Sunday, January 23, 2011

I am the Mother of Institutionalized Children

And what that looks like in real life has been so captivating.

Beyond the books,
Beyond all of those "experts"
Beyond the research and theories and studies
is me.
Just me.
Their mom.
And them.
My children.
My previously institutionalized children.

For the most part I imagine that you can see us walking down the street and think nothing of it.
It isn't outwardly obvious minute to minute but it most certainly shows itself in the little things.

How they haven't ever had a bath in a bathtub before and the sheer joy that comes every night from having a bubble bath.
This is the bathroom in their foster home.

See that large "tub" on the right of the squatty potty?
That's where they stand for a "bath".

Or how they keep everything. 
As I sit here and type there is a McDonald's bag from 3 days ago containing 2 cold stale leftover french fries sitting next to me.
We can't throw it away.
It's theirs.

Namely for us, it has been their watches.
They came to us wearing their watches and it seems to govern and control their day. They are both near consumed by what time it is, what day it is, what time of day it is.
Remarkable really.

Then there is things like bedtime.
How they must brush their teeth, wash their hands, wash their face and then get into bed not once looking for a hug, a story, or someone to tuck them in.
Jacob is almost always asleep before his head hits the pillow(after double checking his watch.)
Joey lies here and sings a sweet little song to himself.

It's near heartbreaking how independent they both are.
I'm pretty certain that we could leave them alone for a week and they would be just fine.
If you are deserted on an island, these are the two people you'd want with you.
And they have each other's back......big time.
If they don't have it, they will find it.
If they can't open it, they will find a way.
If it's broken, they will fix it.

It is self sufficiency taken to a whole  new level.
And for a 6 & 7 year old it's just plain...

So bit by bit, day by day we have been here side by side with them showing them that they don't have to do it all. Or know it all. Or fix it all. That's what they have us for.
They can just relax. We've got their back now.
And those McDonald's fries, well,
there's plenty more where that came from.


  1. I'm a friend of Sally's (Gracie's mom). I have enjoyed following your adoption experience so much. Thank you for your posts. Your new boys are so precious. I am the mother to twin boys, adopted from Vietnam. Your boys remind me of them so much. Boy, are you in for a life of immeasurable blessings.

  2. I'm so enjoying your journey and this was an amazing (tear-producing)post! I was so blessed to be able to go with my daughter to China last August to get her daughter, who was then 18 months. Even at that young age it broke my heart that she had so many of these same traits. No matter when you put her down, she got herself to sleep. She never raised her arms to be picked up, she never wanted her shoes taken off (she loved her new shoes!) We never heard her cry for about 5 days. Little by little she let go and relaxed and in a few days will be a sweet, wonderful two years old.

    Enjoy the rest of your trip and God Bless.

  3. Why did you have to go and make me cry at 8:00 pm? We cannot imagine their thoughts. How blessed we are right here in America.

    Lovin' following you to China.

  4. Yep, you hit it right on the head. After 2 years, we still see such an independent spirit from Claire. I just love her spunk and know that is what kept her going while she waited to be forever ours! Just keep loving on those boys! They are proving to be very strong and very brave little boys and have come so far already! I am loving following your journey!


  5. Oh, Sonia!
    I love how you write what you see and what is in your heart.
    It's a great reminder for us with "institutionalized children" to have their backs 24/7. I'll say it again- - You are one blessed MaMa, but those boys are the luckiest boys in the world to have you!!

  6. All i can say is WOW

  7. Precious and heart breaking post.
    So glad they are safe and at home in the loving arms of their forever family!
    Love & Blessings from Hong Kong,

  8. You had to go and make me cry. You don’t know me. I am reading your blog because my friends, the Runner’s, are in GZ now too. You might be in the same group now, but I am not sure. This post about how much the boys love each other just has my tears a going. What a blessing that they got to leave together. How simply heartbreaking it would have been for one of them to be left behind, and that is the part that has me crying. So many times that is exactly what happens. My little girl was a few weeks from being 4 on gotcha day. She grieved so deeply for her friends. It was heartbreaking. I am still sick to my stomach when I think of the older children who loved my daughter and had to watch her leave and they are still waiting on families that may never come.
    Your boys are beautiful and what a blessing you all are to each other. Thanks for sharing your story.

  9. our amy is like that- very independent. your descriptions just broke my heart:(

  10. Wow! What an amazing post. You have two amazing little boys there. What a different childhood they've had than your other children. I can't wait to see them embrace the fact that they can depend on someone other than each other. It is truly amazing that you adopted both of them and did not separate them. I love your posts...keep them coming!!

  11. Sonia, you have a real gift with words...entirely enjoying your journey. I hope you don't mind, but I'm "stealing" your picture of the bathroom to share on my own blog. I've been trying to describe the "squatty potties" to friends & family when sharing stories from our trip, but wasn't as smart as you...never got a picture taken.

  12. Really broke my heart, that bath picture. When we brought my son home he had a very regimented bath routine, even at 21 months. He knew the drill. How I loved introducing him to a fun, bubbly, LONG bath! :) What fun you're going to have introducing your boys to life with a loving family!

  13. Sonia, I am so glad you get to be their mama. Soon they will realize they can count on you, too, and how wonderful that will be!

    Sounds like I need to pack some bubblebath!

  14. It's sometimes so heartbreaking to watch our formerly institutionalized children as they learn to trust us and rely on us and allow us to love them. Soon they will be looking for hugs at bedtime and all the rest. It may take a while, but they'll have a wonderful family to teach them.

  15. Ugh. Sad tears for the things that need "undone" in these little guys lives, happy tears knowing that they now have a mama and daddy to "undo" those things. It's really like parenting backwards isn't it? When we raise our babes from birth, it is in a forward motion towards independence, their trust in us is a natural part of that growth. When we begin raising them at three . . . or six . . . or seven . . . or twelve, it truly is like parenting backwards. Each day undoing, bit by bit, their independence . . . and each day, bit by bit, building that trust-- and the knowledge and assurance that they can depend on us. Forever. What a treasure to be able to pour love into these little vessels, to kiss them, to hug them, to have band aids at the ready and make a big deal out of their little owies. Oh how they will soak it up!

    Thank you Jesus that Jacob and Joey are now learning the love of a family. Thank you that they are now feeling a mother's touch. Thank you that in the days and months ahead they will learn that they don't "have to do it all"--that You have given them a mama and daddy and four big brothers to "have their backs". Thank you that as they learn to trust we will see them grow into all that you intended them to be! Thank you that Jacob and Joey now have the opportunity to be just what they are--little boys. Little boys who can cry when they get hurt, who can now look to a mama for comfort. Little boys who will learn to seek out hugs and kisses and to give them spontaneously. Little boys who can now be little boys. We praise you for Jacob and Joey and for their family! In Jesus' name, Amen!

    Love you Sonia, thank you for sharing your heart and your journey with us!


  16. How joyous that they are enjoying relaxing and trusting you!
    More and more, they will become your children and less and less the children who were who they were when you met them. Love.
    Enjoy your days in GZ. I didn't want to leave. Wishing the same for you.

  17. Beautiful post Sonia!! So perceptive- you cannot see it on the outside but a Momma can spot it anywhere--- fiercely independent...

    On a lighter note- my older children should have lived in an orphanage- maybe they would have learned something!! Such as how to make your bed, hang up your clothes, yadda yadda yadda!

    Jim and I look at each other and say- okay- were not going to screw this up- this time right!! Our girls think it's fun to load and unload the dishwasher and then head up to fold laundry with MOM! I love it- it makes everything more fun!!

  18. Breaks my heart!!!! So thanking the Lord that you "have their backs!"

  19. Sonia!!!! I'm so excited for you. I'm catching up on all the details. Besides being sick for three days, our computer crashed..heart failure. It's all good now. :) It is soooo good to see your family all together. Such handsome boys. Sweet,sweet. Hugs my friend. It's a hard trip but enjoy every minute of it. We love and miss China so much. Praising God with you and for you. :)

  20. Sonia, we have known you and John for a long time.. and although no amount of prep-time can fully prepare us - for the "in the moment" YOU/john are the perfect choice for these children. You are an amazing momma/baba (and friend ;o). This post is one every person should read- its not only about the child but about patience and unconditional love. Digging deep and loving deeper.

  21. Oh Sonia... what a post. Every adoptive Momma and Baba should have to read this. Thank you for having the backs of these two precious boys.

  22. Wow. Fascinating...heartbreaking! Thanks for sharing though. Hugs and I'm so glad that they will learn that they have you guys, their parents, their brothers, their family, to lean on.