most of you have probably not adopted. but perhaps many of you have experienced a new puppy at some point in your life. do you remember the first few weeks? if you had children or if you were a child at the time...do you remember the sense of I Will Never Again Leave The Side Of This Dog, My Best Friend. there is something magical which happens when a new puppy enters the scene. kids get up early to play with it, walk it, feed it. children race through chores to make sure they are first in line to pet it, wash it, water it. new puppies can shake up even the most sedate and well ordered homes. but then a few weeks go by....and mothers are left facing mutts in their kitchens. mothers go eyeball to eyeball with these furry, family friends. mothers are left picking off fleas and putting on leashes. mothers are found scooping food into bowls and wondering if the dog has been appropriately hydrated. i know this feeling. we usually hover somewhere around the 7 pet mark at any given time. we've had more, we've had less...but 7 seems to be the lucky or looney number in our home on average. i am certain if something ever happened to me the pets would all go into kidney failure within the first week. no one in our home thinks to give them water. no one. so just for the record, i am not comparing bella to a puppy. not at all. but...bringing home a new sibling, baby or toddler, can sort of mirror the new puppy syndrome. perhaps i am reaching a bit. regardless, the kids are All About Baby Bella....at least for the moment.
it was just two weeks ago today we left china. as we walked out of the hotel i thought to myself, "well, it will never again be quite the same." it is hard to put words behind what those two weeks with bella looked like. it was intense. it was emotional. it was special. we had two full and somewhat uninterrupted weeks to bond with our new little girl. as a mom of multiple children, i knew things would look very different when we arrived home and became an official family of seven. it would still be, very much, intense, emotional and special...but different. we were so ready to head home though. so ready to see our other four children...it felt like we had been gone much too long. i truly felt almost desperate to see their faces. and so we came home. and, yes, it has been different.
i've already written about how quickly bella has transitioned into our family. she immediately seemed to connect with each one of the children. it has been amazing to watch. i felt like our "gotcha day" happened all over again the day we arrived in atlanta. i was ready to burst watching our four kids welcome their new sister. these past two weeks have been filled with the good, the challenging and the wonderful. like with any major change, there has been much to work out, work through and work around. we were so jet lagged coming home that the first few days seemed a bit hazy. for me, it felt a little like that sleep-deprived state of new motherhood. around the 3rd night home i realized no one was sleeping in their own bed....everyone seemed to have shifted. the four kids had all been sleeping in different rooms while we were in china...younger kids with older siblings, etc... i was trying to get bella to sleep peacefully through the night. her little internal clock was set on china time and so she kept waking up. finally things have seemed to iron out a bit this second week. but there have been other adjustments as we've added to our family.
once we got home, the kids began this great and fantastic outdoing of one another. each one wanted to figure out bella's every need...her every want..her every wish. so, all of a sudden she no longer felt the need to walk or even talk. she just started pointing to things and saying, "uugghhh!" she figured out pretty quickly she would have at least 3 or 4 kids running to meet her demands. i could see her wheels turning, "hey, this is pretty cool, i kind of like it here!" a couple of days ago i overheard a conversation in the backseat of the car. bella was whining for something and each child was certain they held that magic something. each child was convinced they alone possessed the key to bella's complete and everlasting happiness. i sat and listened to them all begin to bicker and argue. as their debate grew louder, so did bella's whining. i finally had to stop the car and say in my most emphatic mommy voice, "children! THIS is not why God brought bella to our home!" everyone got kind of quiet...even bella. (my emphatic voice can on (rare) occasion be successful). i didn't want to shame my children. i am rejoicing in the depth and breadth of their love for their little sister. but i began to realize i had to teach them a little bit about what love looks like. love is not spoiling and giving in and constantly pacifying little ones. the past couple of days the logical part of my brain has reconnected and my veteran mother synapses have once again fired back up. i began to realize things might have to change a little bit. i muddled through the dusty shelves of my parenting vocabulary and came up with the greatly tattered, but important, word: boundaries. it is time to set some boundaries. boundaries about bella and boundaries for bella. rick and i have always been firm believers in them. they are necessary with kids of all ages. but i have to tell you, at first it felt a little different with bella. she has spent two years living in an orphanage. we don't know for sure what needs were met or ignored. we have no idea how often her cries were answered. so, initially, i struggled with this. i just wasn't comfortable leaving her in her bed to "cry it out." boundary setting may always feel a little different with bella. i don't know. but i do know She Needs Them. all kids do. actually all of us do. the funny thing is, boundaries give freedom. boundaries bring security. i know this. but i just had to let these two weeks be sort of a free for all. but now it is time for miss-princess-pants to realize she is part of a family. we are thrilled and delighted with her arrival...but she is Part of a Family.
in just a couple of days the kids return to school. it is time. i have allowed them to smother their new baby sister with loads of love. they have bickered over who can sit next to her, talk to her, stand near her, feed her, hold her, rock her....even change her diaper! i am so not kidding. i know all this focus, attention and help will eventually die down. remember my earlier discussion on the new puppy. i know very well i will be the half crazed mother in about 6 months saying, "hey...can SOMEone pleeeaaaase come get bella, i need to make dinner or vacuum or trim my fingernails or SOMEthing." i know this. it happened with the 3rd child, the 4th child...it will happen with the 5th...no doubt.
in the meantime, it is time to add a little structure. i have such mixed feelings about this. we can't hardly look at her and not want to make sure her world is pic-ture -per-fect. i mean...we are all willing to bend over backwards for her smile and laughter. i've personally witnessed six people act remarkably goofy all for a giggle. we'll stop at nothing to see her big black eyes light up. this is love. this is adoration. but, teaching her to fit in...to be part of a team...to do her share...well, this is also a kind of love. and though some of you may disagree, 2 and 1/2 is not too young to understand this. we are giving bella more than just a name and a welcome home party...we are giving her a family. we are giving her the chance to be a part of something bigger than she is. now i assure you i am not adding her name to the chore chart this week. i have no expectations for her to take her turn at the dishes or plans for her to go out and get a paper route. (does such a thing even exist anymore?) i am just writing the time has come for her to understand we love her unconditionally. we love her so much we won't allow her to grunt and stomp and demand her way. even this sweet, sweet, precious girl has a selfish nature. i know some of you bella fans just might consider egging my house after reading that...but trust me on this. it is just how we come. no one is exempt. we all, even orphaned children, suffer from the disease of MeFirst-ism.. i have even seen evidence of it already. gasp! i know. much of me has wanted to say, "sure baby...whatever you want darling girl... ice cream for breakfast? finger painting on the sofa? fine china in the bathtub? a pony? a peacock? a panda bear? sure! your wish is my command!"
hear me on this. we LOVE her. we ADORE her. we are HEAD over HEELS crazy for her. we love her so much we want her to grow and thrive and flourish. we love her so much we know she needs the firmness of our "no", the holding of our hand, and the safety of our arms. there are moments where she will run reckless across the lawn and other moments where she will need to sit buckled in her stroller. we might have days where we picnic on the kitchen floor and other days where she will have to sit secured in her booster seat. i have to tell you this is never easy. it wasn't easy figuring this out with our first child and it isn't easy with our fifth. i am more convinced with the fifth though because i have seen it work. i have also, by the way, seen what happens when it doesn't work. oh my.
i can't possibly leave this post tonight though without telling you i have a child beginning high school in just a matter of days. talk about boundaries! it is sort of amusing to me as i write this post about a two year old. i really should be spending my words and energy discussing the security and safety of boundaries with teenage daughters. i'll save that topic for another night though...