Families often share their concerns with me. As the "problem solver" for the adoption agency where I work, I counsel families, before, during and after their international adoptions.
Having adopted school-age children from Russia, and working in the mental health and adoption fields for close to 30 years, I’ve had a wide range of experiences. I appreciate the trust families place in me, sharing their stories. But I also share my stories, the wonders and even the occasional frustrations of raising a family.
It helps to understand that many of the issues adoptive families face in raising their children aren’t that different from what other families experience. I hope to share some of these stories with you and hope you will do the same with me as I begin this column, called "Help Me, Rhonda."
Recently, a huge box was delivered to our home. My husband was excited, because it contained model-airplane parts. He and our son, Toma, 11, build and fly model airplanes. Our son, on the other hand, was most excited about the box. It was as tall as he, and he quickly realized he fit inside. So he sat down with a marker and scissors. Within minutes, he informed me that he’d put together his next Halloween costume, the "Box Man!"
He’d cut out holes for his arms, eyes, and mouth. He marched around in his "costume," surprising various family members.
“Take my picture, Mom … let me see … this is so much fun!”
We have limited our children’s access to video games and TV. We made that decision when our daughters were small. They were caught up in watching a video of "talking" animals. I dropped a vase near the TV. It made a huge noise as it shattered on the floor. Yet they never even glanced up.
Over the years, our girls claimed they were being deprived. They threatened that when they became adults, they’d watch all the TV they wanted and would play video games all night long!
I remember a teacher at Niguel Hills being surprised when the kids did a log of TV watching and our daughter turned in her one hour, of a science program she’d watched with her dad early Saturday morning. Our daughter was very sad when their goal was set as cutting TV watching in half for the following week, since it would mean missing the second half of the show. Fortunately, we were able to tape it.
But our daughters never caught the TV bug. As it turns out, our now-grown daughters watch very little TV. They enjoy hiking, swimming and running. They don’t have patience for their friends who are so caught up by social networking and can’t make a plan without first checking their "wall." I think we made the right decision for our family.
Our son is happy playing for hours with his LEGOs, loves to play soccer or basketball with friends and has learned that when you are in trouble, Mom will let you read during a time-out. Needless to say, he has become a voracious reader.
He also loved being "Box Man" for the evening. Unfortunately, with his last jump—trying to clear the stack of magazines left on the floor by his sister—he split his seams, and the side of the box opened up. I was a little sad to see it; I knew it meant that the box would be in the trash tomorrow for pickup. I was glad I’d quickly taken a few photos of my precious ‘Box Man’ with his happy grin. Although he certainly enjoys the occasional game of Wii, our son was just as content with a simple cardboard carton.