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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…!

The Honeymoon Phase of International Adoption

“Ah, the honeymoon phase,” other adoptive parents would smile benignly when they heard we had nary a problem with our first son from Russia. “Just wait.”

This common adoption legend persists to the present day: that children arrive after court, fresh-faced and angelic, and then a week later, or several months later, descend into the depths of whirling-dervish demon possession when the honeymoon phase is over.

Tell that to any adoptive parent whose child is screaming bloody murder in a hotel room all night long the first night, or wailing and kicking before stepping into a car for the first time, or heading out on an airplane, bound for who-knows-where with atomic diaper blow-outs. Those parents are still waiting for the honeymoon phase.

In our case with Petya, brought home at 7.5 years old, the honeymoon never ended. He was delightful and helpful, enthusiastic and energetic from Day 1. Our first morning home, he fed me the blueberries out of his yogurt, “Mama, taste this, it’s amazing!” and picked me wildflowers from our garden. I loved him unreservedly and unconditionally.

Our second son was adopted four years later at 11.75 years old, followed by our daughters arriving a year later at 8.5 and 11 years old. None of them believed in happily-ever-after honeymoons by the looks of things. Or, if this was their idea of a honeymoon, God help their future mates-!

No, they came to us pouty and problematic, and in Pasha’s and Sashenka’s cases, pretty pukey, as well. Anytime we were in a moving conveyence, the projectiles would hurl forth, which for a jet-setting family, was most of the time. There’s nothing like setting off for a new life in a new land while changing your daughter’s soaked and stinky clothes on the side of the highway in a freezing drizzle and then washing her matted hair in the airport sink– sans soap and sans paper towels.

So maybe the “honeymoon” was doomed from the start, lol. I learned to carry plastic bags in my purse at all times. With prayer, they overcame the motion-sickness, slowly but surely, along with the other pukey behaviors.

If it wasn’t coming out one end, then we had problems on the other. Some honeymoon. I broached the subject with Pasha, reported to be a bedwetter.

“Privyet, welcome to the family,” came my rehearsed speech. “Maybe you’ve never heard of it, but some children wet the bed at night. There is special underwear to put on so that the bed stays dry. Would you like some?” I asked as we entered our hotel suite.

“Nyet, spaseebah,” he replied, as though politely refusing another bit of caviar on toast points.

“Umm-hmm…” I didn’t give in so easily, for his sake, as well as mine. For some reason, I had been nominated to share the bed with him. “Maybe we should wear these “troosee”at least for the first night-?”

But he was adamant.

Fine. Far be it from me to embarrass the guy and treat him like a baby.

And thus, he awoke with a start in the early-morning hours as his urine saturated both himself and the hotel bedsheets.

Stripping them off immediately, I washed the sheets in the bathtub and miracle of miracles, they dried before any maids arrived.

These were the bumps in the road, the little surprises that surfaced after we were already committed for life. Benedetto and I had walked the aisle and said “I do” for these children before a Russian judge. For us, we had massive amounts of time, and money, and documents invested in these kids, whereas for them, it was a whim, another disconnected, disjointed event in their life that might turn into yet another detour. These were not kids on their “honeymoon”, on their best behavior for a week or so and headed for a specific destination in life. Instead, they continued their chaotic past into their present, letting it all hang out from the very first moment.

“Sashenka! What’s all this trash?!” I gasped in horror as I entered our Russian apartment’s living room. She had gathered water bottles, juice bottles, and assorted debris, playing with them, and then tossing them helter-skelter on the floor, rather than placing them in the trash bin. It looked like an alcoholic’s den.


“Here, let me help you put these in the trash. Do you know where the trash can is?” we walked together to the kitchen.

A few minutes later, we were ready to go out on some official appointment. My eyeballs nearly popped out at the elder sister’s getup.

“Mashenka! Stop rolling down your pants. I don’t care to see your popa. And what’s on your face? You’re so pretty you don’t need makeup,” I say for the hundredth time in Moscow within days of taking custody. I have adopted a floozy, intent on having her front and back side hanging out of her clothes, as well as wearing heavy, cruddy old makeup no doubt retrieved from some garbage bin.

“No, Mama, they’re not rolled down, I swear it,” she says so innocently with the face of a liar. “Cosmetics? What cosmetics?”

We could only go up from here.

For these last three children, our love grew over time, more of an arranged marriage, getting-to-know-you phase, instead of any happy-go-lucky, swept-away honeymoon. We saw them trying to please, trying to fit in, trying to adapt to a new family– on the even days of odd-numbered months whenever the moon was not waxing nor waning. The good times gave us hope for the grueling times.

I’ve heard that a number of married couples take no honeymoon, preferring to wait until later for any celebratory travel. In our lifestyle, we travel, and we generally celebrate every step forward, great or small. So, I guess, in essence, every day is a honeymoon at our house.

Whether sooner or later, take time for a honeymoon. Enjoy what’s right about life and what’s cause for celebration. Make the honeymoon more than a passing phase, make it a way of life for the whole family. Bon voyage!




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