Short version: Adoption is extremely difficult but it is such a blessing already!
Long version: We have spent the last several weeks getting to know each other. The first couple of weeks, especially, were very difficult. The new kids were adjusting to a new family & new rules, and testing the boundaries. The old kids were adjusting to their space being constantly invaded and learning that their expectations about adoption just didn't match the reality. They did not anticipate the developmental delays of their newly adopted siblings, and were often shocked, disgusted and annoyed with the misbehavior/immaturity of their new sisters.
After a few weeks, however, we got to know each other better. The girls found things they could all enjoy playing together. They became used to each other. The new girls became more comfortable and no longer shut down or went into crying/screaming fits. The old girls' annoyance is certainly not gone completely, but they are able to enjoy their new sisters, rather than just put up with them. They don't seem to feel resentment towards the new girls, just annoyance that they won't hurry and Grow Up So We Can All Be Real Sisters. They are impatient for the fun part, the wonderful sisterly bonding, to start. And, truly, it has begun, it just isn't progressing as quickly as Padme & Lil Yoda wished & expected. The Lord is teaching us many things through this experience, chief among them Patience.
I believe that the new girls' shutting down and crying/screaming fits stopped largely because we got to know them better. Because they are developmentally delayed, we really have to treat them like they are 3, 4 & 5 instead of 6, 7 & 9. They have never been taught to communicate effectively. Like toddlers, they would cry or throw fits instead of speak. As we have gotten to know them better, we parent them better. We are able to anticipate what they want or need or what they are trying to express, and teach them to express themselves effectively. We have been working very hard on improving communication skills and have seen great progress. Now that they are able to express themselves verbally, they do not need to shut down, cry or scream.
We significantly underestimated the significance of the fact that we really don't know these children. This makes parenting very difficult. We have been with, or at least near, our bio children almost every second of their lives. We know nearly every experience they have ever had. Except with the teenager. He is old enough to have private places where even Mom & Dad don't belong. We understand the way God made them and what makes them tick. We know what motivates them, what frustrates them, what brings them the most joy and what they fear. Adopting children is like starting a book at chapters 6, 7 & 8. We have missed so much critical information, and we don't really even know what we missed. The beginning of a good book will set the stage for the story to come, introduce the characters and make you fall in love with them. By the time we even found the book, the first few chapters had been ripped out and thrown away, leaving us with a very complicated story but no background or introductory information.
Without a basic knowledge of these kids, it is very difficult to know the way they each should go. So how can we train them in that way? We must lean very heavily on the Lord to guide us as we train these children. He created them, He knows their inmost beings, He knows what way they should go and the most effective way to train them. We did not anticipate the magnitude of the impact made by the simple fact that we have missed so many years of our new children's lives. It sometimes makes me want to cry, thinking of all that we have missed, how many years of their lives could have been better with us, how many things we could have protected them from. But the Lord knows what He is doing, and He loves my children even more than I do...
As they have grown more comfortable in their new family, their obedience also has improved. We rarely have disobedience problems now, whereas we had issues all day long for the first few weeks. Our primary concern, though, is that we get not just outward obedience but their hearts as well. Deep down, we know the fear of disruption (fancy adoption lingo for sending the kids back) is possible. They know the system very well, and I know in the back of their little minds they are counting down the days until the Six Months' probation period is up, and the adoption is Finally Finalized. Until then, I don't think they'll allow themselves to truly let down their safeguards.
One issue we did not anticipate is that the new girls did not respect or, really, love each other. Therefore, getting new sisters was not something they necessarily looked forward to! The old girls, however, love each other dearly and expected to gain 3 more sisters who felt the same. Because the new girls were so needy, they just viewed their sisters as competition - someone who might get the attention they so desperately needed themselves.
In the past few weeks, we have been teaching the girls that Sisters Are Treasures. This has helped immensely, as the girls are learning to love & respect their sisters. This has helped my old girls as well who, because of the way their new sisters initially behaved & treated them, did not see them as treasures either.
The new girls are jealous of the relationship the old girls have with each other. I think it's a good jealousy, though. In that relationship, they see what they really want. Hopefully, in time, they will all be very close. I have been told this will take a couple of years, and that's okay. As long as I continue to see regular progress, I am happy.
In summary, our life is loud, complicated, funny, confusing, silly, frustrating, exhilirating, exhausting, and sometimes we don't know which way is up. Our house is filled to the brim with love, laughter and hairbrushes. We praise the Lord every day for this blessing called Adoption. How did we ever live without these girls? Thank you, thank you, Lord Jesus.