"It's a planet... a big floating ball in the sky that people live on. No, really, it is."

Number of days we have lost with our daughter due to the negligence of the state of Illinois: 3

H. (and everyone else) is feeling much better this week. Thank goodness! I am extremely glad that H. in particular is better, though, because surgery, pain, and sickness are very, very difficult for her. When she as to endure them we see a huge resurgence of orphanage behaviors which we have been working very hard on mitigating for the past three years. It is upsetting to see her go back to those lonely, scary places.

Things are on the upswing again and we all getting back into our regular routine. As I was working with H. this morning we had one of those Aha! moments. For the past year or so, she has been working through the Draw, Write, Now books. (I cannot tell you how much I love these books and how wonderful they are for children, especially special needs learners. I should do a post about them sometime.) She is currently in a section about the Arctic and the animals found there. Getting information lodged in her short-term memory is a struggle and we do a lot of review. So, when she had read about walruses and where they lived, I asked her where the Arctic was. Even though we have been working on this for quite some time, she drew a complete blank. (And I start my deep breathing because despite what everyone says, I am not a patient person and pretending to be one is, um, stretching.) Finally, she showed me a picture of the earth and asked if that was the Arctic.

It was then that I realized I had made an error. I had made the error several months ago, actually. I did what I knew I absolutely shouldn't do and that was make an assumption of prior knowledge. When I showed her the picture of the little line drawing of the earth and carefully explained where we lived and where the Arctic and Antarctic were, I was assuming that that little round circle had some sort of meaning for her.

Once again I was struck by how much this child has missed. I've learned the hard way over the past three years that unless I am working with H. directly or talking to her directly, she doesn't get it. I think it is a combination of language deficits, her crazily wired brain, and years of training to tune everyone and everything out and escape into her own head. I can't tell you how happy it makes me when she joins into dinner conversations of her own accord. This doesn't happen often and we still have to be very purposeful in trying to help her engage in what is going on around her. It is both heart-breaking and frustrating. I will rejoice if we ever reach a point where I have to remind her that she is not part of another's conversation.

But back to this morning. I suddenly realized that though I was showing her a drawing of the earth, that she had no concept of earth, the planet, that round ball in sky that we all live on. (You must admit that if you are trying to explain the whole thing to someone it does sound a little odd.) We talked about the sun, which she knows about and can see, we talked about planets, we talked about the moon. And then it all fell into place...

I had the globe out, I was jumping around the room showing the big sun, the planets, and then I held my fist up to be the moon. I made sure she understood the moon idea and then showed how astronauts had actually traveled in a spaceship and landed on the moon. Her reaction couldn't have been better if you had taken a flat-earther up into space. Her eyes got big, her mouth dropped open, she paused and then said in a surprised voice, "No way!" When I assured her it had happened she grinned and laughed as though it was the most wondrous thing that she had ever been told. And I guess, if you didn't know you lived on a big floating ball in the sky and that people had actually traveled to another floating ball in the sky, to discover all of that at once would be the most wondrous thing you could imagine.

I love watching her world open. When H. first came home, our friend who was acting an interpreter for us, was taken aback by the fact that H. had no concept of here (in the US) and there (China). It has taken us a while to show her they are different places which are far apart and that we didn't sit in that airplane for 13 hours just for the fun of it.

It is also heart breaking. No child should miss this much. As wonderful as it is to be the one to open up her world to her, I wish there was no need. I wanted to check that my assumption that we live on a planet and that a planet is even a thing wasn't unrealistic, so I turned to my two little controls, G. and L. I pointed to the globe and asked them what it was. They could answer right away and went on to name other planets. I have never taught them this, it is just what they have picked-up. But then, since their birth they have been twin suns around which all other planets revolve, thus they have never had the need to disappear into a mental void to escape pain, missing out on life in its entirety.

Adoption. Beautiful and wonderful and heart-wrenchingly sad and painful all at the same time. I can't turn back the clock and redo my children's pain and loss, but I can do my best to redeem what the locusts have taken.


Anonymous said…
What a fabulous post! Honestly, I have been a bit scared about taking in a severely neglected child (I am a foster parent), because I thought all the missed schooling would make life super difficult. And while I am sure it would be a challenge, you have described the magic I couldn't see: revealing the world to a child and enjoying their delight in seeing it for the first time.
madeleine said…
beautiful and heartbreaking. Thank you for sharing.
Mama Bear said…
One of the most satisfying parts of being an adoptive parent, for me, is seeing the look in my son's eyes when the dots connect. Beautiful story!
LeeAnn Howe said…
Our daughter also never realized we were on an airplane ✈️ in the sky, on our flight home from China. She probably thought it was another form of ground transportation. She also has no concept of earth 🌏 or that China and the US are separate land masses (what's a land mass?) and are far away from one another. She is 12, and has high intelligence, but doesn't understand cause and effect, either.

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