This last Thursday marked two weeks home with Will, and tomorrow marks four weeks since Gotcha Day. Here are the things we are seeing:
SLEEP: Will seems to have transitioned from his fear (terror) of falling asleep, to fearing that we will leave the room. This is GOOD. He has moved from using the end of his bottle as a jump off point to a thrashing, kicking, clawing fight to stay awake, to allowing himself to relax into my arms, be rocked, and then laid in his crib. Sometimes I need to hover near the crib, sometimes I try to sneak out and then have to come back in and just be present a few more minutes, but sometimes I can put him down and he'll settle into his blanket and I can leave. I attribute this change to gas drops after he finishes his bottle (YAY GAS DROPS), keeping the music low but on repeat (Kenny Loggins' Return to Pooh Corner and the Chinese Children's Angelic Choir Lullabies cds, rotated every few days all night or all nap), and Will's progressing attachment. He is clearly no longer afraid to go to sleep, and he likes his room. He says "bye-bye" to everyone, blows a kiss, and gives them each a soft headbutt before bedtime. The fact that he doesn't want me to leave the room means that he finds my presence a comfort, a reassurance. And that's SO GOOD. I will take it. And it only takes an extra five-ten minutes of comforting and sneaking out. Better than the full 1-2 hours it used to take after his bottle was finished.
BUT...last Sunday night Will had a major meltdown. It happened about two hours after he fell asleep. Jacob and I took turns trying to comfort him. Maren peeked in to see if she could help. Will was a detached, unreachable, enraged wild animal and it was heartbreaking. It brought back the pain of the airplane trip, but I was thankful I could be on the carpet with him and keep him safe, at least. And for the first time, as he thrashed and tore and screamed, I considered night terrors. Is this what we had been dealing with all along? He completely exhausted himself. The kids worried. I cried as he was so spent he could no longer even lift his arms, and all that he could utter were despairing moans, still not giving in to sleep and keeping his eyes wide open, staring at nothing. I gently lifted him and put him in his crib. He kept his eyes open for 10 more minutes as he calmed, and then he dropped. I went and sat out in the hall and sobbed. Then I looked up "post-adoption night terrors" on my phone. The description fit.
The next morning I called my sister, whose son had night terrors from the age of two to four years. Knowledge is good, and so is knowing you're not alone. It was actually a relief. With night terrors, you shouldn't wake the child. Let them ride it out. They won't remember it. It's harder on the parents than the child. Just keep him safe. I can do that. The kids can handle that. And sure enough, the next morning, Will woke up bright-eyed and cheerful, shouting "HI!" when he saw me and reaching for me with both hands and a huge grin, and probably wondering why mommy looked like she'd wrestled a wolverine all night.
That was last Sunday, and it hasn't happened again. He has woken up during the night and I've assessed what was happening, and the night terror hasn't returned yet. A bottle and rocking, or just a reassurance that someone has come and he's okay, seems to be working. Will is sleeping through the night about every 3 nights and last night was a gift of two-nights-in-a-row! But if the night terror does return, I'm better prepared to handle it. We all are.
ROUTINE: We've finally been able to re-establish a sort-of routine, now that jet-lag is finally being shown the door. Will is a creature of habit. Not surprising given the structured routine of an institution. I'm fine with this. He's still sleeping in longer than he should (and I am, too), but school starting will remedy that. Breakfast, playtime, bottle, nap, snack, playtime, dinner, walk, bath, bottle, bedtime. Routine. He loves it. I appreciate it. He takes good naps. I have to wake him after 2 1/2 hours. But I'm starting to see that naptime will be my designated writing time. Yes, I can finally begin to believe that I will write again. And soon.
COMMUNICATION: I heard Will walking around the house the other day repeating a sound. "Ooo-kheee. Ooo-kheee. Ooo-kheee." Cute. A little later he lost his balance and landed on his bum. I asked, "Uh-oh, are you okay?" Getting up, he said, "Ooo-kheee." Okay. Okay. OKAY. He's saying okay. And nobody taught him. Yesterday he started calling cars "car" instead of "chu-chu." He's just picking things up. It's awesome.
COPING SKILLS: As Will's institutional behaviors diminish, it's become clear that his coping skills are poo. We are starting from scratch in teaching him how to handle disappointments, because he's been left to himself to try to cope with the TREMENDOUS disappointments life has shown him already, and no offense Will, but your baby brain filled in the blanks with awful things. This, above all, is why I hesitate to take him out, to attempt even an hour of church, to take him grocery shopping or visiting teaching. His temper is HOT. He gets frustrated easily. If he hurts himself he loses it. If he's tired or out of the "routine" it's clear a meltdown could be looming, waiting for any trigger to set it off. But even in the four weeks that we've been working on this we've made definite progress. He's a different child than when we first got him. It's like he was a seed in dry soil and now he's beginning to sprout. We are blessed to be part of it. The growth will continue, I'm sure. He is doing such a great job already. I wonder who he'll be a year from now? I'm excited for him. "Keep trying, Will! Get up! Dust yourself off. Let me kiss it better. You're okay. Get up. Up! Good job! You can do it!" The other day I was thinking about something I'd felt--I KNEW--from my Dad, from the earliest of the earlies: "You can do it, Kris." Always. It was ingrained in me that my Dad knew I could do anything. It was my fact.
I want Will to feel that from us. I want him to KNOW it. Like it's part of him. "You can do it."
"I knew you could do it."
It's the most powerful thing.
THE FAMILY: Last Thursday we arranged for Brandon to keep Will for the afternoon while Maren and I went back-to-school shopping. Maren and I counted down the days, and Brandon took a deep breath, and shooed us out the door while Will wasn't looking. And they did great! Will realized I was gone, of course, but Brandon distracted him with play. They read "the same three books a hundred times," Will knocked the kitchen garbage over twice, emptied the tupperware drawer three times, they played outside, ate spaghetti for dinner, went on a 40 minute walk, and when we came in the front door towing our shopping bags, Brandon was coming down the stairs holding a freshly-bathed Will, who wore pajamas and a huge grin. YESSSSSSS. Also, my eyes popped out of my head because I couldn't even remember Brandon ever bathing our other kids. I'm sure it happened. Probably? He even used lotion! O_O
Brandon was dog-tired, but agreed that the evening was a success,and I was very grateful.
Speaking of dogs, Brodie and Will have come to a truce of sorts. Brodie realized that after nap, Will sometimes gets to carry around a toddler snack-cup full of goldfish crackers, and sometimes, Will sticks his whole hand into the cup and pulls it out with such force that, to Brodie's delight, a dozen crackers go flying with it. Likewise, Will discovered that Brodie likes to eat goldfish crackers, and that's fun. So, they are in a "mutual appreciation" phase of their relationship. But I have noted that bringing Will home is the event that made our 6 1/2 year-old "puppy" grow up and act his age. Kind of bitter-sweet. He may bark his head off at the "murderers outside our door," but he's my affectionate, sweet dog. I hope he grows to be a good friend to Will. And protects him from those murderers. *eyeroll*
Jacob was at Scout Encampment up near Spokane all week and Will recognized his absence. He pointed out pics of "Eckub" anytime he was near them, and he clapped and smiled when Jacob came home. Cool.
Loving Will is improving all of us.
I hate imagining this strong, smart, silly, affectionate boy growing up anywhere else.