This is the place where we are have documented the road we have walked in order to adopt our four children from Brazil and the road we are now on as a family. We are keenly aware that adopting is not just a process we've chosen to go through, but part of God's plan for us and for our children. May He be glorified through the process and through our family!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

17 November 2009

Over the weekend, we told the kids that we would go to the swimming pool at Lar Rogate some sunny day this week. They all wanted to go yesterday, but we didn't allow it because it was too cold. This morning was probably even a little colder and a little cloudier than yesterday, but they were itching to swim. We advised them that it was cold and that it would probably be better to wait for a sunnier day when we could all enjoy an entire day at the pool. But they didn't want to hear it. So we tried a parenting experiment...

Since we are not guests at Lar Rogate any more, it costs R$6.00 per person, so we decided to give each of the kids a "coupon" for R$6.00. We decided to give them coupons because it was tangible evidence that there was a cost for their actions and decisions. After all, studies show that people work harder to keep what you give them than they would have worked to earn it in the first place. We didn't want us paying for the pool admission to be some sort of "magic" money coming from thin air or the our deep wallets (yeah right!?)--we wanted them to know that they had paid for it!

Even though we suspected the way the experiment would go, we also told them they could use the coupon any way they like this week and we gave them a list of activities we could do today (the pool, the Botanical Gardens, the Zoo, the Torre Panoramica, and a trip downtown to walk the Centro). Then we put it to a vote. Needless to say, the pool won with 3 kid votes (1 parent vote for the Zoo and 1 parent and 1 kid vote for the Centro.) We told Lucas, who voted for the Centro, if he would like to save his coupon and sit out with us on the side of the pool and play games, he could do so, but he chose to swim anyway.

Because we knew what was about to happen, it was somewhat painful taking the coupons from the kids and writing "cancelado" on them before letting them jump into the cold pool on a chilly, overcast day, but it was also a little vindicating when, within several minutes they were asking for their R$6.00 back and within 40 minutes, all of them were shivering, blue-lipped and covered in goosebumps, wrapped in towels and playing cards aside the pool. I actually don't know how they lasted so long except for the fact that they are hot-blooded active kids--we were wearing jeans and jackets! Lucas, the last holdout, must be some sort of arctic fish!

In summary, our morning went something like a commercial...

Four kids' admission to the pool: R$24.00
One kid's admission that maybe the parents were right when they said it was too cold to swim: priceless.

Lucky for everyone, the sky cleared up and the sun shone during the afternoon, so we did go back to the pool for some more swimming, so perhaps the kids got the most out of their coupons anyway (although our morning experiment still brings a smile to our faces). Papai even hopped in to the pool for a bit, and couldn't believe his children had been swimming in the morning 'cause it was still really cold even in the sunshine!

In other news, no major incidents today, though we're having to crack down on disrespectful behavior and talk toward parents and siblings. We're trying to teach them the acceptable bounds of what is and is not acceptable as far as being respectful is concerned. They all have their ways of being disrespectful, and sometimes it's clear that it's an accident or a slip of the tongue or a bit of anger coming out in an unproductive way. But other times, it's in almost every word they say, and is not allowable under any circumstances. We've told them about the crackdown, and I expect we could be seeing a lot more of the time-out chair over the next few days.

The competition is still fierce between them for attention from the parents, and one major contention is who gets to go to the store with a parent--which apparently we haven't been keeping good enough track of! World War III almost started tonight over who would go with Kim to get some paper plates, and so while she was out with two of them and James was in the hotel with one sleeping and one angry child, James made a chart on the wall that says (in Portuguese) "This is the number of times I have been to the store with my parents" and then lists the kids' names. Maybe this will work, maybe not.

It's hard because at the same time they fight against us, they are also fighting for attention from us--and sometimes the fight against us is to receive that attention from us! We've started to learn that sometimes ignoring them is the best fight against their anger toward us. Because they are probably dealing with their own fear of abandonment, it's important that we never really leave them, so we're always around. But it's amazing after a tantrum that lasts an hour as your you're trying to talk though something with them or restrain them from flailing against the wall is over in 10 minutes when you simply get up, walk away, and fold laundry or check your e-mail. Soon after, they even want to talk to you again!

There is a missionary staying here who we have chatted with a few times and who has observed us in our first few weeks as a family. The other day he asked me how things were going and I told him that we were working on discipline. He said, "our postmodern world tells us we shouldn't discipline our children. But God disciplines us at the same time he loves us." I really appreciated his comment, and it sort of puts things in perspective.

I like to think that a strong family is built by having a short memory of wrongs and a long memory of rights. Kim and I functioned reasonably like that as a married couple for 7.5 years before meeting our children. But our kids are different, and they have long memories of wrongs (and rightly and understandably so). Our job is to teach them that we are trustworthy and will love them no matter what. I am so glad we have this time in Brazil to lay this framework. Truthfully, it is more than a full-time job. I couldn't imagine having come home immediately after meeting them and having to return to school and work and all the trappings of life. It's tough work learning to be a family.


Brent said...

Awe this post is so Beautiful James.. and it is so wise at the same time.. I know God was sovereign on the timing of you going to Brazil and the nice buffer He has given you before "routines" settle in again is all part of that timing. Grateful for His provision even in the little things..
Hugs from the Hixsons!

Rachelle, Mike, and David said...

You are doing an amazing job. God is obviously giving you the wisdom that we're all praying for for you.

Katie said...

I absolutely love the coupon experiment!