We've made some educated guesses, but that's all they are. We still don't really know our new daughter.
I know V. eats almost everything, and she likes it when I throw her onto the couch like a sack of potatoes. She wants what she wants when she wants it. She screams until she turns red if she doesn't get it. She really likes Adinah, and she's become very attached to Anette. But is that love? I don't know.
I could list another dozen things that we know about her--another round of attributes--but to say, for example, that she's talkative (in her jibber-jabber way) is really only to say that she's heard how gabby Anette, Adinah and I am, and she's imitating us, adapting herself to us. "V. likes to laugh," but I only know that because I'm tickling her and snatching at her toes and letting her bounce up and down on my chest until she giggles herself into a frenzy. Such is the mirror game of parenthood. Does any Dad ever really know who his kids are?
Then again, within the greater sport of parenthood, and within this house in particular, V. is unique. (I suspect she's getting the short end of the stick, but that's another story.) By the time we met her, she was a year old, and living with her second mommy. It's tempting to fill in the time we missed with all sorts of terrible stuff. Actually, we know that V. was mistreated. But because we don't know exactly what happened, we project. I imagine that anything which V. has experienced has affected her, formed her, or even hardened her. Maybe that's why she's so "tough," or why she's been hitting other little kids, and us too.
But that's speculation. A lot of kids smack each other around, just as a way of saying, 'Hello.' (I do hope V. won't be a biter--blood is such a bitch to wash out of pajamas.)
It could be just as likely that, after living her first year in uncertainty, V. is guarded, and hesitant about asserting her real self.
Okay, yes, she's fifteen months old--it's not like I'm expecting her to suddenly turn to me and say, "You know, actually, my favorite Beatle was Ringo." But I am waiting for that moment when I can recognize something elemental in her. I believe in nature, nurture, and humans who are born with (almost) everything they need to become who they are.
I want to see who V. is, and who she's always been.
Until then, I guess I'll just have to be satisfied knowing she really, Really likes vanilla pudding.