River of Thoughts

Christine Royse Niles — Changing the world one word at a time

A Year and a Little More

I have heard a rule of thumb that you should expect about a month per year of age for a young person to adjust to a new adoptive family/country. Four years old = four months of adjustment. Fourteen years old = a year and a little more.

We are almost to the 14-month mark, and I’d say our experience is pretty close to the average. So much has happened, and we have all changed in the past year…it’s hard to even know where to start.

Since Lena and I returned in the middle of January, we only took about a week off to recover from jetlag and get the most urgent appointments taken care of before Lena started school. For the first week, she was the rock star, new girl, Masha’s Sister. Then the difficult reality kinda set in. Lena’s English was really good, but there were still many things that were hard for her to understand. She frequently was frustrated. The culture was different, fashion was different, TV shows were different. The first few months for her were a strange mixture of hope and loss. Masha helped her at school as much as possible, and her teachers were great, but the transition was hard. Those first few months continually reminded me of how brave each of our girls are, leaving behind everything and everyone they know for an unknown future with people they could only hope they could really trust.

Spring break brought a road trip to Florida to meet Nana and Grandpa Royse. While the trip was great, in hindsight, it was a little too much too early for Lena. She wanted to do everything, but still would get tired quickly and would “hit the wall” when something lasted too long. When the result of that was nearly crashing a very expensive rented Segway, we realized the error of our ways. Shorter trips, keeping things lower key, maintaining structure and basic schedules…all really important to smooth adjustment!

Summer brought with it a couple of unfortunate “connection points” between my toes and a very heavy ottoman, so we were a bit limited in our summer plans. We worked in a 3-day camping/Cedar Point trip in mid-July. We spent the week of Masha’s 16th birthday on Lake Hamilton in early August. Looking back, we were busy with lots of “just life” things.

School started in mid-August, with Masha beginning her freshman year and Lena in 8th grade. Lena has really blossomed and gets along well with many different groups of kids, and she’s working incredibly hard in school. We’ve always told both girls that their best efforts are what we expect, and whatever letter-grades come along with that, we’ll be proud of them. And with that, they keep making us proud!

Overall, the year has been great. Lena has experienced some unmet expectations…the streets are not paved with laptops, and our trees do not sprout cash instead of leaves. She has a unique story that has made her strong, but has also caused her a lot of pain. But the rewards of a family who love each other and will never leave the others hanging are really starting to sink in for all of us. We *are* a family a four.

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About Christine

I am a writer, a project manager, and a corporate refugee with a heart for orphans around the world. My two daughters were adopted from Ukraine at ages 12 and 14. I post about writing, chasing dreams, and making a difference in the world, and sometimes I share fun snippets of fiction in-progress.

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