Today (May 18) marks 21 months since we made Stella an official Webb. Is it ok to still speak in months? At least I don't give my children's ages in months anymore! Sometimes it seems like the changes with bringing a preschooler home are smaller, less noticeable, but really Stella has changed a lot in this short time. A few things I've learned as Stella's Mom...
1. Imagination takes quiet moments, encouragement, and guidance. For a child who saw the same walls day after day, the same nannies day after day, ate the same food day after day...an imagination was not necessary. Maybe it was even discouraged. It definitely wasn't fostered. During the first year home, the idea of quietly looking at a book was daunting. And to look at it all alone in a quiet room, almost impossible. I remember a time in the car when we were singing a color song..."if you are wearing yellow, touch your nose". The boys were going crazy with the song, so I asked if Stella could have a turn to make up a verse. We drove and drove and drove and still she sat quietly. Crickets. She was thinking. She couldn't think of even a simple actions to plug into the song. I'm happy to say that Stella has come a long way!!! She still mimics a lot of what she sees the boys doing, saying, or drawing, but that has encouraged the development of her imagination over the months. Her imagination is growing! And sometimes Stella even builds a Lego creation all by herself. She sings funny songs in the car...Stella originals. She's quite the funny gal!
2. The need for attention is big with this one. Thankfully it's becoming less and less as she feels secure and adored, as she learns to share the spotlight and still receive praise. Stella's transition from neglect to receiving any attention has been a big transition for both of us. At times this process has felt like nails on a chalkboard. While her methods have lead to disobedience at times, I can remember our first days together. Stella's request for attention looked like flailing arms, a funny face, and uncontrollable laughing. Learning to allow others to share in the attention is a hard lesson. Learning to receive attention in a positive light is just as hard. But most of all, teaching Stella that her worth is not dependent on the attention she receives from others is one of my biggest goals. She has so much more value than any amount of attention and we get to teach her that!!!
3. Thank you notes are a must. If she has heard anything I've said, at least it's this..."we need to write a thank you note". If she finds a party invitation in her backpack, we must write a thank you note. When someone is sick, it would be nice to write a thank you note. If she receives a gift, she knows to write a thank you note.
This...This is what comes to mind.
I can even hear the music.
She occasionally forgets a word or gets confused. So, if Stella tells you that she has a note and gift card for you...don't be too quick to jump up and down. She probably means she put your card in an envelope, not a gift card! Hey, at least she's learning to write thank you notes! Check your mail!
4. Charades is not just for parties. It has become part of our every day life. Or maybe it's that our life has become a great big party! People asked months ago how we communicated with Stella from the beginning. When visiting with other adoptive families, I've told them "practice up on your charade skills". True, communication is much easier now that Stella has mastered most of the English language. It's actually pretty impressive! Even now, there are still many many opportunities for charades.
"Can we buy one of those __________ (fill in the blank with motions to
vaguely describe anything using your hands as a measurement)?" Could it be a ruler, a zucchini, a small shovel? Who knows...until charades is in full swing!
"Can I take a __________ (fill in the blank with some strange circular
motion)? Again, could it be a circle, a tornado, mix a cake batter?
The challenge is presented. Challenge accepted!
If it's a word we use often at home, I'll encourage Stella to use her "smart mind" (that's my secret method for getting her to think hard) to find the correct word. Like with wanting to purchase popsicles or asking for a bath vs. shower (see questions and mysterious motions above). I've got to teach her "rhymes with". That would help some days. One day I just might miss charades, but for now maybe it's a good way to keep our party skills sharp! Wanna play charades?
5. Having a grateful heart is not just for kids. Picture this. Stella walks in the kitchen and spies an English muffin in the toaster, to her dismay. After hearing confirmation that I am, in fact, serving English muffins at breakfast, the ugly face appears. The face that seems to say that an English muffin is below her standards. Like it's a foreign object unfit for consumption. Mind you, I don't require my kids to clean their plates. To try new things? Yes. To be kind about things you don't prefer? Yes. It happens far beyond English muffins too. Many times, it seems like a heart issue.
So, after a battle for her to eat the English muffin with jelly, we talked.
I quietly told her that God says in the Bible (Proverbs 15:13) that a grateful heart makes a face happy. I even went as far as having her say it out loud, "I am thankful for my breakfast". And that's when it happened. God tapped me on the shoulder. Am I always thankful for this little one placed in my family? You can imagine that amidst the battles, I can not always answer with a grateful heart. Ugh! And Ouch too! I'm thankful for God's gentle reminders. I'm glad everything isn't always perfect and that sometimes I'm required to try new situations, new opportunities. So, now's my turn to practice being thankful along side my daughter. And I'm hopeful that my gratitude for my daughter will reflect on my happy face! Maybe, just maybe, she is thankful for English muffins...kinda...sorta.
Twenty-one months and going strong!
Stella singing her heart out at graduation