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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…!

Regression: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Or, make that one step forward and five steps back….

For those who haven’t studied their prefixes recently, regression is the opposite of progression. It means going backwards.

In the life of an adopted child, emotional or developmental regression often occures in response to a certain triggering event, or following a stressful situation.

For instance, your five-year-old has been home for six months. Mom and Dad decide to get a babysitter and go out for a couple of hours one evening. Upon their return, the child will not speak with them, or rocks and moans in a corner for the next three days, sure that full-fledged abandonment is hovering on the horizon.

When our girls came home two years ago, our second son started wetting the bed. We had already overcome this with the help of an alarm. Now, at age 12, it was rather disconcerting. Subconsciously, his position in the family was being threatened, and he reacted by regressing.

We responded by reassuring.

“Do you think you’re going away, now that they’ve arrived?” I asked at his bedside one night. “You know you’re here to stay….”

Some common triggers are the start of school, holidays, birthdays, anniversaries of the adoption, someone leaving home, or visitors arriving, moving to a different house, or parents taking time for themselves. Not every a-child reacts to each of these stimuli, but many do.

I knew to expect some regression in the three kids staying home when my oldest and I returned from Israel recently. I was shocked when it was my husband, Benedetto, who was crouched in a fetal position in the closet.

Kidding. Just kidding. (Yet, I’m sure it could happen to the best of us on certain days-!)

Instead, the three, spanning in age from 10.5 to 14.5, were each in the car clutching teddy bears of various shapes and sizes.

“We mished you, Mama. You wash gone wery long time,” our middle girl said in a baby-like, sing-song voice. She knew it grated on my nerves to hear her speak as though she were an old woman (a babyish old woman, albeit) with her dentures coming loose.

Over the next few days, we had the stuffed-animal-clutching, the baby voices, the meltdowns, and the extensive discussion of orphanage friendships and who said what to whom, only the subject matter was about two years old, well past its shelf life.


I had gone away, and now I would pay.

It wasn’t conscious on their part, at least I hoped it wasn’t. One incident caused me to consider that it wasn’t regression at all, instead, it might simply be full-blown, demon possession, pure and simple.

Some things were minor, some were not. Little one was now back to biting her nails, stubby nibs betraying her deep anxiety. Big girl was talking back with ugly looks and a black cloud perpetually over her. Middle boy could think of nothing to write in his one-paragraph diary entry for the day, causing him to sit sullenly at the table for over an hour, staring at his notebook, and contemplating killing himself.

“Killing yourself?” I remark while passing through the kitchen. “That’s rather messy. Here’s a thought: why not write your four sentences and be done with it? Then you can go out and play.”

(I know—lovely therapeutic manner that I have.)

Sashenka the younger develops a mystery tummy ache, while Mashenka the elder descends into her hellish-PMS mania, and Pasha zones out in his shut-down mode.

Gee, they seemed so normal before I left for a week. What has my husband been doing to them?

During my trip, I talked most every day with the children over the phone. They counted down the days to when we’d return. The kids had good food, well-washed clothes, and bedtime stories every night. And then, as soon as I got back, they all fell apart.


One day, I hope it won’t happen like clockwork. But for now, I’m content in the knowledge that Benedetto will be back to his old self in no time.


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