11 August 2008

chalkboard beckons

Tomorrow is my last day of summer vacation. I am back in school on Wednesday. How crazy is that?! (Actually, I've already been back to start sorting things out in my new classroom.) It's been nice knowing you...

Since I know I'll be busy in the next few days and weeks (Seussical starts four days after school starts...) I'm going to ask you ap's--all of you lurkers (you can stay anonymous if you want to), too--to pitch in and tell me what Becky suggested in her most recent, beautiful post:

How old was your child when s/he came home?
What was the best thing you did to foster attachment?
What would you do differently?

These are questions I've asked many, many people during "the journey". Even if I've asked you this previously, I'd love to have you answer here. Having this in one place would be great! I am, of course, particularly interested in hearing from ap's of school-aged children and siblings. But, I think everyone's experiences are great to have stored in my back pocket. I've got lots of ideas and research stored away already. But, I'd love to hear what proved true for you! (It's especially nice that so many of you have hit the one- and two- years mark!)

Cheers, duckies!


Tina in CT said...

I thought all schools start on Sept. 1 in Russia. August 12 and back to school. Horrible.

Elle said...

The boy was 22 months when we got him and 23 months when we arrived home. We tried to keep to ourselves the first few weeks home, but since the trusty MIL was coming back from KS with the grandmother we couldn't as much as we liked. The first 6 months it was only us that gave baths, did bed time, fed, dressed, diapered the boy. He didn't stay overnight at someone else's home until he'd been home with us 18 months. We did holding time for raging outbursts. We still do (just did this morning, and in the parking lot at In n Out Burger in CA last week).

What I would do differently. I would have gotten help for my own emotions earlier. Many of my early parenting downfalls happened because of my own issues.

Holly said...

3 days shy of 8 months when she came home.

Best: Honestly, getting some one on one time alone this past February by going on a vacation, just the two of us. We live with my mom and sis, so it was nice as a single mom to be alone.

Should have done: She was a GREAT sleeper, went down no fuss when she got home. Literally, put her down, she was out in less than a minute. Wished I'd made more of a bedtime routine, rocked her even if she didn't need it, etc.

Anonymous said...

Elsa was almost 7 months old when she came home.
I stayed home for 4 months. While I had occasional help, I was the only one to bathe her, feed her, and put her to bed. (the last one I still do - I've been the person to put her to bed every night.)
We do a long go-to-bed routine, with books, singing, a bottle, and her falling asleep in my arms (which can take a while). Lots of good eye contact during the bottle and singing parts.

I've traveled with her a fair amount, which (I hope) has given her the concept that HOME is me, her mother, and not a place. And it gave us a LOT of one-on-one time in transit and away from home.

Two things I would have done differently:
1. Like Elle, I would have addressed my own emotions/depressed state sooner rather than just try to "tough it out".
2. I would have trusted myself more and not panicked when some of the traditional "attachment" requirements just didn't work for Elsa. (She can't sleep in the same room as me, and she HATES being worn in a sling.) Now I see her attachment to me, I know that it is OK, but at first I freaked out when those two standard things weren't proving helpful (or even possible) with her. And I am so glad I didn't try to force either of them on her.

Anonymous said...

1. 4 1/2, in theory, as I like to say. Probably 5 1/2, in reality.
2. Didn't leave him for a solid 6 weeks. After that we started preschool/playgroup but only two mornings a week. I think the older ones need that time, and there is no need to rush into preschool or even grade school.
3. Hire a housekeeping service and make more meals in advance. I know that's not attachment related on the surface, but it's a lot easier to get enough sleep and take care of yourself if you are not worrying about the vacuuming.

Matt and Carla Morgan said...

N was almost 19 months old. Best thing - being naked in the water with him! He LOVES water and really digs skin to skin contact. We're still in the midst of our 6 week no-hold, no-bonding, no-real-realtionship-building hunker (and, to be honest - I'm really loving the hunker!). And, I probably need a little more retrospect before I know our regrets! I'm sure I'll have a list for you in no time :)

Happy back to school to you - can't wait to hear about Seussical!


Annie said...

Sergei was 9; Zhenya was 5; Anastasia was 7; Maxim was 13; Ilya was 12 As you probably recall, all adopted individually (or "taken on" in Maxim's case).

The one all-round best thing has been massages. Even my physically distant ones (Ilya and Maxim) have calmed down enough to allow a back massage. With the other three I sometimes think I've created a monster. I may spend 30-20 minutes a day on massages.

With the younger ones, including Sergei, co-sleeping (if not sharing a bed, sharing a room, at least) has been wonderful. This started rather naturally in the hotels in Russia, as they didn't give us comfortable portable beds. But at home, the children were not comfortable alone in a big room initially.

Sharing favorite foods with them has been good, I think. I try to take each of them out alone for meals or ice cream at least a couple of times a month.

Also, we have come up with little "routines"....something different with each of them... With Sergei I'd read to him in Russian and then he'd read to me. With Zhen, I'd lay by him at bedtime and we'd play the "how do you say in Russian "such and such"; he'd test my Russian and I'd test his [we didn't start this until he was forgetting it]. With Nastya, it was supper cuddles - this little girl is like a vine. With Maxim it was reading aloud the books for his English class, and studying spelling. That was two-birds with one stone, for sure. Ilya loves to play cards.

Ilya has been the hardest nut to crack, though. But he likes to go places alone with me, and he'll "take care" of me - opening doors, watching out for me. He is almost a different person when we are alone and out in the world together.

Lucky break - they all came in the spring, so we had the summer to bond and be relaxed - EXCEPT Ilya, and that has been the biggest challenge. School was just overwhelming to him since he is still very scared of groups of English-speaking children. I wish I'd demanded personal leave to be home with him and give him more one-on-one and not have had to throw him into that overwhelming environment so soon.

Best resource: www.beyondconsequences.com/

As regards early trauma and the troubles stemming therefrom...I guess I'd tend to recommend that if you can choose a child who had a good few years with a loving parent or grandparent, that will make an enormous difference. Some of my children had loving parents who died, or who later succombed to alcohol. The children who were in the dysfunctional home during those critical years have what I see as problems that they will need to "work on" as time goes on.

And - as far as YOUR bonding.... It is so much like childbirth. Sometimes the bonding comes like lightening from heaven, other times it takes awhile. But the more I have extended myself in love to my kids, the more I have actually FELT love for them - even when perhaps that love didn't come knocking me over naturally from the beginning. But it has happened both ways, and now I feel the same very sacred and powerful love for each of them. It has been the most beautiful experience of my life. Of course I love my bio children - but I expected that. To love my adopted children with the same love has something miraculous about it, and therefore all the more profound.

Anonymous said...

Mine - 26 months (twins)

Best attachment - keeping them within the family for several months - no one else hugging, feeding, providing any of life's essentials. Also bottle fed them (they had to look in my eyes) and rocked as much as they would allow.

Wish I had - recorded more of their first year home. I was so overwhelmed, agencies don't prepare you for 'life after', and I wish I had taken the time to take more video, write a journal about the little things.

Happymom4 aka Hope Anne said...

Dd was 5.5 when we brought her home from Russia, and had been in an orphanage all her life. She had NO concepts of what life in a family was like--all women she liked were "Mama" for example. The best thing we did was keep her close to us . . . I wish we'd have done even more of that right from the start. She was very affectionate and everyone wanted to love her . . . we later had to institute a no-hugging, no kissing anyone outside of the family rule because even after months home she was so indiscriminate--also she would def. shove us away from her if she could attention from others. So yeah, I'd make the rule from the get-go if I had it to do over again. . . #1. Most important thing for me to keep my sanity, even 3 years into this now, is to TALK with someone I can trust about the struggles I face with Dd. Things are much better than initially, but she is still a very challenging child--and probably always will be, I think. By keeping my self aired-out, I can keep a better frame of mind with her. I still know the bond between us isn't as good as it should be, but I do see it progressing. (Dd has mild RAD, but our social worker is much impressed with how she is progressing!)
All the best to you--your blog is one of my favs!

kate said...

I SO agree about older children and school! Why the rush? Yes, it's what they're familiar with and it's comfortable for them and they want to be with other children. But, I don't think that's what they NEED. They already know how to function in a group of children. They need to know how to function in a family.

I have twelve weeks off and I'm taking all of it. We're just going to stay home.

I've thought about that no hugs and kisses rule a lot and am glad to hear it from you, Hope. I know that d2b's kindergarten teacher and other school staff will have to be reminded of this one.

Love the massages! Maybe eventually turn about is fair play?

Keep all these great ideas coming!

Unknown said...

Home two years here...

John was a bit over three and Finley was a bit under 2. Finley adjusted immediately and really, can't remember doing a thing to foster it (other than having to make her let me help her with things - she has always been Miss Independent) but with John - it was the hugging, the skin to skin contact - and like with ANY child - the consistency. And keeping my sanity by having great friends who had "been there before" that I could cry and wail and feel all the terrible things that come with a bad day in parenting. A bad day in parenting that comes with bio OR adopted, quite honestly. I have cried as much over Eli as I did with John.

Jenni said...

I start preparing my classroom for school next week. Where did the summer go?! I hope you have a great crop of students this year.

Now, on to your questions: My kids were 4.5 and 3 years old when we brought them home. The best thing we did for attachment was spend time with the kids 24/7 during their first months home. We had a routine posted (with pictures) that we stuck to, and we did everything together except sleep (although some people do this too). We also did a lot of cuddling time each night before bed. Sometimes it would be full out regression (where the kids would be like babies getting rocked to sleep), and other times it would be a bit more low key, just kind of hugging and talking. We basically followed the kids' lead on this, because we didn't want them to feel threatened.

What would I have done differently? I would have used the Love and Logic parenting methods consistently right from the start. In the beginning we floundered a bit as parents (it was so overwhelming!), and we switched up parenting techniques to see what worked best. This might have given the kids a feeling of instability. Once we started using Love and Logic, everything became so much calmer and easier!

Anonymous said...

Delurker. We brought our daughter home almost 4 years ago and she was about 2.5 years old. I have to agree with everyone here about staying home. I was very fortunate to be able to stay home with her and took her everywhere with me. We didn't start any classes until at least 6 months until after she came home and then it was little, like kindermusik in which I was there. I think this helped alot! Also with the massage you might want to try and take/play in the water with her. Also have a very good routine! I notice she did the best when a routine was followed!
As for you, it will take time, I know alot of people say they fall in love right away, which I'm glad, but don't feel bad if that isn't you. I always say, it took me a few days at least to fall in love with my husband! I hope the school year goes well.

beckyww said...

Loving this!

Jennefer said...

Piney was 24 months. What she liked the best was for me to sit still and sit on my lap. That was it. She cried if I did anything else. So any lap sitting- from watching TV together to interacting with stories or finger plays.

Anonymous said...

Hope back to school went well. I love reading your blog... How is the weather in Rus? Are you getting ready for the cold weather? Please visit our site and please please sign the guestbook!


Tami said...

Alek was 14 months...Anya 20 mos...Nick 12 months...Maddie - a month shy of 4 yrs old.

Best: As everyone else has said the best thing to do is bunker down with your kid and be their everything. No one else holds, feeds, clothes, bathes or comforts Maddie but Shad and I (except for the babysitter)...even six months later. The bond is still growing and changing daily. It's slow in coming, but its getting there. The party the other night really opened my eyes to how far she's come! :) Shad and I still don't do much outside of our family unit - which, honestly is just fine with us. We just always do things as a six-pack.

Change: I would trust my instinct a little more and not just accept everyone's assurances that everything is fine or will be fine. I think we missed some BIG clues on some minor issues with Alek. Things that could have been repaired a lot quicker and easier nine years ago. His bond with us is strong, but insecure. He's not absolutely convinced we'll always be there for him. Sad.

A Room to Grow said...

Rita was 6.5 years old when we brought her home.

BEST: We did everything together as a family for the first six weeks. We got up her up, helped with brushing teeth & hair, getting dressed and prepared her breakfast. She would go shopping with me, and help select items we needed for the home and cooking. I would help her with bathing and have a long-ish bedtime routine with more grooming and reading books. We stayed with her in her bed until she fell asleep (and still do). We talk with the lights out.

To facilitate physical and verbal affection - we used a stuffed animal. I would kiss the stuffed animal and then the stuffed animal would kiss Rita. And she would do that in return. We did that until she was fine with getting a kiss directly. We would also talk about who we loved and cared about "in third person" until she could say it directly.

I also spent alot of time reinforcing with her that his was her house, her room, her family any chance we got.

THING TO DO DIFFERENT: I wouldn't do anything different. For us, it was good for Rita to go to school 5 weeks after coming home; and me going back to work at week nine. It has given me more flexibility with my schedule once I got back to work.

The Parker Family said...

Our son had just turned 4 when we adopted him from Vietnam. He is now 5 1/2.
I took the advice of our agency and kept him home for 6 months before he started any kind of program or school. We have two bio daughters so there was a big adjustment for all of us.
He is a great boy and very loving, I too wish I had known more about "institutionalized behaviors" before we brought him home. The hugging and kissing strangers seemed cute at first, but then I realized it was only a survival/attention tactic. I also made the rule that only we (parents) could hold him for awhile. Of course I bent the rules for grandparents and siblings.
If I could changed anything about the early days I would have
1) Learned more about older child adoptions and taken more of the information literally then having a blind faith that none of it's complications would apply to me.
2)I would have sought out support groups or blogs (my biggest form of support) much sooner than I did.
3)I would have video taped more of my son speaking Vietnamese, it seems like I lost a time in his life that was right in front of me.
4) I wish I could have learned sooner (and still remember on the tough days) to just love my son for the person he is and not worry so much about what kind of hurdles we may have around the corner.
After knowing him for 18 months, I can honestly say that he is such a fantastic boy and so loving. I see, now, how our love is growing and am so happy to have the son that I do.
Just found your blog and look forward to following your experience.

Melissa said...

My ds was 22 months old and dd 14 months old. I would rub their backs while playing. Do a lot of peek a boo. If my ds got overwhelmed by too many people, I would go with him into a separate room and play or hold him. I would feed my dd. They have never slept at anyone elses house without one of us there. Lots of tickling. Telling them I loved them before bedtime. Keeping the same routine for a long time

Unknown said...

Hi Kate - long time lurker here - I so enjoy your posts here. Makes me feel a little connected to Russia...we too are pre-aoptive-parents (been in this waiting game a LONG LONG time)...

I also wanted to tell you that I left a message for you on my blog.

Wishing you a great day!