I spent a good part of Sunday with Squeaker. Curlygirl's little man will be two in early March. He's fairly articulate, loves the ABC song, and laughs and laughs and laughs. He begs for food: EatEat! Bite? He starts games, uses the potty (sometimes). He comes willingly to my arms and gives a hug and pats my back to make it all better. He gives big kisses with a "MWAAH" after. He is a loving, well-loved happy child.
He is, right now, the age Babygirl was when she came to us. She was pale, thin, underweight. She was sincerely mad at us for not being the foster mom she loved. It took some time for her to acclimate from only child to youngest of seven, but she became deeply attached to all of us, with all her heart.
Curlygirl was tougher. She'd had two families before us, spending two years with each, and she fought loving us with all her might. After all, the people she loved all disappeared, not once, but twice. Connections built slowly, very slowly. Trust, slower still. There almost never was a time when I could just grab her and tickle her just to listen to her laugh. She wasn't one to cuddle and fall asleep in your arms.
But at the age of 18 she became Squeaker's mom. And in Squeaker I see her little face with all the walls down - relaxed, unguarded and loving. And I see it because that is what she's become. Squeaker has done what small children do best: Peeled away all her defenses, leaving her with the knowledge that her heart is now walking around outside her body on cute little chubby legs.
Hubby and I are frequently told that we are wonderful because we love kids we didn't give birth to. We aren't wonderful. We struggled, cried, and frequently parented badly. Most people understand how you can love a child - it's like loving a puppy - they love you back. Fewer people understand how hard it is to hang in there when it seems that the child doesn't want you to love them. It makes it all the sweeter when things finally change.