours) was puzzled about why I thought the kids might experience trauma as a result of being adopted...she thought they were lucky.  I get that response quite a lot, to be honest.  But let me just say (as I did to her) that when a child has lost everything, every. thing. that they held dear in life, it's their worst nightmare come true.  The biggest fear children have in life is that they will lose the attachment and security and love that comes from their parents.  And our kids' nightmares came true.  It's no wonder Seth A. finds it tough to make it through a series of tantrums (with new, strange mommy alongside) and still not understand that we'll be here for him in good times and bad...he has already experienced that this cannot be true.  If I were him, I think I'd be packing my bags, too.


  1. Oh Ruth..not sure what to say except that I am praying. You will make are such a good wise mommy..praying for your little boy's sweet, hurting heart breaks for him..but he IS in a safe place now, a place of healing, and God has equipped you to bring him thru this. Love darc
    Ps....awesome boys room! It is SO nice!

  2. Oh Ruth, that last line made me cry - as well as the image of your little one packing all his things. I think your children are so blessed to have a mother as insightful as you are.

  3. Oh my goodness Ruth! Challenging times, but thank goodness you have the insight into what`s going on for Seth A. Just think of it as a test - will they still be here and love me even when I`m raging - Yep, you did it girl, you are well on your way that building that attachment he needs! Hang in there! You rock!

  4. Ruth, you aren't alone. Not now and not in having this happen (and i don't say this to minimize it- I know it's huge and hurts all of you). We've been living in the anniversary after affects which have brought my 3 year old back to many of her early months home behavior- but not quite to the same extent becasue we've learned some tools together for these times over the past year.
    One idea, which you may already be using, is to approach him with open hands, palms up. Just sitting by them while they scream with our hand open like this and sometimes it now takes 10 or 15 min and other times it's still over an hour, but eventually she rests her head or whole body on my open arms. It's also a welcome approach if someone has experienced abuse.
    Praying for you and oh so willing to chat if you have a moment and energy and need to...
    It took our kids a long time to "unpack" and stop hiding other people's treasures. In fact, we have designated a spot and a shoebox for some treasures still from in EThio and gifts since. And it will take even longer to unpack all the hurt and grief and anger etc he's carrying and be able to accept the love and family, but keep at it. As frustrating and and as much as it hurts, it won't always be like this. And this in no way reflects who you are or aren't.

  5. A wonderful and honest post Ruth. I remember those first few weeks as well. They are hard, and you are right, some people don't get it. I had the same type of comments about how lucky he was and how they didn't understand why he would be so upset. If those people actually thought about it they would realize the hell adoptive children go through in the begining with their forever families. Remember.... This to shall pass.

  6. Hi Ruth,
    I don't know what to say either, other than your post made me cry, and that I'm so sorry that this is so hard. You will all make it though, and the kids (all 3 of them)are blessed to have you. You have so much understanding and insight and love that they will heal because of you and Geoff and the safe home you have given them.

  7. Ruth, My heart is aching for you and your little ones. Sometimes it is so hard just to make it through each moment. I love your heart and your desire to understand and help your kiddos begin to heal.

    I blogged about this quote on a particularly hard day last year: One of my favorite adoption books, Parenting Your Internationally Adopted Child, by Patty Cogen, M.A., Ed. D., describes the transition this way:

    "Adoption is absolutely the biggest life change a child will ever experience. It is a sudden and complete immersion in a new culture and a new life,with new people. It is the Big Change. One boy of six put it clearly: "The world turned upside down when I was adopted." A nine year old girl who had been adopted when she was three years old said, "It was like I walked through a door,and suddenly nothing was ever the same. The door to my past vanished forever. I was trapped. For a long time it was like I was in a dream, but I never woke up. After that, you know that anything can happen."

    You're doing an amazing job. Hoping today is a little better for all of you!

  8. Ruth, I had just sent you an email on this topic before I read your blog.
    It is tough. It is really hard. You are an awesome mom!


  9. Ruth,
    We have had the exact same experience...when Wubalem first came home, she unpacked some of her the second week, she packed it all back up and started wearing the outfit she had been wearing in the TH. She still hasn't unpacked her backpack, and i have heard from other parents who adopted older kids, that it took their kids many months before they felt safe enough to do's so sad.
    And I totally hear you on the laundry folding thing, Wubalem has become my laundry helper, she's awesome at it!
    Hang in there Ruth, the first 2 weeks were unbelievably hard, things have gotten better, certainly nowhere near perfect, but better...not being so jet lagged made a huge difference, and the tantrums have died down in frequency and in length...and as we are getting to know her, and what her signs are, we can avoid some now when we can tell that she is getting overwhelmed, or starting to disassociate...all stuff that just takes time!
    One day at a time, and having a sense of humor sure does help!!


  10. Very hearbreaking, but you are an incredible mom. Your understanding and compassion for Seth will bring healing. We've been home for over two years and I still feel like a rookie parent at times. This after having parented four biological children. It can be a challenge but oh so rewarding too. Praying for you.

  11. Ruth, my husband Scott and I found your blog right after you brought the kids home. We have been following your journey and praying for ALL of you! Thank you so much for sharing the joys and sorrows of your new family -- we are working on our homestudy (hoping to bring siblings home from ET someday) and your honesty is such a blessing to those who will follow in your footsteps.

  12. Oh Ruth!
    Your entry yet again made me go back to early times with my son. I am a former Imagine client. I ended up bringing home my son through domestic adoption a year ago March. He had just turned 6 at the time. From your early posts, just after picking up your children at the transition home, Seth A. has made me think so much of my little guy - they seem so much alike. And now with his grieving and frustrations, he is letting them out just as Cody did. I could predict almost every word you wrote about his day. And boy, it is exhausting for everyone. It was so hard for Cody to talk about what he was feeling, and he wasn't coping with a new language. I can just imagine how the language barrier for Seth A. - who seems to be such a bright problem solver - would be so frustrating. I can tell you, that there will be more and more of the good times, and the periods of melting-down will get shorter and shorter.
    Our prayers are with you.

  13. Ruth, that must have been so hard, for both you, and for Seth A. I don't know what to tell you-but I just know your knees must be worn from prayer. I think of you often, and pray that attachment will happen for all of your family. Keep up the amazing work of being a great Mom.

  14. Ruth,
    You don't know me and I don't know you. We have a mutual friend in Anita S.. What a heartbreaking blog. Bless you for taking on the challenges to give your new 'babies' a hope and a future. May God grant you immense wisdom, patience, emotional and physical stamina, and above all else, love.