Learning Enthusiasm

Sunday, June 3, 2012

When I started this blog almost half a year ago, I titled it "My Spirited Girl," because I really wanted to focus on the positive aspects of my daughter versus dwelling on what some people might consider her limitations. Since then, thanks to other adoptive parents and a wonderful Montessori teacher, I've come across a couple other key books that have helped me with this daily challenge of parenting a special needs adopted child. One called The Connected Child: Bring hope and healing to your adoptive family by Karyn Purvis was such an encouraging, gentle reminder that adopted children have already been through so much in their young lives. And sometimes it takes an extra dose of compassion and nurturing to help them through some of that trauma.

The other book that I have been really intrigued by is called Kids Beyond Limits by Anat Baniel. Though it describes the stories of children with more significant special needs such as cerebral palsy or autism, this book has really opened my eyes to how much my own attitude can help or hinder the progress that HJ makes everyday. And my baby girl has really come a long way... A friend that recently brought home her baby boy from Korea reminded me of this in such a tangible way.

One of the key principles mentioned in Anat Baniel's book has to do simply with enthusiasm. She encourages parents to really, deeply, and quietly celebrate every tiny bit of progress that your child makes, and to feel that enthusiasm internally rather than just conveying it outwardly by clapping or saying, "Good job!" Because essentially, a child notices SO much about their parent's expressions and emotions and picks up on everything with great sensitivity. And sometimes there is nothing more encouraging (or on the other hand limiting) to a little kid than what mommy or daddy thinks. She also reminds parents that enthusiasm can be learned. We can learn to be enthusiastic by actually practicing it on a moment to moment basis. Rather than continually focus on our child's limitations and how far behind they still may be from what is "normal" -- she encourages parents to cherish and enjoy each little step that your child takes.

Not surprisingly this past week offered me many moments to practice my enthusiasm. Moments where HJ started having a tantrum, but quickly recovered and actually verbalized that she was hungry and wanted a snack... Moments where she shared a toy with Lila and told her "don't cry, it's ok," or when she let me wash her hair and actually closed her eyes and relaxed! Moments where she (almost) fell asleep on her own, or asked to sit on the potty like a big girl. There were of course moments where she also said, "I don't want to be 4... I want to be a baby like Lila...." but even in her expressing that sentiment I can tell she's come so far!

Today was actually a really stressful, difficult day for all of us for some reason, and when I was giving HJ a bath in the early evening, I tried to look deep into her eyes and just connect for a moment, to find out what had been bothering her all day... And she looked right back at me and with tears welling up in her eyes, she said, "I not feel good, Mommy. I sick..." And though we couldn't figure out whether it was bad allergies, a sinus headache, tummy ache, eczema, fatigue, or maybe all of the above, I wanted her to know we understood. We all have those bad days. Today was one of ours. But thank the Lord tomorrow's a new day. A new chance to start over and start fresh. Lately when HJ makes a mistake, for example, spill something, or accidentally knock something over, she has a tendency to say right away, "That's fine, that's fine... that's ok!" as a way of reassuring herself. Though I haven't always been the best at telling her that in the midst of one of her tantrums, I do want her to know it's ok... It really is fine, HJ. Tomorrow's a new day...

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