Okay, what happened here?
My friend, Laura, took this picture a couple of weeks ago. It's made it to the top of my favorites for reasons I can't quite put my finger on. Maybe because it so perfectly illustrates the different personalities of my kids? (Or maybe I just like their shirts?)
In spite of their obvious differences, Gwen and Maddy really are best friends. They're never more than a few feet away from each other another and, if one is absent, the other isn't quite "whole" until she shows up again.
- This week, Gwen is 31 months old.
She's been our daughter for 16 months.
- This week, Maddy is 30 months old.
She's been our daughter for 5 months.
Bonding & Attachment: At 14 months of age, Gwen's attachment process was almost immediate. After 2 hours of crying on Gotcha day, she attached strongly to me but it took a couple of weeks for her to totally warm up to Daddy.
At 25 months, Maddy was just the opposite. She didn't cry at all on Gotcha day. She seemed to not really care who was taking care of her but showed a slight preference for Daddy. This preference intensified over the two weeks we were in China and only started to taper off around the time Daddy returned to work.
Bonding with Maddy was harder. It's been a long slow process but she's finally bonded with us (and vice versa). She was older when we adopted her and we knew to expect it to be different but I wasn't quite prepared for how different it was (Andrew was better prepared but he's not with her all day like I am). Even though Maddy spent 17 months in foster care, it was clear that physical affection was completely foreign to her. She was uncomfortable with any attempts to snuggle or cuddle. She didn't know what a kiss was.
Her greatest joy was playing with toys and she smiled often when she was engaged in that. When she got mad, she showed her displeasure by screaming biting and slapping. Right away, we learned how to say "No screaming" in Cantonese and we said it to her so often that Gwen started to think that was her new sister's name. The biting stopped quickly because everyone's reaction to it was so negative. A few times, she got frustrated and, because she knew she wasn't allowed to bite us, she would bite herself (thankfully, she quickly stopped that too!). She still slaps us when she's mad but, unlike her early slaps, it's more like a little soft pat and we've come to realize that it's her way of holding on to the last little shred of control while giving in to our demands. She does aim to please us (ultimately) but she also needs to retain some sense that it's on her terms.
Speech issues: Speech has been a major concern for us for several months. Not so much for Maddy since she's only been with us for 5 months and is a little parrot (she was speaking in full sentences in Cantonese when we met her at age 25 months and she repeats everything she hears). Mostly, the issue has been Gwen.
Up until the last two weeks, Gwen has been extremely verbally reserved. Her hearing is fine and her ability to talk has always been there but she just didn't seem to want to. We considered speech therapy but decided against it because her personality is such that she won't "perform" for anyone on demand. We figured, if she wasn't going to talk to the therapist, what was the point of speech therapy. Eventually, we probably would have reconsidered but we didn't need to because her speech has recently erupted!
In the last two weeks, Gwen has really found her voice. She's gone from stringing no words together to stringing 3 or 4 words together! As she practices her language skills, her clarity really improves. It's amazing, but two weeks ago I couldn't understand anything she said unless she was pointing at it when she said it. Now I understand her completely. Last night, as I fed the kids noodles, Gwen got up from her chair and motioned towards the living room and said "I'll be right back." Then she went in there and got her juice cup and came back and said "More noodles, please" as she plunked back down in her chair. It was pretty stunning!
Personality: Along with Gwen's speech change has come a pretty significant personality change. It's as if her reluctance to communicate used to make her more complacent about not getting her way. Maybe she figured that since she didn't really care about asking for something, she couldn't really object to not getting what she wanted.