I feel like that’s what a lot of my life is these days – re-negotiating the details. We made these broad, sweeping changes to our lives – as in, we adopted a toddler – and we made so many preparations ahead of time and then made so many huge adjustments to our lives. And now we’ve gotten those big things in place, and then, as life is going on, we’re figuring out how to do the other things, too.
The big things are going so amazingly well.
CaiQun knows that we are her people. I could cry just thinking about this. It is so beautiful to see. Tragic and beautiful. For a child to begin settling into her new family, her new life, her new language, new food, new clothes, new routines (and on and on and on) within days…well, it makes you sad about the reality of what the first part of her life was like. But now…she has people, and she knows it. She looks for us. She looks to us. Miranda asked me the other night, “Mom, is CaiQun an us now?” Yes, babe, yes, CaiQun is an us now. Always and forever.
And my girls are doing so well together – both of them. It has been a significant adjustment for Miranda to go from being an only child to sharing her life with a little sister. She’s still adjusting. We’re all still adjusting. And CaiQun is of course still adjusting to the rest of us. But I think we’ve crossed some threshhold. There’s less antagonism and more sharing, less contention and more kindness. Today the girls were baking together in their toy kitchen, and they often take walks “on the [invisible] pathway” around our living room, dining room, and kitchen. Miranda, of course, supplies the narrative for these events. Most of the time I think CaiQun is just standing near Miranda or following her around, trying to be part of whatever it is that big sister is doing, whether she understands it or not. No matter. Miranda scripts her into the story, and everyone is happy. Today after naptime, I was watching in wonder as these girls, who, two months ago, had never met, played together so well. CaiQun hid behind the sheer curtains in their room, and Miranda, immitating what she has seen us do countless times for both her and her sister, would say, “Where’s CaiQun?” and then they’d both pull back the curtain and dissolve into hysterical laughter. Beautiful sisterhood.
Sleep is going (reasonably) well! I know it may not seem like a big thing, but it is. Just like with parents of a newborn, sleep is often the barometer of how new adoptive parents are functioning, and we seem to have hit pretty close to the jackpot on this one. Both girls are sleeping well at night. Both almost always wake up at some point during the night and join us in our bed, but at that point they usually go right back to sleep, and we can all usually get a pretty good night’s sleep. Naptimes were a bit harder. For the first 10 days or so, both girls slept from whenever I put them down until I woke them at 5:00, often 3 or more hours at a time. Then, overnight, CaiQun switched to sleeping only 45 – 75 minutes per day…and because the girls slept in the same room, Miranda also got super short naps. This was something of a disaster for everyone. Now we have them sleeping in different rooms for naptime, so at the very least, Miranda gets the sleep she needs, which I think is one key to why the girls’ relationship has been going so well. CaiQun’s naptime sleep is still something of a mystery to me. Sometimes she’ll wake up and need a diaper change and then will go right back to sleep. Sometimes she’ll go back to sleep if you snuggle with her. But most of the time she’s not interested in sleeping any longer at all. She may really be getting all the sleep she needs – every child is different, and though Miranda is older, she also takes much longer to fall asleep. I’ve wished for much of my time as a mother that there was more of an exact science to determining how much sleep your child needed and how to help them get it, but alas, we’re not there yet. However, both girls generally seem happy and well-rested, so I’m not super concerned.
I love being a mom to two. The girls and I are really having a ton of fun during our days together. There is more to do with two kiddos – somehow I’ve doubled the number of children in my home, but increased the amount of time I need to spend sweeping my floors by a factor of ten. And of course I now have both bathroom time and diaper changes to take care of, and it takes at least twice as long to get shoes and coats on and get everyone buckled into the car. But we’re having so much fun. There’s more energy here. There’s more laughter. There are more opportunities to teach about what it means to be kind and gentle and self-sacrificing (and there are more opportunities for me to see areas in which I am not as kind and gentle and self-sacrificing as I thought I was). There are more smiles and tickles and more little feet pitter-pattering all around. It’s more of a challenge, but I love that. I love helping them work on a puzzle that is slightly beyond Miranda’s grasp and well beyond CaiQun’s and celebrating all together once it’s complete. I love that one will bring me a book to read, and the other will see and want to pick out something to read, too, and before I know it, we’ve spent 20 minutes sitting on the couch reading books together. I love teaching them about working together as we bake a batch of cookies. I love seeing them chase each other around and squeal when they come together and facing the challenge of finding the precise moment, just before it descends into complete chaos, to intervene and put a stop to it.
CaiQun is also continuing to learn English and use it more and more. I’m confident she understands virtually everything I say to her, and between her English words and her body language, she is definitely capable of expressing pretty much anything she wants to say. Her gross motor skills have also developed dramatically over the last few weeks, and she’s finding more outlets for the fine motor skills she already had. It’s such a joy to watch her develop more and more 🙂
And then we have the challenges – the re-negotiations of the details.
Matt’s and Miranda’s daddy-daughter dates used to be my “recharge alone” time, but now that we have two kiddos, my alone time – always rare – has become rarer still. Matt used to be able to take some evening time to work in the studio, sometimes with Miranda or sometimes while she and I played together, and it wasn’t a big deal, but it’s harder for him to get away and have it still be a pretty laid back time for the girls and me now. It’s harder for Matt and me to find time for real conversations while the girls are awake. All of these factors combine to make our time after the girls are in bed far more precious than ever before, and we’re still figuring out how to use it well. This has created the additional issue that we are not going to bed when we ought and thus are tired even though the girls are sleeping well at night! So…we need to work all of that out 🙂
We’re also figuring out how to go places and interact with other people. We’ve seen amazing growth in CaiQun’s attention span and willingness to be quiet when we ask – on both Good Friday and Easter, we went to our church’s gathering, and we were able to stay in the sanctuary with her for virtually the entire service! This is a huge change from the Sunday just a few weeks ago when she and I spent the entire sermon time in the lobby, because she refused not to screech. We had a friend and her little boy over for a play date and lunch this past week, and I wasn’t sure how CaiQun would do with having another small child in the house and wanting to play with the girls’ toys, but everyone did well, and I enjoyed getting in a bit of adult conversation! Going other places has been more challenging, though. When we just had Miranda, and we’d go to non-child-proofed houses or other places, she was pretty low-key and obedient, and there were usually two of us adults, so it all worked out pretty well. But now that we have two kids…I think my adult interactions while we’re out have just dramatically decreased.
But we’re figuring things out. If those are our biggest adjustments and biggest issues at this point, I think we’re doing pretty well! We’re working out our new routines. We’ve got the new and improved bedtime routine for the girls pretty well down. The girls and I can pretty easily get out of the house on our own (though it may take us 45 minutes). We’re taking walks and baking cookies and doing fun stuff. And in the meantime, we’re figuring out how to make dinner with two little ones running around (thanks to our church family, this is the first week I’ve had to do meal planning and actually grocery shop for dinners!). We’re figuring out how to use our evening family time. We’re figuring out what it looks like to give everyone the care they need. And overall, it really is going well 🙂