What happens when you adopt a 5 year old from China

So…. I’m back.

I took my two teenage sons for a sixteen day trip to China and brought home a new son.

It was awesome.

But really hard.

But also life changing.

How do you describe becoming a parent to a child that you haven’t known for the first five years of his life? I’m still trying to figure that out. So, I’ll tell you what has happened so far.

The beginning of our trip began in Beijing. We hit some must-sees in China before taking custody of our boy. We went to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City.

Tiananmen Square

And the Great Wall (of course).

Me yelling at my kid to stop spitting over the side.



We were not disappointed.


We visited our new son’s foster home and school. It was an amazing opportunity to learn from his teachers and foster parents about how his day to day life has been, and who his friends are. We made connections that we plan to keep as he grows. Someday he will want to know all that we learned that day. It was an opportunity not everyone gets when adopting from China and so we were grateful for the opportunity.

Days later we officially became family to a five year old boy. It was exciting and terrifying and stressful. I know that even when you try to go into something like this prepared, you realize just how unprepared you really are once you begin to live it. And so, I tried to breathe, deal with each situation as it happened and do the best as I could as a parent. My boys were amazing in helping him feel a little more comfortable. In fact, throughout our time there he was definitely more comfortable with them than me. This was something I was prepared for, but it was still hard.

Moments after we took custody of him - candy and electronics helped with the transition (a little)
Moments after we took custody of him – candy and electronics helped with the transition (a little)

As our time in China began to wind down, he began to become more comfortable. We saw more smiles and had more play time and less tears. There were definitely challenges but they were fewer than the good moments in our day.

DSC00369  DSC00517

The plane ride home was about as good as you could expect when you take a thirteen hour flight with any five year old. We had good moments and not so good moments. Overall, I had just as hard of a time being stuck inside that airplane as he did. All I can say is that I’m happy that I don’t have any big trips planned in the near future.

We had a fantastic welcoming committee at the airport of my husband and younger two boys. It was SO good to see them. As soon as he saw his new dad and brothers he went right up to them. He recognized them from our Face Time and pictures and was so excited to meet them. He walked out of the airport holding each of his newest older brothers’ hands, chattering away in Chinese as we headed home. And, the older boys and I let out a sigh of relief. We had hoped that he would accept them but we weren’t sure after being together in China for so long.


We’ve been home almost a month now and it’s been interesting. The first few days went really well. He loved playing with the older brothers, sleeping in his new bed, playing with his new toys. If the older brothers put on pj’s, he put his on. If they were brushing their teeth, he would too. They led by example and he was happy to follow.

Coloring Easter Eggs - what is this all about?
Coloring Easter Eggs – what is this all about?

But the days that followed have proven that it’s not going to be quite so simple. And honestly, I didn’t expect that it would be. If he’s hungry, watch out! If he’s overtired, beware. Many times he will chatter away happily in Chinese and he knows we don’t understand him but he doesn’t seem to mind. But every once in a while, he minds. A lot. And I can’t blame him.

I have also noticed that for us as parents, we need time to adjust. Before he came along our youngest was seven. And our seven year old can get himself dressed, do basic chores around the house, and can feed himself a snack when he’s hungry. Our whole house needs to remember what it is like to have a younger child in the house. Throw in the fact that this kid doesn’t know our house rules, doesn’t know English, doesn’t know where our yard ends and the neighbor’s house begins and we are on our toes every minute he is awake. It’s been a challenge.

But anyone who is a parent will tell you that parenting IS a challenge but it is always worth it. And so, we will work on keeping our patience high and expectations low as we cherish the good moments that we have daily with him. That smile of his will light up a room and his giggle is the best sound ever.

Welcome to the family buddy, we’re so glad to finally meet you!


Julie Jensen is a mom of five boys and one girl. She is a runner, biker, yoga instructor and socializer. That about sums it up. Believe it or not, she really does enjoy the soccer, cross country, swim team, track, dance classes, basketball, and theater her kids are involved in as long as she has another mom (or dad) to talk to during these events. Julie works part time at Fleet Feet Sports where she gets to talk to other (adult) runners and is also a yoga instructor and owner of Red Ox Yoga - https://redoxyoga.com/ You can follow her on Instagram at @out_numbered_mama6



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