Before bringing my daughter home from Guatemala back in 2008, I began connecting with other families who had adopted or were adopting from Guatemala. Some of the families were local, some not, and many were on-line. I needed to build a support system for me and my family. I needed to be part of a community of people who understood what my husband and I were going thru and what we would continue to go thru along our journey of adoption and adoptive parenting. A community that would provide support to each other. In addition, I wanted my daughter to have the opportunity to spend time with other children from Guatemala and my hope was that the connections I had made early on would be a stepping stone for her to establish her own support system as she got older.
After bringing her home I began planning local events and making arrangements for our family to attend adoptive family events. Our first big event was a reunion in Myrtle Beach and the following year we attended another reunion in New Jersey. The next year we went to Ethiopia to pick up our second daughter and I made some new connections, but along the way other connections were lost. Those stepping-stones were beginning to crumble and I was determined to make sure that we didn’t miss another big event.
On Thursday morning we hopped in our van and drove to Osage Beach, MO to attend MOGUATE. MOGUATE began 7 years ago, when a few Guatemala adoptive families decided to meet at the lake for a little get-together. As word spread, more and more families began to attend. The small group of Missouri families grew to a total of 46 families this year. Families from Missouri, Illinois, Kansas, Arkansas and other surrounding states.
I met some new families and reconnected with families I had met previously. Wonderful families, each of us with different stories, yet stories that were very much the same. All of us with a desire to grow our families via adoption from Guatemala. All of us connected by our children.
Prior to our trip, I had many conversation with my daughter about MOGUATE. We talked about all the families that would be there. We went thru the MOGUATE directory and counted how many kids from Guatemala would be there. We talked about the resort we would be staying in and the agenda. As our trip drew near, she became more and more excited about this new adventure. She talked about swimming, seeing all the kids from Guatemala and especially about seeing those she already knew. She couldn’t wait to get on the road and go to MOGUATE.
We arrived and, soon after, the MOGUATE activities began. Before long, her excitement turned to anxiousness. She began to feel overwhelmed. She was surrounded by all the children she had been so excited to see, but eventually she could handle no more and asked daddy to take her back to our hotel room. It’s not uncommon for her to feel overwhelmed in large group settings, especially when she knows so few. However, I had hoped that her excitement over being surrounded by so many other kids from Guatemala would help her overcome her anxiousness. Sadly, that wasn’t the case.
As the weekend went on, she had moments of fun with lots of smiles and laughter. Other moments those feeling of overwhelm seeped in. I began to wonder if in these moments she was just feeling uncomfortable being around so many people she didn’t know or was it more? Was there something deeper happening that she couldn’t express? Conversations about our weekend will most certainly happen over the next several days. Conversations that I hope will help allow her to better express her feelings.
In reflecting more about the weekend and my daughter’s reaction, I found a new determination to make sure that events, such as MOGUATE, are a regular part of our lives. Many of the families that have attended over the years have established strong connections. They have established a community of support with each other. Their children have the stepping stones needed to make their own connections and they now have established friendships. They are building their own community of support. I was witnessing the very thing I wanted for my girls and realized that I have not done my daughters any favors by not regularly providing them with these wonderful opportunities to connect. Connections that will one day be their community of support.
I spied Johanna sitting quietly in the car, looking at the window. She looked reflective. I think she is old enough now to really understand what all this means.
It was great to connect with you and David again after 5.5 years!!! Sure hope you can come again!
It was wonderful seeing you and Johanna again too!!! We are certainly planning to be back next year!!