It’s been almost a month since Kembe came home. It’s hard to believe . . . it feels like he has been here forever, and yet we still feel like we are in transition mode as a family. I definitely haven’t found our “new normal” yet – so far life feels more like a triage situation, where we are just reacting to chaos and crisis as it comes. And it does seem to keep coming. I’m hoping things settle down soon.
Our house is finally feeling well. Mostly well, that is. All of us fell sick over the past month, many of us more than once. I’m happy to report that we’ve gone a week without anyone puking on their bed.
Kembe is adjusting to the family remarkably well. He is a very loving and affectionate kid, and seems to be bonded to us already. He hugs us (especially the baby) and tells us he loves us often. He has been grieving, to be sure. I know he misses his nannies and his friends, and this sadness is very present when he is tired or upset. Over the first few weeks he had crying spells each day – those have decreased to a few times a week. He seems happy and excited most of the day, and is such a great fit for our family dynamics. He is even begging to go to preschool with his siblings. He is picking up English very quickly, and my other two are picking up Kreyole. Bedtime is now called “domi time”, and all three say “mwen vle dlo” when thirsty.
The other three kids have transitioned very well, too. I think there was some initial disappointment on Jafta’s part that Kembe didn’t walk in and immediately take to playing Transformers and dressing up in Spiderman costume, and all the other things he loves to do most and pictured himself doing with a new brother. I had to do a lot of explaining about a)the age difference, and b)Kembe’s lack of exposure to American character branding. They are figuring out how to play together in ways that are mutually enjoyable – it usually involves wrestling or pretending to be lions. India and Karis think that Kembe is the funniest kid on the planet (and really, he is). They just giggle and laugh at him all day.
If I am gonna be totally honest, I think the transition has been most difficult for me. Most of this is due to a convergence of ridiculously ill-timed issues that should only be mildly stressful, but that seem overwhelming when combined with a lack of sleep, a complete void of free time, a perpetually messy house, and some serious PTSD that I’ve been too busy to deal with. Every day there seems to be a long list of phone calls and paperwork, whether it be calling USCIS looking for lost papers, or calling Refugee Resettlement to get a medical referral, or filling out insurance forms, or scooping poop into a test vial, or filling out tax forms, or making fingerprint renewal appointments, or filling out kindergarten applications . . .etc etc etc. I simply cannot express the amount of phone calls I have made trying to figure out Kembe’s refugee status and how to proceed with adoption (or even show that we are somehow his legal guardians until that time). Then there is the minor issue of trying to buy a new car – which I got such good feedback about, thankyouverymuch. But even armed with some realistic parameters of what I want, I am at a loss at how to actually go look at these cars with four kids in tow. We are planning on going to look at a few tomorrow while Mark is home, which is probably not the best use of my small window of sane time with another parent around, but it is what it is. I am really, really hoping we find something. As a friend helped me articulate today, I just need to nest in a car. I have been very fortunate to have people generously loan me cars to drive – but I need to settle in and get used to a car that is mine. Probably one of the reasons I’ve been feeling so crazy in the last few weeks is that I’ve felt very paralyzed to leave the house – partly out of fear of loading all these kids in and out of the car, and partly because the “adoption experts” say that we should be staying home. I think we’ve done a good job of that, and I think, for everyone’s sake, it’s probably time to start venturing out of this 1400 square foot box of crazy.
I believe my 20-year-old self might have considered hurling herself out of a window at reading the paragraph above. But yes, I just implied that my quality of life will change with a car that allows better loading and unloading of children. And yes, that car probably means a minivan at this stage. My rage against the minivan is turning into a quiet, bitter acceptance.
I’m hoping in the following month I can gain some confidence in venturing outside the home, and that a lot of this administrative stuff will be over, because it is a whole new level of mommy guilt as I sit on the phone for hours only to be told to call the next office, or to be met with an automated message in Vietnamese after pressing one for English, all while my bored son watches his new mommy scream “agent! agent!” into the phone in some futile attempt to get USCIS/ORRS/DHS/DHHS/DOJ/DMV/DCFS to allow me to talk to an actual person to get an actual answer.
I think my rage against the minivan has turned into rage against the government office phone loop system.
Nevertheless, I envisioned my son’s homecoming involving much more cuddling and playing, and much less of me frantically making copies and filling out forms, and that reality is making me uneasy. I am so thrilled he is home and I am looking forward to getting a lot of this business behind us so we can relax and get into our groove as a family.