Saturday, July 10, 2010


Tonight, my littlest man and I had a breakthrough.

Duzi has been a member of our family since last November when we started the adoption process. I have felt emotionally connected and very much like his mom since then. He didn’t know us, though. He didn’t know that an American family from Seattle wanted him desperately, and that they were fighting hard to be united with him. Mike and I have had months and months to prepare for the adoption. We’ve read books, taken classes, prayed, and gleaned wisdom from other adoptive parents. And, we’re grown-ups. Duzi, though, at just 5 ½ years old, had just ten days to prepare for the biggest life change he’s known so far.

Since he joined our family physically on June 25th , he and I have had our ups and downs. I’ve been ready to mother him from day one. By “mother,” I mean hold his hand, snuggle him at night, dry his tears, feed him things he likes, talk him though hard days, fight off anyone who tries to hurt him, and generally dote on him excessively. On day one, I was ready to be the person he ran to for comfort, encouragement, and safety. But, on day one, Duzi wasn’t quite ready to hire a new mommy and I realized that this process wasn’t about me.

These first few weeks, we’ve done fun things together: playing, laughing, tickling, wrestling, watching movies, coloring, and reading books. While we’ve had a blast and there have been many, many significant moments of connection, he’s also been exhibiting some rejecting behaviors with me. He’s not overtly rebellious, not at all. I almost wish he was! Instead, he refuses to hold my hand when crossing the street (he wants Alex’s hand instead), tells me to go when my tuck-in at bedtime lasts too long, and recoils when I rub his back. And most significantly, until tonight, he hadn’t cried.

His attachment to Liz, his foster mom, was (and is) powerful. He was well loved at Ithemba Lethu. Incredibly loved. While he always knew, having seen countless other children in the home be adopted, that his “real mom and dad” were coming someday, leaving behind the life he’s always known and the love he’s always been covered by, has been difficult. On our flight from Durban to Johannesburg, he said, “Look, mom! I can see Ithemba Lethu!” Later that night, he asked if we could adopt his best friend, Thandeka, and mentioned that we were now very far away from her.

Since then, we’ve seen that he loves to play pretend. What 5-year old doesn’t? When he’s pretending to be Ben-10, he can talk about how his friend, Duzi, is feeling. When he’s pretending to be a baby lion, bear, or cheetah, he can let us, as the mommy and daddy lion, bear or cheetah, snuggle with him and care for him. In pretend mode, I can rub his back, kiss him, hold his hand, and feed him. Somehow, the simple story of an animal family is less complex, less intimidating, and makes sense to him. Really, I think I could win an Oscar for my performance as a Lioness.

Tonight, though, the real Duzi and the real mommy connected. Earlier this evening, I had to put him in his first time out, or rather, time in. I’ve been putting off some discipline stuff simply because we’re living in limbo, not at home, staying at other people’s houses, and unsure of when normal life will begin. Duz was having a hard time listening and obeying, so I took his hand and said that we had to come inside and sit down for a while together. We sat together in time out/ time in for 3 minutes. I explained how much I loved him and that part of the mommy’s job was to make sure her kids were safe. His eyes welled up with tears and I picked him up in a gentle mommy cheetah hug and sat down. He quietly cried on my shoulder for forty minutes. When I saw his first tear, my own tears flowed freely. We sat in the chair and cried together. After the three minutes, he knew he could go play, that he could leave my lap of his own free will.

But, he decided to stay.

Together, we grieved and bonded, expressing pain, joy and apprehension all at once. He let me comfort him and rub his back. And then I gave him ice cream.

I realize that this is the first breakthrough of many, that our relationship will likely be 3 steps forward, two steps back.

But, he’s sleeping next to me right now, and I couldn’t be more grateful.


  1. Oh jodie...tears are just streaming down my face. What a beautiful story! Thank you for sharing!! We love you guys!

  2. so beautiful. you are an amazing Lionness!

  3. You just reminded e of my 1st bonding experience with my step daughter over 3 years ago.... and you brought tears to my eyes... what a joyful moment ...for both you and your son.... i pray it moves forward day by day
    God Bless you

  4. Jodie, this is beautiful. Bonding is such a long road, but it is almost like the challenges make the breakthroughs even more sweet. No hug is taken for granted! I love reading your posts and can't wait to catch up.

  5. SO wonderful... I'm excited to watch and learn from your journey. Can't wait until you are BACK!

  6. We just got our computer up and running, and just read your post. Duzi is beautiful! We have been thinking & praying for you guys. So glad to hear things are progressing well. Write back when you can.
    Love you guys,
    The Howell's.
    ps. We found a great church here and Courtney's teacher is an intern that has gone to Overlake for years. Her name's Jenna.....


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