The past 3 days have seen some ups and downs as Tokie begins to settle in a bit. As expected, we have had a few...and I do emphasize only a few...challenging moments. Some of it is nothing worse than any parent of a normal 8 year old boy would experience and some of it is definitely testing us to see how far he can go, what is going to be tolerated, etc. There are moments when I honestly feel so mean and strict, when I really have to remind myself that consistent and clear rules are a necessity right now, regardless of how it makes me feel. I fear that if we don't lay solid ground rules right now, then 6 months from now we could have a monster on our hands!!
95% of the time, Toktogul is responding really, really well to everything, then there are those unexpected moments when he decides to dig his heels in on something, almost never anything of any real consequence. The other night (and yesterday afternoon as well) he stood toe to toe to Dominick and told him "No" about some minor thing, I can't even remember what it was about now, but it led to quite a little scene the first night in which I let him know in no uncertain terms that he is never to tell his mommy or daddy "No". Now mind you, what makes discipline really difficult at this stage is the inability on our part to explain anything other than through hand gestures and pantomiming. However, I think at this stage some of it needs no explanation and he clearly understands that he is refusing to do what we ask, pay attention to us, or whatever. Sometimes it is on issues of safety, some of respect for us as his parents, sometimes just learning to participate as a member of the family. We have had a lot of "play acting" when he doesn't want to do something and we are not falling for it, and the past couple of days he has tried to say that he doesn't understand what we want him to do because "Nyet Angleski!" but amazingly once he sees we are upset about it, he has this uncanny ability to suddenly understand English! Hahahaha! At this stage it is clear to us when he understands what we are saying and when he does not, so I hope he will quickly get the idea that he can't pull one over on us, at least not while using that excuse;-)
We have also seen the time tested "Divide and Conquer" already, going to Daddy and asking for something, getting an undesirable answer, and then moving on to Mommy to see if she will give you the answer you prefer. It is actually funny to us as we see him doing such classic things, things we all pulled ourselves when we were kids. We also have noticed that much of his more challenging behavior has been directed at Dominick, he tends to say "No" more often to Dominick...but even at that it hasn't really been extreme at all.
The other 95% of the time things are going so well!! Unlike some older adopted kids I have read or heard about, I have none of the "constantly underfoot" behavior as he just goes off and plays and entertains himself very easily...sometimes with the boys and sometimes alone. I get the feeling that he is actually enjoying having some time to himself, which he has likely never had before, and he seems quite content when playing alone. We have curbed much of the earlier behavior of the prior couple of weeks when he tried to discipline the boys himself, and he seems to be getting the hang of this having a mommy and daddy thing. I also am trying to interject myself into areas where he at first thought it was wierd, and for a bio 8 year old it would be wierd, but I tell him over and over that certain things are mommy's job...like putting jelly on his toast for him, taking care of small things like putting lotion on him, etc. It is hard with an 8 year old who wants to assert his independence naturally at this age to take him back a couple of steps to learn what it is to be taken care of, rather than having to take care of yourself. So I am trying to find small ways to do it. I think it is very important that he learn to be nurtured in some areas, to learn to accept mothering and fathering and come to rely on it.
There has been nothing at all that we weren't prepared for or didn't fully expect, and truthfully we expect things to go downhill for awhile and then climb back up. He has so much to learn, he is taking so much in, and he is discovering what a family operates like. I am glad that we have had a couple of incidents with both Matthew and Joshua so he could see that the discipline goes all around, and is not just for him. I'll thank the kids later for thinking of that and providing me with perfect moments to point it out to Tokie! Hahahaha!
Last nght he asked if he could sleep with us as Matthew and Joshua do on a regular basis. I got to see first hand how difficult sleep is for him, as he tossed and turned and kicked and squirmed all night, until at some point after 2:00 AM he elected himself to change into his own bed. We have heard every night his movements late into the night as he knocks on walls, accidently banging limbs as he tries to move into a deep slumber. I think we have a long time before that kind of really restful, deeply peaceful sleep arrives for him. There must be so much going on in his head, so much tumbling about in there that he is processing!
One thing I will share with you that has been frustrating a bit is how some people almost gleefully have wanted to know if the boys are not getting along. For some it is an innocent and valid question and for others it is a way of waiting for the other shoe to drop, to be able to have an "I told you so" moment. The funny thing is that they simply don't want to believe me when I tell them all is well, and it is as if there has been nothing more than a mere blip on the radar with the addition of Toktogul. I actually am quite proud of both Joshua and Matthew as they have really proven their stuff with all of this, the travel, the new addition, etc. My kids aren't perfect, by a long shot, but I sure do like who they are, all 3 of them! Matthew told me Saturday evening that he was going to make some special time with Tokie, and then he went outside and they had fun crushing peanuts open and playing on the trampoline together. Matthew later told me he thought it was important for him to spend some time with Tokie, to be brothers together even if they couldn't speak together. I think he has struggled to connect at moments as Matthew is pretty introspective and self-contained, and although younger he is into more mature game playing, where Tokie is very much into play acting, etc. which is more along Joshie's lines. But I noticed this evening on the way home from our friends house that Matthew was working diligently at trying to explain something and was using a lot of sign language, etc. to get his thoughts across.
Toktogul has been incredibly efficient at speaking to us the best he can and somehow I seem to be able to understand much of what he is trying to communicate. Not always, but more often than I thought I would. We are using a lot of thumbs up and thumbs down to express likes and dislikes, and sound affects also work well.
In spite of our strictness, Tokie seems to be very happy with us, and easily snuggled in my lap this evening as we played a game. He has really started taking great pride in being part of the "team" and loved saying "LaJoy's!!!" when we played Uno or Yahtzee this evening and Dominick or I did well.
This Wednesday we leave for NY for the evaluation, and I am terribly interested to see what the various test results say, and if I have misread anything about him or will learn something new. I also think it will be great opportunity for he and I to be alone together for an extended period of time. We will be laying over in Denver for several hours on our way home, and will have the chance to visit with other families connected to Kyrgyzstan adoptions as well as our coordinator, Saule, who will be visiting from Kyrgyzstan. We are really looking forward to it! I know Toktogul will be very happy to see her, and to be around folks he can speak to in Russian. Myself, I am tired and could use another week or two at home before flying off again, but am glad we are doing this so it will be worth it.
So here we are, 10 days home and things are much, much better than I thought they would be at this time a few struggles and many successes, and not a single regret!! We have only hearts filled with gratitude...for so many things. For a loving, funny and bright new son, for 2 other wonderful, awesome sons to show him the way, for understanding friends who back us up no matter what our life holds for us. I am learning so much, just sitting back and watching all of this unfold!