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Adoption Blog: Be Bold or Go Home

A New Chapter in My Family’s Story

It's hard to believe that I've been away from Be Bold or Go Home for almost two years. The hiatus wasn't planned. My last few posts back in 2013 highlighted help and resources for adoptive families in trouble, but then I got into a bit of trouble myself: My husband's company decided to transfer him from Silicon Valley to Seattle. After years of post-adoption adjustment, this unsought change dropped just as we finally seemed to be finding our groove as a family. Would this move unravel it all?

John and I adopted our oldest daughter, Didi, from India when she was five-and-a-half. Our son, Gobez, arrived from Ethiopia when he was nearly four, with his sister, Lemlem who was almost three. John and I went from zero to three children in just 13 months, while the kids had to deal with the sudden loss of language, food, friends, and everything else familiar in their lives. Forming a family through adoption is beautiful, but, just as with a new marriage or birth of a child, the transition may also be emotionally and physically challenging for everyone involved. I know it was for us.

Dr. Nancy Curtis of the International Adoption Clinic at Oakland Children's Hospital helped me a lot in those early days. She urged me to keep our household very structured and predictable, so that the kids would know what to expect in their new environment and could begin to feel safe. For years, we maintained a strict schedule for mealtimes and bedtimes, and I carefully briefed the kids every morning about that day's program so that they could feel prepared and somewhat in control. Eventually, all that rigid diligence paid off in kids who appeared secure, confident, and resilient in the face of life's everyday ups and downs.

Then we found out we had to move.

We were notified of John's transfer just as Didi and Gobez were starting fifth grade, with Lemlem entering fourth. I'd always imagined my children graduating high school with the friends they'd made in preschool and kindergarten, classmates who knew their backstories without having to ask, friends they'd long trusted. I wanted my children to grow up with roots and a sense of place, a feeling of community. I think I'd wanted to pretend that an uneventful childhood in a pretty California town could make up for the monumental displacement international adoption had already wrought in their lives.

To manage the move and all the emotions involved, John and I fell back on the approach that had worked when the kids were small: we took things slow and tried to make the relocation process as predictable as possible. For 10 months, John commuted from San Jose to Seattle, staying Monday through Thursday in a depressing studio apartment above the Target at Pike Place, while I prepared our home for sale. Together we researched new schools and neighborhoods, and brought the kids to Seattle a couple of times for house hunting, school visits, and soccer tryouts. The long run-up allowed Didi and Gobez to finish fifth grade and graduate elementary school with their pals. Unfortunately, Lemlem didn't get the closure of a commencement ceremony, but taking things slow helped her emotionally prepare and gave her the chance to make special memories with friends. By the time the moving van was loaded, all of us were weary of goodbyes and felt ready to embrace the adventure.

In the end, this experience showed me that my children are far more resilient than I imagined, though I like to think that our measured approach to the transition also helped. The past year and a half in our new city hasn't always been easy, but it's mostly been good, and we are stronger than ever as a family. The kids have grown to love their new school, their new friends, the Seahawks, and even the Seattle rain. Personally, I'm still not completely sold, but I'm getting there.

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Welcome back, Sharon! Transition is so hard… thanks for sharing your measured approached.

By Barbara Herel on Tuesday, March 10, 2015 at 8:45 am.

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Meet the Author

Sharon Van Epps

Sharon Van Epps


I have recently adopted or am adopting from...
Ethiopia, India

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