Fringe Benefits

When I started home preschool with Joey, I also started something else—something that he gained, weirdly enough, from my presence in adoptionland. I’ve read a number of psychology textbooks as part of my work, and knew that when a sibling is born, securely attached toddlers often shift to insecurely attached . . . but failed to apply that information to my own kids for five months.  But once I put it together, I thought, Shoot, I know any number of ways to promote attachment—things that I learned from reading and hearing about adoption. So we started playing games that involve a lot of eye contact; I sometimes feed him sorbet, requiring him to make eye contact before he gets a bite; and I’ve started him nursing him more, which he is thrilled about.

And it’s working. His speech isn’t making any great leaps, but Joey just keeps getting happier and more social and affectionate. He was so angry at us after Kit was born, both because of the baby and because of my PPD and the Mister’s job, which kept him away for long stretches; he’s cheerier and warmer and funny. This morning, I had two baby toys rings, one in each hand—he carefully took them both, set them down on the floor, and flung himself into my arms. I kissed his cheek, and he said “Yaysh! [yes]” I’m parenting two sweet, cheery, funny kids.

The schooling part of the master plan is chugging along; Joey still resists being asked to do anything, but seems to have internalized the fact that I am usually asking him to do something he’s going to enjoy, so I get a token protest and then fairly cheery participation. On Friday, we took a field trip; our downtown has a folk music center, where they sell instruments but also have many, many of them out for people to try out. I led Joey toward the door, he wailed “Nooooo!” and cried for a minute or so after we were inside—and then realized that it was awesome in there and was eager to make music. For things like wind chimes, I enforce a rule about touching with just one finger (to prevent grabbing), and that was hard for him, but he got used to it. And he whacked drums and shook maracas (boy, did he love that maraca) and didn’t want to leave. I’m calling our music-themed week a success.

This week we’re doing “Family,” and my plan is to have him decorate a birthday card for Cricket as a part of that, but we’ll see. Joey’s aunt Kate send him a memory game made up of pictures of family members for his birthday, so we’ll be using that, for sure. I’m making lesson plans and playlists each week; Joey really requires that music be a part of any school session. We’re going to spend one day (Wednesday? I don’t have my notes in front of me) talking about babies, which is I think going to be helpful—Kit is now at a stage where he’s trying to grab things from Joey, and some formal explanation of babies’ limitations might help his patience with this discourtesy. We will also talk about Cricket (Who is in your family?), but probably won’t spend a lot of time talking about him, since Joey still says “No” and similar things when he sees a picture of his big brother.

4 thoughts on “Fringe Benefits

  1. I know his speech delays have a different source than Mara’s, but her progress comes in fits and starts and definitely plateaus when she’s dealing with big emotion or other changes and then leaps ahead at other times. A lot of things in parenting are like that and goodness knows I don’t have answers, as this weekend helpfully reminded me, but I’m glad you’re finding some things that work for you now.

    Oh, and I think you know this, but I wanted to commend you on not pushing Joey if he wants to say Cricket is “not family” or whatever, I guess as long as he’s not saying it to Cricket’s face. I won’t agree if I don’t agree with how Mara’s defining a family relationship, but I do say “I call Cousin T your cousin instead of your sister because you don’t have the same mom. Her mom Odelia is your mom Veronica’s sister, so she’s your aunt.” But she absolutely still calls her birth cousin “little sister” and oh well. Sometimes she claims her parents and sometimes the way she can express dissatisfaction with their absences in her life and her adoption she doesn’t, and that’s fine with me. Joey’s going to have to navigate the same sort of thing.

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