When we set out to pursue special needs adoption, we did a lot of research. We wanted to be clear regarding what we felt we could offer to a child whose needs were outside the ordinary. We felt it wouldn’t be fair to a child if we were to welcome him or her into our family and then lacked the resources necessary to help our child reach his or her full potential. We needed to be realistic about things. However, what happened in the process of our research was that we got a list of a lot of negatives, and there didn’t seem to be a list of the positives beyond the joy that would be given to us by adding another child to our family. It’s not that the joy of parenting another child wasn’t enough on its own, but there’s just so much more to special needs parenting that’s overwhelmingly positive that doesn’t get mentioned. So I decided to make my own little list of why parenting a child with special needs is so, well, special.
One of the things I have loved about the way the adoption of each of our girls came together is that we have completely different stories to tell each of them about how we found out about them and our first days and weeks together. Bringing Zinashi into our family at age three was wildly different from adopting Elvie as a baby. I love that Zinashi came to us with a beautiful accent and with so much knowledge of her own culture and history. At the same time, I love that we got to watch Elvie’s personality emerge as she got bigger. It has been a gift to have both experiences. We couldn’t have asked for better.
Just like our girls’ adoption stories are completely different, they also have very different personalities, and we feel like they complement each other incredibly well. Zinashi is cautious while Elvie is a daredevil. Elvie can be distracted from something she’s disappointed about while Zinashi will remember and make sure that I do a good job comforting her before she’ll move on. Zinashi loves quiet play while Elvie tries to scream as loudly as possible, just for fun. But with all those differences, I am also discovering that in some ways, and in one way in particular, they are very much alike.
When we meet new people, whether it be on public transportation or just randomly when we are out and about, there are three questions they ask about Elvie. First, they want to know how old she is. Once they know, they ask if she is walking. When that is answered in the negative, the next question is nearly always regarding if she is sleeping through the night. When I say no to that one, there are often heads shaken in dismay. Frankly, sometimes I shake my own head in dismay when Elvie wakes yet again in the middle of the night, but I’ve finally figured out what needs to happen before she will sleep through the night, and I am accepting it and looking forward to the day when it becomes reality. It’s silly, really, that it took me this long to figure out what she needs to do, but at least now I know.
I grew up on Winnie the Pooh, first being read the stories, then reading them myself. As a nanny, I purchased a Pooh treasury similar to the one pictured below, and now I read the stories to my own children. They are timeless classics, and I find it especially fun to read the stories using different voices for each character. My kids love the stories themselves, but they love it even more when I get creative and expressive when telling the stories. Do you do the same for your kids? Do you take it over the top to make it super fun and memorable? Then I know just the contest for you. It’s the Winnie the Pooh Storyteller of the Year contest. Today through May 15, you can upload a video showing your storytelling expertise, with a chance to be named “Storyteller of the Year” and receive a trip for four to Los Angeles. Click through for more details.
Elvie has had feeding issues her whole life. While she was in group care in Ethiopia, her feeding needs were misunderstood, so that by the time we got to her, she was severely malnourished. We brought her home at the age of five months, and it took a month to establish a good feeding routine. When she took the bottle willingly and without pain, I was elated. That time just happened to coincide with the point at which many babies begin solid foods. We introduced some purees, and she was unimpressed. We tried a variety, and still: nothing. She didn’t like it. So I stopped offering her purees, and aside from giving her things to taste when we were eating, I didn’t really worry about her eating habits. When she actually ate something I put in front of her at meal time, I was a little surprised.
Since that first meal, she’s come a long way, but she’s still a bit quirky when it comes to food. I know better than to worry, but I want to do better than that. I want to embrace her eating style and find new flavors that will encourage her to enjoy eating even more. Here are the three big challenges we have and how we’re working those out so that Elvie can get good nutrition and enjoy eating every meal.