We’re celebrating Maliah’s second birthday this weekend. Her official birthday was Friday, though it constantly strikes me as weird that we’ll never know if that’s the day she was actually born.
All kids change a lot between one and two. They learn new words, pick up new skills, grow new teeth. But in Maliah’s case, the last 12 months has been a period of exceptionally radical transformation.
This time last year she couldn’t walk. She was barely moving on her own at all. She could hardly see either. Right around her birthday we got her in to an opthamalogist and discovered she’s extremely far-sighted. And, of course, she couldn’t hear a thing.
Twelve months later she’s running, dancing and jumping. She loves bouncing on a trampoline and spinning in circles until she makes herself dizzy. She will sit on the floor and flip through picture books for half an hour, studying little details and patterns. And after receiving cochlear implants, she’s emerged from silence to become, on average, our noisiest kid. The boys certainly have higher peak volumes, but Maliah just never stops. She sings to herself, she yanks the cupboards open and shut, she bangs on the side of the stove or the washing machine to hear the metal vibrate. She just loves making noise.
And she’s responding to voices and sounds more every day. Last Sunday in church, she cried when the music stopped because she was having fun dancing.
Her personality has emerged as well. When I first met her in Rwanda a year ago last June, she was the most docile nine-month-old I’d ever seen. I was with her for more than 24 hours before I heard her cry.
Now, the girl is feisty. She threw the biggest tantrum tonight when her bath was over. I pulled the plug while she was still lying on her back in the water, and once she noticed the tub was nearly empty, she lost it. She started waving her arms and flinging toys; she grabbed my hands and pulled them into the tub as if to say, “Where did my water go? Do something about this!” When I picked her up and wrapped her in a towel, she sobbed and thrashed and had a meltdown.
In other words, she’s acting like a two-year-old.
But even with all the dramatic changes we’ve seen this year, it’s the smaller details Shawna and I get excited about most—like the ways she’s slowly starting to interact with her brothers.
About a week ago Oscar was building ramps out of the couch cushions, as he often does. Maliah sat on the floor and watched. When he climbed on the arm of the couch and jumped off, skidding face-first down the cushion, Maliah thought this was hilarious. She watched him do this for three or four minutes, and every time he dove and landed on the cushion, she cracked up.
And a few days ago Shawna called me at work to tell me what happened at lunchtime. She was trying to feed Maliah yogourt, and for some strange reason (it’s usually her favourite food), she didn’t want it. Gideon was standing right there, clinging to Shawna’s leg and hollering for attention, so Shawna fed him a spoonful of yogourt. Maliah roared with laughter.
When the yogourt was gone, Maliah started picking food up off her tray, stuffing it in Gideon’s mouth and laughing hysterically. (He was only too happy with this arrangement.)
Moments like that encourage us that she’s starting to come into her own as part of our family. She still has good days and bad days, but on the whole it seems like she’s growing more comfortable, more “with us” and not in her own little world. She recognizes familiar people and places; she’s got her routines down. It’s fun to think that at this point she’s lived the majority of her life with us. She’s been a Lucas longer than she was an orphan. It feels like she’s always been with us, and I can’t imagine our family any other way.