>Toddler Adoption: Adjustment, Part 3


Gabriel Tariku, home 3 months

And yeah, he IS “Mr. Happy.”
He is also, Mr. Fussy.
Mr. Loud
Mr. Jealous
Mr. Demanding
Mr. Climber
Mr. Cracks us Up Funny
Mr. Poor Sleeper
Mr. Mischeivous
Mr. Loves to Wrestle
Mr. Speed Racer
And my personal favorite: Mr. Cuddle Bunny

In other words, he is a toddler! And even now, we still see Gabriel adjusting to life here in this country, with us, with a family and a mom and a dad. The adjustment is more nuanced now. The bonding, while it is the ongoing work of a lifetime, it seems to be well on it’s way to firm cementing – in both directions. He seems crazy for us and we are surely crazy for him.

The big, first pass adjusting things are settled. Gabe is no longer afraid of the dog, instead he races to her, pats her, leans on her, it is one of his almost-words: “Dah.” He eats many things now instead of almost nothing and only milk in a bottle. He doesn’t panic if I leave the room, though he often will follow me as fast as his little bowlegs will carry him. He knows the lay of the house and careens around with abandon, confidently manuevering the tables and corners instead of bumping his head. He goes to any and all of his siblings, letting them cart and carry him and only fussing mildly if one of the girls changes his diaper instead of me. He is very assertive at making his wants known, pointing and pulling us to get him something, insistent.

It’s the nuanced things now we notice; the little things that remind us, he’s still adjusting. It’s so easy to take for granted that he’s ours, he’s just part of us now…it feels in a way like he’s been here forever. But now and again, we are reminded.

When he falls asleep now, better in my arms than anyone else’s, I remember that he used to fall asleep alone, and prefer it. Now when he wakes, he often wants, demands, to be brought into our bed to sleep between us with a contented sigh. A small thing, yes, but really: huge. Before he would only really sleep, even, alone, in his portacrib…secure and similar to his old orphanage crib (though softer and right next to me).

He is a smoocher now. While his reports from the updates reported him as “a little aggressive” he is actually a super affectionate, assertive, cuddler. He smooches and fish kisses and hugs and when he does he gives a humming sigh. Which makes my heart melt, every time. Not much better in the world than a humming melty hug from a smiling toddler.

Gabriel still has almost no words. He almost has a few words: “mama,” but only in distress, “Daa” for Dad, sometimes, and “Dah, for dog. He almost, almost says “hi” and he waves with abandon. But that is it. He relies on grunts and screeches and pushes and pulls. However, it’s coming, it’s subtle but I think it’s coming (and yes, I am no speech therapist so one of you might beg to differ) because I hear him sing. Now, yes, it’s singing, baby singing babble and not quite a tune and yet, clearly a happy tune. He didn’t sing before. He babbles and talks now, just not in our words but he’s clearly telling us stuff. Before he just watched the world and only made noise for fairly big need.

Now, he comes to me, me the mom, for the magic kiss: the owie kiss. And that might seem like a no-brainer, all kids do that, right? Well, no. Not Gabriel, not until recently. Before he would bump his head, sit up, rub the noggin and blink, get up and go on. And his brother would say “wow, he’s tough!” And I would agree with a “yeah” but inside I would wince “oh”…because that resilience came at a cost. He had to grow it when he couldn’t get a mom kiss on the booboo. And it made me have an ‘owie’ on his behalf, in my heart. But now…now he gets the most minor bump and he looks to me or runs over to me and I scoop him up and kiss it. Make it better.

So, how are we doing at three months home? I’d say pretty well. If you don’t look, you’ll miss the adjusting, you might presume it’s done. But if you pay attention, you’ll see great, important progress.
And when I kiss that owie, again, my boys say, “Oh, he’s not as tough, you’re making him soft!” And I say, “No, I am making him ours.”