Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Three months

Can you believe that three months ago today we took custody of H? (Tomorrow is the 'official' adoption day because that is the day we signed the papers.) In honor of the occasion, I thought I would give a quick update on how everyone is doing.

We've had our ups and downs, but in general, things are going very well. You already know about our near diagnosis, so I won't go into all the medical details, but there have been quite a few doctor's appointments. Thankfully, I really like the team of doctors we are working with.  They have all been kind and thoughtful to H., and not one of them has talked down to me, but has given the impression they see H.'s parents as part of the team. This is no small thing in my book.

H. has relaxed significantly since coming home and the world is not quite so baffling as it was at first. She knows how our general schedule works, where to find things in the house, and in general what is and is not acceptable. This is helped by how her English is progressing. She can now ask basic questions and can follow simple commands (if the command is in her realm of current experience). If she has a lot to say, she will still do a combination of Mandarin and English, but the English is quickly becoming the norm. There have been some confusing things, language-wise. For example, in Mandarin, the word 'ma' is added to a sentence to make a question. It's sort of like a verbal question mark. It took me a little while to realize that H. had been trying to find the English equivalent to 'ma' (which doesn't exist) and had decided that it was the word 'no'. So while she thought she was asking a question, we were hearing her say negative statements. For instance, she would point to the food on the stove and say, "No yummy" After several days of this, with me responding of course it's yummy, I don't make yucky food, it slowly dawns on me that she is asking me, "Yummy?" Once the slow mother figured this out I was able to teach her the way to ask and it hasn't been a problem since.

The other big difference that we see is how much physically stronger she is, and as a result how much more active she is becoming. She can now walk the 1/2 mile to church and back without a problem, where three months ago in China we were literally dragging her to keep up at even a slow pace and she would get winded and over heated. She just moves more now. Perhaps the best thing is that she is living with so many other children who are moving all the time, and she wants to keep up with them. (Who says large families aren't healthy for children?  Oh yeah, the state of Illinois... sorry, I couldn't help myself.) And this movement is becoming just a natural part of her life. Often when she is doing something... hopping, leg lifts, trying to do a sit-up... she is doing it to please me and J. She will want our attention to watch her attempts, but she is unlikely to do it if we aren't watching. But last week a remarkable thing happened. H. jumped on P.'s foot accidentally. Why is this remarkable? Because H. just happened to be jumping in the kitchen because she could. Not because someone had asked her to or to perform for her new parents, but just because. Like any normal child. And during one of those jumps, P.'s foot happened to get in the way. It made me so happy, that whole little interaction, because it was just like any other pair of sisters.

And how am I doing? Better. My urge to hide is diminishing and the relationship is feeling a little less like a neighbor child who came for a day and has overstayed their welcome and more like a neighbor child who has purposefully come for an extended visit and whom I don't mind having around. It's progress. I still have to be very purposeful in my interactions, though. The best way I know how to do this is to quiz myself. I look at what H. is doing and mentally substitute another child in that spot and ask myself what I would do, then do that with H. For instance, if I'm sitting down and either G. or L. is nearby, I will sometimes offer to read them a book. I need to do the same with H. If I happen to pass one of the boys in the hall, I will often give them a pat or quick hug. I need to do the same with H. You get the idea. I find this helpful (and it is a trick I used when TM and K. were new, too) because it accomplishes two things. First it helps me normalize my behavior and helps me be sure that I am treating H. as my child as naturally as possible. Second, I think there is a funny brain-thing that happens in my brain. By thinking about another of my children and then by both my thoughts and actions behave to H. just as I would to the child I thought about, it cements in my mind the idea that this child is no different from those others that I love without effort. It's sort of like playing a little bait-and-switch game in my own head.

Negatives? Still no tears. If she is genuinely happy that's fine, but I can't believe in the past three months that nothing has happened that would cause tears, if only fatigue and frustration. I don't think we live in a particularly weepy house, but the vast majority of my children cry occasionally, it seems a natural way to let go of upsetting feelings or frustrations. We'll see what happens. The best we can do is keep showing her love and helping her feel secure.

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