Monday, July 16, 2012
Our front yard is not beautiful. The grass is patchy and plastic toys are scattered as far as the eye can see. There is a low fence surrounding the yard, built from wood and hog wire. The fence is in keeping with the casual style of our neighborhood--kind of wonky, kind of kitschy, and very friendly.
We spend a lot of time out here. More so now that YH has joined our family. We're out there every day, weather permitting. The fenced in yard has proved a perfect buffer zone for our youngest son. He can play safely within its boundaries, nestled in our "family space". But the view out onto the street, and of passersby, allows him to exhibit his friendly and sociable nature.
Whenever a neighbor, or a hipster on his way to the coffee shop, or a lady walking her dog stroll past YH rushes the fence. He stands on his tippy-toes, waving his little hand furiously and calls out "Hey-la-la!"
If it's a neighbor he recognizes YH will call out again and again until the friend comes over to say hi up close. If it's a family walking with little kids we usually invite them in to play--all these plastic toys shouldn't go to waste.
YH is comfortable in our yard. He is comfortable having visitors drop by to hang out in the front yard.
He is not comfortable having visitors in the house.
We learned this last week, after the Early Childhood Intervention team came out to evaluate YH for services.
Three very nice, professional women came to our home to test YH's abilities in a range of areas. They were kind and soft-spoken. They liked YH very much, and he seemed to like them.
What he didn't like was having these strangers in our home--which up until then had been almost entirely a "family space". The evaluation necessitated that the team sit in close proximity to YH. Much of the test was eye contact intensive.
About 30 minutes in I could see that YH was becoming uncomfortable.
He did not like having these people in our home. It was confusing, and unexpected.
He became clingy. He was fussy. He paced restlessly. He left the room and didn't want to come back.
After the team left--amid heaps of praise for our sweet boy--YH didn't want to eat lunch. He fussed when we tried to put him down for his nap and woke up agitated. He sat rigid in my lap and grasped at my shirt with clenched fists. He needed to be near me at all times.
This behavior continued for the next few days, lessening over time--but still noticeable.
I felt like a fool for not anticipating this.
We have been working so hard to meet YH's needs as he transitions to our family. To nourish his little soul in the hopes that a healthy attachment might grow and unite us in family love. To have his health issues diagnosed and treated as soon as possible so that he doesn't suffer needlessly. To get him the therapies and interventions he will need to thrive.
In a perfect world all these goals would fit seamlessly together, united in the goal of lifting YH up higher and higher. In reality the pursuit of several of these goals rub and chafe against one another, causing irritation where they meet. In this case the race to get YH early intervention services before he ages out (in 6 months) rubbed up against our efforts to keep his world small, to protect his "family space" and build attachment.
So we took a few steps back. We met YH where he was at with love and grace, and tried to re-establish the security that he felt was lost.
I realized that I had overlooked something important. I should have told him ahead of time that the eval team was coming, and how long they would be here. Even though he is 2.5, and in many ways living between languages, I need to take the time to explain to him beforehand when something out of the ordinary is going to happen.
I need to take the time to hold him close (if he wants to be close) and look him in the eye (for as long as is comfortable for him) and say "Hey little man, tomorrow we are going to the doctor's office. It will be a quick check-up..." and so on. I need to do this early and often--repeat the sequence of events and try to set expectations. He may not understand the words but the rhythms and the tone of my voice can convey what he needs to know.
I will do this. I have to do this.