I just found the notes for a paper I wrote in 1980 for my Child Psychology class at Middlesex County College.
AN INTERVIEW WITH MY NIECE, DANIELLE ELYSE STOLLER
Me: “What is the moon made of, Danielle?
Danielle: “A circle.”
Me: “What is the circle made of?”
Danielle: “Don’t bother me, I’m very busy.”
Danielle is three years old. She was born in Bogota, Columbia, and was adopted by my sister Mickey and brother-in-law Herbie when she was 18 months old.
Danielle is the baby of the family. Her two older brothers are college students. Her parents own a dress shop and Danielle attends a Montessori nursery school.
Danielle’s birth father was a married Columbian man who had an affair with a young girl. They had two children. Danielle’s sister is four years old; her whereabouts are unknown. Their mother deserted the girls when Danielle was an infant and since her father could not care for them personally, he boarded them out.
My sister and her husband were anxious to adopt a child. They found that there were children in Bogota who were available for adoption.
At the Columbia Embassy in New York they met Clara and Ernesto, a couple who were born in Bogota and were going back to visit. They made plans to travel to Bogota together and Clara and Ernesto promised to help Mickey and Herbie all they could.
Mickey and Herbie spent three weeks in Bogota. They visited several orphan asylums, but couldn’t find the child they wanted.
The day before they were to leave for home, they received a telephone call from a cab driver they had met.
“I understand that you’re looking for a child,” he said. “I have and 18-month-old girl for you. She has no mother and her father wants to give her up for adoption. Can you meet us now?”
Mickey and Herbie called Clara and Ernesto, who came along and acted as interpreters.
Danielle was wearing a blue poncho, a dish towel in lieu of a diaper, and little plastic shoes. Her body was covered with bruises. She held her arms out to my sister. Mickey picked her up and two tears rolled down Danielle’s face.
“This is it,” Mickey said. “This is my baby.”
Three months passed before they were able to make all the arrangements to bring Danielle to the United States. In the meantime, Danielle lived with Clara’s sister, who had a home in Bogota.
One night I received a surprise phone call from Mickey. “She’s here! Come on over!”
I drove to Mickey’s house and was greeted at the door by a tiny, beautiful 18-monthold girl who took my hand, led me to the couch and motioned for me to sit down.
She sat on my lap, opened my pocketbook, took out my comb and mirror, and proceeded to comb her hair and mine.
Despite the fact that she didn’t understand any English, Danielle managed to communicate very well. Within a few weeks she understood what was said to her and in a few months she began to speak English.
Danielle is now 39 inches tall and weighs 32 pounds. Her appetite is good and her pediatrician says that she’s in good physical health.
When I arrived at their home to do this child study, I found Danielle sitting on a step, coloring with an orange crayon.
“What color is your crayon?” I asked.
“Blue,” she said.
I asked her to draw a picture of her family. She drew herself at the bottom of the picture, but close to the other family members and she included her dog Ghengis in the picture.
He mother interfered. “She can do better than that,” Mickey said. “Draw the eyes, noses and mouths Danielle.”
“It’s okay,” I said. “It doesn’t matter.”
Danielle then drew a picture of a swimming pool with eyes, a nose and a mouth.
I drew a circle within a circle, a cross, a square and a triangle. Danielle copied them beautifully, but her triangle looked like a cross between a circle and a triangle.
I placed two pencils, equal in length, side by side.
“Are these the same length?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said
I slid one pencil about one inch to the left. “Are these the same length, Danielle?”
“No,” she said.
I proceeded to line pennies up on the highchair tray. “Which row has more pennies?” I asked.
Danielle left the room and returned with her teddy bear in his highchair.
“Ask my baby to do this, okay?” she said.
“Now I’m the mother and you’re the baby, okay?" Before I knew what was happening, I was sitting in her highchair
and she was pretending to drive a car. “Where are you taking me?” I asked.
“To the store,” she replied. She then pretended to take items from imaginary shelves.
“What are you buying, Danielle.”
“Ice cream for you.”
“Can I have some now?”
“After you have your dinner and after you take your bath, then you can have your ice cream, okay baby?”
Danielle’s coordination is good. She hops when you hold her hand, half-skips, and is an excellent swimmer. She throws a ball, using both hands, and rides a tricycle. She chooses her own clothes, dresses herself and buckles and unbuckles her shoes.
Danielle’s reactions to her parents are primarily positive. She is stubborn and likes to do things herself. She doesn’t ask for assistance and if assistance is offered, she becomes angry. Once she stuck out her tongue to her mother. When her mother asked what she was doing, Danielle replied, “Just licking my lips.”
When she is with other children, she sometimes pretends to be the mother. She is a leader, and very imaginative.She will think of things to do, and the other children usually follow. If she can’t lead, most times she chooses not to play. She is not aggressive in the sense that she doesn’t fight with other children.
I visited her teacher, who said that Danielle is free; she has no hang-ups. If a situation is too difficult for her, she leaves the group and opts to read a book, rather than become frustrated. Her teacher said Danielle is very outgoing, very willing to share toys and food, and always includes everybody.
Danielle will cry if she doesn’t get her own way, but in a few minutes she will forget and is fine again. She loves people and wants to be played with and talked to. The more company she has, the happier she is. Every day she asks her parents, “Who’s coming today?”
If I'd been alone with Danielle, the interview would have been easier. My sister was very cooperative when I asked her questions, but while I was testing Danielle, she continually interrupted.
“You don’t have to look it up in a book,” Mickey told me. "Danielle is way ahead of the average child. You don’t know what you’re doing.”
Danielle was great! She left the room a couple of times, but came right back.
Danielle’s father took no part in this, but her brother Robbie told me, on the average of every 20 minutes, what a “great kid” she was.
I love Danielle very much, but because her mother was so subjective, for some strange reason I found it easier to be more objective.
The afternoon was enjoyable and interesting but because of my sister’s interference, very nerve-wracking.
The day could have ended with a family feud, but I’m proud of myself – I kept my cool.
When it was time to go, I put my coat on.
Danielle: “Are you going home now baby”
Me: “Yes, thank you for helping me. I love you. Do you love me?”
Danielle: “No. Bye baby. See you tomorrow.”
P.S. I did not include documentation from child psychologists in this computer version – but I did receive an “A” for the original paper.