Yesterday marked three months since we first met our son. It seems impossible to me that only 90 days have passed; it honestly feels like he’s been with us forever, and yet he has grown and changed SO MUCH in that time. He’s no longer the too-thin baby with brittle hair and sallow skin. He doesn’t scream and thrash anymore when I reach for him while he clings desperately to his daddy. He finally has a concept of what it’s like to feel full at mealtime, and he doesn’t shovel every morsel of food into his mouth. He walks with confidence and he can roll over and pull himself up with ease, which was a significant challenge just three short months ago.
My boy loves his dog (so much so that it’s his favorite word, and he repeats it all day long) and his toys, he loves to run, and he can’t get enough time in front of a mirror–he cracks himself up making funny faces. He thinks Hide & Seek is the best game ever. His laughter could fill concert halls, and boy, is it ever contagious. His smile is the sweetest thing I’ve ever laid eyes on, and I LOVE it when I go into his room in the morning and he’s peeking over the crib at me with that huge grin plastered on his face.
I am more than a little bit amazed at how quickly we have assimilated to one another; granted, it took him nearly four weeks to warm up to me, but now? Now he’s Mommy’s boy for SURE. He loves his daddy, too, but now when he gets a boo-boo he comes to me for the kisses and cuddles. There are no words for the kind of love I have for him, nor any measurement for the depth of it. When he smiles, he owns me. When he cries, my heart aches.
J grieved pretty hard while we were in China. His adjustment was as smooth as could be expected (probably smoother, even), but he did have some heavy moments of raw, awful grief. I held and rocked him that first day in Changsha while both of our hearts just shattered and we cried our eyes out. Since that day, though, it’s been much better. So much better, in fact, that it’s been easy to forget that his days (or ours) were ever anything other than happy. Sure, we prepared ourselves for the grief, the attachment issues, the sensory processing issues…all the things associated with adopting an institutionalized child. The thing is, though, that it’s super easy to forget about all of those things when you have such a happy, bubbly, curious, loving, sweet baby. And then one day the darkness rears its ugly head.
I have absolutely no idea what happened, but something triggered a nasty memory for J. We had just started playing outside, and he was torn between his water table (which I’m fairly certain he would sleep in if we let him) and his playhouse (he’s WAY into climbing things these days). We also had a sensory ball outside, and I thought I’d get a giggle out of him by rolling it down his slide (silly things like that never fail to crack him up; heck, he thinks an exaggerated blink is the funniest thing in the world). I rolled it down once, and he stopped dead in his tracks. I did it a second time, and he ran over to me with huge tears in his eyes. I scooped him up, and he wouldn’t let me put him down for the next 30 minutes. He didn’t want his water table, his dog, his juice, NOTHING. He wasn’t angry or channeling the Terrible Two’s (although we’ve had previews of that almost daily); he was flat-out SAD. Really, really sad.
By this time, we were cuddled up in his bedroom, and I asked him if he had a sad thought. He shook his head “yes”, and I told him that it is okay to feel sad, and that Mommy and Daddy will be here for him when he feels like that. I told him he doesn’t have to be scared, and that he’s here with us for ever and ever. He calmed down after that, and we just sat there and rocked, with him curled up in my lap and his little hands curled around my neck.
Eventually, he was ready to get down and play some more, and the palpable sadness that had fallen over him like a shroud lifted. Anyone who knows my child will tell you just how happy he is. Sure, he gets mad, he gets frustrated, and sometimes he whines when he doesn’t get his way, but this is only the second time I’ve ever seen him genuinely sad, and it just about did me in. It happened so quickly that I felt like I had been punched square in the gut, and I was knocked way off the Awesome Mom pedestal on which I had put myself. I have read the books, sure, and I’ve taken the classes, but I sure wasn’t ready to start having these conversations with my son quite so soon.
J bounced back tonight. There were tons of snuggles and belly laughs, and a lot of playtime with Daddy and Mommy. I’m sure it will all be a distant memory for him tomorrow, but I’ve learned my lesson. I’ll be ready next time Grief pays us a visit, but I don’t think I’ll ever hurt less when he hurts. Barbra Streisand was a little bit wrong when she sang “What’s too painful to remember we simply choose to forget”. I don’t think my boy has that luxury. And I’m glad I was blindsided by it today, because the lesson I will take away might be the most important thing I ever learn: I will NEVER dismiss my child’s emotions, nor will I underestimate his ability to understand them. His capacity for love is greater than I have ever known, and I couldn’t be more blessed that his is my child.