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Our dd was born in Ethiopia and came to us 6 months ago, at the age of 11. She's now 12.

It has been both great and terrible. I knew going into this that she would most likely be emotionally immature for her chronological age. I did not know how much this would irritate and frustrate me. I think that has been my biggest challenge. She behaves much more like a 7-9 year old, and honestly it really bugs me to watch this girl who is every bit as tall as I am behave that way. I am having an easier time of it now that I have figured out that, when I need to discipline her, I need to imagine how I would discipline a seven year old before I proceed. Seems like that would be obvious, but it took me almost 6 months to figure that out.

Another challenge has been her bottomless pit of need for attention. She is so extremely jealous of my younger kids that it's nearly impossible to do anything that's for them and them alone. Desta sprints into the situation to claim what she feels is her rightful share of attention and doesn't seem to understand that she is not always the center of attention. She is extremely attention-seeking and behaves wretchedly if she doesn't get the attention she thinks she needs. It's really throwing a wrench in the entire family's functioning, and we are starting family counseling on 12/1 in large part because of this issue. Now don't get me wrong, I understand why she does this and I know that it's not unusual for a child in her situation, but it is still difficult to deal with. I was talking about this with someone I know and I mentioned how Desta takes up about 80% of my attention and the other kids have to compete for the remaining 20%, and my friend said, "Well, that's no different than having a new baby." Honestly, I wanted to punch her because it was so obvious that she had NO clue. A baby can be deposited in a sling and have 80% of its needs met by just riding around with Momma. A baby can be worn while you attend to your other kids' needs. A 12 year old CAN NOT! A 12 year old can (literally) shove your other kids out of the way to demand attention.

Oh, and did I mention that we are also dealing with the typical 12-year-old attitude? I have mentioned to people before that I feel like she has 4-year-old behaviors with a 12-year-old attitude. That makes for an interesting combination.

Unlike annethcz, we have not found language to be much of an issue. Desta came to us with a small amount of English, and we had a small amount of Amharic, and between us and with the help of Ethiopian friends, we seem to have gotten through the early days of limited communication pretty well. Desta is still not "fluent" in English, but she can certainly hold her own, and it's rare these days that we don't understand one another. She does pretty well expressing her feelings.

And I don't mean to paint the situation as all doom and gloom. Desta is an extremely funny, extremely friendly girl, and despite the annoyances of the situation, she fits well into our family. We have a lot of fun with her (when she's not pouting or giving me the silent treatment) and she has challenged us to expand our interests and viewpoints. I am, however, going to be completely honest here and say that, six months in, I still ask myself whether I love her. I like her, I feel compassion for her, I want her to be with us, and I have great affection for her, but I am not certain yet whether I love her. There are still times when she sits down next to me and tries to cuddle and I want to get up and walk away. I think that it is because she expects (and of course has a right to expect, as I am her mother) a level of intimacy in our relations that I am just not comfortable with yet. Like annethcz, I really did not know this girl at all when she dropped into our lives. It took a long time to start feeling like she was a member of the family and not a guest. (In fact, it was our first big discipline scenario, where dh and I started sending her to bed 15 minutes early for every time she interrupted us, thereby wiping out a 40-to-50-interruptions-a-day problem in less than a week) that I really started to feel like she was a member of the family. I think that is when she started to feel like a member of the family, too. I think that situation was the turning point where she realized (for both the better and the worse) that she was going to be held responsible for her behavior just like the younger kids are. (And please no flaming for our decision to punish our daughter; we followed the advice of an adoption therapist on that one. And it brought big and positive changes in our interactions.)

That brings me to something else. The way I parent my younger kids has not worked well with Desta. We are pretty laid-back, go-with-the-flow parents. Desta needs a lot more structure and direction than our younger kids do, and it took me about 5 months to realize that/implement it. Desta is doing a lot better now that I ditched unschooling, instituted a structured academic program, and got her going on a regimen of daily chores. I have to keep her busy or things deteriorate very quickly. Adjusting to her differing parenting needs has been difficult, as has been feeling like my friends think I am too harsh with her in our discipline. But the therapist I was talking to pointed out that Desta's discipline in Ethiopia was EXTREMELY concrete and that she was most likely confused by the more-talk, less-action approach we were taking. It was like, unless we did something about the behavior, she didn't understand what we wanted.

Anyway, this has gotten long and babbling. Do I recommend adopting an older child? If you have already parented a child of that age, yes. If the child will not be your oldest child in the home, yes. If you feel comfortable having your parenting skills challenged, yes. If you think that you can share your home and family with someone whose values are very different, yes. If you will be ok with the fact that your life will change dramatically because you will now be living with someone whose personality is pretty much formed, yes. I'm not sure that I was the right person to do this, but I think that things are going very well overall, and (most of the time
) I am not sorry we did this.

Namaste!
 

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I wanted to add that when you adopt an older child, that child will come with his/her own ideas about what life with you will be like and what type of parent you will be. Dealing with differing expectations can be difficult.

Namaste!
 

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I posted this in your thread about adopting a toddler:

Quote:

Originally Posted by dharmamama
We adopted our son form an orphanage in Ethiopia when he was officially 21 months old (he was probably 6-12 months older than that). We have had ZERO attachment problems with him. Of our three children, he is definitely the most pleasant, personable, and easy-going. He is now officially 45 months old. (I think he is probably 55-57 months old.) He has the physical dexterity and language skills of a 4.5 to 5 year old. (He has articulation issues, but his receptive language skills are superior.) He has the social skills of a four year old. He has the emotional skills of a 3-4 year old. So he is "ahead" of his given age on somethings, "behind" his probable actual age on some thing, but overall he's just your normal, happy, dippy, energetic kid.

The only "issue" we ever had with him (aside from the attention span of a gnat) is that he wants to eat constantly. That is an emotional thing for him. We think he was hungry before he came to us, and food is security to him. But it's not a huge issue.
How was his adoption different from Desta's? Efram's was EASY. Desta's has been HARD.

Namaste!
 
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