Our First Few Months With Jonathan
January 23, 2012

Hi, I’m Tristen. 

Safe Precious Heard is a place where you will find hope and healing on your journey of raising children with relational trauma backgrounds.

We brought Jonathan home on October 30th, 2011. So we’ve had him home about 3 months.

First Weeks
The first few weeks were great… we still were on the honeymoon 🙂 Jonathan was still quiet, super eager to please, did whatever we wanted, eat everything put in front of him. It was great… however, it was also probably just his uncertainty with his new situation. He woke up every night crying. Thankfully, we would just go in his room (which he shares, with his older brother- who slept through it all) and just soothe him back to sleep and he would sleep until morning. I have no idea why he would cry and wished we had words back then to talk to him about it but we didn’t. He was basically potty trained. However, he had a few accidents (no biggie). We put him in a pull-up at night. I don’t think he was ever night potty trained. He loved playing outside and quickly learned how to ride a Razor, skateboard and bike!! One of his favorite things to do was look at the photo album I made of our time in Rwanda together. I printed all the photos of him and us and put them in a book. I also added photos of the family as they came to visit. He loved to look at the pictures from when we first met and would visit at Home of Hope, pictures of Isabella (the girl that was adopted by the other couple from Gladney in Rwanda the same time we were), and pictures of his bed and the sisters at Home of Joy (the orphanage he was moved to in January 2011).

The Next Month
The first month after the first few weeks were the hardest. He was feeling more comfortable and safe in his new family- which is great. But he also started saying NO to everything and we didn’t know enough words to communicate things so it was frustrating. He wouldn’t want to put on his seat belt, he didn’t want help with anything (even things he could do)… We joked he was in the terrible 2 stage. And Gaven’s teacher (who had adopted 2 older kids from Russia and was/is very helpful to us and Gaven) called him No-No-Noel. That time has probably been the hardest because he didn’t know enough English for us to communicate with him and no history to base what we were doing on. We just loved him through it and did our best to no to judge him based on his tantrums. We had enough training to know it wasn’t defiance but fear and uncertainty that drove his behaviors. Another really hard thing for me was his constant need for my attention. He wanted me one on one all the time. His favorite words were “Look, Mama, Look”. It was sweet but so non stop it wore me out. I could be looking right at him and he would still say it over and over. I figured he was making up for all his lost time on not having one on one time with anyone before. I did my best to give him all the attention I could with a smile even when I wasn’t feeling it. It was about this time he started sleeping through the night. A huge deal for my husband and I!! We started getting a full nights sleep! Jonathan started to show food preferences. He still eats like a horse and doesn’t seem to know when he is full.

One of my saving graces during this time was walks with Jonathan in the stroller. So many generous friend gave me Target gift cards that I was able to buy a jogging stroller (the other ones were too small for Jonathan). Everyday we would take the dog for a long walk. The other benefit of this time was it was a way for Jonathan to have down time. He would just sit and totally relax.

One nice thing is that he is very attached to his mama and papa. When he first mets new people he likes us to hold him and he looks away putting his head on our shoulder. This is good because sometimes when a child is adopted they have no idea of the various levels of relationships (stranger, acquaintance, friend, distant family, close family) and will go with anyone. This made me very nervous- but thankfully he warms up slowly. Once he does know the person he is super playful and interactive. He loves to talk on the phone to his grandparents, Aunt Amy and cousin Leah (especially Leah because she uses Face Time so he gets to see things while he is talking).

The Last Month
I can see the tide changing. Jonathan can speak English so well. He really has picked up the language fast. He doesn’t get some things but we get what he means. For example, when he is hungry he says he wants food- sometimes food means he wants a meal, not a snack but a bowl of rice, beans and salsa. If we offer a banana or something and he says “No, I want food.” We know he wants a meal. It took us a few times to figure it out… we kept saying “This is food.” and he would say “No, I want food.” He loves rice mixed with any sort of bean or lentil and veggie combination, especially with salsa. He thinks salsa and ketchup should be a meal on it’s own. He could eat a bowl of both (not mixed together) with no food to go with them! Because he is always wanting food, I typically leave a bowl of nuts and fruit and his water bottle out for him to graze on throughout the day. He still loves to eat but has started telling us when he is full- a great thing!

His attention span has also grown along with his language skills… which means he will sit and watch a cartoon. This is an awesome break for me! He likes “the monkey one” = Curious George and Elmo. Some other things he enjoys is drawing. He will draw things on 30 different pages and saves them all for his grandma Jackie. Another great thing has been the Aquamat. We can draw on that for about 20 minutes. He figured out he can make raindrops by shaking the water pen above the mat. He will do that until the whole mat is covered with rain. When my older boy is home from school they build legos together. Jonathan loves his older brother and Gaven is amazingly good with him. He still loves to play outside with a ball, Razor and skateboard.

We still do our stroller walks, although a lot of the time he wants to walk part of it. We have a routine. We walk the same way almost every time. About a quarter mile from home we end the walk at a beautiful ocean overlook. Lately, Jonathan has enjoyed spending up to 20 minutes there just sitting on the bench on my lap or finishing his snack. Then he likes to walk home, not in the stroller.

He still needs Pull-Ups at night. We aren’t even close to thinking about trying to get him night time potty trained. Our oldest son didn’t master that until he was 5 or 6 so we don’t care. We are just happy he sleeps all night!

He doesn’t look at his photo book everyday like he use to but if I pull it out he enjoys it. I like it because it gives us an opportunity to talk about Rwanda and his home now. Each time we look at it we talk about a new things (as well as the same stuff we always say when we look at different pictures). My hope is that the topic of his adoption and anything related will always seem ok for him and if he has any questions he will have the opportunity and comfortability to ask. As he learns more English I expand my questions and comments on the photos.

We have a new saying around our house it’s “say it nicely or try again nicely”. Jonathan can be very demanding and yell his requests. So we are teaching him to use nice words. We praise him for it over and over. Instead of yelling or crying he is using his words and he will say “Jonathan says it nicely”.  It’s basically asking for a redo. It’s working really well. It’s a lot to keep up on but I have found if I’m consistent and don’t slack off because I’m tired he is also more consistent. At times when everything is good we will joke around and role play about being not nice and being nice. He laughs when I act not nice and claps when I act nice. Then he does the acting and I do the commenting.

As we get over hump of these first few months it has been getting easier and he feels more and more like my son and less and less like I’m babysitting a relative. I would say I’m probably 80% of the way there. My playfulness and goofy reactions are becoming more automatic and less conscious. I noticed the other day I started using affectionate nicknames The latest is sweetie pie, and the other day when we left the dermatologist he told the doctor “Bye Sweetie”! I realized my love for him was deepening. I use silly, affectionate names for my oldest son all the time.

Things are moving alongs slowly but surely. I could write a ton more but this post is getting long. Next time I will write about preschool, church and an “almost” overnight at his aunt’s house. 🙂 Thanks again for all your prayers and support. It is so amazing to see how God is forming our family and touching the hearts of others for adoption at the same time. God never promised it would be easy but He does promise to be there through it all. God is loving us through it all and putting lots of people in our path to love on us too! We appreciate it all!

Christmas morning at Grandma Jackie’s house with cousins.
Fun swimming in Grandpa and Nona’s pool over Christmas.
My Wonderful Guys!