Even the Apples That Night Tasted Sweeter

When 7-year-old YanYan joined our family two-and-a-half years ago, she was completely unresponsive to us.

Although she showed interest in the things around her – reaching out to touch the refrigerator, washing machine and television – she only gazed silently at her dad when he explained to her what each appliance did.

Bedtime proved to be a difficult time for YanYan. During her first days with us, YanYan wasn’t used to sleeping in a bed because she had spent her previous nights in a crib. Her dad spent many nights with her, sitting by her bedside, trying to convince her to sleep in the bed. He spoke softly to her, wiping away her tears. “YanYan,” he told her. “This is your home now. You have a family. We all love you very much, so don’t be afraid.”

I would also lie down in the bed with YanYan, trying to make her feel safe enough to sleep in her bed. “Don’t cry, baby,” I would tell her, holding her in my arms. “Don’t be afraid – Mama and Papa are here.”

Although YanYan’s tears would stop when we were around her, we still had to make an extra effort to get her to actually fall asleep. Her dad’s specialty is lullabies, and we discovered that YanYan would slowly close her eyes and fall asleep when he sang to her. Now YanYan won’t fall asleep unless her Dad sings to her, except now when he does so, she hums with him as she gradually enters dreamland.

Speaking was also a challenge for YanYan. When she first came to us, she was only able to utter “yaya.” Her dad and I took every opportunity to teach her how to say “papa” and “mama,” and she would watch how our mouths formed the words. We also tried to teach her words by talking about everyday items. “YanYan, this is cabbage,” we’d tell her. “Look at its white stem and green leaves.”

About four months after her arrival, her dad took a plate of apples to the children after dinner. While the others noisily clamored for the apples, YanYan stretched out her little hand and softly said: “Da da.” This was the first time YanYan had spoken! Her dad said, “YanYan, can you say ‘papa’?” YanYan repeated “Da da,” but this time, she said it loud and clear. Her dad couldn’t conceal his excitement. He yelled: “Did you hear that? Our YanYan is talking now!”

As soon as I heard this, I rushed into the sitting room and the whole family – including the other children – circled around YanYan and asked her to say more things. Everyone was so thrilled that YanYan was finally speaking; even the apples that night tasted sweeter.

Now, YanYan is not only able to express her own needs and thoughts, but she has learned to care about others as well. One day, she saw I had a bandage on my hand and asked me, “Mom, are you sick? Does it hurt?” She reached out her little hand to stroke the bandage and told me: “YanYan will blow away your pain.” She then proceeded to blow very hard on the bandage. I was so touched by her concern.

During our evening family time, YanYan sometimes takes a leadership role—she often leads her sisters in singing songs, waving her arms like a conductor. We are so proud of our little angel who has learned to spread her wings and fly.