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Eleven candles on her cake -- again!

Last Thursday Honeybee turned eleven.  If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you know that last year she also turned eleven.  Such is the world of international adoption.

While in the process of adopting Honeybee, we were told her birthday was sometime late in 1998, but nobody knew for sure.  Our agency gave us the opportunity to request a birth date for her and since she was small and had received only minimal education, we requested a birth date of September 9, 1999 (9-9-99 seemed nifty to us) . Russ and I were also concerned that having a birth date too close to Ladybug (Sept. 1998) would put pressure on Honeybee to catch up.  Our agency supported our suggestion and that is how her paperwork was processed.

We traveled to Ethiopia to meet her and she clearly knew that she was almost ten years old.  Later when we tried to explain that her paperwork said she was nearly nine, she didn’t buy it.  Since she spoke only a tiny bit of English, it wasn’t possible to explain the lengthy conversations we had had with adoption professionals and experienced adoptive parents that led us to that date.  In retrospect, I’m surprised we thought it would be so simple.

In fact, Honeybee and Ladybug were delighted to be the same age and instantly became “twins”, celebrating their birthday together on September 20th.

Within the first months we began to realize how very wide the maturity gap was between the two girls.  Ladybug has a “first born” personality that I can only attribute to the gap of four years between her and Rusty.  She leads the way for the younger six kids in the family.  While Honeybee was mature in her ability to do hair, cook, and care for Little Man, orphanage life had not allowed her to mature emotionally and she had a long way to go in learning how to live in a family.

This summer, as we made the decision to put Honeybee in school, we took a good look at her age once again.  Catching up academically has been a big challenge, one she has worked very hard on, but nonetheless, it takes time to overcome years of nearly no education.  We decided to place her in the fourth grade at a small Christian school and as we did, I ran the numbers in my head.  She would turn 12 at the beginning of fourth grade, which would make her significantly older than the kids in her class.

Russ and I talked, then we talked it over with Deborah, and we all agreed that Honeybee was running hard on a hampster wheel, trying to catch up with Ladybug, but making slow progress. Ladybug was going into seventh grade while Honeybee was going into fourth.  The physical differences were dramatic.  The emotional contrast extreme.  It was time to shut down the wheel and let her be younger, but I was worried about how she would feel.

When we presented the idea of turning eleven again,  she initially worried about what friends would think.  She feared they would think she had lied about her age last year.  But once the decision was made, she seemed happier, lighter, less burdened.  Ladybug has moved on to junior high life and Honeybee is free to remain younger.

It seems just right.


  1. paige (Reply) on Monday 13, 2010

    Melkam Lidet, sweet little Bee!

  2. Donna Jordan (Reply) on Monday 13, 2010

    Glad you found what is working for all of you. Though it sounds confussing, I can understand completely.

    Blessings to you all and Happy Birthyday Honeybee!!

  3. Kathrin (Reply) on Monday 13, 2010

    Happy Birthday sweety! The cake looks wonderful. Hope you had a great day.

  4. carla (Reply) on Monday 13, 2010

    Wow! So glad you have settled this. We are also learning that things just have to play out over time to see what is best for EVERYONE involved! Blessings to you and your family!

  5. Susan PD (Reply) on Monday 13, 2010

    Wow Lisa, what a story! Good for Honeybee—she needs and deserves the time to grow up a little more in your family. Folks don't realize just how complicated all this stuff is. She looks radiant and it sounds as if, once more, you've thoughtfully made a wise decision for your child's and your family's benefit. Love your blog.

  6. Dawn (Reply) on Monday 13, 2010

    Glad that she is happy with it. Sometimes the whole age thing is sooo hard to deal with. Even when you know their real age. Just because they are simply behind- nothing to do with them….just circumstances.

    Love her smile :)

  7. JLB (Reply) on Monday 13, 2010

    What a story! Thanks for explaining. She looks quite happy in that pic. :)

  8. Anna (Reply) on Monday 13, 2010

    Happy Birthday, Honeybee!! :o) Hope to get to see you all agian soon!

  9. KT Brad (Reply) on Monday 13, 2010

    Happy Birthday Honeybee!
    Yes, IA and birthdays… Last year Maree turned 9, and if the judge agrees, this year she will turn 12. She is still trying to process this!
    I wanted to comment on this pic, I LOVE IT!!!! I can just picture your girls in 10 years, sitting around chatting about life! Wonder what it will be about?… Love the pic!

  10. staci (Reply) on Monday 13, 2010

    struggling with birthday in this house. i hate that i have to make up a day. i hope my boy finds comfort one day that he isn't alone in the day or the age not being exact…

  11. Cat (Reply) on Monday 13, 2010

    Yay! These decisions are so hard, but glad to see you've all found peace with yours. I thought about a similar path, but Miss S is dead set on being as old as possible… ha.

  12. coffeemom (Reply) on Monday 13, 2010

    well done!!! And I t otally understand the multitude of complications, we are living the same ones here too but w/ the added complication of devel delay on top. very challenging to place it all and then also live it too….but you've done brilliantly! Happy birthday wishes to you all.

  13. lisa (Reply) on Monday 13, 2010

    i have learned with adoption its a heart age, not a bio/chro one i really admire your sensitivity and kindness., lisa

  14. Teresa (Reply) on Monday 13, 2010

    Happy birthday lovely Honeybee!

  15. Katrina (Reply) on Monday 13, 2010

    I"ve heard that changing their age can affect the ability to obtain citizenship. We are certain our son, brought home end of May, is only 2 & they have him at 3-1/2. Do you know how to go about changing the process so it's not a problem with USCIS? I've been spending a lot of time not getting an answer to that question.
    Kerry Resch recommended your blog to us.
    Katrina in MT

    • One Thankful Mom (Reply) on Monday 13, 2010

      Hi Katrina, we also changed Dimples' age and in her case we got a letter from our doctor that supported our request. We then submitted that with her readoption paperwork and the judge approved it. We had no trouble obtaining citizenship. Honeybee became a U.S. citizen when she stepped off the plane in WA DC. Since we had both met her prior to her court date, she came home on an IR 3 visa. I'm glad you found my blog; I remember when Kerry told me about you. I hope you are doing well.

  16. Laurel (Reply) on Monday 13, 2010

    So glad it has all worked out.

    Just curious about your grades? What are your state birthday cut-offs? Our Sept. birthdays are always the oldest in the class, so our turning 12 y.o. would be starting 6th grade (not 7th, as Ladybug has). This would mean that Honeybee would be just starting 5th grade in WA, putting her just 1 year behind at 4th grade.

    Our girls are so many years behind academically/socially/behaviorally. Our "paperwork" shows them 2-3 years behind their "real age" (as the orphanage lied to us), but they are even 2-3 years developmentally behind those given ages. Oh. So. Hard.

    So glad that Honeybee has "gotten off the hamster wheel". Praying that this age "fits" for her, and that she doesn't keep trying to catchup with Ladybug. We have two sets of "twins" through adoption; and it is HARD sometimes.


  17. One Thankful Mom (Reply) on Monday 13, 2010

    Hi Laurel! I am still recovering from this bug, but I'm on the mend. As far as bdays, I don't know what the cut-offs are because I've never had kids in school when they were younger. Ladybug is homeschooled, so I have her in 7th grade even though she is a few weeks young (with a Sept. 1998 birthday). If she were in school (and had started as a younger child), she would be a sixth grader. Honeybee is technically only one grade behind, now that we've stuck with the 1999 birthday, although with a Sept 9, 1999 bday, she is on the older end for her grade. I think we're figuring it all out!

  18. Lori (Reply) on Monday 13, 2010

    We have the opposite problem with the birthdate of our youngest adopted daughter. Our adopted girls are siblings and came home together. Their ages were listed as being four years apart. When they came home and saw our pediatrician we talked quite a lot about ages and whether or not to accept the ages placed on them – actual birthdates were not available. We wanted them to have time to learn language and mature and not feel pushed to live up to an older age. We did the finalization with those dates and the pediatrician's blessing. Two and a half years later and they look more like two years apart. Our youngest daughter is quite tall and developing although she is legally eight. She feels funny being so much taller than everyone her "age". We have thought about telling people she is a year older, but weren't sure if it would get complicated or confuse her about her age when someone asks her. (cont'd)

  19. Lori (Reply) on Monday 13, 2010

    Continued because it wouldn't accept my whole message – said it was too long!

    We home school so grade doesn't matter. Maturity-wise she acts like an eight year old, but she looks like she is ten. I really wish I knew the right answer. Do we just grin and bear it (and nod when people say she is going to be a tall girl!) until it doesn't matter much anymore? Do we tell people she is nine? It just seems like I get more odd questions about adoption and age when I give an age that is obviously wrong. Maybe what I really need is a cute comeback for their rude questions/comments! :-)