When Dawit first came home and for approximately a year after, bonding with him was our top priority. Surprisingly, it was easy. He slept, woke, ate and pooped like a 7-month-old. He liked to be close to us, but he was curious and independent. He hit milestones just like we would have expected with a child who had been with us from birth. His health is extraordinary. In fact, he's had exactly 2 sinus infections in just under 2 years. He's never thrown up except the time he poked a pen down his throat. He's happy, silly, tough, loving and all boy. He's always got a bruise or a gash somewhere on his body because he's not afraid to try anything his big sister does.
We feel safe -- and fortunate -- in saying he's very attached.
But there's one thing. A mystery.
Sometimes, not always, he wakes from his nap very unhappy. He usually comes downstairs quietly, then gets upset. Sometimes he stands and cries; other times he just whines. Nothing can console him for at least 15 minutes. He doesn't want toys, food, drink, television, books, being held, being touched, or being looked at. He also doesn't want to be alone.
Over time, I've tried every possible combination of comfort with varying degrees of success. It's very hard to watch him suffer and do nothing. But I've learned that the less I do, the quicker he gets back to his usual toddler routine. Here's what I do:
I usually start by asking if he wants milk or a snack as this is our post-nap routine. If he says no and begins to get upset, I sit on the floor near him, cross-legged so I have a ready lap if he wants it. I don't look at him or talk to him. I don't sing or entertain myself with any busy work as this also upsets him. I just sit quietly. It's hard to do. Especially when he continues to cry and sound frustrated. To an outsider, it might seem heartless not to attempt to comfort him, but I've learned what he doesn't want. Sometimes he'll come to me and sit, and we'll sit together as long as he likes. I always let him make the first move to stand up or talk. Other times, he'll snap out of it and start playing (especially if Caroline is around) or come to me and make a request. But in those moments I let him take the lead, work through it at his own pace.
We've speculated some about why waking up from naps triggers these emotions. We have theories, but we don't know with all certainty whether they relate to loss or are just disorientation that often comes after a nap. Mostly we just concentrate on helping him feel safe. As time goes on, we'll see how it goes. We will be aware of changes -- good or bad -- that signal new ways of processing his loss and maybe change our tack or hit the books for more professional advice. For now, we're basking in the joy this sweet little boy has brought to our family.
We know that on the adoption adjustment scale, ours went as easy as one could hope for, and we're infinitely thankful. But we won't take it for granted that adjusting and bonding and attaching and learning and loving is a lifetime process, and we'll do whatever it takes.