One year ago TODAY, we brought Grace home.
I don’t even really know where to begin with this post, but have had thoughts floating around in my head for quite awhile so this one might be more like a "journal entry"
She has become our daughter and is part of our family now. I would like to say the road has been smooth and an easy ride, and what dreams are made of. But to be honest it has been quite the opposite.
She has been well loved by every member of the family, and is such an integral part of us. But it has not been without its difficulties for sure.
Since we got her when she was 21 months, I knew there would be some adjustment times and challenges related to her having essentially lived her whole life in an orphanage. But I think it still caught us off guard. Maybe the first few months she was in a state of shock, but then after a certain point she became more comfortable and the “honeymoon” was over.
Over the course of the year we have learned to read some of her “cues” in terms of trying to understand why she is acting a certain way.
For example, the kids are all outside playing, and then they just come inside leaving her alone and an all out PANIC screaming begins. Once I explained to them, you can’t just leave her alone if you were all together, they have tried to understand as well.
For months the way she would wake up in the morning is by screaming, “Mommy! , Mommy! where are you?” And she would continue until we went in to get her.
She shares a room with Jackson and if he wakes up and leaves the room while she is still in her crib, she immediately starts to scream and cry. Fear of being alone I think.
So the hardest thing to work through has been her screams. Screaming when she is insecure, screaming when she is scared, and then just the normal 2 year old I want my way and I did not get my way screaming!
The difficulty is when there is alot of screaming for different reasons, you get worn out and tired and you just want it to stop. And you are not always sharp on determining what the cause is and why.
The latter, just not getting her way screams are easier to handle in one sense. She has something she’s not supposed to have, I take it away, she screams, I tell her no, and then it is just an obedience/attitude issue that can be dealt with.
But how after a year do you make a child feel secure when they are still insecure?
We have alot of people that have come through, maybe 10 different visitors in the last year that have stayed with us. I have found a pattern that once they leave it takes Grace awhile before she feels comfortable and secure again. Same thing if the kids are home from school on break for a week or a month. She seems more stressed and then it takes her about a week to get back to “normal” - whatever that is for her and for our family.
So it is harder to make her feel secure. It is also harder when we live in a culture that generally give in to the kids and get them whatever they want just so they don’t cry or be unhappy.
I have had several times where Grace is with me at church or store or something and she is crying because she can’t have something, or because she has to stay on my back and others have told me, “she wants to get down, she is crying wanting to get down. “ To which I say, “ Yes, I know she does, but I don’t want her to get down.” This usually doesn’t go over well. But any cries are usually responded to by giving the child what they want. For example, kids are fighting over a toy and you give one the toy and the other a sweet just so they each have something, or so the one crying will stop the crying.
I saw this in the orphanage one day before we got Grace. She was playing with a piece of a metal pipe. I then took it away and she threw an all out tantrum. She would not stop crying, and me still being new to her was not exactly sure at that point what to do because then several workers came out asked why she was crying and just said, well give her what she wants.
So you would think that only 17 months of this type of “parenting” at the orphanage, wouldn’t take that long to undo, would it? I naively thought, just a couple months and everything would be fine.
But maybe it takes 17 months to undo? I don’t know.
Many days somewhere in the middle of this past year were very difficult. I became frustrated and irritated and angry. Does that make me a bad mother?
A few times this year I have had a fleeting thought when I am in the thick of the screams and emotional turmoil, of wow, what have we done in bringing her into our home?
Does that make me a bad mother? Absolutely.
Am I ok with knowing that I am a bad mother sometimes...? Yes I am.
Would I have said that one year ago. Never. Not Ever.
Would I have held my ground thinking I never get impatient or angry with my kids? Yes I would have and I would have still been proud.
In a strange sense, now I feel better knowing I am not the perfect mother. I never will be.
Sometimes God uses different circumstances in our lives to show us how much MORE of Christ and of grace, God’s GRACE we need to make it each day.
So those have been the hard lessons that I hope we or I have been learning this year.
But for the good stuff.
Grace is a charmer. She is adorable. She has had an explosion of her language and is saying everything and talking up a storm. She likes to play with all the toys now and plays on her own as well. She no longer panics and screams when she sees a doll or an animal. That is progress.
She used to cry when other people (OK-- just the black Zambians!) would come and talk to her. Now she chats away with people at the grocery store, before they even ask her she points to me and says, “my mommy!”
We have realized she very much likes and needs a routine. Sometimes we can give her that, other times we can’t and she has to learn to be OK with that. That too is a learning process.
I have been so thankful and amazed at how patient and loving the other kids have been with her, they truly have embraced her as their sister. One year later and they still fight over who gets to get her out of her crib when she wakes up in the morning!
She is very polite. Saying thank you when ever you give her something. The sweetest thing being whenever any of us give her a kiss or a hug, she immediately says, “Thank you!” and then kisses us back.
After she screams to get out of bed in the morning, she likes to lay down in bed with me and the other kids sometimes and snuggle. She will wrap her arms really tight around us and say, “nuggle nuggle nuggle”.
As I have gone to visit local orphanages over this past year since we have had her, I always come home with a renewed sense of understanding and patience for my daughter.
Sometimes I think about the difference, out of all the 6 kids we have been blessed with, and even though we can say we “planned” all the other ones ( actually get asked that question sometimes...) she is the only one that we “chose”. That we went to an office, asked about kids, were given a list of names and ages of kids that were available and based on what we were looking for, a girl under 2, she was the only one.
Certainly made it easier for the “choosing” part. But we went and met her and then had the “choice” do we want to adopt her. YES we did want to.
And we are SO thankful that we did. But it is just strange sometimes to think about the “choosing” part.
And it is strange to think about how at times, she can, like all of our kids, act in a way that shows an ungratefulness. And how my mind works, -- she is ungrateful when we have brought her in to our family given her a home, love and “saved her” from a life in an orphanage.
Now those of us that are christians immediately should feel our hearts understand that.
God has “saved us” and brought us into His family, not because anything good we have done, but because of Christ. And we can be so ungrateful and unthankful and get grumpy and have a bad attitude about things so often!
Definitely reminds us of ourselves.
So this year has been one of learning and understanding our daughter, but also more of ourselves. Here’s to many more years as a family learning, understanding and loving each other, all of us and hopefully a lot less screaming in the years to come. :-)