I was able to meet with Taras (his alias was Magnus for his original adoption listing) daily for two and a half weeks. It was great to see this little boy and learn about his world. But it was a challenging setting. We met him in one small room (with very weird stuffed animals that were never played with) or one bigger room (with 2 piano's you were not allowed to touch... found that one out the hard way, and a variety of small animals- turtles, birds, fish, chinchillas) with no one else around. So without knowing really the "rules" and not being able to effectively communicate, this little boy decided that boundaries did not exist. He was very difficult to engage and he rarely wanted to play with any toy we brought. He mostly wanted to touch and get into anything that was "off limits". Although, my iPhone was a highly coveted item and I had to guard that sucker so he didn't try to spend the whole time reprograming it for me! Eventually some of the behaviors sent me over the edge and I had to take a break. Apparently it is very common for kids in orphanages to know quite a few curse words, but I was shocked when I found out that he had been calling me some not nice names on top of everything else. I turned to some other veteran adoptive mommas and got some good advice. When his behavior was getting out of control, I left for the day. It was empowering that I didn't have to suffer through and I no longer felt any dread for how the visit was going to go! Also, that I wasn't the first momma that had this experience!
On December 17, I stood before a judge and declared my intentions to be granted parental rights of this little boy. I was bracing myself for lots of questions and, while I was asked some things, it was a relatively painless. After 30 minutes, the judge ruled that I was now Taras's mother and his new name was Kanoa Taras Gomes! It was such an exciting day. Also because that meant I could finally go home to see Paki and the kids after 3.5 emotionally exhausting weeks.
(Outside the court house…)
Before leaving, I discussed return dates with my facilitation team and was planning to return January 12th to finish up the paperwork. After court, there is a mandatory 10 day wait that was going to run into the holidays as Ukraine celebrates the Orthodox Christmas on January 7th. On December 31st, I got an email that my facilitator had an appointment for me on January 6th! My mother-in-law was planning on returning with me for the second trip, but she was unable to travel that soon. So four days later, I boarded a flight by myself and headed back to Ukraine.
My first meeting with Taras after coming back was less than I expected. He didn't seem unhappy to see me, but more indifferent to my presence. I admit I was a little worried. On January 12th, Taras walked out of the gates of the orphanage no longer an orphan, but a son, grandson, and brother... And he was balling his eyes out. He pulled out his toy phone and was trying to call back to his group and while my Russian isn't that great, I knew exactly what he was saying. I was so heart broken for him. He didn't understand. He had no idea what the future held. I was just some lady that visited him and my name was mama. Mama truly didn't mean anything to him. The ugly side of adoption. The heartbreak. The loss. The unknown.
(Taras trying to call back to his group because he didn't want to leave)
Unfortunately, we didn't get our passport application appointment the same day I picked him up from the orphanage. Taras and I were on our own until we got up to Kiev where my mother-in-law was going to be waiting for me. I didn't shower, I used the bathroom with the door open, I couldn't turn my back on this boy for a second. I was getting a cup of water and he tried to pull the tv off the stand down on his head. Insatiable curiosity, a liter of sorrow, a dash of anger, and a gallon of inability to sit still for a second made me exhausted in the first 10 minutes. But by God's grace, we made it through security and onto the flight up to Kiev.
Once in Kiev, what I thought was crazy behavior, stepped up to a new level. My mother-in-law was so caught off guard, she didn't even know what to say. Our driver who took us to our medical screening appointments (required by anyone trying to get a visa) was so "affected" by his behavior, he went home to tell his wife about it. I actually had to physically restrain him for a large portion of the appointments and anytime we were in public. What it comes down to is that Taras was a favorite at his orphanage so he was constantly getting attention and performing for that attention. When in public, he wants everyone to see him and give him that affirmation that he has been used to getting. And oh, the things he'll do to get people to look at him.
We've been here in Kiev for 7 days now and all we're waiting on is Taras's passport so we can take it to the U.S. Embassy for his visa and then we can come home. Taras is still having moments/hours, but has made so much progress in this short week. We are establishing boundaries, identifying behaviors/triggers, and he is beginning to understand a lot more of what is ok and what is not. We are communicating better and even his mental processing has improved. When we first got here, he couldn't figure out some basic puzzles on our iPad and even some cardboard shape ones. Now he is actually enjoying doing them. But his favorite toy of all time… the vacuum cleaner. That boy went around this apartment for almost 2 hours today. Then before bed, he started pointing to the floor indicating that it was dirty again and he went back to pull out the vacuum again. I had to assure him that he could play with it again tomorrow before he would go to bed!
(Sad that we have to put the vacuum cleaner away for tonight)
And the biggest thing… at first, he refused to see Paki or the kids on FaceTime and would run away every time he heard Paki's voice. Now, if he hears my phone ring, he comes running to hear Paki say, Priviet, Taras! (Hi) and "Ya Lubloo tebe" (I love you). I even actually heard Taras practicing Kahi and Konale's names at bedtime one night. For some reason Kale'a still eludes him, but he's trying. So while he still can drive me bonkers with opening/shutting doors, turning on/off every light switch, trying to get into everything all the time, we are building ties and growing in an understanding of trust. (I hope.) I don't know that he loves me (or if he even knows what love is) and there are still moments where I question my sanity, but I can't wait to get home and see this little boy meet his new forever family.
So keep us in your prayers. Once we finally get home (hopefully this weekend!!), a whole new set of challenges begin!