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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Talking with Dr. M

Yesterday afternoon, the husband, the Tongginator and I talked with a counselor who works for a post-adoption support organization. Basically we wanted to be proactive since this upcoming trip to China will most probably stir up many emotions in the Tongginator, not to mention the drastic change that will occur as we all adjust to life as a family of four.

The Tongginator wasn't too interested in talking with Ms. M, but she seemed content to color, read and play with the family I-Pad in the counseling office's playroom, so the husband and I spoke with the doctor for almost two hours. It was a good day. We talked about almost everything: from our upcoming adoption, to the early health challenges the Tongginator faced, to our attachment journey, to the Tongginator's sensory issues, to the mean girl down the street, to the Tongginator's quirky mix of social/emotional delays alongside her old soul brilliance.

The doctor proved with Absolute Certainty her high level of intelligence by - several times - remarking on the utter amazing-ness of our Tongginator. Then she proceeded to offer a few helpful parenting suggestions, primarily centered around social and school issues. Mostly she told us to stay the course and be patient with our Tongginator.

It was quite a lesson for me.

Because I want to fix my baby's problems. Now of course y'all know I can't do that. I can help to guide her through childhood; I can equip her to navigate the tough stuff; but I can't - no matter how hard I try - I can't make the tough stuff disappear. Theoretically I know that, but it's so, so difficult to watch the Tongginator experience pain. I can't prevent social awkwardness at the bus stop. I can't make her sensory challenges disappear. I can't erase the pain of her early life story. I just can't.

All I can do is love her.

Several individuals judged us quite harshly several months ago for deciding to bring the Tongginator along on our second adoption trip. I know our adoption agency isn't too thrilled with our decision, although they've responded both professionally and appropriately. (For the record, they aren't too thrilled because it's an inconvenience to others within the travel group, plus it makes things more challenging for the parents those first few days together, not because they feel it harms either child in any way. In fact, they believe it often makes things easier for the newly adopted child.) I also know that some siblings would do much better remaining home with either one parent or extended relatives during an adoption trip, whether because of age, maturity, personality, health or school issues.

The Tongginator isn't one of them.

And our talk with the counselor reaffirmed our decision to include her in this journey. It will be a tough trip, certainly, for all of us. The Tongginator will quite probably experience a wide range of emotions. But the alternative - leaving her home for over two weeks, without mom and dad, then introducing an older baby/ toddler into the family overnight - well, that is not in our child's best interest.

Yes, it would be easier for the husband and I to go without her.

Yes, it would much less expensive.

But it's not right for the Tongginator. She would never forgive us for going to what she still calls "my China" without her. She would not understand us excluding her from this life-changing day. She just wouldn't.

So we're doing what we can. We talked with a counselor yesterday for two hours. I'm reading from home to HOMELAND. We've bought cheesy matching outfits at the Tongginator's request and even purchased that over-priced doll baby carrier. We're bringing Tonggu Grammy along.

We're doing what we can.

Hopefully it will be enough, for both the Tongginator and Mei Mei.


Elaine said...

It never occurred to us not to take our then 4 year old first daughter to meet our Mei Mei. I'm still puzzled by people who don't. It will be okay. It will be enough.

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to say hello - I've just discovered your blog and I am finding it truly wonderful. In many ways, our respective situations could not be more different - I am Australian, single, agnostic and just beginning the process of trying to adopt from foster care - but so much of what you write is resonating with me and helping me process all of the elements of the adoption journey that I will need to face. Thank you for this wonderful blog and I will be watching with interest as you and your family head toward Mei Mei.


Amy said...

I recently discovered your blog & just had to comment on this post. We are also taking our (bio) daughter to China in @ 2 weeks to get her new little brother. We've had a lot of "backlash" as well from people who just don't seem to understand. Thankfully, our agency was not among them- it's been our family & friends (the ones you'd think would understand). Our dd is nearly 5 (celebrating her birthday while in China), but has never spent a night away from us. I can't imagine her first experience with that would be when we're gone for 2 weeks! It would just be cruel. And like Tongginator, our dd would never forgive us if we left her behind. Good luck to you on this new path in your lives! Our biggest hurdle of the moment will be getting our dd on the plane & not getting kicked off for a meltdown! (I'm investigating whether she may have a sensory disorder as well.) :)

LucisMomma said...

Love that you listen to your heart and Miss T's heart, too.

It's hard letting our girls figure out things on their own--it would surely be much more satisfying for this mommy to squash the little troublemakers
like a bug who bother my daughter.

Glad you seem to have gotten over some of the caffeine to really hear what your counselor said. :) I always have to take notes when we go to the doc because I want to remember just what they say.

AwesomeCloud and family said...

I am totally with your line of thinking.

Lots of people bring their kids. The adoption agency should be able to cope.

Dana said...

It will be enough.

Aus said...

TM - you know we're behind you 110%!! We would never have considered NOT taking either of our adopted girls with us on the subsequent adoption trips!

And it's been our experience that the kids - one 5 year old the first time and then two at ages 6 and 4 the second - traveled better than the adults did!

She'll be great - and I don't know that she'll have that many 'issues' with being in China...I think she's got her head on pretty dang straight!

Regardless - I know one thing for absolute certain - y'all will have her completly prepared - and will be more than able to cope with whatever goes on! Y'all are really in the game!

hugs - aus and co.

A Beautiful Mess said...

We brought our kids...they are older than Ms.T and they are also our bio kids....but we felt is was important that they come and see where they sister was living, her transition etc. My Dad also came with us and that was a huge help. When things got a little hairy with Soph, he would take the big kids to go do "something"...Maybe grandma should come!!! My mom asked to come but she would have driven me crazy. My in-laws never even asked (thank GOD)

You all will do great!

Joan said...

I applaud you for taking your daughter with to get her sister. I wish now that I had done the same but there were so many unknowns. My Ella was 2 1/2 at adoption and turned out to be pretty angry and I wasn't sure how my Elizabeth (5 at that time) would have handled it. On one angle it was good to have that one on one time with Ella but I think the family transition may have gone smoother if Elizabeth had been there. Hindsight is 20-20


Martha said...

We took 2 of our kids with us to CHina and would have taken the oldest but it was midterm week at his college. There were 4 families in our group by the time we got to Guangzhou...and everyone had their whole family there. One family had 7 total, we had 5 and another had 5. I say the more the merrier! Plus your daughter will love seeing her homeland. It was quite the educational field trip for my kids and I am thrilled they had the opportunity to go.

Johnny said...

Scratching my head wondering about those folks who say not to take the older sibling. To leave her back home would send so many different and negative messages:
a) the adoption is a secretive process
b) you're not "good enough" to meet your new sibling.
c) you might be bothersome when you are around and we are dealing with the new member of the family.
d) China is a place we don't want you to know about

and so on and so forth.

By chance can Tonggu Granny go along? A 3rd adult is pretty helpful (but it is an extravagance)

Patricia/NYC said...

For what it's worth, in my opinion, I applaud your decision to bring the T to China...we would have done the exact same thing! You all are going to be fine & guess what? What a blessing for the other families to get to see the T in action too! ;)

a Tonggu Momma said...

Tonggu Grammy IS coming along, y'all. I don't think we could do this without her. And yes, we're getting two rooms.

prechrswife said...

It sounds like you had a great appointment. I also think you are doing the right thing by bringing the Tongginator along. We've always said that we would bring MJ when we do adopt again. Bringing your mom along is great. There was one family in our travel group who brought their 5 year old son (also an adoptee, but born in Russia). His grandmother came and was able to do things with him while we were tied up with a lot of the "boring" parts--notary, physical, CA, etc.

Serving the King said...

You go girl! To each his own and you know that sweet girls heart better than anybody! We brought our other four boys along to pick up our two new boys and hands down it was the best decision we ever made. I CANNOT wait to watch your journey!

Myrnie said...

Mother knows best!

Cedar said...

It will turn out that all of your travel group reads this blog and will be thrilled to see T's face. She'll rock this trip and you will be amazed at being on a new plane afterwards. She'll be a great big sister.

Thinking and praying for your whole family! Now when do you get your TA?

Pink Evita said...

Don't let anyone make you question your decision to take an older sibling on this trip. The entire wait we thought we would leave older daughter with grandparents. Then we got the referral and she asked if we would ever come back to her since we now had baby. Well, that just bought that little kid a ticket to China. (And, I was having awful stomach cramps at the thought of leaving her for 2 1/2 weeks.) We also brought a grandparent. AND, I swear it was the BEST decision we EVER made as a family. Yes, it was hard to travel with the entourage to China, with an almost 5 year old in tow, not to mention the new and freaked out 9 month old. But our older daughter completely bought into the whole deal. She wanted to do every single gov't office visit. She did not miss one thing. She absolutely loved the baby and felt so secure as part of the whole experience. I will never regret listening to our hearts and taking the whole family. (Our agency was a bit unsupportive too, but they got over it and there were several other families on the trip that did just what we did, and everyone happily survived!)

Robyn said...

We took our boys. I really felt that they should be part of the process. DS#2 made the trip much more challenging but, looking back, I still think I would have taken them both anyway. I'm so excited for you guys!

L said...

I think you are making the best decision you can make knowing Your child and Your family. We took our 13 and 9 year old with us last month. It was the best decision we could have made for OUR family! We had several families in our travel group come to us at the end of our trip and thank us for bringing our girls. They felt it helped their children feel more comfortable and they enjoyed our children interactting with thier children. Our agency was 100% for bringing them so that helped as well. You will be amazed at how well it will go and how thankful you are for brushing aside the well meaning suggestions to do otherwise. Good luck and I hope those TA's show up soon. Hopeing you will blog a bit in China so we can all watch!

Reena said...

I cannot believe your agency would not want you to bring the Tongginator with you! I had always heard that bringing along a sibling, especially if that sibling was also born in the country, was highly encouraged.

We were preparing to complete our second adoption close to the swine flu outbreak. That was the ONLY reason that we considered not bringing our then 3-year old DD with us (who was also adopted from China).

We ultimately did bring her-- one of us would have had to stay home--we could not have left her with extended family. It simply would not have been good for her.

It was just me, DH, and our oldest (who was only 3-years)--no other help. We simply decided not to have 'set' plans other than the required adoption paperwork. We did spend more time in the hotel instead of sight-seeing--but that was OK.

You will be fine, the trip will be fine.

Best Wishes!

Amy said...

I absolutley believe that taking the Tongginator will be in everyone's best interest. We took our boys (and g-ma) along to meet DD, and that was one of the best decisions we made. They all fell in love with each other immediately. I know that doesn't happen with all siblings, but I can't discount how they helped her to adjust to our family. We had prepared them the grieving, and they were great handling that. It will be an amazing trip. You won't regret taking her:)

LaLa said...

When we traveled to China there were two families in our group who brought their older children previously adopted from China..one was 6 and the other was 9. We LOVED having them on our trip. They were great for us in Beijing while we were so anxious for our babies and then after we got our babies they were so much help entertaining.

With Coby Annslee had just turned 4 and we never even considered leaving her behind. She loved going, was so great with her brother and I really believe the bonding time we got for those two weeks is part of why they are still so close : )

Enjoy your trip...no one knows your child like you do so they should keep their unsolicited opinions to themselves. Oh, and I think most agencies are lazy with their "in country" stuff. Luckily ours wasn't and the families all had a great time.

Jamey... said...

You are one of the most capable mommas (on adoptive and other childhood issues) that I've had the pleasure to meet, you guys are going to be great, even if it is hard.

Jonalyn said...

I don't understand people freaking out about bringing your older child along as you add to your family. It's a HUGE deal. I understand when someone can't afford it. That's different. I think it's nuts when someone doesn't bring their kid (again, except for financial reasons). We took our dd (bio) with us, and if we were someday to adopt again, both girls would go with us. Of course, each child is different, and I suppose there are some who truly wouldn't be able to handle it. But I do not understand people looking at you like you're nuts for bringing mei mei's big sis along. She will be a big help entertaining her little sister!

Anonymous said...

It makes perfect sense to me that you would take TM with you to meet Mei-Mei. You're a family, and you do things as a family. I don't see why people would leave older sibs at home, frankly, unless they flat out could not afford it.

The Drinkwaters said...

I think you and Tonggu Daddy are doing a great job preparing your whole family for this transition.

We took our first daughter (who was just under 3) with us to go and meet her new Mei Mei (just under 2) in November. It was the BEST decision for OUR family.

I'm surprised about your agency's perspective. Our November travel group had 16 families, there were almost 70 people. About half of the families had adopted previously from China. Most families brought older bio siblings and/or other adoptive siblings. For some of the larger families, they brought an extra family member (ie. grandma and grandpa) along as well.

I don't think anyone felt inconvenienced by the extra family members or siblings in our group.

For the first time adoptive parents, they really appreciated having other parents around who had "been there, done that". They also found it helpful seeing how the older adoptive children were doing several years later. It was a comfort for many during the tough days of the transition to see that time, patience, and love can do wonders.

Patty O. said...

I love your determination to do what is best for your children despite how inconvenient it might be. You KNOW your girl, really, really know her and you don't try to change her or squelch who she is. I admire that so much!

Andrea said...

Had our daughter been two years or younger, I might have considered leaving her home, but because she was 4.5 yo I knew it was the right thing to bring her along. Yes there were times on the 2nd trip when LeighAnna got ignored because her new baby sister needed our undivided attention, but she handled it well and had her favorite cousin to love on her until Mom or Dad's lap was free again. The worst part of the trip was being considered a "large" family of 5. We often got seated at a table by ourselves, but that just meant more food for us! It was so important to give LeighAnna a taste of her birth culture and make her part of the adoption. I'm forever thankful for that first adoption trip receiving my first and only child. It was precious but it had it's own challenges as I became a new mom in a Chinese hotel room. Both our girls are delighted we grew as a family together, in the same place and at the same time. No one could make our mei-mei giggle like her big sister could!

Kristi said...

Remember when folks question you that you and ONLY you are the parents of the Togginator. That makes you THE BEST informed people to make that decision.
And I've told you before that while taking our kids along certainly hasn't been the easiest way (and certainly not the most cost effective) to go, the benefits outweighed the difficulty. Can anyone say, M party of SIX on this next trip. Four of those being age five or under...
Still hoping that our paths cross in GZ!

autumnesf said...

There is no one answer that fits all families. Why can't people embrace that???

We left the older two at home. Children that were 16 and 10. No issues. Not adopted. Spent summer weeks with grandparents. One was in high school and didn't need to miss class. (Even though as we were flying to China he decided to set off fireworks in welding class and spent a week in in-school suspension. And my dad didn't even tell me about it!!! I found out later when sister ratted him out!!)

For us it was perfect as MM needed very limited contact. She totally shut down. But if I had needed to bring the other kids I would have. And if I had it to do over again I would not change it.

BUT, if I was going back I think I would have to take MM. Unless I could have mom come here and take care of her. She doesn't do well with changes. She would be more comfortable with grandma in her own home than with me all over the world. So, maybe I wouldn't.

And I love that you are taking TM granny. You have a built in extra pair of hands for TM. It sounds like you've made the best travel plans for your family to me.

And that's what its all about.

Special K said...

I don't profess to really know you at all...but I kind of feel like I do. And you're totally making the right decision. The Tongginator HAS to go to China with you. I wouldn't have imagined it any other way.

epin said...

We took our then 4 year old to China in Feb. 2009 to adopt our younger daughter, and it was the right decision for us. I couldn't imagine completing our family without all members present. Also, it was healthy for our 4 year old to experience her younger sister's adoption and to better understand how adoption happens. We still talk fondly about our trip to China, and we look forward to our trip in 2012 (just to visit this time). Safe travels to you and your family. I am so happy for you.

Anonymous said...

i love that T is going with you, L. LOVE it. you know your daughter well, and you are an amazing mom.

(it's been far too long... hi, friend.)

Wanda said...

I'm very confident that all your work will pay off. And I'm so glad T is going with you. It will all work out!

Debbie said...

Look at you - putting your daughter's needs ahead of what strangers say! Kudos. You know her best. You know what is right for her. Sounds like the only plan to me.

Jessica said...

From what I've seen, most of the folks in the Ethiopia program take their children when they go to pick up the new sibling.

This includes bio kids, kids adopted from Ethiopia & kids adopted from other countries.

I haven't found accounts from anyone that regretted that decision.

Momma C said...

Our social worker wasn't too happy about the decision to take the boys to China to get their sister (we took grandma and grandpa too) One of the boys has sensory issues and ASD but he did great and we are soooo glad we trusted our instincts and took them. Then we turned around a year later and took all 3 to Ethiopia (without grandma and grandpa) to get the baby. Much harder trip but would do it again in a heartbeat.

Sharie said...

Our adoption group had 7 families. 5 families brought siblings (if you count my niece who was 11). I know of only one family who regretted it (for various reasons including that their older daughter was only 2). Each family followed their hearts and did what they felt best for their children. All kids are happy and healthy now - no reason to second guess when you know in your heart what is right for your family.

Anonymous said...

Finding a caring therapist who actually gets adoption issues is priceless!

Mahmee said...

Well, you ARE her best advocate after all and know exactly what she does and does not need. What a memorable trip this will be for her.

Alyson & Ford said...

You keep doing what is best for your family; you know best!

Alyzabeth's Mommy

The Byrd's Nest said...

You are totally doing the right thing. You know your own daughter and her feelings....I love it that you are such a pro-active Mommy:)

Truly Blessed said...

Like yours, our agency was dead set against us taking our older (adopted) daughter on our trip to bring DD#2 home. They went so far as to raise rates for 0-4 year old children by a whopping $600 (they raised rates across the board, but only $150 per couple, and didn't raise the rates at all for children aged 4-17). We took our kids anyway -- aged 17, 15, 13 and 2 1/2 -- best decision we ever made. Our 2 1/2 y/o would have A) been miserable and confused without her parents of only 15 months, B) been consumed with jealousy at the arrival of her new sibling (who would have just spent 2 weeks thinking she was an only child of her new parents), and C) missed out on an incredible family bonding experience -- our 2nd trip to China.

You know best. Your agency needs to support you in whatever you choose to do (and they need to do it cheerfully, thankyouverymuch!).

Can't wait to follow your journey!

Shonda said...

I don't think we ever do anything totally meaningful, totally worth-it and look back and say "wow, that was easy!" Sometimes the most amazing journeys are the hardest. Glad big sister gets to go. We are currently deliberating about who to bring on which trips. Having 4 olders (and half of them ages 2 and under) makes the decision so much harder.

jennifer said...

I do not understand anyone judging your decision to bring children to China. Nobody knows your child like you do. We brought everyone the first time and are not the second...personal decisions...just trying to do the best for everyone. It will be an amazing trip for your family!!

Laura L. said...

Yes!! Bring the Tongginator with you to China. It is a great decision, and you know what is best for YOUR family.

We will be bringing our daughter to China to get her brother in a few months. I can't imagine not doing that.

M3 said...

What the heck kind of an agency would presume to tell you what's best for your family? That one kind of has me scratching my head. And feeling like I should apologize for them, like that would do any good, but you know what I mean. Good for you for sticking to what you know will work for you.