Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Compare and contrast

I have accepted that Quinn is on his own time table, and I'm almost always okay with that. So why is it so hard not to compare him to other kids? If I hear a kid chatting in a full conversation or see one who can hardly walk, I take every opportunity to find out how old that kid is and compare him or her to Quinn.

This weekend we went to a 3-year-old's birthday party. Most of the kids are in daycare together, and most are quite verbal. Quinn did really well and definitely kept us with them. The girls talked circles around the boys, but he didn't seem that behind the boys to me. Today Quinn had his first group speech/occupational therapy session - it will be with three 3-year-olds, but today it was just Quinn and one other boy. He had a far more sophisticated vocabulary than Quinn does, but a host of other issues.

I've tended to stay away from a lot of events with other kids, because I was a bit afraid of being confronted with how far behind Quinn is. I've had a couple instances with neighbors bragging about how their 1-year-olds are doing things Quinn isn't doing yet, and it's hard not to feel bad when that happens.

But I got through both of these events this week. I can get through more. It's clear that interaction with other kids is good for him, and that he needs more of it. And I'm ready for that.

Quinn is behind in some ways. On track in others. Ahead in some. I know that's the same of all kids. But I wonder if all parents obsessively compare the way I do, and the way I've seen other parents of SN kids do.

Actually, probably so.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Crying in the night

As I write this, Quinn is crying. Not because he's mad or hurt or hungry - something I can identify, something I can fix if it needs to be fixed. He's crying in his sleep.

He did this when he first came to us, and it was heart-wrenching. His second night with us, after he realized these strangers weren't going away and it didn't seem he was going back to his home, he mourned, moaning through the night. Once we got home, he would go down easy at bedtime, and then start crying once he was asleep. Thankfully, it went away within a couple of weeks.

The shut-down kid became goofy and happy-go-lucky and a joy to be around. He wakes up happy, goes to sleep happy, and smiles through most of this day. And yet, two years after coming home, the crying has returned.

It's a horrible thing to hear your child cry and not be able to do anything about it. It's nothing short of heart-breaking to know there are hurts we cannot fix, and sadness we cannot erase.

And it's so hard to know what to do about it. The advice on night terrors is to let kids sleep, the thinking being that if you wake them in the middle of a terror you'll it into their conscience and make a bad thing so much worse. But how do you let a 3-year-old lay on his belly and cry alone? We watch the monitor and wait, in case he becomes conscious enough to call us, as he did tonight.

Now he's in our bed, sleeping peacefully next to his Baba and holding a tin airplane he picked up as I carried him from his room to ours.

There's so much I wonder. Is crying in the night the same as a night terror? Do kids tend to outgrow them? Have any of you whose older kids used to have night terrors talked to them about it? Do they remember?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Really interesting insights

This was posted a while back, but I keep thinking about it. If you haven't read it, take a moment and do. It's Adoption Talk's coverage of Amy Eldridge's talk at a summer heritage camp. Her topic is changes in adoption in China, and why today's adoptees likely had a much tougher beginning than their peers of even a few years ago.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A stranger in town

Recently we were in San Francisco and spent an afternoon in Chinatown. We took Quinn to a park to play, and we loved how much it felt like China. Grandparents were sitting on benches chatting as kids played. We were the only parents hovering over our kid, and it was obvious the old folks thought we were pretty ridiculous.

Eventually a father arrived with a remote-controlled helicopter. That's right up Mr. Things That Go's alley, so he bopped over with the other kids to have a look. What happened next was so interesting. Quinn looked at the helicopter, and the kids - all Chinese-speaking - looked at Quinn. It was like they knew he was like them, but different.

I happened to have my camera ready and captured the moment. 

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

BOOK REVIEW: China Ghosts by Jeff Gammage

Oh, how I loved this book. I started it Sunday, finished it today (Tuesday). The author (like me) is a journalist, so maybe that's partly why I'm drawn to it. He balances his personal adoption story with history of China and Chinese adoption and insights into Chinese culture.

Our stories are remarkably similar. His daughter Jin Yu was completely non-responsive when he and his wife first met her. His description of Jin Yu in those first days sounded so much like Quinn, who just stared at the ceiling, the lights, the fan - anything but at us. His daughter, a 2000 NSN adoption, came with an unexpected and unexplained oozing head injury, which heightened their concern. My concern was more inward, and took the form of me rising at 4 a.m. to Google signs of autism.

Jin Yu popped out of her shell upon rising one morning. Quinn came out of his during a visit to the Olympic Stadium in Beijing, when he was surrounded by tourists with cameras and became an instant celebrity with his blonde mother. Jin Yu, adopted at 2, advanced by leaps and bounds, talking and walking while still in China. Quinn, adopted at 16 months, did not outgrow his delays as I naively expected he would. I went from panic to dull fear to the mostly comfortable realization that he is on his time table, not mine.

What really fascinated me about the book was author Jeff Gammage's constant feelings of guilt for taking his daughters from their homeland (he and his wife adopted a second girl two years after Jin Yu, who is the focus of the book) and his constant awareness of their missing birth mothers - his family even puts an extra candle on the girls' cakes each year to honor their birth mothers. Reading his story, I felt guilty, too - but the source of my guilt is that I DON'T feel guilty. I am forever, deeply indebted to China for bringing Quinn and me together, and I suspect his birth parents must think of him every day. But I hate to admit, I don't think of them every day. Gammage asks his daughter regularly about her birth mother; I talk to Quinn about China and about adoption, but not about his birth mother. Not yet, anyway.

The book really made me wonder - again - about what is right and what is wrong -- and if there even IS a right or wrong when it comes to adoptive parenting. I definitely will think more about Quinn's birth parents after reading "China Ghosts," and I think that's a good thing. What I do with the product of that thinking, I'm not sure yet.

I highly, highly recommend this book. I found the writing to be smooth and compelling, and the author's voice to be honest and open and not at all sanctimonious, as has been the case in some adoption memoirs I have read.

Of every book I've read so far with an adoption theme, this is the one I enjoyed the most, and the one that made me think.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Pumpkin patch!

On a small lot on a very busy city street, a couple that runs an annual Christmas tree lot expanded into an October and November pumpkin patch. Brilliant idea. We took Quinn when Auntie Bonny was visiting, and you'd think we had taken the boy to Disneyland. He LOVED this place. He found a little red wagon to haul around - it may have been intended strictly as a decoration; I was scared to ask - and he filled it up with the pumpkins that caught his fancy. He also loved the little, fenced-off pond, as well as the goat and pot-bellied pig pens.

What an awesome, cheap form of entertainment this was. We spent about $10 on the pumpkins, which are now happily decorating our house. And every day since, when we drive down that busy street, Quinn says, hopefully, "Pumpkin patch?" I suspect we'll be going back soon...

With Auntie Bonny

Happy Fall, from our family to yours!!!!!!!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Happy (eventually) Halloween

Granted, poor Quinn has a sinus infection and does not feel great. He sobbed when I pulled out his Halloween outfit, one of many outfits we brought back from China.

I offered him several choices of other outfits, and he didn't like those either, so I started trolling around for alternate costume ideas. I pulled out his hospital gown and tried to sell him on the idea of being a patient, but he wasn't digging that either.

Baba said let's either pick and outfit and rush out the door or bag it. So we quickly got him dressed and out we all went. He cried for as long as it took us to walk a few yard to "the Halloween house," which is draped in lights and scary scenes that may one day terrify him but for now just enchant him. We go there every night and usually just get to look from the street. Tonight we got to go ALL THE WAY UP TO THE DOOR. And wouldn't you know, suddenly Halloween went from bust to boom. Quinn started running down the street asking to "Go door?" at each house, and quickly mastered both "Trick or treat" and "Thank you."

We only went to a few houses, but Quinn came home with a quality haul (which Mama and Baba enjoyed after he went to bed... Yes, yes, stealing candy from a baby, blah, blah, blah...)

Monday, November 1, 2010

Family Day No. 2!

Today marks two years since we became a family. I echo the words of a mom in our travel group: In some ways it seems like we've been together forever, in others it feels like it's been about two weeks since Beijing.

When I think about the changes in Quinn, it's really nothing short of astonishing. Two years ago, at 16 months, he could sit up with assistance but couldn't stand or walk. He had little interest in toys or games, other than stacking cups. He avoided eye contact so thoroughly that one night in China I got up at 4 a.m. and Googled for signs of autism.

A year ago, he was walking and running, but hardly talking at all. He had a few single words here and there, but that was it.

Today, just try and stop the kid. In the past few months his single words became two-word phrases, then three words, and now sentences. He is fun-loving and affectionate and has a sense of humor that never ceases to floor me.

I can't imagine a more perfect fit for our family. And I cannot believe how much I love this kid, and how that love just seems to keep growing every day.

Happy family day, Quinny! Wo Ai Ni!