I've written before about how sometimes children coming out of difficult living situations have learned to disassociate from what they are feeling. It can mean some odd looking behavior... laughing at something that is not funny or not crying when they are obviously hurt. It is survival behavior that allows them to function in hard circumstances, but it is not healthy and not appropriate in a family setting.
This has been true for all of my children who were adopted, each with varying degrees of impact. But with H., the continued absence of genuine sadness has been, well, odd. She is a naturally cheerful and positive child, so her overall good nature doesn't surprise me, but life doesn't always go her way. Occasionally she will do something that gets her in trouble, or she will not get something she wants, or any of the other small disappointments that come in life. When this happens, she will look a bit sad, but then agreeably go along with whatever comes next. This is in stark contrast to every other child living in this house. I don't know if I live in a more tearful house than others, but crying from a child because of hurt or disappointment or just whatever is a normal part of the day. I don't think I've ever had a day without tears of some sort since I became a parent.
That is why I am heartened by what happened this morning. I'm not happy that the event occurred, but I am happy for the reaction. H. had gone down the front basement stairs to get one of the games that we keep down there. Through a series of events that I still don't quite understand, she believed that the door at the top of the stairway was locked. (It can't lock, so there was never any real danger of it happening, just the perceived danger.) D. let her out once he understood why she was upset and brought her to me and explained what had happened. I could tell she was shaken up so had her come over so I could give her a hug. Once I had wrapped my arms around her she started to cry. Real crying. She was scared and she reacted to that fear in an appropriate way and experienced comfort from her mother as a result.
I am sad that she was scared, but at the same time I was so happy that she felt safe enough at last to express that emotion and not stuff it down inside of her. It was a huge step toward emotional healing.