October 30, 2012

Two years ago, Mara moved in with us. Just over a year after that, her adoption was finalized. Since she was removed from her mother’s care just before her second birthday, she’s now been with us longer than she was with her mom, longer than she’s been in any placement. One more year and she’ll have been with us longer than all of her life before us. Wow.

Our latest milestone with Mara has been two night-long trips to the ER in the last week for a series of related by now-resolving problems. I am so grateful we have a wonderful children’s hospital 10 minutes away and it was absolutely as pleasant for her as it could have been under the circumstances. I’m still sort of dragging from missing that much sleep during a very busy week at work, but we’re getting by. We had a fantastic doctor-nurse duo on our first trip that made me think of this article about doctors managing pain by creating calm and trust and Mara was so impressed by the experience that our second and in some ways less pleasant visit was still comfortable for her because she knew what she was doing and that she could trust the hospital and its staff. We’ll still have to see a specialist about her propensity to eat things that aren’t food sometimes, but we’ve known for a while that we’d need that and we’ll make it work.

When I think back on those first days and that terrified, brave, drooling girl who was my own personal barnacle, it’s hard to believe how far we’ve come. Mara is so bright, thoughtful, self-assured, kind. I just can’t say enough great things about that kid. We moved her party from her actual birthday to this weekend so that she and Lee, who has strep, will have plenty of time to recover, but we’re waiting to hear whether her dad can come to dinner with us on her birthday. Then she wanted to make sure her siblings were invited to her party, and that’ll actually mean that each older kid who’s already coming will have one of Mara’s siblings of the same age and gender to play with, which works well. Her big requests are for a pinata and a Play-Doh Ice Cream Shop, both of which are in the works. We’ve seen so much growth and change in what is really a short time.

Nia is growing and changing too, with another tooth getting loose. Her mom is having to make the leap to mix the Nia-of-now with the Nia she remembers, six months younger. I’m being reminded how important it’s been to push Nia to be a kid and not feel responsible for adult concerns. I hope that her mom will come around to that way of thinking. She has an amazing daughter who has so much more to offer than her cuteness, though I agree she’s very cute. There’s more I could say that I won’t, but I’m trying to be aware of how I can feel frustrated when her mom criticizes the way we do things (hair not long enough, which I really can’t control, and not enough focus on literacy, which I also think is entirely inaccurate) that it’s much worse for her and the scrutiny on her life. I know she and I disagree on which things in each of the two households need to change, but I can guess how hard it must be that there’s not a lot we’ll have to change because of her displeasure but she’s going to have to change a lot of how her household ran if she wants to keep Nia safe there. Change is hard.

But now Lee and I have an amazing daughter, a wonderful family, a strong love between Lee and me holding things together and making life easier. Nia has already spent more time with us than she had with the prior foster family, and she’s loving school though chatting too much. I meet with her teacher this week to talk about her academic progress and how we can help fill in some of the gaps she carries from last year. I remember when Mara first moved in and we’d said that our goal was for her to be indistinguishable from her peers without a trauma history by the time she starts kindergarten next fall. By one year in, we were pretty much there, but she’s still growing and doing better and better all the time. We’re so lucky that she and Nia both have pleasant personalities with a lot of resilience and drive. So much of their success is due to their own hard work, but it’s meant so much to me to play my part in it. That means I still spend a lot of time with a no-longer-so-little girl or two seemingly velcroed to my body, but the payoff is so great.

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