Well guys, I have reiterated time and time again that this adoption stuff is not a fairy tale…that it is real lives and real hearts involved, and today was evidence of that. I also promised to share it all, the good, the bad and the ugly. I am so glad that I went into this in the frame of mind I was in, or today would have been horribly devastating.
We go to the Ministry of Education where we met the nicest woman, whose name I now forget. She knew all about our family from our dossier, and loved meeting with us and the boys. She asked us many questions about our previous adoptions, the boys’ education and our life in America. The boys were so serious and Kenny admitted he was a little scared. She said she had met many other adoptive families, but we were the happiest and most relaxed. She knew about our knowing the girls and said almost no one adopts these older kids without having met them somehow. Everyone else is so serious and she said she enjoyed being with us very much and wished us much happiness in the future.
Then we were on our way to the Regional Boarding School and the girls! We walked in and were directed to an office where the Director and other officials were waiting for us. There were all of us, along with our interpreter, Irina, and 4 other women. They went and got the girls who entered without fanfare, and within moments burst into tears. It was obvious they were terrified. I got up and hugged them both, and while they did not push me away at all, it was clear all of this was just too much and one of the women led them outside. We all sat there, and I felt strangely calm despite how my heart was hurting for 2 terrified little girls and wishing all of this wasn’t so confusing and complicated…and that with a swipe of my hand I could simply make it all better, take away the beginnings of their life and the pain of all that was, and all that was to come.
While we sat there the Director broke out a book and started looking at other children for us. It took us a moment to understand and we made it clear we were only here to adopt these two girls, and if it didn’t work out we were definitely going home empty handed.
An awkward silence followed as we all sat there waiting for the girls to return, which they soon did and the adults in the room all started peppering them in Russian with stories of kids who rejected possibly being adopted and regretted it. It was too much like an attack, and inquisition and I needed to end this. I asked if we could have some time alone with the interpreter to speak with the girls and they all good naturedly agreed. We were led to a classroom where a still sobbing Olesya put her head down on the desk and just sobbed. Angela had tears fall intermittently. And I sat with the interpreter between Angela and Olesya and just simply dropped it down a notch, talking to them naturally and asking them questions about what they were feeling, what was the most scary to them at this moment, etc.
Then it comes out that Olesya is heartsick over leaving her best friend, a little boy whose name is Valya I think. Angela speaks for them as the eldest and is looking at options here. She asks if we can take only one of them, which I reply firmly “no”, that we would never separate them. Olesya asks if we could come back later and adopt her friend. I explain we wish we could give all the kids homes and that I know exactly how she feels, as I have felt that way about her and Angela ever since I left them years ago. That got a grin. Angela sits there quietly and then asks if they will be able to come back and see their friends some day. I told them we would try to make that happen. She asked when, and I said “When we can save enough money.”. Olesya asks if she can go get Valya and have him visit while we are there, I am sure part was to have us meet him and see how great he was so we would adopt him as well. He comes in and IS a handsome little guy who was personable and sat there quietly. (And NO we will not adopt again) We break out the photo album and show them their room, and Angela goes and gets her photo album which is filled with photos of our family as well a precious few of her friends there. Olesya sits next to me and starts to point out her friends in her pictures, which I took as a good sign. She gives me a shy smile and they continue to look at the photo album we sent.
At this time 3 other women come in including a social worker of sorts who appears to know the girls well and sit at the table across from all of us. The boys had been off to the side a little bit. The women ask to see the photo album and ask us several questions about our life…and then one of them says “You can adopt us! Can we all come with you?” and we all joke a bit about that. The social worker goes and gets a folder with Angela’s awards in it, and this girl is quite an athlete! We were told that both are the best students in their class, and Angela proudly showed us all the certificates in her folder. Olesya didn’t have a folder there, but we will ask to see it in the future.
I explain to the girls that we would never, ever make them do something they don’t want to do. I asked them if they had really wanted to go with us in the past and both nodded their heads vigorously…which certainly helped my spirits a little. I reassured them that we all knew how overwhelming this all was, and they could take as much time as they needed to think about it but would never push them. I did say we loved them very much and it would break our hearts to leave without them, but that we loved them enough to want what was best for them. I told them I knew how hard it was to leave behind friends and all that they had ever known, but that they didn’t know how wonderful it is to live in a family and be very special to the people in your family…and we wanted that for them. Then the women all chimed in and said a few things that were not translated but I could tell were supportive.
Angela was not saying much, and Olesya was not quite as tense but it was still difficult. We adults collectively decided that was enough for one day, and that tomorrow we will return and take them out for a meal. The girls then left the room and we were left standing there with the interpreter and the social worker and us.
The social worker said they were wonderful girls and were confused by their feelings at this moment. She said she knew that they had been waiting for us to come for a very long time, and she thinks maybe part of them gave up hope and moved on in their mind. They were working so hard here at school, finally made it to the best grades and doing well in activities, and now they were afraid to start at the bottom again. But she said “They have wanted to go with you for so long, I am sure it will all be fine, just give them time and get them out of this environment for awhile and that will help.”.
We left there and went back to the office where we had left our belongings and Irina said we had to wait for our driver, who was not yet there. We sat there and another official was there talking with Irina about our family, and again mentioned that the girls had shown everyone pictures of our family proudly, saying they were waiting for us to come get them. That was when I started to cry a little, and although I know and understand it all, it still is gut wrenching what these kids have to go through. We talked about how we, as adults, know that living in a family is far superior to an orphanage but children like these have finally found safety and security in this environment, and based upon their past experiences they are scared of what the future might hold for them in a family. The woman who was speaking with us reassured us that in all her years there, she had never seen a child not go with a family after spending time with them. But there is fear and much to work through emotionally. She also said “The girls have been waiting for you, give them time…they want to go.”.
As she finished saying that, I was wiping my tears and there appear Angela and Olesya in the office. They say “We want to go with them.” And I get up and give them the biggest hug. I can still feel how tense Angela is, but Olesya is grinning quite a bit now and is more relaxed. I can tell Angela is still feeling very, very conflicted and yet she was the one who wanted to go for certain immediately.
The girls leave to go back to class after agreeing we would all go to a café tomorrow and spend time together later in the afternoon. The social worker has remained behind and asks the translator to speak with us saying she has seen many families come and adopt kids, and sometimes they are not certain if it will work out or not…that sometimes it doesn’t seem to be a good fit. She assured us that she felt strongly we were a perfect fit for the girls, and she thought we were very good parents and had a warm and loving family that she felt good about for the girls. She said she felt we were very natural and comfortable and ultimately everyone would be very happy.
So we left, admittedly a little shell shocked, and came back to our apartment. We will go visit the girls tomorrow after 3:00 and take them out for dinner somewhere. And hopefully tomorrow will be a better day.
We walked into our apartment and Dominick was almost in tears himself as he said “How unfair it was to the girls to bring them into that room which was packed with observers. I can’t believe they were so insensitive to that moment.”. I asked him how he was feeling about everything, if he had any sense we shouldn’t be doing this and he said “No, not at all, just sad and understand how intimidating that was for them. Man, they are adorable.”. We checked in emotionally with the boys, explaining what at the time we couldn’t explain…about how hard it must be to have it suddenly be real that you are leaving your friends who are like siblings to you. We talked about how it had nothing at all to do with them rejecting us, but being scared of an unknown future. We asked what they all were feeling and Kenny is afraid they won’t come home with us, and Josh and Matthew said they are fine but feel sad for the girls. We talked about how they could help make them feel more comfortable when we visit with them. We talked about patience, understanding and compassion…and they are OK with where things are at the moment, even if it is all uncertain.
And me? Hmmm…where am I with all of this? Not sure I have processed it at all, and will likely be up most of the night. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that this isn’t how I had wanted it to go. I also would be lying if I didn’t say I was somewhat prepared for this to be less-than-movie-like. I ache for them and all that this has brought up for them. I want nothing more than to assuage their fears, to help them see into a bright and happy future with us. But we can’t snap our fingers and make that happen. I can only imagine what is going through their minds right now, how they too will likely be awake much of the night sorting it all out. I am discouraged a little, as I guess we have a right to be, but extremely hopeful as well in learning how much that they had been holding on the hope we were coming even as recently as a couple of weeks ago. Overall though, I am walking surrounded in peace and am grateful for the prayers you all have been sending for us. I am not in turmoil, and that is a gift itself on a night like this.
You see, what we all forget is that older child adoption comes with a past, a present and a future. Our kids aren’t cute little blank slates like babies, where we write most of their history for them. Older children have a past that comes with them…and often is not easy to overcome. They come with attachments to people and places that we ask them to break. Adults know this is better, that families are best for kids, but kids who don’t know what a family even is can’t even conceptualize it. Olesya doesn’t even remember her mother. How can she begin to understand what a mother is and does? They are torn between the life they try to imagine to the best of their ability, and the life they are currently living which is at least a known quantity, if less than desirable.
I recognize that this is not a rejection of us at all, and seeing how every single photo we had sent was still in that little photo album of Angela’s tells me that. It is that reality unexpectedly walked in the door today, and they were not prepared, having probably long since given up any real hope we would ever be there.
And love takes time. Fantasy comes easily, but love is work. What we all have had is the hope of a love that would exist someday between us all. But that love has never had time to take root in real life, and that time is now as we get to know one another, learn to relax a little in each other’s presence, test the waters of what these relationships will be like. Their grief is very real, but so is there hope. You could see it in their tear filled eyes. So much emotion to contend with, so many conflicting things going through their minds…and so much we are asking them to walk away from on faith. Faith isn’t something either of them have had much practice with.
That’s OK, I have enough for all of us.
So no pictures today, for obvious reasons. In time, yes, but not today and maybe not tomorrow or even the next day.
We ask for your prayers for wisdom, intuition and insght, and hearts to open up over the coming days. We pray that we “keep it real” as that honesty will be the only way we can make it through. We ask that you hold the girls in your hearts as they struggle with so much right now…and that you help me be what they need me to be.
This is all part of parenting. Sometimes it isn’t pretty and all wrapped up in a bow. I have said repeatedly that none of this is a fairy tale and I am sincere and believe that. It is more like a dramedy, with moments that have us rolling on the floor laughing and others that have us heaving deep sobs. The grief is real, and so is the joy…we might just have to work through a lot of grief to get to the joy.