When Worlds Collide

I just returned home from several days in Seattle. It was quite a journey since I took the four youngest children with me. It is nearly six hours in the car each way, but they were very good travelers both ways.

The trip was prompted by several reasons, but one of the most important was that the director of K’s orphanage was there from Ethiopia and we had the opportunity to visit her. I knew that this was a very special event, not to be missed, so we worked our other plans around Sidisse’s trip to the U.S. I didn’t want to tell K. too soon about our special visit because I knew she would be devastated if our plans fell through, so I waited until the day of the dinner to tell her.

A few days before I told her that when we were in Seattle we would go to an Ethiopian restaurant with friends. She responded, “I don’t like Ethiopian food, I want pizza.” Hmmmm, we weren’t off to a very good start. Then the day of the dinner I told her that somebody very special from Ethiopia would be at dinner with us. When I told her Sidisse would be there, she grew very quiet. I thought about it for a little while and wondered if maybe she was thinking that Sidisse was going to take her back to Ethiopia or if something was wrong. I didn’t want to put any thoughts into her head, but I told her that we were only going to visit Sidisse and that I would take pictures of her so we could remember the visit.

When we arrived at the restaurant, Sidisse was already there and she greeted K. with a hug and spoke to her in Amharic. K. was very quiet and when I took the other little ones to the bathroom, K. came along. She said, “I no talk Amharic,” with distress in her voice. I assured her it was okay if she couldn’t remember Amharic and that Sidisse would speak English with her. Then she said, “It not same Sidisse, she have different face.” I assured her it was the same Sidisse that she has always known.

As the evening went on, K. relaxed and warmed up to Sidisse and the other people there. When the waitress brought out huge platters of food, K’s eyes lit up and in the end I think she may have eaten more than anybody else there. She loved the injera and doro and ate like a champ. We took lots of photos and had a grand time.

Later I told my sister, Laura, about the evening. She is a preschool teacher and she told me that when she sees her students outside the context of school, they are often very quiet, don’t necessarily recognize her, and act shy. Maybe it was like that for K. but on an extreme level. I can only imagine all that was going through K’s little mind that evening. Two lives and two worlds came together in one evening and it was complicated for her to process it.

Postscript: As I was looking through photos of the evening, K. came and sat on my lap. I told her that she looked sad in the pictures and asked her why she was sad. At first she said that she didn’t know, but then she said it was because she couldn’t speak Amharic. It is a loss to her, one that we couldn’t really avoid, but as a very verbal child, being unable to communicate in her first language is painful for her.


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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.


  1. KelseyChristine
    November 21, 2007

    That was something that was really, REALLY hard for Tekle too….


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