Sunday, October 23, 2011

Decisions, Decisions....

So as we wait this week to hear about a very important grant for which we've applied, I am reminded that there are some who are in the process of adopting an older child who visit with us here to gain some insight from those who have gone before.

Feeling like I am no expert, I forget that sometimes the simplest insights or experiences will prove helpful to someone else when they bring their children home, so I decided to write today about the act of making decisions.

Most of us in America grow up with a family and at some point, although it is likely different for each family, your parents present you with choices.  "Honey, do you want an apple or banana?"  "Would you like to wear the red shirt today, or the Blue one?"  Gradually, you learn to make a choice so that as you get older, you can navigate more options and learn the natural consequences of each.  For good or bad.  We take for granted that this is a natural part of growing up, right?

Well, it wasn't that long ago that I was the parent scouring the web looking to learn from other BTDT (been there, done that) parents so that I would have a peek into our future with Colin.  That, combined with the adoption education that is required of all new adoptive parents, prepared us for so much worse than we have actually experienced.

There are so many unknowns in adoption, particularly international adoption. And, every single child brought to America from another country has their own unique challenges and can not be stereotyped.  But, all that being said, we could not have asked for a better experience.  God chose a wonderful young boy for this family. Colin is sweet and considerate. He is laid back (unlike his mother) and can easily deal with the unknown.  He is obedient and so helpful.  But, that does not mean that he is without challenges.  As I alluded to above, he, like so many institutionalized children, struggles with decisions.  The simple task of grabbing a Tshirt to put on for the day does not come naturally to him.  He has never had 7 from which to choose.  Also, expressing a true opinion or preference seems to be tough.  Which do you like best?  Seems like a simple question, but he will, when he can, defer to us every time.

When we have "family meetings" and solicit the kids' opinions on something, he struggles to voice a position.  It appears especially tough when a decision is the result.  If he does not see the ultimate decision as his to make, then he is hesitant to express an opinion about the outcome.  Quite a contrast to his younger brother, who is never shy about telling us what he thinks or wants.  We have explained to him that his feelings and opinions are very important to us and that we want him to tell us these things, but we know it will take time.  After all, for years now, he was not in charge of anything.  All his possessions and his time were dictated by someone else.

So, we start small.  Letting him choose clothes for the day.  Encouraging him to shop for his favorite foods at the Chinese grocery store.  Giving him choices for things that have no real importance so that he feels safe to choose.  If you are preparing to adopt an older child, there are lots of things to consider and pray over, but these boys and girls are so worth the effort!  We are all, especially Colin, excited to bring one more into the house and really shake things up! lol

More to come...


Mom2Four said...

Such a real and enlightening post. We see the same thing with GW and TJ. Though TJ isn't shy about asking for food at the store! GW will typically only get what we suggest. He is doing better with picking out his clothes, but this is after 8 months home. As a result, he still has a limited wardrobe, but he has something clean to wear everyday, so it doesn't really matter.

Annie said...

Wonderful post Angie and something that I had never thought of! It is sometimes hard for Lizzie to make a decision! We go throught endless methods of decision making like eeny, meeny, miney, moe!!! Thank you, I just had never thought of that before!

Linette said...

So maybe I should be grateful for my son's frequent griping, since it means he's expressing a preference?! ;-) In all seriousness, he is just the right child for our family, just as Colin is for yours, but it is fascinating to see how that institutional background plays out differently in different kids. The biggest things we have seen with our son are some emotional immaturity (but only in some contexts, and I think it may actually be a good thing in those contexts) and some confusion about how family roles work (sometimes he tries to treat mama like a big sister or a girlfriend!). Oh yeah, and he can't entertain himself to save his life! He's definitely not used to unscheduled time, or to being alone. But shortage of those around here!