It’s incredible how clueless, and then how wise, our kids are.

Knowing our daughter for 16 months, some things are so transparent. After a disruptive event, like the social worker who removed her from her mom visits, or something happens very differently than expected, it’s easy to predict there will be a meltdown, and sometimes she’ll wet the bed. Neither is surprising, but what always startles me is how she makes absolutely no connection between the events, the (random) thing that sets her off is her complete focus, and from my view it doesn’t seem even a bit of her consciousness connects the real cause to the upset.

Of  course one could argue we’re all like this, rarely aware of what drives our feelings, the labels we put on upsets just an excuse or explanation, possibly unrelated. But I’d like to think I sometimes link up cause and effect, figuring out the source of what’s going on. Sometimes.

And then I see examples of the kids taking care of themselves in remarkably clear, wise ways, with a startlingly solid sense of their needs.

waterworldOur little guy will absolutely resist the new. Going to this wonderful water park recently, he shrieked at the water, insisted he didn’t want to play in, say, the sprayers in the kid play area. But then, left to his own devices, he’ll approach the spray, put his head into it, make an angry face, and recover. He’ll watch it some more, and try it again. He might make the same scowl, but then laugh. He does it again and again (and again!), and then he’ll move on to the pouring water, going through the whole process repeatedly until he masters the entire play area. It’s like he performs self behavior conditioning, repeating the feared event over and over until he cures himself of his fright. Then he doesn’t want to leave, and God help the father who has to drag him away.

Our daughter is showing some really savvy awareness too. Recently she and her brother got to see their older brother, who’s in another adoptive home nearby. It was a mostly joyful get-together, but disruptive too, a reminder of her previous home and her mom. We were braced for the meltdown, yet instead I saw signs that she’s really working out ways to keep grounded in this new life. I was supervising the little guy’s bath, and she was jumping on me and goofing around. We started a variation of the game where she sits on my knees and I go all bouncy, shaking and shimmying her around, trying to knock her off like a bucking bonco. I’d stand up and she’d be wrapped around my legs or ankles. “I need to be connected to you,” she laughed, talking about the game. Yet I was struck with the clarity of that intent, and the wisdom of it. She’s burrowing into her new life, enthusiastically, sometimes desperately. And in the face of disruption and memory, this time she doubled down. She’s staying connected to us, and using that to heal her trauma.

I need her to be connected to us too. And I’m so glad she’s smart enough to know it.