The first day with our orphan friend went so well that it almost went too well. It was almost as if he were performing for us, or auditioning. He's smart; he might have considered it an interview. We're realists, and we are well aware that adopting an 11 year old boy from another country would not be without its challenges. We know that we are clueless about many of those challenges, but if we venture into adoption, we want to do it with eyes wide open, not rose colored glasses. Our second afternoon with our friend provided a few glimpses of what some of those challenges might be.
We decided to visit the Children's Museum. Everyone was a little tired from the beginning, and the museum was crowded. We weren't there long when the lack of parenting and training began to show itself in our orphan boy. He doesn't seem to understand taking turns or waiting. While other children were working on the computer touch screens, he would just walk up and start touching the screen himself, and he wasn't pleased when I would stop him. He bored easily, and got impatient when we didn't just move on immediately to a new exhibit. He wanted to spend a lot of time at the computers, and when I encouraged him to do something else, and finally told all the kids no computers (since they were beginning to fight over them), he got perturbed. All of these things were very understandable, and none of them were big issues, just little things throughout the day that created an awareness of the lack of discipline he's had in his life, and the initial challenges we would face in parenting.
The language barrier exacerbated these challenges. At one point, a mom was trying to take a picture and he was in the way, so I spoke and motioned with my hands for him to move away and come to me. He complied, but had quite an attitude about it. I tried to explain (through words and the use of my hands) why he had to move, but it didn't help his attitude. I can't expect him to understand, and I couldn't explain in words that would help him. That's a bit frustrating for me, but I can't imagine how much more frustrating it is for him.
All of these things were wearying. To be honest, I checked my phone at one point to see how much longer we had until I could take him back, only to discover that I still had a few hours left. I can remember that kind of feeling when I had toddlers and kept checking the clock, waiting for naptime and a brief respite! If we were to adopt him though, there would be no taking him back. We'd have to push through the weariness just as we did with babies in the middle of the night. It's different, but an adjustment just the same.
On a positive note, even though he wasn't always happy about obeying, he always obeyed, even while he said, "No!" There was defiance in his tone, but compliance with his actions; not ideal, but we can work with that. (Heck, I deal with that in my own kids regularly! None of us have arrived in the "obey right away with a good heart attitude" rule.)
Also, he's a very bright child! He has already picked up many American words, and seems to understand some things. He parrots everything back to you. While we were in the car, Ethan looked through an animal book with him, teaching him the English names for the animals. He was eager to learn and not easily frustrated. Those things are encouraging as I think about teaching him English and how to read and write. Phonics has not been my favorite subject as I've taught 4 kindergarteners, and I'm not that excited about teaching it to an 11 year old who only knows the Cyrillic alphabet. But it's encouraging to see that he's a quick learner, and also that I have a lot of helpers who will all be assisting in teaching him English!
Overall, it was a good reality check. Our home environment was much more comfortable to all of us, but we survived in a more stressful outside environment without any major issues. We were all worn out by the end of the afternoon (he kept dozing off in the car on the way home), but there were no deal breakers, or anything that led me to think that we shouldn't pursue adopting him. So we continue to wait and pray about whether we should.
On a practical note, for those of you who care about such things or like to pray specifically, there is a meeting on July 22nd for the families from the program (this was somewhat of an exchange program where adoptable kids stayed in host families' homes for a month before returning to their homeland. The goal of those who run the program is that adoptive families would be found for these children). who are pursuing adoption, so it would be good for us to have a decision before then. Also, we need $13,100 to begin the adoption process. Where God guides, God provides! Right?
This whole thing has been so spiritually and emotionally (and even physically) wrenching for me. Yesterday, there were moments I just wanted to pull the car over and weep, my heart was so full to overflowing, and then there were moments of sheer terror where I almost thought I'd have a panic attack and I just had to yield myself completely to my Lord and ask Him to remove the fear and replace it with His perfect peace. Today, I have just been feeling everything so deeply, not only with this orphan boy, but with other things too, like a friend who is in the midst of an immensely challenging trial. My spirit is so open to whatever the Lord brings that it's almost too much to bear, but it's not, not through Christ's strength, not in the power of the Holy Spirit. The temptation to run away from it all is there, but I don't want to stop feeling. Rather, I want to have Jesus' heart in every situation. In my flesh, I'm unable to adopt a child, or encourage a friend, but when I abide in Christ, and am filled with the Spirit, I can be a vessel for God's love, compassion, grace, encouragement,...to everyone I meet. That's what I want: to be absolutely surrendered to God Himself, so that He can use me in whatever way He wills. To Him be the glory, forever and ever, Amen!
Grace and Peace,