It's been an interesting summer with H. You'll remember that she has been home now for 3 years. It is one of those adoption truisms that a child's emotional age will mirror the time spent in their new, stable, enriching environment, no matter what their chronological age. It is also true that children need to move through each developmental stage in order to reach the next one, also regardless of chronological age. I can say without a doubt that we have these two phenomena playing out in our home.
When H. first came home and for a good while after that, she was bizarrely happy and agreeable. No matter what happened, she was happy with it. She cried real tears only two or three times in those first couple of years. You would think that having an always happy and agreeable child would be a dream, but it turns out this is not the case. It is just weird. I think it feels weird because the child's presenting emotion is so out of touch with what is happening around them. As we all learned from the movie Inside Out, we need to feel a variety of emotions, but that feeling those emotions can bit scary.
This past year, H. worked on trusting us a little more and allowing her true emotions to come through... sometimes. She learned and processed that she could be mad or sad and Mommy and Daddy would still love her. While she is still working on learning this lesson, she has made a lot of progress in this area. This year, we have started to see her become a "real" child. That would be a child with an internal life, with likes and dislikes, a child whose emotions seem more in tune with what it going on around her. Kind of like what happens with a three year old.
If you've even parented a three year old, you also know, far too well, that the other thing that a three year old is doing is developing a sense of independence. The three year old wants to try to do things themselves. The three year old wants to do things the way they want to do them. The three year old is most likely the least cooperative little being on the planet because of this. The three year old also is still developing some key verbal skills and emotional regulation. When you combine a person who wants to be independent, yet cannot verbalize all they want to, and is easily frustrated and upset, well the three year old is also possibly the loudest little creature on the planet.
H. has been trying her wings at a little self-will these days. It is both frustrating and exciting to watch.... just like dealing with a three year old. And her verbal skills, while continuing to grow, are still not quite sufficient to express everything she wants to say and her emotional skills are also still developing so that it is difficult for her to name what she is feeling. Just like a three year old. A very big three year old. She's never been a loud child, though, so she would be a quiet three year old. Thankfully. I have a very loud 6 year old who is still working on that emotional regulation-thing. I don't think I could two at the same time.
But it's not all frustration around here. Along with all those other things, we are starting to see other skills slowly emerge. Such as looking at something and being able to imagine it to be something else. Before H. had been relying on that great imagination trio of K., G., and L. for her imaginary input. But something extraordinary happened the other day. I was cleaning and asked H. to put a box in the recycling. She looked at the box and announced that it would make a great computer. She needed a little prompting by me to get to the next step of asking for the box so she could make it into a computer, but once we got through that, she cheerfully dug out the markers. Here is her computer creation. First the raw material... the box.
And then what she made.
Now, she has seen the imagination trio make computer-like things out of other boxes and such, but this is the first time she has ever all by herself been able to imagine the raw material into something else. Pretty cool, huh?