Tuesday will mark 8 weeks of being home with Haddon and we thought this would be a good time to update you on how things are going. As many of you have witnessed through social media updates, this kid is FULL of life and has a huge personality! He loves talking to “the peopl-ee” (he likes to add “ee” to the end of everything – Kessed-ee, Grace-ee, etc!) and can be so funny on camera. He laughs uncontrollably sometimes at things around our house, like when I told him Maggie was being a “pill” and the way Micah calls Grace and Kessed “chick-a-dee” and “sweet pea”. I called him “honey” the other day and he looked at me quite puzzled and said, “Honey?! I am not honey!” Haha! The girls and Haddon are figuring out ways to enjoy being with each other and they’ve already started the typical teasing and playing jokes on each other, which is such a good thing! Watching him figure out how things work and seeing him do things that are very much African (you should see him eat an orange!) make my heart smile. I love having a little African in our house!
Haddon has started school now and to say that he loves it would be an understatement! He is in a typical 3rd grade classroom and has an incredible teacher with 20+ years of teaching under her belt. His classroom also has a student teacher, as well as a full-time para. The school also has a wonderful ESOL program (an English assistance program) that Haddon has qualified for, which we are incredibly grateful for. They had a break last Friday and I think Haddon was the only kid in our county that was sad there was no school!
With as much joy and laughter as he’s provided us, though, it has also been equally taxing on our family. We knew it would be tough. We knew the dynamics of our family would change. We knew there would be tears. No amount of preparation, though, could adequately ready us for the reality of bringing an independent, strong-willed 10-year-old boy who has no framework for how a family works into our home. A recent devotion I read for adoptive families said, “Counting the cost in terms of adoption requires the disciple of Christ to recognize that children without families are not perfect children who simply need a home. They arrive with baggage. Ugly stuff. You will not be starting with a clean slate at Ground Zero. You will be climbing up to Ground Zero for a really long time…..the bonding alone can be as taxing as building a 12-ft tower with toothpicks and a glue stick. It’s an all-embracing venture. It will be challenging emotionally, physically and spiritually.” Yes, yes and yes. This is not for the faint of heart and if I can be honest, my heart has been faint at times. We are grateful, moment by moment, for the grace of Jesus who holds us together because there have been some Really. Hard. Days.
Aside from Christ and his word, our friends and family (many of you who are reading this) have been our support system. We are so grateful, and with all that said, there are still a number of ways you can continue to help us during this time:
At the recommendation of the adoption therapist we saw at the UAB International Adoption Clinic, we are taking everything VERY slowly with Haddon. We are used to keeping an extremely busy schedule and we’ve had to scale way back. This doesn’t mean we aren’t participating in anything, but we are being very selective in the activities and places we go right now for his sake. (Believe me, this adjustment is hard for our family!!) We are doing our best to keep a highly structured and predictable environment for him at home. Consequently, a very “boring” life provides an immense amount of security and safety for him. (Even the little bit of “going” we do tends to exhaust him and he’s always ready to, as he says, “we go home”!)
Thankfully we have had literally NO sleep issues with him. He showers at 7:30pm and is usually asleep in his bed like a rock just after 8pm. He wakes up happy and excited everyday about 6:30am. (He has a cool Batman Alarm Clock and sets it every day, but I don’t think he actually needs it!) This is also a large part of what determines what we can do and not do right now.
Additionally, we are trying to limit a lot of close interaction with people outside of our family for right now. As strange as it can seem, adopted children can act very outgoing and affectionate with strangers and this isn’t healthy. The bonding process (him feeling “attached” to us as his parents) can be long…..and perhaps even longer because he was an older child when he was adopted.
The first way you can help is to give us plenty of space and time. Haddon has had birthday invitations, play date invites and so on! We are so anxious for him to get to do these things, but for right now, he’s still trying to figure out how to function in a family and keeping him in a very familiar environment is what’s best for him. If we have to say “no”, please don’t take it personally!
Haddon is learning English more and more every day. By the videos you occasionally see, it may seem like he can say quite a bit, and he can and does talk QUITE A LOT at home! However, while he understands a good bit more English than he can speak, he doesn’t have the ability yet to quickly process and provide answers. Many questions at a time overwhelm him and we Americans are good at asking 20 questions at a time!! 😉 In light of that, the second way you can help is to please just simply say “Hi” or smile 🙂 and refrain from asking him a lot of questions.
If he doesn’t respond or side-steps you (or won’t give you a high-five!), please know he’s not being rude – it’s just that he probably doesn’t know what you said or how to answer. Sometimes he may pretend to be “asleep” (which seems to be his coping mechanism when he is stressed, frustrated or overwhelmed) if you try to talk to him. Church friends, especially, we know so many of you are anxious to meet him and get to know him and we are truly grateful to be surrounded by a church family who loves us well. (We live hours from our physical family, so when I say “Church Family” I don’t say it lightly.) You’ve blessed us with meals and gifts when we came home and we stood on the prayers you offered up to our King Jesus on our behalf since we came to you and especially during our time in Lesotho and South Africa. It may just take quite a while for him to feel comfortable enough to respond in an appropriate way. So please, be patient. 🙂
Adoption is the hardest thing Micah and I have ever done. This is tougher than living in the bush with no electricity and water in 120 degree weather or following God to 13 different addresses is 16 years of marriage. Adoption is hard. But the Lord is good and he continues to teach and reveal more of himself to us through this child who sometimes doesn’t want to be loved by us, who may resist our kisses or attempts at hugs or wanting to put our arm around him. How much more does God love us when we resist him? There’s so much gospel in adoption and we want to live it out well.
The third way you can help us to to give us much grace and pray for us often. There are countless people around the globe who have joined us on this journey. You’ve prayed for us, given your money to us, you’ve helped us in this way or that – please don’t stop now that we’re finally home with Haddon! Now more than ever we especially need your prayers for our family as we continue to live out this adventure of adoption. We are learning to love Haddon. We enjoy spending time with him, we love his infectious laugh, we have a blast wrestling with him, and nothing right now may be quite as fun as introducing him to new things. He is a gift to our family. But equally, this process is hard, stressful and exhausting, mentally, physically and emotionally. Your friendship, encouragement and prayers are helping to sustain us. Thank you friends. We are so grateful for you.