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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Four Months Together!

Here is the 411 on what’s been happening...

It has been a busy month at the Drinkwater house. At the beginning of September Sylvie reached her 18 month birthday. She is busy climbing up onto the coffee table and is attempting the couch. While she is doing reasonably well climbing up onto things, climbing down remains a challenge. She now eats most of her food with a fork (much less messy than a spoon), but now wants to eat everything with a fork – even food that doesn’t stab so well (i.e. crackers).

Cory has been taking Sylvie to gymnastics on Saturday mornings while I have been taking another course to complete my Master’s degree (my course is usually two Saturdays a month). The gymnastics class is for kids 18-36 months old, but most of the kids are pretty close in age to Sylvie. Her favorite activities there include handstands on the wall, jumping into the foam pit, and being bounced on the trampoline. Luckily there are more fathers than mothers accompanying their little tykes so Daddy enjoys the time too. Sylvie has also started swimming lessons with Mama two times during the week. We are a busy household going to visit friends, playing at the park, gymnastics, swimming, and getting all the work around the house and yard completed.

Now that we have been together for four months, Cory and I are amazed at some of the changes and growth in Sylvie during this time. I was putting away the lawn mower this afternoon and Sylvie came down the steps and walked across the grass in her bare feet towards me. This is huge; when we first came home Sylvie hated the grass - big time. Even with her shoes on and sitting on a blanket she was uncomfortable and would fret. Now we can play outside in the backyard (bare foot no less) or in the park.

Sylvie is continuing to expand her vocabulary. She has added down, bye-bye and more to her words. She has also mastered all the requisite animal sounds (Thank you Sandra Boynton books). You can ask her “What sound does a _____ make”. She has puppy, cat, cow, duck and sheep down pat. Her favorite used to be meowing (mostly at the kitties), but she now loves to go “ruff, ruff, ruff” and luckily we have many dogs in the neighborhood for her to call to when we are out for our walks. While Sylvie likes to call to the dogs, she is still a bit hesitant around them and prefers when they are in a kennel or behind a fence to pet them.

Sylvie is also continuing to pick up more on directions. If I say to her “Time to change diaper” she now walks to her room to get changed. I can then tell her to “Lie down” and she does – as long as nothing interesting catches her eye on the way ;) We can also ask her to stand up, sit down, pick up, and put down with her understanding us. Since she comprehends pick up and put away she has been helping to clean up her toys at the end of the day and put her laundry into the basket. We usually cheer her on, clap and give high fives when she completes these tasks. She is definitely motivated by positive reinforcement, often when she is playing if she puts a toy in a basket she cheers and claps for herself!

As for attachment…
This month has been much better for Daddy. If you remember from last month, Sylvie was not very happy when Daddy tried to do things with/for her – particularly when Mama was in the room. We started having Daddy doing of the bedtime routine (bath, teeth, books, bottle, bed) most nights without Mama in eye or ear shot. While it was hard in the beginning, lots of tears, it quickly just became Daddy - Daughter time with Sylvie giggling in the tub. While we still feel it was important in the first weeks to do everything together as a couple with Sylvie, when Cory went back to work, it was hard on Sylvie when Daddy came home at the end of the day and wanted to do everything with Mama and Sylvie.

Sylvie has begun giving kisses and hugs independently now, as well as when we ask for them. She also blows kisses to us when we come into the house or are leaving. Sylvie really likes blowing kisses, and usually blows them to anyone. While we worry on one hand about teaching her about whom to show affection for and appropriate actions (often children with attachment challenges have difficulties with boundaries/indiscriminate affection), we also realize she is also a toddler who has learned a new behavior that gets her attention and as such she will probably do this quite a bit. We are however, trying to show her how that hugs and kisses are for Mamas and Daddies (and any hopefully future siblings). It will continue to be a balancing act remembering that she is a child who spent 14 months in an institution, but still a toddler as well. For all you BTDT adoptive parents reading this, any advice?

So for those of you who ask “Can I hold her yet?” the answer is still “No” and we are not sure when that answer will change. Some Adoption and Attachment professionals suggest as a guideline ½ the time in her new home vs. her time in her previous one. So for Sylvie, since she spent 14.5 months in her first home, then that might equate to about 7 or 8 months. Other professionals recommend at a minimum the same amount of time in the new home as the old. When talking with other adoptive families who now have older children, they always say the same thing “do it longer than you think you need to”.

Since we are asking others not to pick up Sylvie, what can you do instead? We are encouraging high fives and hand holding – which can be really difficult for some as she is really cute and persistent when saying “Up”. We know that some people do not understand why we are making this choice to use attachment style parenting, or think that enough is enough already. We know we are not harming Sylvie by practicing attachment parenting and are hoping that these choices are preventing/limiting Reactive Attachment Disorder or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that some children develop due to their experiences in orphanages.

And here are a few pictures of the over 300 we took this past month. Thank goodness for digital cameras!

Uh oh! Can you see what I dragged behind me?

Gymnastics with Daddy & Sylvie

Cuddle Time

Sylvie & Mama at Davidson Orchards

On the horsey swing at Davidson Orchards

Dancing in my car seat to my favorite song "Evacuate the Dance Floor" by Cascada

I love climbing stairs!