How To Get Out From Under Our Expectations

April 24, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

Eryn shared with us last week in her post, The Burden of Expectations, that we all have expectations that we carry into our adoptions, and how these expectations can lead to significant parenting mistakes in we don’t recognize them. Today Eryn follows up her original post with five practical suggestions on how to get out from under these expectations.

So what are some practical things we can do?

1. Lower the bar. This is lowering our expectations of our children’s behavior. The main goal for the first couple months is to think of your attachment to your child (no matter their age) like you would attach with an infant. You are the main regulator of their behavior. This can be counter-intuitive because we expect a 6 year old to regulate like a 6 year old! However, in the first few months, our children need grace to regulate like an infant. If you think about how an infant gets his needs met or handles something he doesn’t like you can easily picture the baby’s reaction. A simple tool I would use in the first months was asking myself, “Is this the behavior an infant would use in this situation?” The answer was usually, “yes”. So then the burden of expectation was lifted, and we worked through it with me helping them and calming them myself. This can be done at an age appropriate level with children up through adulthood.

This might seem strange but it is the natural, biological way attachment develops. We have to have the “infant stage” of attachment where we help them regulate, calming them ourselves, in order for them to learn how to trust. Once the foundation for trust is laid, we can steadily build from there slowly raising our expectations for them and how they bond with us. It’s like a house. The foundation is Trust and no building can exist without a solid foundation. Well, it can, but it quickly has problems and eventually crumbles! Attachment cannot be built without Trust.


2. Focus your behavioral interventions on calming and supporting your children. Think more “how” versus trying to correct the “what” they might be doing. For example, it’s very much OK for a child to not want to be held right when they come home. Once we get past that expectation of reciprocal affection, we can let them know that it’s both normal for them to not want the holding and that adults can be scary sometimes. You can also show them that you, the parent, are different by giving them space.

Guiding them through the “how” of asking for that space is also important. You can actually foster attachment by guiding your child through the process of asking you NOT to hug them! That is the beauty of lowering our expectations. We don’t have to try to hold them to unrealistic expectations for behaviors they don’t have the skills for yet, but we can help them with how they communicate.

3. Take advantage of opportunities to show them that we “see” them, even when they don’t seem to notice. This goes well with another practical help: think of creative ways to say, “yes”. For example, if your child asks to go outside and it’s storming, we might have to say “not right now”. This can be viewed as a “no” and a rejection of sorts and send our children into a fearful place where their behavior may seem intense. If we come near and comfort them with saying things like, “You seem frustrated by not getting to do that. I’m so sorry that it’s raining.” This helps our child know that we see them and empathize with them. At the same time, it’s important for us to get creative with our “yeses”. After helping them calm is might be a good time to let them pick something you can play together inside. This would be a way to give them a “yes”.


4. Don’t forget you can always choose to go play in the rain. Which brings us to another important rule. When in doubt, try being silly! Playful interaction with our children has a powerful impact on engaging all parts of their brains and de-activating the stress response, thus promoting healthy attachment. One thing I try to do when I’m getting frustrated and nearing the end of my rope is to make a silly face and noise (picture cartoon character like movements). This both helps me vent my stress a bit, but also usually makes my kids think I am hilarious. It’s easy to move forward if everyone is laughing!

5. Finally, the MOST important one: Give yourself GRACE and TIME! We also have expectations for ourselves as parents. We feel like we should know what to do in any situation. I try to never use the word “should” with my husband or myself. If you catch yourself saying this, try and ponder what expectation is holding you hostage in that moment. I mentioned being smitten with my daughter, but that process took time. These days it’s hard to imagine not ever loving her! Sometimes we just sit in bed a night and talk about how awesome our children are because we are so in love with them, but again, this takes time. Give yourself plenty Grace and plenty of Time.

A Note on Resources: My turning point was attending an Empowered to Connect conference where some things really began to click into place and I knew I had been wrong about some of my expectations for both my children and myself. I strongly recommend these conferences and the materials on Trust Based Relational Interventions® provided by Texas Christian’s Institute of Child Development. The DVDs that TCU puts out about TBRI® are invaluable resources for parents both waiting for their children and current adoptive parents.

The first one I usually ask parents to watch is called Attachment: Why It Matters. Waiting parents, you will benefit greatly from watching these and preparing ahead of time.


Eryn has experience doing a little of everything from professional baking, to catering weddings, to professionally counseling anyone from trauma. After adopting her sweet, challenging, rambunctious, awesome three, she needed a place for post-adoption support. So she started a non-profit where other parents could come and get much needed services. Eryn serves as Community Educator, training parents and others on successful ways to connect with kids from hard places.

Eryn’s love language is problem solving and she enjoys being a resource for parents who have adopted or have chosen to foster. She blogs at Pumpkin’s Pantry, where she posts on everything from the hard stuff of adoption to gluten-free recipes.

waiting child highlight: Cradle of Hope

April 24, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments

The following children are agency designated, please contact Cradle of Hope for more information on adopting one of them.


Matthew will be 8 years old this summer. He was found abandoned when he was about a week old. He is diagnosed with aniridia, which is poor vision. Matthew wears glasses and can see clearly within 3 feet, and tell the outline and color of anything within 10 feet. 

Resized Photo1 3-30-15

He is in good health and his orphanage reports that he is very bright. Matthew is in first grade, can do basic addition and subtraction, reads, writes and recites poems. He gets along well with his classmates. Matthew lives with a foster family and likes to help around the house.


Sherry is a 2 year old sweetheart with osteogenesis imperfecta. She also has mild scoliosis which is common for children with osteogenesis imperfecta. She was abandoned at the door of the local orphanage when she was just two months old.


She has gotten great care and is making good progress, with a few setbacks. Sherry had fractures of both legs and one arm between July and October 2014, and just recently broke her leg again. Fortunately she didn’t need surgery because she already had a rod in place and was treated with just a cast. She receives infusions of Pamidronate to increase her bone density.


Sherry is reported to be strong and in good health. She walks independently, feeds herself, understands instructions from adults and says simple words. Sherry is a big eater and likes to play outside.


Kirk, age 18 months, was found abandoned at the gates of the orphanage when he was 4 months old. He has been diagnosed with a congenital heart defect (atrial septal defect, according to a US cardiologist who reviewed his file). He has not yet had surgery but will likely need it, possibly while he’s in the process of being adopted or soon after he comes home to his new family.


Kirk is described as a quiet, shy and gentle boy who is happy when being hugged, listening to music, and playing with toy cars. He has some delays in his physical development but his mental development is described as age appropriate.


Harold is 3.5 years old now.  He was found abandoned by the children’s hospital when he was one month old.  Harold was born with a ventricular septal defect which has not been corrected.  Also, his right and left ventricle are switched.  Harold is doing well, with no apparent impact from his cardiac issues.  He has not received any treatment or medication for his heart condition and his orphanage doctor doesn’t think Harold needs surgery.   A US cardiologist who reviewed his file says his condition can be well managed but adults with this switched ventricles typically live until age 45- 50. Harold also had a cerebral abscess but it was treated appropriately and has had no lasting impact.



Harold is described as a happy child who plays well with children and adults. He loves to be outdoors, enjoying leaves and flowers in the spring and snow in the winter.  His speech is coming along, he follows instructions well, and he likes to help his caretakers.  We have video Harold climbing on a slide and playing basketball.  He just couldn’t be any cuter!


Sherman is a sweet boy, age 2.5, who was found abandoned when he was three months old. He had surgery at 4 months of age to correct a cardiac issue. A US cardiologist who reviewed his file believes he was born with a form of Tetralogy of Fallot and related issues. He thinks that further surgery may be before Sherman turns 10 years old, but after that he should lead a long and healthy life.



Sherman likes music and playing with toys with sound. His report says he’s unhappy when he’s hungry (aren’t we all?), but he’s comforted when held and kissed by a caregiver.


If you’re interested in learning more about any of these children, please contact Cradle of Hope.

Let Tomorrow Be Tomorrow

April 23, 2015 by nohandsbutours 4 Comments

The surgeon walked out in his blue scrubs, mask still hanging around his neck, and found us awaiting word that the surgery was over.  The stitching, repairing, and testing was complete, and he offered  reassurance.  But, as we tend to do, we pressed. 

What is the prognosis? How long is recovery? How much pain? Worst case scenario? When is the next surgery? Infection likely? Limitations for her?

We must ask, advocate and prepare. But must we be consumed by tomorrow, even in this?

Our news was mixed. Good news? No overnight stay as planned. Bad news? Her little body just doesn’t function as it should and the medical marathon continues.  More tests, appointments, and surgeries.

So I had a choice. Start spinning around the tomorrows, or celebrate today’s victory.   

I think God is a fan of today, designing each with intention. I think He wants us to engage ourselves in each 24 hours, fully in, gathering the day’s manna, and listening for His voice. He’s been whisper shouting that my whole life. But I still tend to reach for tomorrow, longing for it and worrying over it. And adoption kicked it up a notch, or three. 




I spent most of our adoption journey tomorrow-ing. 

Application approved.  What is the projected wait?H

ow much longer until referral?

Why must we wait?  We are ready.  Our child is waiting. 

Will the funds be there?

How is our girl? Are the nannies kind and meeting her medical needs?

Are we prepared? Have the right medical supplies? Can we handle this? 

I have her, but she’s terrified/shut down/angry. When will this pass?

I’m in China, but longing for home. How many more days?

Will we survive the dreaded flight?

How soon can we see a doctor?

My heart just isn’t attaching, my feelings not where I want them to be.  How long until I bond?

He clings to me, not letting go. How long will this last?

She doesn’t sleep. Is this our new forever?

What hard news will I hear at the next appointment? Next surgery?

When can I go back for another child?

These are natural, essential to the process, questions. But, I spent too much of the adoption ride tomorrow-ing. And tomorrow-goggles block out today.They diverted my attention from the day I stood in and the people I stood beside.




Our adoption adventure has been wild and precious, with the days falling like dominoes. Some sweet, some hard, and most in-between. I wanted faster movement between milestones, but I’m glad they weren’t mine to control. Because I am living now in awe of the Story Weaver, humbled by how the manna arrived daily at our feet, at every bend in the journey, right on time. The miracles are many. Three times, the referral arrived. The PA, LOA, and TA all came. The funds came. We clutched our babies on Gotcha Days, flew home and got needed medical care. The attachment came, as did the sleep. We walked into hospitals and back out. Not at all easy, but right. Sadly, I often failed to celebrate the longed for milestones because I was already scratching out tomorrow strategies.    

Maybe I missed celebrating PA because I was already making a home study task list.

Maybe I missed baking cookies with the daughters at my feet, because I thought only of the daughter in China.

Maybe I missed soaking up more of China because I was focused on getting home. 

Maybe I missed snuggling with my boy and his bottle because I was determined to normalize us all.

Maybe I missed fun on doctor’s appointment free days, because I was mentally at the next appointment. 

Maybe I missed out on being my kids’ right now mommy. 
Maybe I missed out on being a right now wife. 
Maybe I missed out on right now life. 

And the whole time, He whispered “today”. I think there were times when He wanted me to rest. Wanted me to celebrate. Wanted me to be present with my within reach people. Wanted me to trust Him with tomorrow. Wanted me to scoop the day’s bounty. 




The good news is that after our unexpected surgery release, I chose well. I remembered that tomorrow had enough worry of its own, and chose not to consume myself with the coming medical marathon. So, we celebrated with take-out fried rice, some Daniel Tiger, and a mother/daughter walk with my oldest. She and I walked, hand in hand, without mention of  kidneys or hospitals.  We let tomorrow be tomorrow.   

And I don’t want to miss future 24 hour gifts. Like dominoes, they fall fast.  I choose more walks, more celebrations and more here and now presence. I want to trust that more need meeting manna will fall tomorrow. 

…and he rained down on them manna to eat and gave them the grain of heaven. – Psalm 78:24

Adoption is one of the great gifts of my life. It offered me more than just the new little souls on our team. Adoption drove me to my knees, eventually delivering me from my control illusion, freeing me from the belief that worrying about tomorrow could change it.     

Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.   – Matthew 6:34

See you tomorrow, tomorrow. 

*special thanks to the extra talented Tish Goff for the photos

find my family: Evie

April 22, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


Precious 1.5 year old Evie is newly listed with Madison Adoption Associates via an orphanage partnership. Evie is diagnosed with deformed limbs, sinus tract in lumbosacral region, developmental delay. At the age of 7-9 months, Evie could roll over and began to pay attention to the environment around her. Between 10 and 12 months, she …Read More

Building Memorials

April 21, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


Adoptive families are no stranger to fighting the good fight. We fight to bring our children home, through multiple levels of bureaucracy, sometimes through the government requirements of multiple countries. We battle cultural, language and jet lag barriers to have our child placed in our arms. Then the real struggles seem to begin: We fight …Read More

Adopting a Child with a Lipomyelomeningocele

April 20, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


We knew we felt called to adopt, and called to China, but when we found out we’d need to go through the special focus route, we were afraid… Special needs? Those words encompass a lot. Locally we had a friend who had a precious daughter from China with spina bifida. This friend had spent a …Read More

find my family: Brinx

April 20, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


Who is needing a bit of sunshine on this Monday morning? We have got a treat for you today. Precious little Brinx. Brinx was born in November 2012 and his special need is post-operative congenital anal atresia. He has a million dollar smile. He is noted to be “smart, cute and strong”. He entered his …Read More

The Most Forgotten Habit for Healthy Attachment

April 17, 2015 by nohandsbutours 2 Comments


I set out to share with you how many years later I’m still working on attachment with my most precious children. Forming and maintaining healthy attachment is something as parents we will work a lifetime on with both our adopted and biological children. I wanted to share with you ways we have little “connection checks” …Read More

The Burden of Expectations

April 17, 2015 by nohandsbutours 2 Comments


I will always remember the first time I made an attachment blunder. My three children had only been home a week. It was a traumatic moment for both my daughter and myself. She was two and I was trying to “set limits” by telling her what she can and cannot do with the toys. She …Read More

a family for Rosie

April 16, 2015 by nohandsbutours 0 Comments


I first learned about this precious girl on the Down Syndrome Adoption FB group and was immediately smitten. And when you see her picture, I’m sure you’ll agree. Those chubby legs. That black hair. Those pink cheeks. Oh my. Now that we are home with our Clementine, who also has Down syndrome, I have such a huge soft …Read More