Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Cocoon and Other Bits & Pieces

I'm pretty far behind on posting, and eventually, I hope to finish blogging about our second trip to Ethiopia, but life has been a little hectic lately. Overall, things are going relatively well, but we're all still trying to catch our breath and find our place in the new family dynamics. About 2 weeks ago, life at our house took a turn for the better when Sintayehu decided that Ababa really was an okay guy. That means that David can now help out a bit with feeding him, lying down with him at bedtime, and staying with him while I run errands. It has been a tremendous blessing, although S still prefers me most of the time. We've also ventured out of the cocoon a few times, with somewhat mixed results, so we are heading back in for awhile longer.

What is "the cocoon" anyway, you ask? Well, bringing a former orphan into your home is different in some ways than bringing home a biological child. Attachment between a parent and child occurs over time when a baby has a physical or emotional need and communicates that need. The primary caretaker (usually mommy) meets the need and soothes the child. This repeats between a parent and child over and over to create trust within the child for that parent; the baby is hungry, cries in distress, mom nurses & calms the baby - which teaches him that this person is safe and can be trusted. By God's very design, an emotional foundation is laid in the tiniest of babies, which will affect their learning, conscience, growth and future relationships. The security provided by parents will ultimately give children a trust for and empathy towards others. Children who come home through adoption have experienced interruptions in this typical attachment process. The loss of a biological mother at an early age can be a major trauma on their little hearts. The good news is that as Sintayehu's parents, we can rebuild attachment and help him heal from these emotional wounds. Over the last month, absolutely everything in his life has changed: the faces, the language, the smells, the surroundings, EVERYTHING. He not only has the overwhelming task of learning about his new environment, but he also has to learn just what it means to be part of a family. He's had a mommy before, so he knows how to respond to me, but he's never had a daddy or a brother, and we've had our challenges in how he responds to David and Yikealo. Also, orphans often have so many caretakers that they, as a survival mechanism, become overly charming toward all adults. A child struggling to learn to attach may exhibit indiscriminate affection with people outside of their family unit. It may appear harmless and as if they are "very friendly" but this is actually quite dangerous for the child. Until the last week, Sintayehu has been very "stand-offish" with new people (which is GOOD), but in the last  few days, we've noticed some new, disturbing tendencies to get way too close to new acquaintances way too soon. For us, that means it is time to withdraw back into the safety of  "just us" in our little home....until it becomes clear again that he is establishing a healthy bond with the 3 of us. For another excellent point of view on bonding and attachment, read this.

So anyway, while we're staying put, I'll entertain you with a few excerpts from our life lately. First of all, we've learned that Sintayehu LOVES baby dolls. We think that he probably misses all of the babies at Hannah's Hope. My mom got him the cutest little doll for his birthday, which he named "Baby Danny." Danny was the name of one of his good buddies from HH. Now Baby Danny accompanies us pretty much everywhere. He eats with Sintay, sleeps with Sintay, and goes potty with Sintay. It IS pretty cute to watch him loving on his precious Baby!

Last night when I was lying down with Yikealo and David was dealing with a screaming melt-down from Sintayehu in the living room, I asked Y what he thought about having a little brother. He paused and said, "Well, it's not super-good yet, but I'd say we're half-way there!"

The other night at supper, Yikealo suddenly stated, "Mom, you are VERY intelligent!" Before I could feel too flattered by his compliment, he added, "What does 'intelligent' mean anyway?" David responded, "It means that she's really good at kissing." Thank you so much, Dear, for telling our total flirt of a son that intelligence can be measured by ability to kiss! Probably not your best idea!

Y spent a good part of Tuesday afternoon drawing pictures on large poster boards. Here are a couple of them for you to enjoy:
This is our family. I apparently have a pin-head, but he did a very nice job on David's glasses! He informed me that "Sintay is mad because he has to hold my hand instead of yours." Nice....antagonizing the little brother even in drawings.

This is God, surrounded by hearts. The curved lines going up from his shoulders are wings. David's comment: "God has a comb-over....who knew??"

Y also insists on wearing a pair of David's socks around the house on many days. I asked him this afternoon why in the world he thought wearing such huge socks was a good idea and he replied, "Because they remind me of Dad when he is not with me. I think of him whenever I feel them on my feet. Besides, I can use them to do good ninja moves!" Yeah....somehow, I think that his second reason is the accurate one.

Sintayehu has taken to whispering in my ear MANY times every day, "Awedahahlo Yikealo!" (I love Yikealo!) I would feel good about this if it weren't for the fact that he also says, "Awedahahlo mekina!" (I love the car!) and "Awedahahlo shint!" (I love pee!) just as often. We're trying, with a modicum of success, to get him to understand that we do NOT say "I love you" about anything except for family and God right now. Ah yes, the beauty of a language barrier. Why is it, exactly, that little boys (regardless of culture and ethnicity) find such humor in discussing bodily functions anyway?


  1. Wonderful update! Keep smiling and laughing through these times...even though I am sure there are some tough moments.
    Love the part about Y antagonizing S (even in drawings). What is it about big brothers that they feel it is their duty to pick on younger sibs??
    Love you all..hope things continue in the right direction!

  2. LOL, I love the intelligent comment :) Malachi said the other day "I love daddy" "I love Bina" "I love tv". I thought it was adorable, until he lumped the tv in with the rest of his family!

  3. Thanks for the update. I can relate to trying to find a balance with the "cocooning." Josiah also loves baby dolls, curious where your mom got Sintayehu's?

  4. Oh my goodness, I am laughing out loud at all these stories!! Especialy the intelligent one...nice David!!! I know Michael is going to love that story. :)

    Thanks for the laugh this morning!!!