Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Christmas For the First time
To view story, click here.
I had originally approached Jackie and Rich Grant to do a story about how they would be raising their newly adopted sons, Teketel age 6, and Akilu, 4, from Ethiopia, in the great outdoors that surrounds their home near Carvin's Cove. Jackie and Rich are both avid runners and mountain bikers. They take full advantage of the wonderful playground that is literally right out their back door.
That would have been a great story. Unfortunately, the weather got cold before we could get there. That left me with an equally good story about how two little boys who came from an orphanage in a land most famous for well -- starvation -- have landed in a wonderful home in the United States.
Not only that, but it occurred to me that a close examination of what it's like to watch as the boys learn about things we take for granted, would be equally intriguing.
What would you think of Halloween if you had never heard of it? Thanksgiving? What if you had no knowledge of Pilgrims? What if you were learning all this and you didn't speak English?
These are the challenges Jackie and Rich are facing -- and they are doing it amazingly well.
Trace the time line with me. Jackie and Rich pick the boys up from Ethopia in April. The Grants have memorized some basic life words, such as "bathroom" so they can communicate with the boys. But for the first few weeks there's not much real communication.
For the first three months the boys speak to each other in their native language and to Mama and Papa in broken English. Then at 6 months they begin speaking English even to one another. Ask them now -- at about 9 months what they spoke in Ethiopia and they think it was English. Amazing how young minds work.
Bear in mind that Jackie and Rich are doing everything they can to help the boys remember their homeland. Eating Ethiopian food -- (I had some, it's good)-- and celebrating Their holidays as well.
Rich taught the boys to ride their bikes. He found a write-up on the internet describing a technique where you take the pedals off and let the child coast downhill to learn balance. After two weeks of coasting, he put the pedals back on and the Teketel and Akilu were pedaling happily.
Back to the holidays. At Halloween the boys learned to wear costumes. So when the next big holiday came -- Thanksgiving -- they asked, "What will be dress as today?" Enter a lesson on Turkey, Pilgrims and Indians.
Another incident -- losing a tooth. Jackie told them the tooth fairy might come. The boys were scared. When they learned Santa was coming down the chimney while they were sleeping -- they weren't sure they wanted anyone in the house. Mama and Papa had to reassure them.
To be there with them -- to see them eating dinner as a family, teaching, laughing and playing together -- you can see that it's been enjoyable both for Mama and Papa and for the Teketel and Akilu.
There will likely be struggles -- just as there are in any family -- But so far they've crossed some cultural and parenting hurdles most of us couldn't imagine.
As you saw in the story, they've been teaching the boys about Christmas, but Jackie and Rich say they can't wait to show the boys what it's like on Christmas morning.