Well, I can hardly believe its one year this week since my little lady moved in. I'm torn between feeling like this year has passed in a blink of an eye and yet it feels like only yesterday I was having to deal with delays in the final matching process, then to feeling like we have been a family forever. It all feels so natural, it feels like it was always meant to be........ 'My little lady and I'.
What a change a year can make
My Little lady came here with very few words and was in the early stages of having speech therapy, she was also having play therapy, was very under developed with her gross motor skills, and generally just under developed 'for her age' (2.5yrs at the time). The most heart-breaking was just how sad and "tantrumly" she was, always put her head down, little to no eye contact and had very 'whiny cries' as I call it, sometimes seemingly for no reason that I could see. Its not until a couple of my family members said and I can see it now looking back on pictures from the early days, she was just very 'vacant' behind the eyes.
Within weeks but more significantly in the first 3 months I saw a massive improvement, which has always led me to wonder why such a massive change so quickly.? She had been in foster care for the previous 12 months and to not slate that experience too much as it wont achieve anything now and has been addressed and dealt with (and I do know there are good carers out there), but I do wonder about that good old quandary of 'Nature versus Nurture' and just how different she may have been if in a different placement.?
Nature or Nurture
Nature versus nurture summarizes a long-running debate on whether human behaviour is determined by the environment, whether prenatal or during a person's life, or by their genes.
It has long been known that certain physical characteristics are biologically determined by genetic inheritance: colour of eyes, straight or curly hair, pigmentation of the skin and certain diseases are all a function of the genes we inherit.
But there is a basic assumption that at birth the human mind is a blank slate, and that this is gradually “filled” as a result of experiences. From this point of view psychological characteristics and behavioural differences that emerge through infancy and childhood are the result of learning. I strongly believe it is how you are brought up (nurture) that governs the psychologically significant aspects of child development.
So, was all what I read in her file and her early behaviour a sign of some underlining 'genetic makeup' ? Was her under development because of the 'possible known medical issues' which I had been told about during the matching stage, that may or may not cause her issues, or was it just through lack of 'nurture' ?
Was she so unsteady on her feet because of something medical or was it just she hadn't had the physical stimulation she needed to learn the basics of walking and running.? This is actually something I'm still investigating and waiting for a referral to orthopaedics but my gut feeling is lack of exercise.
I was told she didn't respond at all to 'praise' and would cry if you told her she was doing something good, yet I as an adult I know I respond better to praise, so it was in the forefront of my mind to always make sure I gave her lots of praise and encouragement and actually she responded amazingly to it from me. The more I praised her by constantly saying 'good girl' even to the smallest of things, the more confident she got, the more confident she got, the more she would push herself that little bit more so she could hear me say 'good girl'. It was an amazing breakthrough in her development because I now knew what would work for her.
On another front I was told I would be able to distract her out of her tantrums very quickly, which was true, however I decided after just a few weeks or so that was just in a way ignoring what it was that was making her have the tantrum in the first place. Surely getting to the root cause (a concept I use all the time at work) is the right way to tackle this.? So, I decided to ignore the advice given, follow my gut instinct and start telling my little lady that I wasn't accepting that behaviour. I did the 'naughty' step which actually worked a treat, going back to she liked to be told she was a good girl not a naughty girl. I used the counting to 3 rule too, and I think I only got to 3 once or twice, still a year later, although in fairness, I rarely have to do it, but if I do, just asking her ' do I need to count to 3?' normally stops any bad behaviour instantly. She does do a proper sticking out bottom lip thing then for which I have to turn away so she doesn't see me laughing at how bloody cute she looks doing it.
Nurture, coupled with consistency and follow through, is definitely the way for my little lady, and I, to thrive.
An easy ride ?
Its hard to remember all of the things we have been through or have done in the last year but its certainly been amazing. I read other people's blogs and I'm on a couple of social adoption network groups and I must say I read more 'not so good posts' than I do 'good one's'. So, I do sometimes wonder if I'm going to get a shock one day and my little lady will turn into a little devil sometime soon, will she develop horns and I'll wonder what the hell I was thinking adopting a monster lol.. Sometimes I even feel I can not comment on posts because I haven't had anything that bad to worry about or to ask any advice about, I think I've asked about how to stop a snotty nose but that's all (local Honey seems to do the trick by the way).
But I can honestly say my experience has been a truly positive one from the start of the process back in 2015. I've not had too many problems to deal with, yes I had crying, well no it was screaming at night for a few months in the early days and that was probably the hardest time for me, to hear my little one cry and scream like that and the torture of wanting to go and comfort her but the knowledge that I will make a rod for my own back if she thinks she cries and I go running. I'm quite stubborn so being consistent is kind of easy for me. Plus being a single adopter I knew I had to stand my ground or I'd never survive. But she never gets out of her bed, she sleeps pretty much 12 hours solid from 7pm and waits for me to go into her room in the morning and she either hides under the covers giggling and waiting for me to put hand under the covers and tickle her or she says 'good morning Mummy'. Oh and sometimes I get to lie in until 10am (ok, I'm not fully sleeping as that would be bad Mum territory) but I can hear her singing and counting and saying letters...........now that is something money can just can not buy, listening to how happy and talkative she is considering how she was when she first arrived, is priceless.!!
She's a great eater too, nothing really she doesn't like to eat, although I have had to spend a lot of time getting her not to gorge her food, I cant even imagine how many times I have said over and over again, 'too much food', or 'slow down' and 'chew, chew, chew'......again another thing I assume comes form neglect and not knowing when her next meal was coming,! She literally will carry on eating and eating if I didn't stop her. But again amazing progress very quickly, so over the year I maybe dropped my guard a little and started giving her more treats because she ate so well and ate lots of Fruit.
But..... yeah, the fruit eating has almost stopped as she really prefers a biscuit or some crisps (mind you so would I as I don't do fruit myself!), So a little corrective action needed here.
Potty training was a challenge, okay, it a bloody nightmare in the early days and is what I now affectionately call 'Poo gate'. She went almost a week without a poo, then had a little poo, then another week of no poo, this went on for about a month nearly and that just made me more and more anxious as the weeks went on. I was buying prunes, prune yoghurt, cereals which were high in fibre, but the potty had become a bum eating monster that she wouldn't go on anymore, so I had to buy another one so she didn't associate it with the 'painful' poo which started poo gate until finally a soft poo meant it didn't hurt and we were back on track again. In the last 12 months she's gone from a nappy full time to using the potty in the day and no nappies in the day, to full time nappy free day and night and only 2 small mishaps during the night. One very proud Mummy!
She's been in nursery since October last year and what a tremendous help that has been, my little lady loves it and wow what an improvement in her development and self confidence its been. The school are very supportive and although I know they wish they didn't have to take two sets of photos so other parents don't see her, as I'm being very careful with her anonymity, they have embraced and understand I am a single adopter and support me so much.
My worse fear
We had one very scary time, when I woke up one morning to see my precious little girl covered in bruises and a strange 'rash'. all over her body. It was like nothing I had ever seen and instantly I thought the worse (Meningitis??. Thank god it wasn't). My first ever trip to A&E in my lifetime, let alone my first ever time of holding my child, who was running around and moving from one seat to another in the waiting room like nothing was going on and not knowing what was going through my head.!
I have always felt so selfish for thinking this, as I should of been thinking about her and not how I was feeling, but all I could think was....... 'please don't take her from me, I've been through so much to finally get her'. But then isn't is amazing how strong we become as parents and after one slight cry in the A&E cubicle, I found the strength to fight back any more tears and be strong for whatever it was we were or were not about to face.
We spent one night in hospital and my little lady had so many blood taken and yet she hardly cried, she's one tough little cookie!!! Even when the nurses gave her a very strong dose of steroids and said all children hate it and normally spit it out, she took it in her stride and I think she actually enjoyed taking it lol. She was diagnosed with ITP, which basically meant her platelets in her blood (which basically clog your blood and stop you bleeding out) were dangerously low, they were only 3000 when they should be on average 250,000.! and it was unknown if it would take 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, a year to recover or whether it could be a lifetime condition. Luckily the steroids must of slowly worked in the end and after a month her count was back up to a safe number and she was discharged a few days before Christmas. (This is when I cried the most, through sheer relief).
One of my other blogs is about a letter written from a toddlers perspective and I remember half way through the last 12 months that letter was instrumental in getting me to relax more, to remember she is only 3 years old and there was so many things she' should' know but didn't but she would get there. I certainly pick my battles and I've learnt to be calm when things get tough and I don't think I'm doing a bad job at all, especially doing this as a 'single' adopter.
We've celebrated her 3rd birthday, halloween and Christmas, she's been to the seaside a few times, had a little weekend away, melted the hearts of her grandparents and close auntie's and uncle's, been to animal parks, swings and slide parks, learned to count and do her letters from A-Z, she's a little chatter box , she has the most infectious giggle, she loves to sing and dance to music, she goes to Ballet, she's been to Disney on Ice, she's making friends at pre-school, she loves our cats and she has made my life complete.! (now I'm welling up).
My parents, my friends and work colleagues have and are very supportive and amazing and I've been very lucky of late to meet a very kind hearted, lovely, funny, fabulous and handsome man who I hope will be in our future.
To 'My little lady'
I love you with all of my heart, thank you for being such a brave little girl, thank you for trusting me to take care of you, thank you for being strong, you are the light of my life. I truly believe we were always meant for each other and I wouldn't have it any other way.
Here's to the next exciting 12 months my precious little lady, I love you so much. xx