When Palmer and Addie Rose got home yesterday, they knew something was up. I sent them outside to play while Ken and I talked. We hadn’t had a chance to debrief the news we received only 48 hours before that our kids weren’t who we were told they were.
Yesterday morning, Palmer had spit oatmeal at me, refused to wear his jacket, and threw a temper tantrum all the way up to the point where he was climbing the school stairs, and he suddenly realized that it wasn’t cool to have a temper tantrum in front of 100 other kids. So he lost his backpack of toys and his jacket yesterday for the way he acted.
I’m sure they were conspiring about how to run away, so I decided to break it up.
I called in Addie Rose, and asked her to sit down with me and look at her picture book. I took her picture book that we had sent to her in Africa, and showed her the picture of her in the orphanage. I asked her how old she and her brother were in the picture. I wasn’t too hopeful I would get an answer, since they don’t speak much English, but she actually said that she was 6 years old and he was 8 years old in that picture. I made sure we were understanding each other. Yes.
I also got a good look in her mouth, and counted her teeth. She has her six year molars. Four year olds can’t have six year molars, especially when they come with a history of malnourishment.
My four-year-old is actually six.
We started working on alphabet flashcards, and she only knew about four. Her preschool teacher said that she knew all of her letters, numbers, and colors when she was at school, but she has been acting like she doesn’t know any of those when she gets home. So, like a good mom, I gave her a time out for not doing her best. Then I promised her a bubble bath with toys if she could get her letters correct.
She got a shower last night instead.
My time out for her to think about how hard she was trying was strategic. I went out to her brother in the backyard, and had my husband ask him, in French, the same question: “How old are you in this picture?”
His head hung in shame.
We both told him that we will still love him if he is older, but we wanted to know what soccer team to put him on in the spring.
He told us (in French) that he was 8 and his sister was 6 in the picture.
Same answer, different child.
I hugged him for being honest with us, even though it was hard to tell the truth.
They have not told us who told them to lie, but it’s in there. It will come out. We also know that our agency knew their real ages, because it was common knowledge among the children in the orphanage. We were purposely deceived. And our kids have been burdened with perpetuating a lie, so that we wouldn’t send them back to Africa. That’s a heavy, heavy burden for children.
The good news is that we now know how old our kids are.
The bad news is that we are grieving. And we have to allow ourselves to do that. In 48 hours, we lost some good years. We lost 3 years with our son, and 2 years with our daughter. We went from an exceptionally bright child and an on-track child, to a child that is now capable but behind, and one that has very serious developmental delays that will need intense therapy. The fragile picture of our family, as dysfunctional and new as it was, has been shattered, and we now have to start over with new expectations, new rules, and a new plan.