In adoption, a term that often comes up is family age. It’s simply the amount of time that your new family has been together. Family age often counts a lot more than a child’s chronological age, especially in terms of adjustment to family life and developmental stages. We often do things for our children based on family age rather than chronological age, and for our older daughter, Zinashi, that has been pretty straightforward. For Elvie, though, I’m having trouble doing the math. We took custody on June 25, got home on July 7, but spent more than three weeks with her in the hospital. So is our family age two and a half months, or is it stunted, like our baby’s growth and development has been?
Because I’ve been struggling to get back into a normal life rhythm post adoption and post hospital stay, I tend to think the latter is true. Our family age is technically two and a half months, but we’ve only been operating as a family normally does for one solid month. We’re still in the newborn stage, according to that calculation. And it does seem to fit in many ways. Elvie still wakes quite often in the night. I still can’t manage to get out of my pajamas before my husband gets home from work most days. Running errands in a timely manner is kind of a joke. We are still not in a good family rhythm, but just like parents of a one-month-old, we are beginning to find our way.
The toughest part of my day is between 11am and 7pm. In the beginning of the morning, I just hang out with both girls in our big bed, drinking coffee and checking email while we all slowly wake up to the day. Elvie goes back to sleep a couple of hours after her first waking, and then Zinashi and I have time to eat a little breakfast and get the active teaching part of her homeschool work done. After that, though, it becomes a circus. I am not exaggerating when I say that if I am trying to reply to email, I cannot type a full sentence without one of my children needing something.
On top of that, because Elvie still wakes every one to two hours at night to eat, I am never fully rested. I’ve begun to adjust to feeling tired, but I still can’t seem to get my brain to work quite right. I couldn’t figure out why I had so much trouble getting things done during the day until I took a step back and realized that if life had theme words, mine right now would be exhaustion and interruption. Then it all started to make sense, and I am ready to cut myself–and my family–a little slack.
We are all just one month into this, and we are all still adjusting and finding our new normal. As much as I’d love to have everything fall into place seamlessly, one normal month at home under our belts just isn’t enough to have everything figured out. That applies to all of us. We as parents will adjust, and Zinashi will adjust, and Elvie will adjust, but for now, we need time and patience with one another to get to that point. So I am relaxing a little bit about the details while recognizing the steps forward we’ve made. I’m reminding myself that we’ve got time on our side when it comes to figuring this out.
Like many families who have done this before us, we will figure it out. Our daughters will grow, and we will miss these days when they are so small and sweet and funny. So I am resolving also to savor these moments, to not let my frustration at not having our life in order take away my joy when Elvie coos her own version of a song or Zinashi makes faces just to make her baby sister laugh. These days might be filled with exhaustion and interruption, but they are also filled with sweetness and light. I don’t want to fast forward to a well-settled future so badly that I’d risk missing any of the good parts.