Those first few days were a bit uncomfortable for us all. Kevin and I tried to help the children settle in. They were polite houseguests, busy with a new school and picking out new clothes and toys. The process of becoming a true family unfolded in the months to come. Couples who consider adopting older children often worry that they will mourn having missed the firsts: first step, first word...first grade.
But parents of older adopted children have their own set of firsts. The first time my son, Derek, stopped calling me "Miss Kate" and called me Mom. And how he liked the sound of it, and for the next few days liberally sprinkled every sentence with it.
"Mom, what's for dinner, Mom? Mom, can I go outside to play, Mom?"
Or the first time my daughter, Arielle, blurted out "I love you" as she ran off to catch the school bus.
Or the first time my son felt safe enough to whisper in my ear a painful secret -- a hurt he'd never told anyone -- trusting that I would help him heal.
Or the first time someone passed my desk at work, noticed the photographs of the children, and asked, "Are those your kids?" And I said, "Yes, yes they are."
Our children, like many older adopted children, face challenges resulting from the losses they experienced moving from the home of their birth parents to homes of various relatives, to foster homes, and finally to our home. Their home.
We have had some behavior problems, anger outbursts, and nightmares. But we have also had plenty of laughter, love, and a growing trust.
One challenge faced by families who adopt older children is the birth family. In our case, a teenaged brother and maternal grandparents the children adore -- and an aunt and uncle who are temporarily holding up our adoption as they wage a legal battle over custody, an honor they abused and lost long ago.
Each day we journey further into uncharted waters, as we find ways to bring some members of the birth family into the fold of our family while acting as sentry against those who can only do damage.