Hannah, adopted at age six from Russia, has been in my life for nearly three and a half years now. I have many happy and humorous memories of the time we’ve been a family.

Here are a few of them:

Hannah had been in America about four months. On the drive to school, I was pointing out the spring blossoms and their colors. As I mentioned each one, Hannah would point to her t-shirt and say, “I have that one!” After noticing the pinks, purples, whites, and yellows, Hannah said, “Today, I’m Spring Hannah, (long pause) and you’re …Talking Mama.”

During Hannah’s early months home, I had a very rough time getting her to keep her seat belt on. I pulled off the road many times, but most of the time it was not quiet sitting. She would catapult into the front seat, hit me, scream in my ear, try to poke my eyes out, and other lovely things.

One time, her meltdown began at the YMCA … something about how I was helping her get dressed, I can’t quite remember. Or I’ve put it out of my mind. I had already pulled over once before we left the Y parking lot. We were nearly home when she undid her seat belt again. I pulled over, put my seat back, and “settled in.” So did Hannah. She quietly played in her seat. No whining. No complaining. Each time I “calmly” asked her to do up her seat belt, she refused.

After about 40 minutes, I decided to chill her into submission. It was
mid-February. I turned on the air conditioner and cracked the windows. She
instantly put her mouth up to the window crack and yelled, “Help! Call 911!”
Pretty good English for less than three months, wouldn’t you say!

With that I capitulated. We were only a 1/4 mile from home. I gave up and drove us home with her seat belt undone.

Hannah’s first visit to see Santa was so memorable.
 She had just turned seven and had been home just over a year. Even though she’d been home for one previous Christmas, a lot of it went right by her since she had only been home a few weeks. As we walked into a big, fancy mall, Santa had never crossed my mind. We had gone to look at all of the incredible decorations that mall is known for. As we walked into the center of the mall, I saw Santa and had to think fast. I said, “Can you believe it?! Can you believe it?!?! Santa is HERE!”

Well, we waited in line and I’ll tell you, I nearly cried. She looked at Santa with stars in her eyes. She was in awe. There was nothing casual or blase about her emotions. I think if I had pushed her, she would have floated up to the stars!!! We got a great picture of her hugging Santa. And I mean hugging. And later that night, as we were talking over the day (which we often do), she said, “… and today, I saw Santa … !”

Whether your children are home yet or not, I hope you’ll have as many wonderful memories of your life with your child as I do in only a few short years with my Hannah.

Susan M. Ward, an older child adoption specialist, provides parent coaching and resources for adoptive families. Susan’s training has focused on adoption issues relating to attachment, grief, and parenting. She’s also the adoptive parent of a child healed from RAD (reactive attachment disorder). Her website is Older Child Adoption Support.