This past weekend we celebrated the tiny toddler's Family Day. For reasons my husband and I cannot articulate we both dislike the term "Gotcha Day". We prefer to think of these two special days as the days that we all became a family. Every Family Day is special, of course, but this year the celebration took on a different meaning. It was a celebration of survival. The growing pains our family suffered this past year were not easy. Always worth it, but not easy. And so, one year into being a family of four, I have these thoughts about the past 365 days.
If I had it to do all over again I would have read more books about behavior modification and the adopted child before traveling to Russia. Our adoption agency gave us a minimal amount of information on what to expect, and I truly didn't know any better. Which is 100% my fault. We had so much waiting time before the big five year old came home from China that I read every book about China adoption I could get my hands on. I knew exactly what our trip would be like. I knew how we would be treated in China. I knew what to expect when we came home. But the second time around it happened more quickly. We already had a child in our home to care for and drive around town to preschool, football practice, Sunday school, birthday parties, China school, China play group... It is no excuse, but we were busy living our lives. And we are good parents. We knew what we were doing. And thank God we did.
Because if we had been first time parents this past year would have been unbearable. We would have made way more mistakes than we did. That being said, I still wish I had been better prepared to start from day one the special type of love and discipline needed for a 24 month old adopted from a foreign country. I have no doubt that the frustration we felt when dealing with our sweet tiny toddler did nothing but add to the problem.
If I had it to do all over again I would have put the lock on the refrigerator earlier.
I would have found the solution to the problem of the tiny toddler removing his car seat straps earlier.
I would have removed all the toys before the tiny toddler threw them at my head.
I would have taken more deep breaths. I would have stopped using time outs sooner. I would have, I would have, I would have....
But I can't turn back the clock. And it is time for me to let it all go. I need to remember that we were in the trenches. Had I been on the outside looking in at our little drama this past year I might very well have thought of all of these things, and more. But living it every day, I was too close to the situation to clearly see my way out. So I did what everyone does in a difficult situation. I did the best I could with what I had to work with. And it was enough.
I have 365 days of being a mother to two small boys under my belt. I have 365 days of watching bugs crawl across the sidewalk. I have 365 days of blowing bubbles with the tiny toddler in the bathtub. I have 365 days of laying on our bed reading books with him. I have 365 days of hugs, and cuddles, and kisses. I have 365 days of watching him say "I love you" in his special version of sign language. I have 365 days of "firsts". Watching him fall in love with his first TV show. Watching him taste peanut butter for the first time. Sharing his first amusement park and seeing his love of merry go rounds bloom right before my eyes. His first English words. His first meeting with Grandma and HG. His first time counting to five.
In three days my tiny toddler will celebrate his third birthday. Last year we were in Russia on his birthday and we celebrated with an odd tasting cake made by the hotel dining room. Me and Daddy and our new son, alone, unsure, not knowing what the future held but thrilled to be together in that moment. This year he understands what his birthday is about. He has picked out the flavor of cake he wants and has chosen the candles for the top. He likes to hold the package of candles and pretend to blow them out. He is ready. Later this month he will have another first- his first American birthday party. Because one of the few things we knew he truly liked last Christmas was buses that is what everyone gave him last year. Every Christmas present he opened contained some sort of bus toy. Now he thinks all presents hold buses and so every time we talk about his birthday he says "bus?". He has no idea....
The big five year old is in his second season of flag football. He will participate in his first vacation bible school this summer. he heads off to kindergarten in the fall, and will also be taking violin lessons, playing sports, and becoming more involved in church. He will continue with China school and his China play group. The tiny toddler is turning three and will soon be starting preschool. He will take swimming lessons this summer and a music class in the Fall. He will start Sunday school and maybe take martial arts at China school with his big brother. He will learn more English and more self control. My family may be done "growing", which is a little sad, sometimes. But we have so much "growing up" still to do.
So here's to another 365 days of chaos and craziness. Here's to more "Mommy, can you put this rock in your pocket cuz i want to keep it forever." More, "Me do it, Mama, me do it!". More singing in the car and dancing in the living room. More pretending the stairs are a train that can take us anywhere in the world we want to go. More watching bugs and playing in the dirt with our little construction cars. More monster trucks and Angry Birds. More giggles because big brother said "poop!". Another 365 days of love.