Measuring Progress

March 17, 2012 Attachment, cocooning, first weeks home, first year home, Kelley, Newly Home, older child adoption 7 Comments

In just a few weeks, we will celebrate two years since our 3-year-old daughter’s Gotcha Day. In almost every way, it feels like Grace has been in our family since the very beginning of her life. She is not only fluent in English but has an advanced vocabulary (which she shows off in her Southern drawl). Since we met her, she has grown over 5 inches and gained 12 pounds. Our little munchkin is incredibly bonded to our entire family, even our tiny “lap dog” whom she once feared. Grace is independent, social, nurturing, affectionate, funny, and well-adjusted.

Recently, a dear friend came home from China with her 20-month-old baby girl. And as I’ve walked with her through the first few weeks home, I’ve recalled how challenging and difficult those initial days can be. The sleepless nights, the night terrors, the hoarding of food, the constant holding, the inability to escape for some “me” time because I couldn’t leave my little girl with anyone else, even my husband, without potentially reversing the attachment. I wondered if I’d ever return to bible studies, book club, social gatherings, romantic dates with my hubby… heck, I didn’t know if I’d ever again be able to use the bathroom by myself!

At the time, I thought I was stuck in a pattern that would shape my life and our family for years to come. But in reality, those trials were short-lived. Within a month, Grace could soothe herself to sleep without me lying beside her. Before I knew it, she was waving goodbye to me and blowing kisses as I left the house for a few errands. Just four months later, I enrolled her in Mother’s Day Out for one day a week because she wanted to “go to school like guh guh” (big brother). Even in China, I can look back and see how quickly we went from this…

to this.

In the moment, it’s hard to measure progress. It’s difficult to see how far you’ve come and how many strides your newly adopted child has made in the midst of their grief and overwhelming changes. Even with the experience of our first adoption, I’ve still found myself discouraged after being home 8 months with our 13-year-old, Caroline. I fret about whether she’s advancing in her reading level quickly enough. I tear up wondering if she’ll ever drop her emotional guard with us and let me comfort her. I cringe when she exemplifies her lack of compassion and charity (and then have to remind myself that no one taught her these traits in China). Some days, I feel frustrated and ill-equipped to parent this beautiful but broken teenager.

And then I remember…. I remember the days of using an electronic translator or Google Translate for every single conversation. We now go days without needing to translate! I recall Caroline’s stiffness when I reached out to hug her. She now initiates a goodnight hug. I look back on her struggles with adjusting to American food and now smile when she eats a slice of pizza or goes back for second helpings of my cooking.

What I’ve realized is that I need frequent reminders of the progress we’ve made. And to do that, it’s helpful to document the journey. Whether you keep up a family blog with updates or you record little victories in a journal, the benefit of being able to review the past (because let’s face it, your memory is pretty hazy those first weeks from jet lag) and celebrating progress is one of the greatest joys and privileges of parenting.

Even the slightest evidence of progress can be motivating and reassuring that all will be okay.

There are hard days ahead for sure, and some much more difficult for one family than another. But we’re on the path to healing. Even on the hard days, we can give these kids what they’ve lacked and so desperately needed: unconditional love and a place to belong.

I am so honored and thrilled to join the team of contributors at NHBO! I am a mother of three with our fourth child due this June. My husband, Scott, and I have a biological son, Carter (4), and two adopted daughters from China: Grace (2, Kunming) and Caroline (13, Nanning). My passions include writing, reading, adoption, orphan care, and following Jesus Christ. I look forward to sharing our lives with you. You are welcome to visit our family blog, Gazing Upward.

7 responses to “Measuring Progress”

  1. Mary Beth says:

    I’ve just loved following your family’s journey for the past couple of years, and I am happy that you will be contributing here now. You are so right that it is important to stop and take a look back at where we have been to be able to see progress. When I do that, I am amazed at how far our daughter has come and how far we have come as a family.

  2. Eileen says:

    You really do have to celebrate those “small” victories that when added together are so huge. I look back on our first adoption journey and read different things and think, ” we did that?” I have zero recollection. Thank goodness for the blog. I could use jet lag to explain my poor memory, but since we’ve been home nearly 6 years, people probably wouldn’t buy it.

    I think about 20 years down the road we need to set up your Grace with our son, XiXi. Those Kunmingsters need to stick together. As a selling point, our guide said that Yi men make good husbands because they are always “very, very strong”. Of course, she also said that they tend to be big drinkers, which it seems might cancel out other potential benefits!

  3. Laine Ferrill says:

    Kelly this is so wonderful! We do need to remember to look back at times and see the progress that has been made! Those baby steps begin to look like giant leaps as the months go by! I totally agree that documenting and journaling are so important….I mean think about it, our God told the Israelites to WRITE IT DOWN so they would remember, amen?
    Yall come see us!

  4. Chris says:

    I so agree, and since just coming home in Jan, and feeling the pressures of helping 2 older girls try to adjust, I am sorely missing my “looking back” time, the time we need to process even the smallest of the first changes that we don’t always see when living life in the midst of all the changes:)
    Thanks for the reminder that those changes are occuring, and we do need to journal about them-it’s crucial, for us, and for them!!

  5. Stefanie says:

    Such wise words, Kelley.
    That’s one reason I continue to blog, even through the difficult times, because I love to be able to look back and see the progress… sometimes small steps, sometimes huge leaps, but always, ALWAYS progress 🙂
    So happy to have you contributing to No Hands!

  6. […] needs children from China.  I’ll be posting the 17th of each month. Here’s my first post (from a week […]

  7. Christin says:

    Way to go, Kelley. Beautifully written and so insightful. So proud of you and your beautiful family!

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