2 Years 4 Months and 18 Days

Today, we celebrate a BIG milestone.

2 years 4 months and 18 days wth Cooper. 

Why is this a big milestone?

Because today marks the day when Cooper has been with us longer than he has been any one other place.

Cooper spent the first 13 months of his life in an orphanage. The next few months he spent at New Day Foster Home recuperating from heart surgery, and then he spent 2 years, 4 months, and 17 days in his Foster Family. It was the most consistency he had ever had in his life.

When we showed up, we disrupted that. And the clock started over again for Cooper.

New routines to learn.

New trust to build.

Opening of his heart again to give and receive love (even when, from his experience, that can be taken away at any time).

New life beginning.

When you start over in a whole new situation (nevermind new culture, new language, new foods, new EVERYTHING), you literally, well...... start over. It seems to stall any forward progress while you figure out how to adjust to the new situation. How to begin again. Again.

Today marks the day when we start building into completely new territory for Cooper.

We get to start seeing how he'll grow and mature as he expands into completely new territory. He isn't starting over again. He's continuing on! Taking new, next steps.

We'll get to see how fears melt away and he begins to take risks knowing we're here no matter what happens. Forever.

We'll get to see more, deeper, glimpses into the real Cooper that has always existed, but has not yet had the ability to come out because he's never been in one place long enough to completely let go of the anxiety of "when is the next transition coming" and move into new levels of trust and security in his situation.

Everything before has always been temporary.

But, we are FOREVER. 

And that allows him to grow in ways he has never been able to before.

It's a quiet milestone that will go unnoticed by all but us.

However, for the last couple months I have noticed Cooper becoming more secure in outwardly small, but for him HUGE ways:

  • When he first came home, he would not be in another room without one of us. Even until recently he would not go to another floor of the house without one of us for any reason. However, last week, he asked where a specific toy was. I told him the last time I saw it it was upstairs. And, with me still in the kitchen, he went right upstairs and got it. To you, this is no big deal probably. To me, I could hardly believe he had done it. And I thought, it's happening.

  • Cooper often will copy the other kids: their wants, their thoughts, their actions. This was a huge issue for a long time after Cooper first came home. It was like he could not say what HE wanted. He was just going to do/say/be like/agree with, whatever his siblings (mostly Sawyer) would choose. It was actually ridiculous. at times. We KNOW he doesn't like cheese. He hates it. However, if I told the kids it was snack time, and the other kids asked for a cheese stick, HE would ask for one too. I would explain to him that he doesn't like them, and that he could have ANYTHING else (except candy) that he wanted, he'd insist on having a cheese stick. Then he would take one mini-bite, and leave it uneaten. He clearly didn't want the cheese stick, he just wanted to know he could have what the other kids had. That he was on equal standing. We often wondered if he'd ever get to the point where he would choose something different because he simply WANTED something different. And, while we still struggle with this on a bit of a grander scale, he will now tell us what HE wants....even if the other two kids choose something else. It's happening.

  • Ever since he first came home, he has shared a room with Saywer. On evenings that Sawyer was out past Cooper's bedtime for soccer (which is a couple of nights a week), we would put him in bed with Chloe (she has a double bed) to fall asleep. Then, when Sawyer got home, we would move Cooper to his own bed. This fall, we took a couple weeks to "train" him to sleep on his own and feel safe. Now, when Sawyer is out, he hops right in his own bed. In a room. By himself. And he goes to sleep. No problem. It's happening.

  • At the beginning of this school year, I was literally one minute late picking him up from school one morning. When I walked in, he had a breakdown. He didn't think I was coming. (It was heartbreaking.) Since then we have talked about how we will ALWAYS come for him. ALWAYS. That we would never leave him anywhere. And every afternoon when he gets mad and starts carrying on because he doesn't want to have to get in the car to go pick up his sister and brother at school, I remind him that I would NEVER leave them at school EVER, just like I would NEVER leave him at school or anywhere else. Last week, Cooper's grandmother was 10 minutes late picking him up from school. Scot and I were too far away to get to him sooner. I was panic stricken that he'd be panic stricken. I called the school let them know his situation, and I got to talk to him to let him know Mimi was coming. He sat with the school counselor until she got there. The fall out (tears, anxiety) from that sort of stuff usually happens at bedtime. This time, nothing. So, I asked him if he had been nervous waiting for Mimi to get there. He said, "No, you called and told me she was coming, so I knew she was coming. I know you wouldn't leave me at school." It's happening.

It's happening.

Cooper has shed so much of the insecurity, anxiety, fear, distrust, and replaced it with love, trust, security, and almost confidence. He's stopped holding back, and has decided that we are safe enough to show his real self. Even the ugly stuff (I try to remind myself of this when he has a complete breakdown over brushing his teeth: he feel safe enough to behave like this in front of you, this is a good thing! :) ).

It's like digging up a dinosaur. Every day we see a little bit more of who he really is under all that other stuff. 

Which makes me SO excited about this milestone. 

Because beginning today, we strike out into brand new archeological territory where Cooper is concerned. We get to discover more and more of him every day- discoveries that are entirely ours because no one has ever entered this territory before. Sure, there is still work ahead. But, it is exciting, rewarding, fun, and SO VERY worth it.

And we look forward to our next (and final) big milestone- when Cooper has been WITH us longer than he has been WITHOUT us: August 9, 2014- which just so happens to also be our 16th wedding anniversary!

I love imagining how far he'll have come by then!

**Huge thanks to Laura at Latimer Studios for her beautiful pictures of our family above.


Bryn Colby said...

This was awesome,Jenna.Little things to most,but HUGE for him!So excited he is part of our crazy family!!and that he is coming into himself!

Anneli said...

So this post brings tears to my eyes.... I love it. Such a precious, precious boy and he couldn't have been adopted by a more amazing family. Can't wait to continue watching even more changes in the years to come.

La Dolce Vita: The Sweet Life said...

So, so sweet Jenna. There is nothing like seeing these sweet children bloom. What a gift he is, and what a great momma you are for really wanting to know him.

Beckie said...

So, so awesome! I've thought many times that our Ty will be nearly 13 years old before he has been IN our family longer than he was in China. He will be at least 11 before he has been with us longer than he lived at Eagles Wings. It is sobering. These older kids have a longer adjustment, that is for sure. I am thrilled for your family and so glad that Cooper is where he belongs.