Time to Celebrate!
It is a BIG day in the Schack world as we get to celebrate 6 MONTHS together as a family of four!
Can hardly believe it! Time is going by so fast!
When I told Tope & Caleb tonight that today was a big milestone, Tope's eyes first became very wide with sparkles, and then he had the cutest smile (although, I think he was realizing that a celebration meant a treat was on the way!...). Although Tope may not understand the significance of this time frame, I do believe he is starting to understand the significance of how his life has been changing.
We have been watching Tope grow into his family, his surroundings, and learning how to be more and more himself wherever he goes. With all of this growth has come lots of wonderful times and many frustrating times, for both Tope & our family, but one thing is for sure, we are all very happy and can't imagine this life any different.
During the last couple months, we have seen a huge improvement in Tope's communication skills. He is starting to tell us stories, tell us his needs, and ask us questions. We are understanding him more every day, although it is still hard for most others to understand what he is saying. He will use his body language to his advantage, so I'm learning that it is much easier to understand him if I'm looking directly at him, which isn't a problem, until you're in the car and he needs something! Just recently I have started noticing that he does look frustrated if we aren't understanding him, so we are working very hard to always figure it out. I'd say about a month ago I was very nervous about sending him to school, but his communication is becoming so much better that a lot of my worries are quickly dissolving, which is a great feeling.
We are constantly looking for "signs of attachment", something that is taught to you in the adoption world from the very beginning. Some signs of attachment would include eye contact, physical touch, asking for help, and many many other things. For most children, this is not a difficult task if they have grown up with their parents, but for an adopted child, this can prove very difficult. To an adopted child, "Mom", is just another caretaker, that could leave just as quickly as I arrived. I did see signs of this at the very beginning of our time together as a family. Although Tope has always shown healthy signs of adjustment and attachment, I could tell he wasn't comfortable with us for some time. We are extremely blessed though, because his attachment process is coming along smoothly and he is making such great transitions on his own time and at his own level. Like his communication, his signs of attachment also seem to becoming stronger in the last month or so. He is asking for help more, he wants to be held, he initiates hugs & kisses, and he is more than delighted to see his family if we've been gone for some time. I could tell the biggest change when the night song I sing to the boys turned from Tope kind of pulling away from me, to letting me hug and kiss his cheek, to him starting to grab my cheeks and give me a big fat kiss on the lips! lol! He is so very happy to share his affection with his family in the last couple weeks and personally, I can't get enough! I will take all the Tope hugs I can get!!!! They are the best!
Here is our 6 month celebratory "Bushel and a Peck" - the boys helped sing along. Caleb was the videographer...lol...
There are times that we know that Tope is also showing sings of attachment but we aren't so fond of his methods. He is a character by nature and has a LOT of energy, which leads him to not want to stay in one place for very long, but we truly believe he does know how to do this - when he wants to. He has become more and more rambunctious over the past 6 months, very much testing the waters. The behaviors remind me a lot of what Caleb went through around the age of three, but now we are dealing with these behaviors at age six where he is much stronger and sneakier, and all come down to one thing...how much can I do to push Mom & Dad's buttons?
Why is this a great sign of attachment?
Well, as much as it is DRIVING US CRAZY, we know that every time he is questioning our parenthood, we are there to say "yes, we still love you," "yes, we will come and find you," "yes, we will bandage you up even though you jumped down when we said not to," "yes, we will be your comfort." All things most children have the blessing to learn as a baby and toddler, well now it is Tope's time.
Our little boy has had so many firsts in the last 6 months, I know I won't remember them all, but here are some fun ones...
* visits with Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins
* time seeing a musical
*swimming in a lake & riding on a pontoon
*camping in a tent, then roasting marshmallows
*riding a bike
*riding a bike without training wheels
*living in a house
*having his own bed
*attending Vacation Bible School
*traveling 8 hrs. by car to visit family
*having a pet dog
*petting a cow, pig, & rabbit
All of these firsts make me wonder how he is processing everything. I know there are days where it is just a little too much. On our busy days, especially if we've been traveling to different events or what not, he seems to shut down by either showing behaviors or he becomes withdrawn and quiet. During these times I wonder what he is thinking, what he is missing. I wonder too if we are doing things "right" or if we are making things hard for him by doing too much at times. I wonder if he is happy and if he is sad. I wonder if he understands how different his world is now and that it will stay in this way. I wonder what he wonders.
Six months. He has been in our arms for six months. These months have been filled with joy, laughter, tears, craziness, pain, smiles, bruises, hugs, and so much more - things that words can't describe. We are in love with our newest family member, there is no doubt. Can't imagine the last six months without him home, nor can I imagine the next six months without him here. He is our life now. He is our son and brother. We are so very blessed to have him with our family. I pray daily for his Philippine family, both blood related and his orphanage family, knowing what they have lost and what we have gained.
Our lives have been forever changed through adoption. I will never say adoption has been easy or perfect, but it is what it is, full of mess and crazy, as well as beauty and love. My favorite bible verse has always been 1 Corinthians 13:13 "But still, three things remain: faith, hope, and love; and the greatest of these is Love". This verse is our journey over the last few years towards bringing Tope home, and hopefully someday we have sisters or brothers to also love, even if it takes a lot more faith & hope to get them home and teach them too how much we love them. Adoption is good stuff. Family is good stuff. Being a parent is... it's the best.
Thank you Tope & Caleb for giving Jon & I the gift of parenthood.
For these two blessings, every day is a celebration.