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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

Adoptive Mom as Wicked Witch

Baba Yaga.  You know, the hag-like witch of Slavic folk tales, whose hut is surrounded by skulls and sits on dancing chicken legs, her headquarters when she is not flying through the air in her mortar and pestle, searching for young children to kidnap and make into soup.

As an adoptive mom of an older Eastern European child, you will often be compared to her, either mentally in your child’s mind, or verbally in their depictions of you.  (This is the tradeoff of not having to change piles of poopy diapers, or deal with toddler tantrums… instead, you get tween or teen tantrums.  Oh joy.)  Many of the children have had such horrific experiences with women in general, whether birthmoms, orphanage caregivers, or teachers in the Old Country, that they are sure you exist to cause them great harm, as well.  Not all EE adopted children go through this, not all of ours have, but if it happens, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Watch your every step, guard your every word, shower your children with gifts and goodwill.  You will still be Baba Yaga, no matter how unfair it is to you.  Whatever you do, don’t share these feelings with friends or family, they will most likely side with your traumatized child and tell you, “You should have tried harder.”

Keep your head up high and try to be yourself.  All of the suspicion and mistrust of an adoptive mom can make one crazy. It’s like the kids’ game played when we were growing up and suffering through long car trips:  Stare at another car’s front wheel with a horrified look on your face.  Eventually, the driver will feel the need to pull over and inspect a perfectly fine tire, simply through the power of suggestion.

Once you’re cast in the role of Baba Yaga, it has a tendency to make you want to prove yourself:  “You wanna see a wicked witch-?!  Let me show you-!”  Avoid those thoughts and turn away from that dark path.  These are confused children.  They are certain that you are out to kill them.

“You gave Dasha more cereal than me!”  they might exclaim over one. extra. cornflake.

“Why did Maxim get new pants and all I got was a new dress, shoes, and sweater-!?”

“Marina has cooler sunglasses….”

Of course, you know the rest of it:  Danil has less homework, Nikolai was allowed more time on the computer because you were on the phone and most likely an extra two minutes elapsed, Lena got to have a friend over to play, while Masha can finally wear a little makeup, and Mitya probably has a better bicycle because everyone knows Baba Yaga favors him.

Don’t let it throw you.  Don’t let it change you.  When you feel like smacking one over the head with your witch’s pestle, stifle that urge.  Whatever you do, it will be wrong.  Whatever you don’t do, it will somehow be blamed on you.

Rationality does no good.  I have had the same conversations in our house when one begins to imagine that we might not eat lunch, because it doesn’t happen two hours after breakfast when they want it, but four hours later– at the usual, scheduled time.

Moi:  “Have you ever missed a meal since being home?”


Moi:  “Have you ever had no clothes to wear?”


Moi:  “Have we ever tried to beat you?”


The exchange matters for nothing.  Somewhere inside the twisted environs of their brains, you are the enemy.  Some days you are not.  Many days you are.  Your face is replaced by the image of the birthmother, or another villain from the past.  They are working out their aggressions  on you.

I hope it changes one day.  Little by little, it might change. Some onlookers will believe that one event, one self-sacrificing move on your part, will change all of the dynamics overnight.  (After all, you haven’t been trying hard enough, now have you?)

Presto-change-o.  I wish.

Most of the time, it’s an ebb and flow toward normalcy.  Meanwhile, try not to let it get you down.  Give yourself an extra cornflake and call it a day.



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12 Comments : Leave a Reply

  1. avatar Greg says:

    Ha, this rings so true. Our facilitator warned us that due to her specific circumstances (non-present father and mother who was a drunk, etc) our adopted 14 year old girl (now 15 and home for 7 months) would probably take to me and spend the balance of her time testing my wife. That has absolutely rang true. I can do no wrong. My wife can do no right. I don’t want to scare anyone off though. There is light at the end of the tunnel. At about month 5, we started to see a profound change as our adopted daughter began to realize that she is in a safe place, that we can be trusted and that she is truly loved. I always tell her that there is nothing she can say to us that will make us not love her. 14 years of neglect and abuse can’t be dissolved in one week. But with time and work, it will become less and less a part of the present and much more a part of the past. And that is when it really starts getting fun. 🙂

    • avatar admin says:

      That was a great facilitator, Greg, who would be honest with you! Not everyone is so fortunate. I just tell ladies to not take it personally, and don’t allow the child (generally an older daughter) to triangulate husband and wife. Funny how this never seems to happen to MEN-! (Except I have heard about little children not being used to men in general….)

  2. True about little ones not being used to men. Jupiter screamed in terror anytime a man got near her for the first couple weeks…..but she got over it.

  3. avatar meant2be says:

    Isn’t it interesting how one child “gets it” and another can’t? I can sssssssssssssssoooooooooooooooo relate. I embrace the good days and pray through the bad!


    • avatar admin says:

      I know, I know. Write it down in your calendar: today was a good day for ALL of the kids! There must be something in the air…. Oh, right, a hurricane is supposed to be coming-!

  4. avatar Babuska says:

    Thank you for putting this online where other Baba’s can read it. 🙂 You are correct, the problem is, often after several years, their feelings do not change. Here is what we have learned after 6 1/2 years. If you can love them unconditionally, without expecting them to love you back, and lower your expectations for their behavior, and realize that they will never be like your other children, you will be ok. Chances are they won’t ever really love you or appreciate what you have done. So, go back to the reason you did this in the first place and that will have to be enough. We tried to help, it didn’t work out the way we thought, oh well. We did the best we could. Also, don’t be surprised if they move out into another families house when they turn 18. Very common among these children. They might also see you as a vehicle to get what they want, or an obstacle in the way of what they want, instead of a person with feelings, hopes and dreams. It is ok, if your goal is to help them have a better life than they had, you have done it. If your goal is to have them love you like their mother and feel apart of the family, it probably won’t work. Most of them have reactive attachment disorder, borderline personality disorders, etc etc. That all being said, we would do it again because we felt it was the right thing to do. I just wish we had been more prepared. Also, most of these older girls have been groomed to be prostitutes and therefore are aggressive sexually towards adult men, teenagers, even boys younger than they are. Rest assured that most of them have probably been exposed to all kinds of vile things and abused in every way possible. You will not change them but you can help them to see that what happened to them does not have to define them, they can choose to look at it as just something that happened to them. They can still have a great life and just because their life started out badly, it does not mean that it has to end badly. But it is really up to them. You can lead a horse to water but you can not make him drink. Good luck, prepare yourself, do the right thing, you all will be ok.

    • avatar admin says:

      Hey, who are you calling a babushka? 🙂 Thanks, Mary Frances, for joining the conversation, it helps to have all different perspectives. Your comments are very valid, and each family’s experiences are different. I remember reading people’s experiences before our first adoption 7.5 years ago and being scared and breathless. I could not imagine… but this is what we were getting into, so I read the good, the bad, and the ugly stories. I don’t even think there were blogs back then, but I found out about adoption forums eventually. There were very few stories out there about what family life could possibly look like/ sound like/ be like AFTER the adoption. So I try to show that some days are great, and some, not so great. What’s probably hardest for me is the kids’ (sometimes) locked mindsets: they can’t, they won’t, they have it harder than anyone else, etc., when really, so many new possibilities are open to them at last…. Here’s hoping!

  5. avatar Anne says:

    Thank you for putting into words the thoughts and feelings that I have not been able to. I am trying to not let daily challenges change me, trying to stay how I’ve always been, but sometimes it seems almost impossible. I feel inclined to do as you said and show them what I could really be like if I lost all self control. Challenges are meant to help us grow, but sometimes I feel crushed and hurt, not growing or progressing in any way. One of our older sons reminded me that any difficult situation usually hurts greatly at first before we gain anything from it. We have 6 biological children, and 2 adopted girls from Russia. Thank you again for your insight!!

    • avatar admin says:

      I know, I know, Anne, there are many days when I think that I am not “becoming a better person”, shall we say-! Then we turn some kind of corner (probably I get some rest, or the kids decide that they will try to be normal), and all is better for a while. It’s made me a bit more philosophical and understanding of others, at least….

  6. avatar Anne says:

    If a person can’t talk with family or friends about what is going on, then what is a good way to deal with it all? Professional counseling can only go on for so long, and is very expensive. We’ve been told by the counselor, “You’re on your own. Good luck!”

    • avatar admin says:

      I know, you have to be very selective. Not everyone understands what issues might arise. Family and friends are okay if they are well-read on the subjects of international adoption. Otherwise, I’d turn to other IA parents, trained IA counselors, and reading a lot of books on the subject. Prayer is good, too, we all need help from above. But that’s why we’re here, to help “normalize” some situations and feelings that have not been in our normal repetoire or routine up till that point. We’re here for you, even when nobody else “gets it”. 🙂

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