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Adoption Blog: Our Family Grows With Love
A Three-Year-Old’s World
All parents have moments when we look at our children and see a little bit of ourselves. When our son Max, whom we adopted domestically, tucks in Mr. Froggie, he takes care to pull the blanket all the way up to his chin and gives him a good night kiss before whispering "I Love You." My husband and I have tucked Max in the exact same way countless times. And Max's interest in all things Star Wars and superheroes is surely related to my husband's enthusiasm in reliving some of his childhood memories during playtime with our son. Both of us take great joy in seeing these glimpses of ourselves in our son. Yet, for me, seeing myself in my son raises some conflicting feelings.
Recently, I've been struck by how much my son is really aware of. I know that probably sounds funny, but I have never had a three-year-old before, and had no idea how much a three-year-old "gets." If you ask Max his name, he proudly answers with both his first and last name. If you ask him his age, he responds "THREE!" with boundless excitement. If you ask him when his birthday is, he will answer correctly, and then start rattling off a list of people in his life and asking when their birthdays are. He knows who belongs in his world, and he notices when they are not there. If it has been too long between visits with one of his grandmas, he asks to go see her. He knows what his little world consists of; his world is safe, stable, and he "gets" it.
But watching my son navigate his three-year-old world also leads me to think about my own three-year-old world. Around that time, my siblings and I were surrendered to Children's Services, separated, and placed in different foster homes with people we'd never met before. I think about how it would feel to have your world turned upside down -- and not to understand why or know whether it was ever going to be the same again. As a three-year-old, I must have been devastated. I must have missed the people I knew desperately, regardless of the circumstances that came with that life and those people. I must have wondered why I didn't live with my brothers and sisters any more, but with these unfamiliar people. I must have wondered if I would ever go home. I must have felt completely alone, and, above all, I must have been scared. Having a three-year-old son has given me an entirely new understanding of what it must have felt like, at three years old, to have the experience I did.
So, understanding what my three-year-old son can process is difficult at times. But then, I see Max complete a new task successfully -- like putting his shoes on correctly for the first time -- and see the pride he feels in his accomplishment. Or I hear him singing a new song we have made up together. Or I listen as he "reads" a story aloud from one of his books. When I see these things, I am reminded -- I can't change what it was like for me at three years old, but my husband and I can impact what it is like for our son to be a three-year-old. And we will do everything we can to make sure that, when he looks at his own children at age three, he thinks back fondly on his own life at that time.
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