Dawit is doing very well. His language improves all the time. He takes speech once a week to help him learn English sounds. The transition from Tigrinyan to Amharic to English is not easy.
I can’t believe it has been a year.
I also can’t believe I just wrote that. There is nothing more annoying than every Facebook status update that says something like, “I can’t believe it has been 14 years since I married my sweet pookie poodle,” and, “I can’t believe Junior is 8 years old.”
On the former, I always find myself wondering, “Yeah, I bet it only seems like 11 1/2.” On the latter, I always wonder if they’ve missed Junior’s 7th birthday party.
But one year ago, my wife and I walked into a foster care center in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and a little boy who had been a two-dimensional image on monthly updates became a real live boy.
He didn’t understand what anyone was saying because he didn’t speak the language. But he was happy and found joy in the small things like playing with blocks and running in the yard.
After completing our court date, we reluctantly got back on a plane and flew back home, anticipating a wait of about six to 12 weeks before we were allowed to return and take custody of our new son. Six weeks turned into six months.
Bureaucracy, legislation and investigations into the entire system of foreign adoptions all came together in a perfect storm to force one delay after another. But when we got the word in May that we were going to be the first of the eight families we traveled with on our first visit to get to take custody of our child, our feelings of frustration from the delay turned immediately into gratitude.
When the in-country program director brought the little boy to his jetlagged family on Sunday, June 26, 2011, Dawit officially became ours. It took almost no time to bond with him. But six months after he joined the family, there are still times when you wonder how this all happened.
Dawit’s life has changed so much. It’s a long trip from a group home in Addis Ababa to a Christian preschool in Augusta, Kan. But Dawit is doing very well. His language improves all the time. He takes speech once a week to help him learn English sounds. The transition from Tigrinyan to Amharic to English is not easy.
We knew the change in our family would be tremendous. But we had no idea how much adding a 4-year-old who can’t communicate very well could turn your entire life upside down.
Even now, he sometimes gets frustrated with us, and we get frustrated with him. The only real problem is being able to communicate clearly. He is a great kid. He just doesn’t always understand what you want from him and what you need him to do.
Our 8-year-old has made the adjustment as well as could be expected. After more than seven years as an only child, we didn’t know how he would react to a sibling. But Blake has handled it all like a champ. After one particularly difficult evening, Blake said something that was pretty profound. He told his mother that he knew one reason God may have asked us to do this.
“Dawit is a test for us, mom,” he said. “And I think we have to pass it.”
I think he may be right –– at least in part. This entire experience has provided more of an education than any school could ever provide. We have learned how to do a better job of listening to and obeying God. We learned what real poverty and needs are. We have learned about how we react under a lot of additional stress, both emotional and financial.
But we also learned how a child who shares no DNA with you can truly feel like your own. As trite as it may sound, I can’t believe it has only been a year since the first time I saw Dawit.
I can’t wait to see what the next year holds.