Hello everyone. After a heartfelt talk DH and I had tonight, I came to realize first-hand some of the issues that come along with adopting a toddler. I want to share them because, no matter how much you read on websites or in books about parenting a toddler, it is most helpful (IMHO) to hear it from a parent who is going through it. This is a thread that comes up on the list often as a point of concern. Here are my .02...
Our Elizabeth was 16 1/2 mos when we met her in China this past June. Of course, she was (and still is) small for her age - just a tiny little peapod, however, she is very on track developmentally. The point - this child was a wild toddler from moment one and tests me every day.
While on the trip, she drew blood on DH's forehead when she launched a stacking cup and hit him between the eyes. Whoa--we did not become the new parents to a googly-eyed, sleepy, warm little bundle of joy who mostly sleeps and loves to cuddle. We were thrown into the world of toddler parenthood right off the bat. She was busy, manipulative (she knows not to turn the TV off and on for instance, but does it anyway and when caught, just holds her hand there while having a look that says "I dare you to get me"), did not want to cuddle (too busy for that) although did like to be carried (there is a difference), threw fits - your run of the mill "tests" to any parent. (And immediately we loved every wild, slender inch of her!!) Don't get me wrong, she was, and is, happy and sweet, she is an angel child, but what I now realize: love from us had to come unconditionally, there was no bonding opportunity before we had to deal with her frenzied-into-everything toddler nature. With a newborn, you grow to be "in love" as you spend hours holding her and staring at her calm face, you bond as you gaze into her eyes, she into yours. You have all those months to get to know each other before you are faced with the tantrums and the climbing and the temper and the refusal to leave anything alone that is within her reach.
From the moment we got home, she was a firecracker, always wanting to be held (whining if she was not). If she was not being held, she was climbing anything, getting into everything, launching toys across the room (and at people), throwing her little tantrums, floating her shoes in the toilet, writing on her face with her sister's markers, yelling "na-na" for anything that was food. No peaceful little sleeping newborn here! Realization number 2: this child has spent what I can assume to be the majority of her first 16 mos confined to a crib or at least with few opportunities for exploration. So, not only are these behaviors normal for an 18 mo old toddler - she is twice as bad because she is literally making up for lost time! She has gone from nothing to everything. The world is at her disposal! "Let's float the Striderite's in the toilet and see what they do...heck, why have this fun splashy water go unused...may as well play in it while it's here!" "And, as far as food, consider me hungry at all times." "I like this idea of food any time I want it so expect me to mooch off your plate and everyone else's even if I did just eat a whole can of carrots and a pork chop!"
The point is, don't feel guilty when you feel yourself less patient than you think you should be. DH and I have parented our oldest daughter from day one and did have the time to bond and learn not just "to love" but "to be IN love" with her. There is a difference! By the time she challenged us with her toddler behaviors, we were "in love" and thereby more patient and "in tune" to her. With Elizabeth, it has been more of a challenge. She has no attachment issues that we are aware of or have noticed so that has not been an issue. But, I want other parents to realize that it is a growth process and it is challenging at times to begin with one of these spunky little toddlers. Don't doubt yourself as a parent. Just know ahead of time that they can be "trying" some of the time.
On the flip side, the rewards are so undeniably thrilling because right off the bat you have this precious child to interact with, giggle with, dance with, exchange kisses with. She can show her affection for you (unlike a baby who is still just googly-eyed). She mimics the way you brush your hair or answer the phone. She soaks up every little interaction between you. Activities such as getting dressed are a privilege not just a matter of routine (how cool to have a mom to put my socks on!)
Parenting her has been the great joy of my life. She is so in awe of her world, she LOVES life, she LOVES her family and being part of one, she knows what living is all about now and is taking it on with a vengeance! (At the expense of mom's nerves on occasion.)
So, yes, adopting a toddler can be exasperating for all the reasons I mentioned. But they are a gift and a joy and an honor to share life with. Just be prepared to have a few extra ounces of patience!
Welcome! Before you take this journey with us, I want to introduce our family...
My name is Ashley and my DH is Don. We are the extremely proud parents of Emma, 9, and Elizabeth, age 7. Our Journey to Elizabeth (Mao Xiao Chai) began in January 1999 - the same week she was born - a "red thread" we did not find out about until our referral came in April 2000.
As a preface to our trip story, I would like to share a few thoughts with you about toddler adoption from our perspective and hope what I have to say may be helpful. This is an email I wrote in response to a thread on APC: