Tuesday, April 17, 2007

It Must Be Love

Our new son has been home just barely over a month. It feels like so much longer. From the first moment in the airport it's seemed like he was just always here, always part of our family. Adored by his big sisters, tolerated by his "twin," incredibly loved by his mommy and daddy, Eric unquestionably belongs.

His transition into our home has been so easy. Not easy as in "no problems," just easy as in "natural." It's a tough thing for a barely-22 month old baby boy to leave the only home he's ever known and travel half way around the world to a new culture, new language, new environment, new family, and new life. It's a hard thing for three little girls to adjust to a new sibling who shares the limited attention they get from Dad and Mom, and who needs some extra help making a transition into this life. And yes, it's hard for Mom and Dad--hard to help each child through this transition, hard to handle the inevitable sleep disruptions and meltdowns, to accomodate new quantities of laundry and meal preparation, and keep the family running smoothly with new dynamics.
We've been through this before. While our girls were each adopted as newborns, we've done foster care, and we've had failed adoptive placements of children who we took in and loved but ultimately couldn't keep. Having been through it before, we knew that the transition into a new family is a process, sometimes lengthy. We knew it wasn't always easy or pleasant. We had steeled ourselves to make it through whatever rough stuff came our way.

We knew there would be rocky times; we weren't expecting so many happy ones so soon. Eric is happy baby. He fits in perfectly with the rest of our happy babies. He's a resilient child. He's open to love. Last week he started giving me kisses, and he hasn't stopped. He grins ear to ear when one of his older sisters wraps him in a bear hug. His favorite time of day is when Daddy comes home. One of neighbors said, "If you want to see what heaven must look like, just watch Eric's face as he runs across the lawn when his daddy gets home. That's love for you."
Before Eric came home I was nervous. I was worried that he might have a hard time bonding with us, but I was terrified that I might not bond well enough with him. I had my girls from day one. We had lots of late nights and colic and rocking and pacing the floors to bond over. With each of our failed adoptions, although there were external factors that lead to the disruptions each time, I also experienced a nagging sense that this wasn't really my child each time. It was a voice I tried to shove into the farthest recesses of my mind, but beneath the love and affection I genuinely felt for every child who has been in our home, there was this niggling doubt about whether I was truly their mother, and they were truly my children.
A couple of weeks after Eric arrived home I was rocking him at bedtime in his darkened room. Taking advantage of our new ritual, Eric was touching my face tentatively with his fingers, sometimes giggling if I made a silly face at him, sometimes smiling back at me as I whispered to him how much I loved him.
And it suddenly hit me. I'd throw myself in front of a bus for this kid. Oh yeah. He's mine. He's as much a part of me as each of my other children. I'm going to be around when he's choosing college majors and bringing home special girlfriends, and I'm g0ing to be the lucky grandma to his babies someday. Because I WANT to. Because I chose to. Because there wasn't really an alternative to falling head over heels for this boy.
The doubt seems so silly. This is my son. Call it the red thread, call it fate, call it Divine Intervention, call it random coincidence. From where I'm sitting, with the cutest boy in the universe on my lap, I just call it love.

Monday, April 09, 2007

To My Little Genius

Three years ago today we brought home a teeny little 6 pound 3 ounce baby girl from the hospital. Her hair was bigger than she was. For a tiny one she had a huge appetite, and she didn't stay tiny for long. Her older sister was all of ten months old, and so never really had much of an adjustment or sibling rivalry, because her world was still so young and new that change was a matter of course.

We named her Miriam Valency--lots of syllables for such a little thing--but Gracie couldn't pronounce Miriam. She christened her Miam, which stuck. A few months later Grace shortened it to Mia, which stuck for good. This was my secret delight, as I'd proposed the name Mia earlier only to have it vetoed by Jim. Thanks to Grace, I got my Mia after all.

Now Mia is three years old, and she's amazing. I love this little girl. She was born with a mother's heart. She tenderly takes care of anything smaller or younger or more vulnerable than she is--which is quite a lot, since she's extremely tall and almost freakishly strong. She also mothers her mommy, telling me to "lay your head on my lap, Mom, so I can hold you and snuggle you." She'll pat my head and stroke my hair, and press preschooler kisses on my forehead while she sings me lullabies. Her poor younger siblings are mothered whether they like it or not.

From the time she could talk Mia's claim to fame has been an unbelievable vocabulary for someone so small. Her diction and pronounciation are far beyond any other three-year old I know--in fact, most of the time her speech is more clear and her vocabulary more expansive than that of her older sister. She doesn't just tell me I'm "beautiful;" she tells me that I'm "stunningly beautiful." (See why I love this kid?). She doesn't announce that she's "mad;" she's "exasperated", or "incredibly frustrated."

Today she and her sister poked around in Mommy's room and unearthed some old binkies that had fallen under the bed. Delighted with their finds, Mia proclaimed, "Gracie, you are a total genius!"

That's my little girl. Always quick to give the credit and praise to others, even when her own ability is shining right through. If you ask her what she wants to be when she grows up she responds with complete confidence, "Cinderella." If you ask her what job she wants to have she'll say that she plans to build houses like Bob the Builder.

I have no doubt that she'll succeed admirably in balancing her tiara and her toolbelt.

It's my privilege and gift to be along for the ride. Happy Birthday Princess Mia!

The Gender Gap

Grace: “Mommy, today I saw a boy kitty outside.”

Me: “Really? How did you know it was a boy kitty?”

Grace: “Because it had a really dirty face.”