Friday, November 13, 2015

The age of reason

When D first came to us, he couldn't carry on a conversation. I'd ask him what shirt he wanted to wear, and he'd tell me that crocodiles have big teeth. In fact, I remember the first actual conversation we had. We were walking by the grocery store and he asked if dogs could go in the store. I told him about guide dogs for blind people and asked him if he could think of any other dogs that could go in the store. He said maybe police dogs. I remember being very excited about having a real back-and-forth interaction with him.

When D first came to us, he had missed out on having his own special adults in charge of him during a critical period of his life. Part of teaching him how to be part of a family again was to make it very clear that we were in charge. I heard from many people (who were not adoptive parents) that I was too strict and too controlling. But it was what D needed. At the age when other three-year-olds are just beginning to separate themselves from their parents, he and his brother were having to figure out how to live first in one orphanage and then another. He needed the chance to go back to that time for a redo and experience not making any decisions beyond what shirt to wear.

Yesterday when I was checking D's homework, as I always do, he explained to me clearly and calmly that turning in error-free homework was my priority and not his. That the worksheets that are sent home each week are repetitive, boring, and not important to him. That for him, "pretty good" on these worksheets was good enough, and that if he made mistakes, he wanted his teacher to correct them and not me.

Now we have a new homework routine in which I am only helping when asked, and I'm wondering when my little boy got so mature.

Update: This morning D fought off some ninjas in the bathroom and then scored a touchdown, so that little boy is still around.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Language at 3.5 years

Today our boys have been in the United States three and a half years. Here's a snapshot of their English language development.

A is above grade level in reading and in the highest reading group of his class. He's very good at spelling (spelling has rules and A loves rules). His spoken English is weaker. It could be because he started learning it at an older age or that his strengths just lie elsewhere (he is phenomenal at mathematics and at sports). He has some difficulty pronouncing multisyllabic words and some consonant blends. He mixes up the names of similar objects like spoons and forks or sheets and blankets. He sometimes needs more wait time to organize his thoughts before expressing a complex idea. And he has a tendency to say garbled sentences when he's excited. None of these issues affect day-to-day communication much.

D is average in reading and spelling but very strong orally. He has a bit of a Philadelphia accent and says, "wooter" for "water." He loves how words sound and likes to throw around hard names like "Sokratis Papastathopoulos." He is the only 8-year-old I know who uses words like "aloft" and "ye" in casual conversation. He has a good sense of how language is used in different contexts and I've noticed him code-switching between White and Black friends. Like A, D's language skills could stem from natural inclination, or the age at which he started speaking English (or maybe they're a result of his constant talking?).

Three and a half years, lijoch! Be'tam iweddeachuallehu!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Parts Unknown: Ethiopia

Famed chef and adult adoptee Marcus Samuelsson and his wife Maya take Anthony Bourdain to Ethiopia to sample the food and reconnect with family. Definitely watch this!