I've seen lots of progress this month but first I will share about some of our challenges.
Shortly after I brought Ben home, and we got past that tough first week full of testing behaviors when Daddy had to take charge because I was exhausted and sick, Ben decided he had no use for him. That was surprising because of how they seemed to hit it off on trip 1. I think a lot of it may be because he was used to female caretakers, and at first that is all I was to him. I met all his needs, comforted him, taught him, corrected him, he looked to me for approval on everything and I was with him 24/7. Daddy still had to work so he came and left every day.
Daddy loves to tease, rough house and have fun but Ben did not respond well to that at first. His siblings have grown up seeing and being around all this since birth, but he never had that and couldn't tell the difference between fun and serious. So Ben did all he could to avoid him, not making eye contact, even glaring at him and coming to me for everything. It honestly was frustrating at times because there was no reason for him to be fearful.
It is very hard to learn to love someone who is pushing you away. Quite a lesson in learning to love unconditionally, just as God does. We decided to back off, and just let him observe how the siblings interacted and see if he would warm up. I made a point to stay near Daddy if we were sitting on the couch vs separate couches because it was turning into a battle of Ben choosing between us and we knew we couldn't let him divide us. Daddy made an effort to stay friendly and find some special things to do to interact with him....calling him his buddy and doing high-fives, letting him help with carrying his lunch bag in from the truck, teaching him how to hit a golf ball, or carry tools to the shed etc. Just little things that came up that he could be a part of. Daddy and I got on the same page again about what behaviors were acceptable or not and how we would handle them. Reminding ourselves that we would not allow our other 6yos to hide and sulk, or ignore us when we wre talking to them, we couldn't allow him to do it either. Even with 10 years-7 children worth-of parenting experience, we are still learning.
Just a week ago, we had a campfire in the backyard. I stayed on the deck with the baby so I could watch for sparks flying into the woods, and pass down food as needed. The kids loved it and had fun roasting marshmellows and tossing sticks into the fire.
(He did not like the marshmallow part of the smores)
Since then, I've seen lots of improvement in their relationship. It's slow but finally going in the right direction again. Ben has started initiating 'Hello' when he sees him, reacting appropriately and happily when playing chasing type games or tickles, even trying to initiate this interaction again. He says good night and hugs/kisses on his own before bed. He is no longer avoiding him, and tries to talk with him some. Prayers are working!
Going out in public (or just being around other adults in our home) is still very challenging as he tests me a lot. We went to church on Mother's Day for the first time since he came home. He did fairly well sitting during the service but could not be quiet :) I ended up in the nursery with the little boys during the Sunday School portion. He enjoyed playing and having the small snack and singing songs. Biggest issue came when it was time to leave and he could not understand why he could not keep the car that he played with while we were in there and had a meltdown. It did not help that he was tired and hungry. I will be better prepared next time we go with snacks and a car for him to hold when it is time to leave. I am sure with time he will get used to that.
Another lesson I've been working on with him is that he often laughs when he is corrected or disciplined. If I am just trying to simply tell him to not do what he is doing, and he starts smiling or laughing, I tell him it is 'not funny'. Yesterday, he started doing that and caught himself while he was beginning to laugh and asked me "Not funny?" :)
Like a baby watching their mama's face for their first year of life and learning about what faces mean happy and which mean sad or disappointment, he does the same thing. He responds very well to facial expressions, though he often tries to use the same looks towards me, haha. You know that mama look out of the corner of your eye? Yes, that look is what he tries on me while saying something very sincerely in mumbled BG.
He loves when you use silly voices to talk and some noises are so funny to him...like water boiling, butter sizzling in the pan, etc. He does not like it when anyone is crying.
Still working on eating habits and table manners. He does great if I am sitting there next to him but if I leave the room, everything he has learned goes out the window. How to hold the fork, eating normal sized bites and not shoveling it in, not talking with food in his mouth, not playing with his food, eating without making a huge mess, using a napkin, etc. All things I'm still working with his younger siblings on :)
He has gotten pickier with eating each week that goes by. He will still eat anything I give him but if it is something he does not prefer, he saves it for last and dawdles forever until I encourage him along.
About a month after being home, I tried to sit down with Ben to work on drawing shapes and basic coloring motions, maybe even writing B-E-N. He couldn't even make a mark on the paper. He had memorized his shapes very quickly but could not apply enough force on the crayon to the paper. I really got discouraged at that point, thinking I did not have what it takes to get him caught up with all the developmental delays he has in some areas. I started contacting physical therapists, checking into occupational therapy...what may be available through the school system, etc. Completely forgetting our decision to wait until fall and giving Ben as much time as possible to adjust to family life and see how much he could learn in a family setting without pressure. Remember my post about 'fine motor skill' suggestions? Well, I did some try of the good ideas that were emailed to me, but we did more of just every day life that builds muscles and strength than anything intentional. A few weeks ago, the little girls were coloring, and Ben jumped in and immediately started drawing circles all on his own! No pressure, no expectations and He Did It!! Reassured me that it is okay to just let him be a kid right now and worry about using outside help to catch up later as needed because he is doing just fine with what we are already doing on his own schedule.
It's the little victories that are exciting. We missed his first 6 years of firsts. These to me are like the first steps, first words, first smiles...
*******I've said before how at times it is difficult to know when it is time to raise expectations of what he is capable of doing, not knowing how quickly he will learn or understand. Every time we come home and pull into the driveway, Ben starts hounding big brother to unbuckle his seatbelt for him before I even get the van parked and turned off. After the 500x time of hearing "Jacob...Jacob...Jacob" I decided that it was time to teach him to do it himself. I never remember specifically teaching the other kids, they just kind of learned on their own as we were driving down the road, lol. So I took the car seat out of the van, brought it into the house, buckled him in, showed him how to do it once again and then told him to get out.
When we started, he smiled for the camera.
How he really felt about having to learn this lesson. He hates trying new things that are hard.
In the space of 1/2 an hour, he was able to get in 3x and out 4x completely on his own!!
Now the challenge is making sure he waits until the van is off before he unbuckles, haha. After only a few days of leaving a little extra time during errands, he is able to do it very quickly when we are out every time. It still takes him quite a bit of effort but I'm so proud that he can do it! He is gaining confidence and independence.
A few days later, he learned how to open the two baby gates. So now he is able to go to the bathroom on his own without asking for help to get through the gate!
I shared before how much he loves swinging on the swing. Up until a week ago he would only swing on his belly. We had tried once before to sit him on the swing and push him but he was terrified of that and couldn't hold on. Last week I decided to give it another try. He loved the thrill of swinging high though at first awkwardly held the chains for dear life. He wanted to be pushed quite a bit that afternoon and I showed him how to push off to get going and swing his legs back and forth to keep the swing swinging. Now every time I look outside, he is sitting on the swing, all on his own and swinging away happily. He can easily hold on now and knows how to stop in time if the little boys walk in front of him.
(Yes, these two are almost always together)
Since the last update, something Ben added to our morning routine immediately following the bathroom break after breakfast is getting dressed for the day. Normally if we aren't going anywhere, we get to that eventually but aren't in a hurry. He hates sitting around in his pjs, for some reason. He is able to fully dress himself, though I have to remind him to use his thumb when pulling his pants up as he tries to use the finger-palm grip to pull them up vs gripping the waist band with his whole hand. He is now learning how to snap the front of his jeans now.
As soon as he gets to the family room every morning, he starts asking to watch Thomas the train. He usually does not last the full episode but he does really enjoy them. He also asks to watch 'puppy' which is Leapfrog shows. I've noticed him counting everything now, like the grapes on his plate at lunch, etc. It's nice to see him developing likes/dislikes and voicing them now. He still loves cars/trains, but prefers those that have faces on them. He has mostly stopped called everything that has wheels "Benjamin's kwa". "kwa" has become car, and he knows the difference between car, truck, van, plane, motorcycle, etc and does not refer to them possessively, unless he sees them in a book.
He will turn anything into a toy...trash, stick, pretend kitchen pan lid, empty Coke bottles, etc. He usually tries to get whatever it is to make noise by dropping it on a surface, spinning it on the floor, shaking it or tapping it. When he came home, he was not able to and had no interest in putting Duplo's together. It still is not his favorite toy, but he can now do it! He has also taken a liking to a tiny baby doll and little blanket. He wraps the doll up in the blanket and sings "Rock a baby". Often bringing it to me and say 'Ew-baby stink!" and pretending to change it's diaper. He also seems to have a special tenderness towards Joe which is sweet to see.
Ben is a magnet to water...unfortunately not always at appropriate times, like when we are getting ready to go somewhere in the van. Be it a puddle, or wherever. We have two sand/water tables on our deck that will get a lot of use this summer. They keep getting full of water when it rains because the kids won't leave the lids on and any chance they get the two little boys are up there splashing away.
Language is coming along. Ben has an excellent memory and surprises me when he says things sometimes. Throughout our adoption, I had a playlist of songs I listened to for encouragement. Some days I still need that encouragement and find myself turning that playlist on again. Out of the blue, I heard Ben singing along to three of the songs-he really does listen and remember things, especially if it is music. I will have to take advantage of his tendency to be an auditory learner as we start homeschool this coming year.
More BG words are dropping though he still does a lot of mumbled BG that we can't distinguish. I am working on dialogue with him, teaching him responses when people ask you a question because he still responds with a question most of the time.
Me at lunch time: "Are you hungry?"
Me: Say "Yes, I am hungry"
He often repeats the 'say' part (especially when it's 'Say sorry, Abe' and he apologizes instead of his brother ) also but he gets it and will let you know if he does not want to do what you asked.
Me: "Do you need a nap? Are you tired?"
Ben: Makes a face, shaking his head..."No, tired!"
If he is tired he responds with: "Tired?"
Speaking of naps...
A couple months after he came home, I started noticing a pattern of at least one day a week would not be a good day for him. He was much more likely to zone out, to meltdown, to want to sit in a corner spinning the wheels on cars, and be more clingy. I realized that he may just be worn out with all the busy-ness, changes and growing he has been doing, he may need a rest. So I started putting him down for naps again. 75% of the time he falls asleep and often I have to wake him up or he will be up until 10 that night. If he is not asleep within 30 minutes, I get him back up again to play. This has made a huge difference in his attitude and his whole ability to cope with things. And the little break I have found has been good on everyone-him included.
In the coming month we will be getting his eyes checked as we have noticed some straying when he looks at things even just across the room vs next to him.
I am proud of the big kids stepping up to help, and being accepting of the responsibilities and joys their new brother brings. It has been very good for them and they have just welcomed him with open arms just as he is.
Can't believe it's already been 4 months since he has been home!