Adoption is a lot like baseball. We keep count everything. (And there are a lot of hot dogs and beer, but that’s another post.) So, here it is…my 18-month home update.
First, let me say that I am kind of bummed that I still have to write this update. I remember talking to Andrew before the kids came home and saying that the next six months would be the hardest of our lives. Now I’m thinking how optimistic that was. If at the six month mark, our kids had been attached, assimilated, and our lives had developed a new normal, that would have been nice. Even at 12 months, that would have been acceptable. But, in all honesty, we are still struggling a lot. This is hard work, and I now realize that now matter how many months click off the calendar, it will still be hard work.
Having said that, let’s now focus on the positives. Ayub is doing great. Academically, he has jumped right back into school and is excited about learning. We have continued small homeschool lessons before school, and this week I saw a lightbulb go on in his head that I was starting to worry wasn’t ever going to light up. He got it. He now understands that letter sounds fit together to make words. He was so proud of himself. “I’m a reader. Now I be a reader FOREVER.” (This after sounding out 11 words.) We still have a long way to go, but I’m starting to see him be excited about learning new things. His language has also come a long way in the last few months. When we left his speech therapy at the end of last academic year, he was still very hard to understand. But this year, our new school sent home a speech evaluation for us to complete and it made me realize that he is doing much better. He talks a bit like a younger kid, with that little preschool “soft” sound to his speech, but he has come a long way. We’re still working on pronouns (“him” does a lot of stuff around our house), but I feel like that is more a learning English issue than a speech issue.
The new school is turning out to be great. His teacher called me the weekend before school started. She had read through the entire testing report I had given them and wanted to run a few ideas by me. I was floored that she’d even read it, let alone that she called to discuss it with me. The ESL teacher and speech therapist were lined up to come observe him. Yep, what took 9 months before took two weeks here. Only time will tell if there will be positive outcomes from all of this, but I am impressed so far at the level of attention he is getting and the fact that his issues are being taken seriously.
We have gotten some great feedback from his teacher that he is a compassionate kid. One of the kids in his new class has had a hard time transitioning to Kindergarten and has cried every day. Ayub has been very sweet to him, wiping his tears with a tissue, putting his arm around him, “reading” to him, and telling him it will be okay. Frankly, I am somewhat amazed by this, as he’s usually the rough and tumble kid who doesn’t even notice when someone is upset. I’m glad he’s showing some empathy.
Behaviorally, we’ve had some setbacks. Moving has been tough on all of us, and Ayub has acted out more lately. Last weekend, he and Eleanor went for a bike ride. Eleanor came home, breathless, to tell me that Ayub had taken off and she couldn’t find him. We spent 30 minutes out driving around the neighborhood looking for him. I was going to give it five more minutes before I called the police when Sam called to say he’d found him at home. When I asked him why he left, he said “I found out that you were going to take me back to Africa and trade me for a good boy.” Poor thing. As much as I feel like we have made strides in attachment, we clearly have a long way to go. There is a little boy on the inside who I feel like I don’t even know. The scary thing is that I’m wondering if we will ever know him. Will we ever be able to crack the funny-guy exterior and get to whatever is deep down inside?
Lucy is starting to really show her personality. Our easygoing baby is now an opinionated toddler. And she talks. And talks. And talks. Her verbal abilities are astounding, considering that she didn’t hear English until she was 10 months old. Seriously, she talks all the time. Other people sometimes struggle to understand her, but since I’m with her all day, I know exactly what she’s talking about. And, she LOVES people. She has an amazing memory for names (of people AND dogs that we meet in the neighborhood). She’ll ask about someone we haven’t seen for weeks and she knows exactly who she’s talking about. She strikes up conversations with strangers wherever we go. Her favorite thing is to ask the person in line behind us at the store, “Why you gettin’ that?” People are amused. Usually.
She is definitely wanting to start school. This year, when the big kids went back, I realized that I am no longer enough entertainment for her all day. So, we are looking at starting some sort of preschool program, part-time for now, and then moving into full-time if I go back to work. She loves story time at the library and playing with other kids at the park or kids’ museum. She definitely needs more practice, though, at sharing. Being the little kid at our house, she usually gets what she wants. Not so when other 2-year-olds are involved.
We had a bit of a milestone with Lucy a few weeks ago. You may have noticed that she had a tiny spot above her lip on the right side. She called it her “mole” after she asked a stranger at the store about a mole on her arm. (Did I mention she talks a lot?) Lucy’s was actually not a mole, but molluscum that she brought back from Ethiopia. Molluscum is a wart-like virus that mainly affects people with low immune systems and can last up to two years. During our first visit to our new public library story time, Lucy’s last spot of molluscom burst open and she bled all over the place. She was trying to play with plastic fruit and I was trying to use diaper wipes to wipe up her, the fruit and everything in her path. Needless to say, it was quite an introduction to our new friends at the library, but we were not banned for life. We are very excited to be rid of the last spot, which also marks the last medical issue we brought home.
The lowlight of Lucy’s update would have to be potty training. She was totally ready before the move, but I put it off, knowing the craziness that was about to disrupt our lives. Once things got settled, we gave it a try. Day one saw two accidents and five successes. This gave me a false confidence. Day two we had one success and about 1.2 million accidents. After a week of struggling, doing extensive laundry, me getting frustrated, and her begging for diapers, I gave up. I’m going to give it a month and try again.
Eighteen months. It’s been an adventure, that’s for sure.