It seems like it might be hope
The title of this post is from one of my favorite songs by Sara Groves, It Might Be Hope. There have definitely been moments in this parenting journey when the lines from this song do run through my head. In the past day or two they are there again, this time in regards to R.
I have been pretty open about how challenging this child is. I'm realizing that the biggest challenge is not from her delays or her seizures (which were pretty bad at first) or even her indiscriminate affection. No, the biggest challenge has been how stuck she has seemed in where she was. With H., we saw right away a child fighting to get out. She was at least aware of when others were doing something and she wasn't, and she would at least try. With R., we seem to have a child who has become so comfortable in her extremely narrow little comfort zone, that for whatever reason (probably fear... all fear) she cannot tolerate being out of it. I have never seen a child who can sit for three to four hours a day doing the same repetitive task over and over. (That's when I'm either too distracted or didn't catch it. We don't let her do this regularly, it is so unhealthy.) Her lack of desire to expand her world; her seemingly obliviousness to what else is going on around her and that she might take part has been the most difficult. How do you create even the most cursory amount of curiosity in a child? I'm not sure I know, but that doesn't stop me from trying different things.
Felt safety, a push (or two or one hundred) out of her comfort zone, continuing to try to increase her English language ability, and work on her use of her body have been what we have been doing. For a very long time it has felt as though I don't have enough years left in my life to see genuine progress based on her past rate of glacial progress. (Actually glaciers might move faster.)
But we have seen glimmers of hope...
One of the things we have been really pushing is for her to go back to being right-handed. Based on her pretty amazing chopstick skills, I'm quite sure that her right hand was her dominate hand before her brain surgery. Then, as a result of the surgery, she switched to her left hand and her right had a tendency to hang in a way that reminded me of a stroke victim. The right hand, though wasn't being held by spastic or hypotonic muscles, it had just become a habit brought on by the surgery. (I'm guessing here, but I think I'm correct.) When asked to relax her arm and hand and hold them straight, she can. So like a stroke victim, we have been insisting that she use that hand, mainly to facilitate the connections in the left half of her brain which were compromised by the surgery. It takes a lot of reminding.
Well, the other night when I was tucking R. into bed, I noticed a funny thing. She had her right hand in front of her face and was opening and closing it and tracking its movements with her eyes. If you have ever watched a baby when she first discovers her hands, this looked remarkably similar. Could it be that R.'s brain is finally realizing that she has another hand? I don't know, but this is certainly worth noting.
Next, we have been working on basic body movements, such as a tall kneel. Now, a year ago, getting R. to do a tall kneel took two people, a lot of encouragement (from us), and a whole lot of screeching (from her). We weren't hurting her, just asking her to do something outside her comfort zone; her comfort zone being sitting, standing, lying down, and 'W' sitting. (Don't worry, we nixed the 'W' sit immediately and she never does it now.) But anything outside those things didn't happen. No lying on the floor trying to do different things with her body such as every other child in my house did. The high kneel felt so odd to her that it was terrifying. She couldn't balance or hold it by herself and needed support. She just didn't know how to use her muscles to do such a thing. By contrast, Y., who has a genuine reason to not be able to do a tall kneed (and it was actually a PT goal), worked relentlessly on it and conquered it by the end of that PT cycle. (Ah, the competition is strong in that one.) We didn't do it everyday, but we kept on.
The other night, when all the younger people were trying to outdo each other in the physical fitness department, R. noticed! She wanted to join in. (Do you have any idea how huge this is?) She got down on the floor and started doing a high kneel. It was a rather, um, interesting high kneel, but she voluntarily did it. Over the past couple of days, I have gotten her to do a more traditional looking one. She still doesn't like it, and complains at how it feels, but she has been doing it on her own. After she complains, she will look at me and inform me that she didn't have to do this in China.
Finally, she has drawn her first recognizable object with no outside help. Here, look.
There are still a lot of unrecognizable squiggles, which are very typical of her normal drawing, but look there in the center and the left. Can you tell what those are? They are trees! When we asked her what she drew, and she said trees, we didn't have to ask which squiggles were the trees. We could tell!
These are our glimmers to the child within. A child so locked-up by past trauma that it is terrifying to come out. (I just want to be clear. The trauma was from her time in the orphanage, before she arrived at her foster home. Her foster home loved her and put her on the path towards healing.) If you can't understand how a child could become such a shell, then you need to read the description of what life is like for a child in an orphanage. My real-life friend has several older girls who were adopted. They are all very articulate and are able to share what their previous life is like. The are, in my opinion, the best advocates for adoption. Read what they have to say. Yes, life can be challenging helping a child heal. But is there a better way to spend your time and your life?
Adoption Questions, Part 3
Seriously, take the time to click on the link and read.