We’ve been home for nearly 3 months and everything feels like it is settling down into a good rhythm. I find that I don’t go to bed with a tightly clenched jaw due to constant stress anymore. Angelina very rarely rages. Della has stopped having accidents and seems to be having fewer nightmares. Roman responds to his names, is starting to crawl, and plays with toys for every waking moment. Kitty is acting like an ornery goat including the bleating and random headbutting, but, well, she is two soooo give her another year or two to outgrow that – I have a sneaking suspicion that a little bit of headstrong goatishness will remain her entire life and that has nothing to do with the adoption, it’s just who she is.
In the past week or two something very special has been growing in this household, a special sister bond between Angelina and Della. When we came home after “the big change” as Della calls this summer, Della was eager to play with Angelina. She spread out elaborate pretend tea parties, introduced Angelina to her favorite stuffed animals, wanted to play house, lost kitten, doctor, or snuggle on the couch and watch a movie together. At first, more often then not, Della’s efforts were met with indifference or outright hostility, rude gestures, and being sworn at in a different language. Ugly, hurtful things. You don’t need to know the language to get the meaning, especially when you are as sensitive and intuitive as Della. Over and over we’d remind Della that Angelina didn’t know how to give love and she didn’t know how to receive love, but she would learn. Angelina never hit her siblings (which is incredible given her background) but she didn’t know how to play and honestly wasn’t particularly nice. She would sit in her wheelchair in the middle of the living room and rock, rock, rock while her siblings played around her.
I think it was that water color paintings that formed the first connection. Della gave Angelina a picture she’d painted, and Angelina made a picture for Della. Then they made about a million more paintings for the rest of an afternoon. As Angelina’s English has blossomed, the sweet girl we’d always heard about began to emerge. One day Della said “Angelina come play with me” and Angelina said “Okay!!!” and off they went for an afternoon of playing lost kittens. The next morning after breakfast Angelina turned to Della and said “Della come play with me” and that has been the routine every day since. When they are not taking a quiet time break or sleeping in their beds at night, Angelina and Della are playing together.
In the past 24 hours our house has been a den of monsters that Angelina defeated and brought home for Della to cook into polkadot pajama pie. Forts have been built (and demolished by a goat child) A few of my cookbooks have gone missing on the shelf only for me to find the girls sitting on the couch, heads together, planning a tea party menu with lots and lots of cake options. Veterinarian Angelina has nursed the poor Della kitten back to health. Della has been the mom who make soup for a sick Angelina who lay moaning in a pile of pillows Della arranged for her.
It’s quiet time right now, the only time I have to whip up a blog post, but when quiet time is over Angelina and Della already have plans for play. First they are going to paint some pictures to give to each other (squeal) then they will play house (squeal) then they will ask mom to make popcorn and they will pick out a movie to watch together (super squeal). I know the plans because I overheard them talking it out while hiding from Kitty-goat in the kitchen play cupboard. Sounds like a good plan to me.
It makes my heart glad to see this friendship. It is hard on a family to adopt. It is hard on a family to adopt children out of birth order. It is hard on a family to adopt children out of birth order especially when the biological oldest child is displaced by the new order. It is hard on a family when you add all that other stuff to the fact that the new children do not speak your language and have medical needs which require frequent doctor visits.
People have asked if it has been harder than I expected. No, it hasn’t been, but that was because I was expecting life to be a living hell for who knows how long. I was not expecting it to be easy, and it hasn’t been easy. I also was not expecting this friendship to form so quickly, I didn’t know if I should even hope for it to form at all.
My husband pointed out long ago and has reminded me a few times that Della has something special about her. If anyone could bridge Angelina’s past and place her fully into our family, it would be Della. Over the past months my heart has grieved for little Della, a girl with a huge heart, a girl whose words were the tipping point for us to pursue adopting Angelina specifically, a girl who wants to be everyone’s friend. It has been hard for her. It has been hard for all of us, but I think it was the hardest for her. Unlike mom and dad, Della didn’t know to buckle down for hell, she was ready for a lifelong best-friend to walk off the plane. (Kitty wasn’t even two, it was hard in its own way for her, but she’s always been a goat who walked by herself and all ways are alike to her soooo she’s ridden the storm waves rather well.)
It is nothing short of a miracle to see these two girls play all day every day. Della’s constant olive branches coaxed a raging, wary child out and now I see what Della always hoped for. I didn’t want to hope, I didn’t want to have hopes dashed, so I buckled down, waited for the worst to happen, and was ready to see the worst in every scenario. Today I see two empathetic, imaginative, compassionate sisters where only a few weeks ago I only saw one. God be praised.