Tuesday, September 24, 2013

2 months home

Afua landed on US soil 2 months ago. It has been a joyous, heartbreaking, victorious, frustrating, amazing 2 months. We have celebrated so many milestones from small to big and we have been so incredibly busy.

Medically we are in a good place. Afua has an eye surgery and ENT surgery scheduled in the next month. These are minor procedures but due to her low muscle tone we have to stay overnight for the ENT surgery. She is eating enough calories, so the worry over a feeding tube is gone for now. She has gained 5 pounds in 2 months!

Some of Afua's new skills are:

~ if she wants more of something, she will say "oh" in attempt to say more. this is HUGE in her steps to communicate with us

~ she can now crawl 6 steps and rarely rolls anymore. she crawls and scoots upright most of the time

~ she recognizes members of her family vs. strangers

~ she is starting to play games with her siblings

~ she can stand with assistance for 10 seconds and pull up to her knees while holding on to something

~ she loves music and when someone helps her clap her hands

This week we will have Afua's IEP meeting and fit her for leg braces. I look forward to both appointments and what they bring. We are very proud of Afua and all that she has accomplished.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Marathon vs. Sprint

The fatigue is setting in. For almost 8 weeks we have been referred to more Dr.s than most of my other children have seen in a lifetime. Afua is bravely enduring the appointments, she experiences life with such gentle and joyous spirit that is only a reflection of the way she has survived life thus far.

There are days when we just need to retreat and cocoon (adoption term for staying home to establish a "home base" and family unit for a newly adopted child). I highly recommend cocooning, even in small doses for all adopted children. Kofi and Joy were 6 and 3, but we did not go anywhere for the first few weeks, and then we ventured out slowly. It helped anchor them into our family and we really needed to get to know each other. Afua doesn't have words to tell us how she is doing, so getting to know her is even more crucial. This mean days hanging out on the floor, having her crawl all over me and exploring some of her toys.

I have felt that as more and more medical interventions and appointments come up, that I need to slow down and have a long term view of this. Each week, I look at my calendar and think "next week will be better" but for 8 weeks that has not been the case. Not that any one week is bad, but it's always filled with driving to our Children's Hospital, waiting in various offices, saying the same things over and over again to various medical professionals and then more referrals.

Parenting a child with special needs is a marathon. And in order to avoid burn out, I am quickly realizing we need days that are not medical in any way. I need to set aside all that is to come (surgeries, therapies, procedures, appointments) and simply see her as my little girl.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Your child can't be your only black friend

(this blog title started out as a half-joke and as I was discussing it with a friend, I decided to leave it....for better or worse)

I wrote a post a while back about Living as a multicultural family and documented our experiences thus far. I still feel the same way as I did when I wrote that post and we continue to find opportunities to immerse ourselves into all our children's world. But as I have thought about issues of multiracial families and spoken with other (more experienced) adoptive parents, my black friends, my adoptee friends, I came to this conclusion:

Your child cannot be your only black (or Asian or biracial or....) friend.

From very young, children begin to notice skin color and race. It may begin the same way the notice blue eyes and brown eyes, but soon it turns into something else. The book I'm Chocolate, You're Vanilla is an interesting read for anyone who wants to understand how children form racial identities. No child should feel like they are always the only one with their skin color, the only one with white parents, the only one who is adopted. It's a lonely place to be even in the most loving families.

As adoptive parents, we make the choice to adopt and we need to immerse ourselves into our children's culture. Anything less is not acceptable, IMHO. We can't say that we live in a white town or we don't know any minorities or we attend a white church. We chose the neighborhoods, we chose the schools, we chose the churches. That is not a valid excuse. Children long to belong, they don't want to be the odd one out, they need mentors. I say this because I struggle with these issues too, not because I have it all figured out.

If you are thinking about adoption or you are still in the process, this is a perfect time to make sure your life is multicultural and multiracial. Consider your daily activities and how would your adopted child feel living in your world. How many people would they see that are people of color? Are there any adult or teen adoptees in your life that can give you a glimpse into your child's future? Can you plug into a community of people that would provide mentoring or a situation where you are the minority? This could be cultural or racial. This is the time to make connections.

Also consider any barriers you have personally to having friends of different races. Sometimes we have to confront our own feelings of racism (yes, even parent who adopt minority children can be racist...) or superiority. This link contains an explanation of white privilege and how that can impact our parenting or prevent us from acknowledging racism. (I haven't investigated that website for any other content, but the description is good) 

While our family has found mentors for our children and frequently visit with adoptive families, I know I can always do more. So I give this challenge to others as much as myself: how can we as adoptive parents immerse ourselves into our children's world and not expect our children just to join in ours?

Your child can't be your only black friend.