Parenting 101 By: Matt Ritzmann
Parenting a 5 year old adopted child with limited English is proving to be much harder than we had anticipated. We had read so many blogs and talked with many families about their experiences after adopting older children from Ethiopia and very few (1) mentioned anything about the difficulties that may come with this experience. With that, we kind of had this rosy picture in our heads of what it was going to be like.
Parker is a great kid. I believe he is just having as hard of a time adjusting as Sara and I are, probably harder. After all, he has lived the first 5 years of his life in a world completely and totally different than the world that he lives in now. I would pay to hear what he is thinking and feeling. The language barrier is, in my opinion, the biggest contributor to our difficulties. Parker is unable to speak to us and tell us what is bothering him, thus he turns to acting out, or going into a shell, or whining and crying. It breaks my heart not to be able to speak to him and understand exactly what he is feeling.
I could go on about the challenges that we have encountered over the first three weeks home, but we also have had many great times. Like yesterday after he visited the zoo with his daycare class. He was so anxious to tell Sara and I all about the animals that he saw, and he was even more excited to share with us all of his artwork that he has done during his first few days of daycare. Moments like those, and like when he and Lleyton ride their scooters in the evening and take baths together help us put the difficult moments into perspective. I am certain that some of the challenges that we are facing are the same things that any other family with a 5 year old faces. Those same challenges are just compounded due to the language barrier and the adjustment that Parker is going through from living in Ethiopia to living in America.
I, in no way, want our difficulties to deter anyone from taking on the challenge of adopting older children, because there are millions of other Parkers out there in this world that need the love that families like ours can offer. I just want to make sure that those very families know that there will be challenges upon arriving home. We have found great comfort in being able to speak with our social worker and the director of our home study agency regarding our issues and how to best handle them. Their insight and advice has helped us effectively deal with some of the poor behavior we have experienced.
We tried to prepare for how difficult this transition could be, but that is easier said than done. With time, I am confident our difficult moments will become less frequent. Until then, we are learning on the fly. Learning what he likes and dislikes, learning how he tests us, learning how to comfort him, learning how to discipline him. We are constantly learning. I wish we could simply consult a book that had all of the answers, but I know that doesn’t exist, so I am thinking that maybe my second career may quickly become being a writer and providing adoptive parents with answers to all of the questions we are coming up with each day. Maybe you will see it in bookstores near you soon.