Eight months! Another season change, and our sweet Maya continues to grow and amaze. The love and joy she brings is immeasurable, and we trip over ourselves just to see her smile and to hear her laugh. Earning the trust and love of a little person who’s been neglected and let down, cast aside, really, her entire life up until she met you is no easy task. And it doesn’t come quickly. I’ve alluded to this before, but those first days were full of pain and fear for our daughter, and frustration for us. And just when we thought it was going to last forever, when days turned into weeks and weeks turn into months, things started to turn around. We started to see our daughter smile more often, teachers told us that she was smiling in class and beginning to act and interact with confidence. We saw it too, not just the rare but slowly increasing smiles and giggles that we got from the beginning, but a real letting out of personality that could only come from trust. Pure and simple, Maya GuanXin was letting us know who she was. And she was trusting us to be okay with exactly who she was.
Man oh man, this girl is incredible. Her sense of humor is so amazing, sarcastic and dry and sweet and funny all at the same time. She doesn’t miss a beat, and she remembers everything. Her teacher even put her to the test by telling her when her Share Day would be, but not emailing us even though he usually emails parents the night before their child’s day to share. Fast forward to one morning when Maya was determined to take a rainbow striped monkey to school that our sweet friend Sharon had given her. I had learned by that point not to fight it, but I did tell her that her teacher would just ask her to put it in her backpack when she got to class. She adamantly said no, and held it up in the air with her left hand while holding her backpack in her right. I shrugged and we left for school. We were on a string of days where Maya was grabbing her lunch box and backpack from me, giving me a kiss and hug and telling me goodbye about 20 feet from the classroom door. Today was one of those days, so as I watched for her to get into class and for her teacher to wave to me to let me know everything was cool, I saw her hold up the monkey and I saw her teacher exclaim in happiness. I thought to myself, “Wow, I guess he just lets them bring anything to school these days.” Then that afternoon came the email, where her teacher glowed with admiration as he told us that he had wanted to test her English comprehension and her comprehension of classroom routines, and the three of us were all so incredibly proud of her. That’s just one example: what we’ve learned now is that Maya hears all, observes all, and somehow this little creature who is wise beyond thousands of years, often knows the answers in life before we do. Which brings us back to what I was talking about earlier: the transition into being a precious and cherished daughter in a loving family when you come from a place of nothingness, of shame at wondering what you had done to deserve so little during your first years of life.
Yesterday morning, out of the blue, Maya woke up happy but then couldn’t eat. It took her almost a full hour to eat just a little bit of food. At one point when I asked her what was wrong her eyes watered as if she was going to cry, but she clammed up and just forced herself to take a bite of food. By this point I had whittled away all options for a healthy breakfast at the table over morning coffee, and had settled on a turkey corndog in front of the television. Usually that will do the trick in even worst case scenarios, but not today. Things went really downhill when it was time to brush her teeth and get dressed. After some slapping and kicking of the Mommy, turning into a jellyfish when it came time to put on clothes, then crying and refusing to put on shoes, we finally got to a point where she smiled, let us hug her, got dressed and got in the car. She was still really quiet so I asked her for the millionth time if she was nervous about the class pictures that were happening today. This time, she said yes. I asked her if that’s why she hadn’t wanted to eat, and why she had acted the way she had this morning. She said yes. And we talked about it. We talked about how scary the individual pictures were earlier in the year, and how people kept telling her to pose in a way that felt unnatural to her. Helpful mothers who wanted her pictures to come out well don’t understand that this was the first time strangers had ordered her to stand still for a picture since she was an orphan, having a referral photo made and hoping some stranger would like it. And like her. All of those memories and fears came flooding back, and I was just so proud of her for finally opening up and telling me. And so incredibly frustrated that I had been on the verge of tears all morning because she doesn’t yet know how to use her words, even the ones she knows in English. It worked out, as it always does: we weren’t late, we even made a game of trying to get to class on time. We high-fived when we made it, out of breath, but I could still see that she was nervous. 15 minutes later I had an email from her teacher telling me that she did great and she was okay.
So there you have it, one more step in the right direction but not without pain. And hurt feelings. And misunderstandings. And then, as always, the sun comes out brighter than ever, Maya’s confident smile is wider than ever, her eyes shine and she looks more relaxed than ever.
She even takes on monumental tasks, like trying to convince her Daddy that she is old enough to wear mascara (he’s not buying it).
So now we move forward toward the holidays. We’ve been talking about Thanksgiving and what we’re thankful for, and we’re teaching Maya about Christmas. All of the sappy, cheesy parts of Christmas. She even has an Elf on the Shelf, and she named her elf Pink. (Don’t even think about mentioning that it’s not Thanksgiving yet. Our sweet girl likes to take her time getting used to an idea. And we are more than happy to oblige her.) We spied on Santa in the mall the other day, making sure he couldn’t see us, but just scoping out the situation. Maya thinks that maybe when the day comes to tell him about her list, she can stand beside him and whisper. Sounds good to me. We go over the list every night, and she has it memorized pretty clearly. She wants little girl things, like a seat to attach to her bicycle so her baby doll can ride with her. She wants her ears pierced, but her Daddy thinks Santa might ask her to wait until her birthday. She wants long hair. And she wants a wedding ring, on her wedding finger, just like Mommy’s and Daddy’s so that she’ll be officially married to us. We can’t wait to see that ring on her finger.