Friday, July 24, 2009

Being Honest


Here is the view outside our apartment window.


We have been spending our afternoons hanging out together down under the trees exchanging stories. It was been a blessing have another family here with us. It has made it so much more bearable to be away from the rest of my family and friends.

Visits with Alex were getting progressively harder and finally things came to a head today. He has been quite the handful--- very hard for me to admit. But true. He wasn't listening to me--- AT ALL, and I finally told him that if he didn't stop throwing toys (or spitting or screaming) I would take him back to his groupa. He continued and so that is exactly what I did---- kicking and screaming I carried my little boy back to his groupa. And without saying a word his caretakers understood what was happening. Of course I told them what had been going on, and had Alex decided to listen to his caretakers I would have felt like a Mom who couldn't control her child--- but he didn't. So they ended up taking him up to his room for a nap.

This was incredibly hard for me-- but I am all about keeping it real so I will continue with the truth. I felt bad not knowing what they would do with Alex-- but at this point I really needed some help. I stood firm and told him I would be back for our afternoon visit.

I prayed. The Penman's prayed. I even think the caretakers prayed-- laughing out loud.

On our way back to the orphanage, Julia and I prayed some more.

When we approached Alex's groupa, it was nice to see that everyone was happy. One caretaker had a reminder talk with Alex-- and then the three of us were off to do our thing. And you know what--- Alex listened. We fed him a banana and walked around with him for about fifteen minutes before we took him into the playroom. And you know what-- the visit continued to go quite well! It was such a turn around from previous visits that I was extremely grateful and the three of us had a great time. We brought balloons and Alex loved us blowing them up and letting them go to fly around the room. No joke-- I must have did this at least thirty-five times. But you know what--- I would have blown up twenty more balloons just to see him continue to smile and bring me the balloon back and ask me nicely to blow it up again.

Near the end of our visit, things started to spiral downward-- or so I thought. He had taken the batteries out of the toy phone and I fixed it and told him not to do it again. And that is what he immediately did-- that little stinker. So-- I took the phone away from him and put it on the table. And he crawled over to the table and started to climb it to take the phone back. I told him no but that made him only want to do it more. At this point, I picked Alex up and set him down in a chair. In my broken Russian I told him to sit in the chair for five minutes and then he could get up. He started to scoot his feet to the ground to stand up and I told him to sit down for five minutes and if he stood up I would take him back to his groupa because he wasn't listening to me. He started to scoot again and I held him firmly and repeated my instruction and ended with the word, "Pravda," meaning truth. I also looked straight into his eyes with all seriousness.

Thank God-- he realized I meant business because he stopped trying to get down from the chair and just sat there nicely looking at me. I had him sit there for two minutes (I think he thought it was five) and then I praised him for listening to me. It was such an amazing moment.

The rest of our twenty minutes went really well---- and I am just so pumped up now-- and filled with renewed hope. Believe me, I realize how hard things are for Alex. This process just stinks when you think about it. First off, he is now expected to listen to some stranger who leaves after a few hours. His life seems to have no consistency right now because he is expected to be part of his groupa yet is also told that he is now a part of a family and will soon be going to America. I can only imagine how hard it must be for him-- and it is frustrating for him..... I am sure, to not have the freedoms that all the other children have even though he is capable of doing almost everything they are. Throw in the fact that his new family speaks a totally different language and it makes things only more confusing for him.

I can honestly say that I can't wait till I can take him from Antoshka and give him a bath and start showing him what it is like to have a forever family-- because whether or not he realizes it-- that is what he has!


Alex eating a Fruit Roll Up


Alex learning to sit in a better position for his legs.

On one of our many walks

31 comments:

Mountain Girl said...

Christine, I think you must set limits and expectations for Alex even though he is in an orphanage, etc. All kids need and want them! And when he comes home, it'll be easier for him to know that you mean business and what your expectations are on him.

MamaPoRuski said...

oh, that sounds just like our Z when we would visit him! Just look at it as he trusts you enough to test your boundaries, not fun I know! (Remember you telling me that when O was home the first week and I didn't know what to do with her behavior? :) It wasn't an indicator of anything wrong other than bonding...Praying for you! HUGS!

Chris and Mary Malone said...

Thanks for your honest post. Isn't it ironic the conflicting feelings you start having. And it becomes harder and harder to go visit and do the same thing again 2 times a day...day after day after day. We had trouble processing those feelings. We also had behavior issues with our Micah. The first day we were there for almost 4 hours. WAY TOO LONG in the unstructured environment and only communicating in broken Russian to him. Like you, we eventually set up some boundaries and when he broke through them and wouldn't listen, back to groupa. THAT WAS THE MOST DIFFICULT THING WE'VE EVER DONE IN OUR LIVES! We would hear him calling mama...papa... behind the closed door. Talk about rip your heart out. But we knew that if we didn't keep the control, it would be more difficult once we got home. It paid off. Praying for you right now. We know exactly where you are emotionally. Praise God for the victories and praise God in the moments of defeat.

Kathy C. said...

Hang in there! Soon....

Tia said...

Well done. So very VERY hard to do, but so important too. I hope the next few days are easier as he learns your rules - and sounds as though he will, he's a clever boy.

Tia

Julie said...

Thank you for being honest. I'm sure it wasn't easy, but at least it is getting better. I'll keep you all in my prayers that this only continues to get better!

mommajeane said...

I can relate to how unatural the visits are when we were in Ukraine... it is very difficult and confusing for the child and the families I think... no real bonding happens for us until like you said ...you get to take them away. Glad to hear he is listening some for you.. I am sure you are grateful for the computer use too...Is it as hot in Ukraine as it is here in Bulgaria ? We are thankful for ac but still very hot 100 degrees.

Michelle said...

I'm so proud of you :) :) which sounds silly, you don't need anyone to be proud of you, mom of how many kids?? but really, that is hard to do but if you remember we did that with mary too, I looked her in the eye and in my broken russian I said firmly, "I love you very much... you have to listen to me!" and put her back in her groupa room, then I left crying. Things got better after that, though, and the doctors had a knowing smile that made me feel like they respected what I was doing.

Kids, Fish, Candy, and Fun said...

I know it is really rough, but I can tell you that what you are doing is the best thing for him in the long run. I also applaud you for not babying him and being firm with him just like you would a typical child. Keep up the good work. I know it is rough, but you are doing the right thing.

Rachel said...

Sounds like you're off to a very good start setting boundaries and enforcing rules. I'm not sure I could be the same way in such a setting. Once again, can't wait til you're all back in the states. Praying for you all. :)

Amy said...

I have and will keep praying for all! He is definitely wanting to know where he stands and testing to see what he can get away with. Just like every other kid I've known does!

I'm know it is hard, but it's good you stick to what you say. No means no in any language! Especially a loving mother's language.

We'll all keep praying specifically and I bet in no time he realizes his limits and will respect them too!

Not too much longer and he'll be HOME!

I know it's easy for me to say, but hang in there and know that you have a lot of friends in Blogville praying!

Anonymous said...

I saw your blog on the SB Moms and Dads list serve and have loved following your story. I wanted to let you know that latex allergies are very common in kids with spina bifida. They can be present at birth or develop overtime. As a result, your docs in the US will most likely tell you to include latex as an allergy on any medical forms. Playing with balloons can be so fun, but b/c they contain latex (unless they are mylar) it is usually discouraged for kids with spina bifida. Hope this helps.

Milena said...

Wow! That's impressive! I realize that it must be so hard for you being in a situation like this, but I think you handled the situation beautifully - and it gave result! Of course, things will be easier for everyone once there is only one reality for Alex and not two!

Carey and Norman said...

What a day! I'm so proud of you for parenting your child while he is still living in the orphanage. I have to honestly say that I was a little afraid to take control (of course, our visits were much shorter...once a day for a week). I'm glad that you are setting limits and helping him to understand that these are necessary!

Thinking of you!

hadassahrose said...

Wow, I don't know if I could have the same kind of "tough love" that you have with Alexey, but it sounds like you are doing great. I am praying all continues to go nicely for you all.

Debbie said...

So glad that you have a computer and that you are able to share your struggles and triumphs with us. Praise God for His work! Parenting is tough when you're in Ukraine. We're finding it just might be tougher when you're home...but we keep hearing it will get better. Hang in there, Christine, and we will, too. Much prayer and the Lord's hand will get us all through.

Alice said...

Good for you, Christine! It is so awkward to have to parent when the caregivers are watching. We left the orphanage with Andreas about 20 min. after meeting him. He stood up in the van and started hitting Igor,who was driving, with his mittens. We had to restrain him and tell him, "no" AND make him believe we meant it. I felt ridiculous trying to make him understand my broken Estonian. I was also scared about physically restraining him, but the situation was dangerous! He stopped immediately, and we let go, and praised him. I remember being scared to death.
Hang in there. We are keeping your whole family in prayer.

Ross and Kate said...

You are such a good mom, Christine. Our little ones have to learn to obey us so that they will eventually learn to obey their Heavenly Father. You are a wonderful example to me as a mother. I was just catching up on your most recent posts and noticed you mentioned Alex's left leg. Will it straighten all of the way when you move it? Moving his legs out of the "frog leg" position is exactly what you should be doing. That can cause hip issues and it is probably why his left knee is tight. Definitely continue to move his legs out of that position. Blessings on the rest of your trip!

Tami said...

You keep being honest, Christine. I personally think this part of the process is the hardest, for so many reasons. Its hard to set boundaries with a child who can't understand you, hasn't had that kind of training in the past, and when you're not sure how the orphanage staff will respond to your parenting techniques. I had an episode very similiar to yours when I was in my 10 day wait with Maddie. Shad had come home and I was there by myself. Maddie quickly became bored with our routine and started to 'try' me. It was frustrating not being able to handle the situation as I would have with my older three children because I was convinced the staff didn't see me as her mom yet...and so I didn't have the right to correct her. AUGH. Frustrating!
We'll keep you in our prayers. Your 10 days will be up soon...you'll be home before you know it...and a year from now Alex will have learned what it means to be a part of a forever family. What a blessing! :) ((hugs))

Grannysaurus said...

How scary it must be for kids who are not disciplined. It is though they are setting their own limits, yet they know that they are just a kid and make mistakes and feel afraid and need an adult to make things right. It is much more comforting for Alex knowing that you are in control, not him. You handled it great.

thedickinsonfamily said...

I am so proud of you for the mom that you are. In good times and in not so good times we will unconditionally love our children. He deserves the boundaries you are setting for him. Children crave boundaries whether they know it or not. It will make the rest of your time there, your travel home and your new home life for the best. Stick to it, your doing a great job and setting a wonderful example for others. Thank You!
Blessings,
Meghan

Anonymous said...

HI every-one!!!
Sorry I could not send comments the other past days. The dogs look alot smaller and they have small heads!!!!I have been missing you all and I can't wait for you to come home!!!!!
Your Daughter,
Annalyn

Rachael said...

I'm sure it will be a huge relief when the wait is over and you can have him completely on your terms. Hoping the time goes by quickly for you!

Tina in CT said...

How can you explain things to him when he doesn't understand English and you only speak a little bit of Russian?

Of course he is going to test the waters. I am sure you hit the nail on the head as he sees you for part of the day and still is part of the orphanage and groupa. Just a little longer and you, Julia and Alexsey will be going home.

Tina in CT said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sally- That Girl! said...

As you already know but just need to be reminded, it it will be so much easier once you are at home in your own home with Alex. When you are adopting in a foreign country you feel all eyes are on you. The language barrier makes it hard and just being out of your comfort zone makes it difficult. Luckily, you are a very experienced momma so you know what to do. I will continue to pray for God to give you strength and wisdom during this difficult transition time. Thanks for keeping it real!

Anonymous said...

Christine,

We finally Just Landed Back Home !!!

Was greeted by Adam, Caleb, Rachel, Jenn (and then Sveta woke up too).

Dennis was in a cool state of Ukrainian morning- but California lateness- but I-remember-this-house excitement-- but I'm still tired from the planes, trains, and automobiles. Rachel perfectly doted on him as she perfectly does.

Christine, I read your beautiful post here and many of the commentors' too. Thanks as usual. I know I had it easy leaving compared to what you and Julia are doing daily now for still weeks.

But speaking from VERY recent personal experience, here is a real warning about your 15 hours of 'just plane fun' to be ready for...if such a readiness is possible...
(I tried calling you again and am not getting through...???)
(Don't try me for at least 8 more hours (please)).

Open up window (to let in BRIGHT SUN), close window, open up window, close window, ok Dennis, no more window, open out meal table, close down meal table, open out meal table, close down meal table, ok Dennis, no more meal table, No, don't kick the chair in front of you, No, don't crush your flimsy plastic water cup, yes you must wear your seatbelt and I don't care how loud you whine about it, your growling is too loud, don't lick me, don't lick the chair, ok, let's not lick anything, no screaming, sure you can open the window again, yay, good close of the window, now leave it closed.
Wow, meal time, yes wear the bib, please don't drop the water cap, Dennis please don't drop the water cap any more, ok fine, no water cap for you, ok so you don't like any of the food here but let's not just throw it to the lady next to us, and let's watch our mountain of trash just sit here on our tray tables for another hour without spilling most of it into our seats, what? no room for you to spread out and nap? Well no crying about it either. Sure you can lie down on me (I'll hold your kicking legs). Is that smell coming from your diaper? Repeat all of the above every 100 miles of the 8000 miles.
Just plane fun. And I thought I was a good parent!!! He really was a trooper though. However, WHILE we were LANDING at LAX, he handed me his EYE !!! Carrying him and the two huge rolling bags on and off the airport trams through passport control, customs declaration lines, etc, got me my needed work out!!!
Good night to me. Good morning to you.

Connie said...

He listened and understood. What a clever boy :)

mommytoalot said...

I can't imagine how difficult it must be at times..for the both of you. It is an adjustment for him as well. Does he understand what you are saying ? Could there be a language barrier?
Praying..
..
read the above post and am happy to hear he's been better

Leah said...

You're going to be a fantastic family for him!!! I've been meaning to tell you, (and your mentioning the incontinence reminded me) my next door neighbors have 5 children. Their oldest is their only bio child, and he has spina bifida. He's 19, and just graduated from high school this year. He wears a vibrating watch (Angela has one too to work on toileting issues) and it goes off several times per day. When it does that's when he uses the restroom and self-caths. Joe can walk some, but mostly only does around their home. When he's out and about he uses a chair. He has SEVERAL of them, and also plays on a nationally traveling wheelchair basketball team. They have a very large cement patio in their back yard so it's accessible to him, along with basketball hoop. They have lots of old wheelchairs, so the rule at their house is if you want to play basketball, you have to be in a wheelchair. LOL Angela LOVES to play basketball with Joe, and has gotten GREAT at maneuvering the chairs!

Annie said...

I often don't read all of the comments, but was so glad I caught John's!!! "Just plane fun!" That cracks me up. Sooooo true. :) No wonder you guys do such a great job - you are humble and have a sense of humor. And prayer.

Christine, I am thinking Alexei is just what he should be! What else should he do but test you! Good job! That shows he is bright and wants to engage you. It shows he has will. You handled that perfectly and so did he. (And so did his caregivers, too, it sounds like.)