I have always wondered the complexities of resilience. Why do some people walk through the depths of hell and only show a smile on their face, while others have minor inconveniences of #adulting and #firstworldproblems which they allow to bring them to their knees? My initial hypothesis was like many people, personal. I thought there must be certain types of people, resilient ones, and the easily damaged. The older I get the less things seem black and white. With every year I walk the earth the black melts away and the continuum of gray is shown. Like the universe constantly spreads, so do the things that seem possible the further my own age spans. Sometimes I feel like a blanket of ignorance has caused my vision to blur providing false confidence in my own judgments.
As I sat in class today, in a conference room with its own regulation disorder (seriously though the temperatures are ridiculous), I listened to the theories of Non-Violent Crisis Intervention techniques. I listened carefully to the discussion of rational detachment, and as always the orphans are never far from my mind. I feel in my heart the struggle of young Einstein full of thoughts with only budding theories. I find the older I get the more questions I have, and some days I wonder if I am any closer to answering any of them. I wish I were a time traveler so I could talk to Einstein about his early days, about what advice he feels most passionately about, and what he would do differently. Since we’re not there yet, my thoughts come back to orphans, then my eyes open and I remember why it’s so cold. Class. Right.
Rational Detachment keeps coming back to me. I think so often about how I can help families succeed through orphan hosting and adoption. What are the most important things you can do to prepare? What are the things I wish I knew before starting out on this? Questions flood in at the start of every hosting session from sign up through arrivals. I try to grab them all and keep them for later contemplation, but sometimes with hosting it seems like I’m in this game of frogger, dodging deadlines and answering emails so quickly I can’t catch all the details for later. I’m so thankful to be in this community, it’s a wild ride, but it’s one that carries my heart on to everyday. Hosting has been such a valuable experience for me and my family, it has changed us in ways I didn’t know were possible. Sometimes I hear a sad story, about how a family feels as though they were damaged through the process, and I have to ask myself, was it really the hosting that damaged them, or was it their lack of preparation and resilience? Perhaps it’s a combination of things that overwhelm the emotions of a person who wasn’t prepared with enough tools for self care, that can’t see through the accumulation of stress to choose a positive mindset. Perhaps we didn’t provide enough debrief? Maybe it’s really a bigger combination of things that decides resiliency after all.
The most important thing in my mind to prepare yourself for hosting/adoption is rational detachment. Over and over we talk about having no expectations, we talk about not taking things personally. Rational detachment is the ability to stay in control of your own behavior and reactions while recognizing the child’s behavior is not a personal attack against you (and neither is my blog). When you break down behaviors to identifiable triggers, you soon realize none of the behaviors are directed at you, although there are certain clear things you can do to prevent triggers from occurring (although that’s another blog for the future). Aside from troubling behaviors I hear mumbling of disappointment, from families that either had their own set of expectations based on our societal norms, or unrealistic expectations conjured on their own. The biggest lesson I’ve learned in the search for highlighting the most joy from our hosting experience, is to set reasonable and proportionate expectations. You can’t take it personally when your child doesn’t message you everyday, doesn’t tell you they love you, doesn’t thank you for giving them things. When you feel yourself starting to be offended, hurt, or disappointed that this isn’t a fairytale, step back and contemplate a world with no reference to the reactions we take for granted.
Alina visited us, and she said many things, most memorably was “This is only my first time in America”. When she said this, I found myself thinking things like “She has to know I know that”, or “why does she keep saying this, she knows I understand it’s her first time”. Things are lost in translation so easily during first hosting, as we dance to a song no one knows, and follow steps no one has learned. It was when I didn’t let the question turn to negativity, yet continued without frustration to seek a reasonable explanation, my heart bloomed, and I started to open myself to another world. Now Alina has been part of our family for four months, and in four months, even like a newborn baby we are learning more about each other. She was telling me it was her first time and every situation she would tell me this, meant something different, yet it had the same undertone. She was teaching me, without even realizing it, that my expectations needed to be reasonable. I can’t expect her to know things for which she had no reference (See earlier posts for more detail). She was teaching me to remove my emotions completely to objectively plan her care. She was the voice of the universe telling me to role model acceptable behavior, clearly set limits, and reasonable expectations that were based on her abilities, rather than what I assumed (or hoped) she should be capable of.
When animals are raised by humans, like Fiona the hippo, it is unsafe to release them to the wild. They are dependent on humans to provide for them, they are unable to defend themselves from danger in the wild, and they have not developed a fear to protect them. Fiona has no reference of how to survive in the wild, in the same way Alina does not have the skills to survive once she is “graduated” from orphanage. Would you ask Fiona to hunt for her food? Of course not, she’s a premature baby hippo that lived her entire infancy in the arms of humans who bottle fed her. Can I expect Alina to show attachment when she has spent her whole life as a number? No. I can’t expect an orphan who knows nothing else, to seamlessly join our family and reciprocate love in the way I am familiar. This is when I remind myself, you are here to serve them, and it is my obligation to understand the messages she is sending in her own ways. Is there love and attachments being formed everyday? Absolutely. Every time she says in English “Hello, How are you?” she is saying “See I paid attention!”. Every time she shows me her bracelet she says “See I miss you!” Sometimes the growth is slower and harder to find. Some kids have harder histories. Did my love grow much faster than hers? Likely, Because I have a reference for attachment. I understand love. I understand what it means to miss someone. How can I ask her to miss us when she’s never had anyone to miss? All I can do is be thankful for each opportunity to teach her through my own role modeling. Thank you Host Ukraine for giving me the opportunity to serve her. This doesn’t mean buying her all the latest gadgets or giving to her every whim. This means therapeutically providing for her basic needs in creating a rapport to start to build trust. Maslow’s hierarchy I referred to frequently through my summer, to ensure that I was meeting the needs to build trust, yet setting expectations that were reasonable. She didn’t come here on a sweet vacation to be treated like a princess, she came here to experience a family, and that is exactly what we gave her. If she wants to join this family is still her choice.
Focusing on the things that are not ideal will distract me from the beautiful miracles of this process. Being upset she didn’t call me today is a reflection of my lack of self care and personal insight. Transferring my own frustration of unrealistic expectations on to an orphan whom has no reference is unreasonable. When I find myself upset about things that are my own expectations, it is a reminder to review rational detachment, and bump up my self care. Being happy is a choice. Having a thankful heart is a choice. Surrounding yourself with people and things that bring you joy is hard work, but the best work that can be done to reach fulfillment. Stop waiting for happiness to find you, it is time to choose it. Everyday when I feel frustrated or disappointed, I choose to look for the silver lining. If you’re still breathing, there is at least one to be found.
Behavior influences behavior. The best thing I can do for Alina is show her how to do self care, how to take breaks, how to engage in learning a foreign language, and being the first to try new unfamiliar foods. I can tell you from personal experience Alina learned English much quicker when I invested in learning Russian. Showing her through my actions, I was modeling how to work hard toward important things, and in turn secured the buy in from her to trust us, and subsequently to grow positive attachments. We hear from Alina everyday barring some hospital admission or internet outage. We have the same consistent conversations everyday, and everyday I push her a little harder, and she tests my trust. From her perspective the dreams of her family are too good to be true. She shows me her bracelet everyday, and I show her mine. It is being held on by tape, but to her it symbolizes a commitment, a bond, a special thing that she’s never experienced. To me she is special, a feeling she’s never had. She has grown so much in 4 months with her insight and commitment, I am so honored to have her join our family. Hosting has changed my life, given me a world of perspective, and in turn it will save hers.
Was hosting worth the awkward dance where we stepped on each other’s toes; the day I was setting limits about wearing a helmet and she was pretending not to understand? Was it worth spending the summer of setting clear and reasonable objective expectations and readjusting when needed? Was it worth being mindful of my posture, inflection, proximity, and holding back when I wanted a hug, but I knew she wasn’t ready? Would it have been worth it if she wasn’t available for adoption after all?
When she video chats 4 months into our relationship, she shows me her bracelet, and for the first time she said to me in English “I miss you”. Hosting was worth it. Hosting was worth all the work we did on rational detachment to give room to watch the seeds grow. She doesn’t call us Mom and Dad. She doesn’t say she loves us, but she smiles, and she looks at her memory book, and she broke out of her fear and told us she misses us. The seeds of love we planted are growing. I will continue to water them as I water the rest of our children.
Alina is part of our family, even from an ocean away.
Was hosting hard? Was hosting worth it?
Yes. In none of the ways I dreamed, and all of the ways I never knew could exist. I grew from hosting independent from our future. If I found out tomorrow Alina could never be with us would I still say hosting was a positive experience in my life? Absolutely. I grew with the challenges that hosting provided me, and she grew to know the feelings of love and hope. Would I still say even then that hosting was worth it if Alina never comes home?
A million times yes.
Hosting has changed my life, has made me grow as a person, it has grown my children, and I regret none of it.
If you think hosting is for you, check out these sweet faces waiting for a Christmas family Here.