Friday, November 30, 2012

Turning a corner

Adults who meet our boys (even us, when we first met them) think that D is the outgoing, social one and A is the reserved one. But the truth is, D is the adult-oriented one and A is the peer-oriented one. When our boys meet adults, A has little to say but D is quick to grab hands, climb on laps and talk, talk, talk. When it comes to kids their own age, A quickly makes friends, while D clings to us, or engages in parallel play without really interacting.

Open House at A's school back in September was a proud evening for us. We walked through the halls of the school with A greeting and being greeted by dozens of kids by name.

I have been a little concerned about D because of the possibility of indiscriminate friendliness. He is incredibly charming with adults and older kids and almost too quick at making them fall in love with him, but often says, "I don't like kids my age." This has been a factor in our decision to keep him at home rather than enroll him in preschool. We wanted to be sure that he bonded to us more than to any other caretaker.

So I'm very happy to begin seeing D develop some peer relationships. Over Thanksgiving he had moments where he wasn't just playing next to his cousins, but actually playing with them. You know, where one kid starts a game, and the other kid introduces a new idea and the first kid builds on that, and there is that awareness that there is another person in the room who is fun and not just there to be an audience. Then yesterday he had the most awesome playdate with his friend M. They've played before, side by side, but each in their own game. Yesterday they were riding bikes in the basement of the Smith PlayHouse and they created a game for both of them. It was a super fun game that involved stacking tricycles and scooters into piles and then crashing into them full speed and yelling. Even the things they were yelling built on each other, with M starting with "yahoo!" and D picking it up and adding "whee!" and M picking it up and so on. And then they climbed on the roof of the toy train together, and built and knocked down block towers together. I think we are turning a corner and it makes me so glad and grateful.

 . . .

I am grateful for (a mishmash):
  • Thanksgiving with my whole family, 15 of us gathered at my brother's house.
  • six cousins all within four years of each other.
  • good planning that allowed us to intersperse family time with the train museum, connecting with another adoptive family, and meeting a real, live fire fighter.
  • that A moved smoothly back into his school routine after the holiday.
  • that D had only three days of extreme neediness before adjusting back into his routine (that sounds passive-aggressive, but it could have been a lot longer than three days).
  • that we can live on savings while I stay home with D and build attachment.
  • Mr. C, D's swim teacher, and Ms. R, his story time librarian.
  • A's school success.
  • homework time, which tells our kids that education is important more than anything we actually say.
  • blue skies and red Japanese maples, which do wonders for everyone's mood

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Feeling it

I have been meaning to write about how the battle against Penny has been going lately.

One of Penny's big criticisms has been that I'm not "feeling it" enough. Penny has read a lot of adoption blogs where people report falling head over heels in love with their children. Penny has been telling me that even if I'm taking good care of my children, if I'm not loving every minute of it, I'm coming up short.

Here's a story:

During Christmas of 2001, I was in South Africa. A friend and I decided to go rappelling (abseiling) down Table Mountain. It is the highest commercial rappel in the world, starting at 1000 meters up, then dropping 112 meters down a cliff overlooking Cape Town. I had never been rappelling before, so this was an ambitious way to start. I was pretty terrified. I vividly remember inching backwards over the edge of the cliff, hanging onto the rope for dear life.

At the top, the woman in charge of the rappel cheered me on. I have been thinking about this woman a lot, because she was the best cheerleader ever. Every inch my shaking foot moved, she whooped and hollered. Right foot one inch - "You are soooo good at this!!!" Left foot one inch - "I can't belieeeeve it!!!" Right foot one inch - "I'm going to lose my job! They're going to give you my job!!!" And so approximately five thousand hours later, I made it to the bottom of the cliff.

So I ask Penny, was this woman "feeling it"? Did she honestly think I was the best rappeller ever (unlike, say, my friend who descended the entire 112 meters in about 90 seconds)? Clearly, she did not. But she got me down the cliff, she did damn fine work, and I was very grateful for her. I would never in a million years argue that because she wasn't feeling it, she didn't do a good job. Nor would I have preferred that she shout more honest assessments of my progress.

So for the last couple of weeks, I've focused on becoming a better cheerleader. I've been using the words "best in the whole world" a lot. I have been over-the-top gushing over my boys. And it works really well. D "helps me" fix the porch screen by scattering nails all over the ground? "You are the best helper in the world!!!" I exclaim. His eyes get big. "The best in Greece? The best in Addis Ababa?" And then he tries harder to live up to the title, managing to actually bring me the tools I need, as I need them. My cheerleading makes him happy and proud of himself. A pretends to not like it, but the cheerleading makes him happy and proud of himself, too.

I'm making my children happy and proud of themselves. I feel that. Penny can't argue and she gets quieter.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

School days

Heading into November, we are pretty settled into our routine on weekdays. In the mornings it is a mad rush of breakfast, making lunch, dressing, getting to the school bus stop, though we always have time to read a couple of stories before breakfast, which is a nice way to start the day. After A gets on the bus, T goes to work and D and I take the dog for a walk. Then D and I do his timhirt (lesson). I got him a big kindergarten workbook and each day we do a letter and a number, or a letter and a "pre-reading skill." It's nice to do lessons where I don't have the pressure of needing to master an objective by a pre-determined deadline (unlike teaching in a strictly regimented public school). I feel these lessons are really benefiting D. He can name most letters and reliably count up to twelve. His fine motor skills are getting A LOT better. His focus is getting a little better too.

After our lesson we usually go somewhere. We either have a playdate or go to a park or the library or run an errand. I've found the day goes better if a) we are out of the house and b) we're doing an activity focused on D. That means I save cleaning the kitchen, preparing dinner, laundry etc for after lunch, when he doesn't need 100% of my attention.

A little before 3:30 we walk down to the bus stop to meet A. When we get home we have a snack, then the boys ride their bikes for a while, then we do homework. A's homework takes about 45 minutes and he's usually motivated to do it. He is LOVING school and it's very important to him that he does well. After homework there is usually time to go to the park, though now that it's getting dark earlier we've been reading more books instead. Once the time changes next week, it's going to be even more important that the kids get out of the house and get some exercise before homework, because they really, really need that.

T gets home around 6, then it's dinner, video, reading and bed. T does the bedtime routine. I'd like to say I use that time to do something productive for myself, but mostly I'm wiped out and vegging on the couch.

At the beginning of this week, Hurricane Sandy closed the schools and disrupted our routine, and we had challenging behavior on par with June's initial settling-in. Just goes to show how important the routine is.

The battle with Penny continues. Some days are better than others. I may write more about it in another post.