Tuesday, February 21, 2012

And So We Rocked...

Today, after yet another power struggle with Aria and her efforts to be in charge of this home and all within, I came to this point...

I wish I could understand her more. I wish I could peer into her past so I could understand why she reacts as she does sometimes. I wish I could see why she goes to that place where she only stares with eyes in such a hauntingly empty and cold way. I wish I knew how to respond effectively each time we get to this or other points. I wish we were out of this phase and into one much further down the road. I wish...

As I held Aria, my heart cried out to God, not knowing what to do or how to get out of this place of hurt and frustration with her. God, give me eyes to see her like you do. Help me to have a soft heart for this child that fights me so defiantly. Help me, help me...

I walked to my room as I held her, trying to catch a glimpse of her face in my mirror. And then I saw my rocking chair, the chair I rocked Elliana, Kael, and Jaevan in so many nights. The chair that I have found so many precious and quiet moments with the Lord. And holding Aria, I sat in the chair...

And so we rocked. Back and forth, back and forth. I held my 4 year old daughter as I did each of my little babies, cradling her head to my chest and holding her little legs in my arms. Back and forth, back and forth. I brushed her hair from her eyes, stroked her cheek. I kissed the top of her head and told her I loved her, that we would figure this out yet. Back and forth, back and forth.

After a while, I asked her if she liked this rocking. I knew she was sensitive to being thought of like a baby, and she was well aware that the way I was holding her is how babies get held. Aria answered without moving, "Yes, I like this..."

And so the rocking continued. Back and forth. We looked into each others' eyes. We talked. We smiled. We bonded, in this special way just as I had with all of my babies.

I figured she had never been rocked before, and I asked her if she had done this in China. She let me know that, no, she didn't do any rocking in China.

It's so sad to have never been rocked. But now I know the secret to coming out of those frustrating moments. And the secret to maybe even preventing them. We can rock, back and forth, making up for the time she never got to be cradled like a baby by her mommy. We can rock, calming our hearts, our minds, our souls. We can rock, bringing a quiet stillness to a world that is sometimes filled with too much to process. We can rock.

And so we did...

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Missing Mama

As Aria gets more proficient in speaking English, we get the privilege of getting to know this little girl more and more. We find out some of the things she is thinking, some of the things she feels, and we get to hear a little bit about her past.

And that's where missing Mama comes in. I'm talking about her orphanage mama, that is. Every now and then Aria mentions something about Mama and China. I'm not quite sure how much she remembers as reality or if it's just how she wants to picture things in China. As she shared more of her history with me today, she said she got to eat lots of food in China, not just a little bit. It could be lost in translation, it could be how she remembers it, but no, sweetie, you didn't get to eat lots in China. Some stories she tells us are certainly made up with tell tale signs of imagination (like people that don't live in China having adventures with her there). Whether she thinks those stories are real or not, I'm not certain.

As we continued to talk about China today, I asked some probing questions. "Did you get carried a lot, or did you walk a lot?" (Aria said she was carried a lot and only walked a little bit there - I'm pretty sure that tale is true.) After she shared more and more what was on her heart about her life in China, she said to me, "I no like this home. I like home with Mama." It never ceases to cut my heart a bit when I hear that, even though I know it's not a matter of rejecting me or us, but a matter of her grieving process. I asked her what she didn't like about our home... is it the toys she doesn't like? "I like those," she says. Is it her room she doesn't like? "I like Aria's room." Is it Mommy, or Daddy, or Elliana, or JJ she doesn't like? She says she likes each of us. So she does like this home. But what she cannot express to me is that she likes her old home because that's where Mama is.

She reminisced today about her last contact with Mama. She told me again about the time when we met, and how she talked to Mama on the phone and she cried. I wish she had a more positive last memory about Mama, and it didn't have to do with us "keeping her" from Aria. But it is what it is. The orphanage director made that decision for Aria and for us when they were all in our hotel room, trying to transition Aria from their care to ours. She decided, while Aria was already crying because she didn't want to stay with us, to call the "mama" on her cell phone and put the phone to Aria's ear. Aria proceeded to go into hysterics. This wasn't good for us that first day, and it was hardest on Aria to put her through such a tortured goodbye. Does Aria need to talk about that day in her own 4 year old, broken English way? Yes, I think she does. I know each time we talk about Mama, talk about her past, we acknowledge that it is hard for Aria, and that it is ok to love Mama.

Sometimes when we talk about China, it gives us an opportunity to give Aria a little reality about her situation there. Although we cannot fully know Aria's true reality at the orphanage, the pictures we have speak 1000 words. Almost every one shows Aria frowning. Almost every one shows Aria being carried. Almost every one shows the conditions of her orphanage - not awful by any means, but not good either. We also have the evidence that was Aria's very little, malnourished, weak tiny body as well as the behaviors she came to us with. Little bit by little bit, we share with Aria how she was not healthy in China. ("Aria's legs no work good in China.") Slowly and bit by bit we will need to share with her how the "mama" was not her Mom (but did care for and love on Aria), and that she did not have a forever family when living at the orphanage. Slowly but surely we will need to share with her how she was not healthy, not thriving, and would have little future if she stayed in the orphanage. But again, little bit by little bit, revealing only what her little heart and mind are ready for.

This is Aria's story, and right now Aria still has some fresh grief about the part of her life that is over, living at the orphanage with Mama. I think in some ways if Mama was here living with us, her life could be exactly what she wants - food, toys, her own family, and Mama.

Aria misses Mama.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Love

Yesterday was rough. (If you read my post from yesterday, you got a glimpse of it.) It wasn't a little bit rough, but one of those out of control spiraling downward days where I cannot hold back the tears of frustration. Truth be told, we've had quite a few days like that as we adjust to Aria being in our family. The dynamic in our home has certainly changed. Relationships are building, but boundaries are tested - often. Perhaps it is no coincidence I found my first white hair today!

In my time before the Lord this morning, He brought the word LOVE to my heart. Love that's patient and kind. Love that's not irritable or rude. Love that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1Cor 13:7) Love that never ends...

Today, though the house may be in shambles, though my kids may test me, though the spiritual battle rages on, though I may feel inadequate for the task at hand, there is LOVE in this home. Love, spilling forth from the Father over our lives so that we may pour into others. This kind of love from God keeps no record of wrong. It gives without expectations in return. It is pure, it is holy, it is only possible through God.

At times trust may allude me, but LOVE is present, is eternal... it's a gift from God.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Trust

Trust is key in relationships. With our primary relationship with God, trusting Him is a form of surrender, love, and worship. Trusting a spouse is imperative. Without trust, suspicion, jealousy, resentment, and a host of other feelings can grow within a marriage. And trust with our children is also very important. If we cannot trust our children to do what we ask, to keep the boundaries we put into place, those children then lose independence and blessings. For older kids that may mean being grounded. For younger kids that may mean not leaving Mom or Dad's sight.

Building trust with a child that you adopt is an interesting thing. As with many relationships, it does not come automatically. Trust grows when a person proves they are worthy of it. For Aria, she trusts us more as she sees us care for her - feed her, clothe her, nurture her, be there for her, tuck her in, play with her, and so on. For us on the parental end, trust grows when we see that Aria desires to follow our rules and tries to obey the boundaries we put into place.

When boundaries are not known to her, we cannot fault her. For example, I was very surprised to find a magazine of mine in her room covered with a bunch of her baby dolls. I asked her if she took my magazine, and she admitted she did. Although I was confronting her, trust was being built in one way because she answered me honestly. I then asked her why she did it, and she said she didn't know. I was surprised that she took the magazine for a couple of reasons. First, my magazine was not just sitting around in a way that would've been easy to grab. It would've taken her some effort to get it. Second, the kids aren't allowed to go in our room and just take random things out and put them in their rooms. However, with the latter point, Chad and I had not specifically told Aria this rule. How could she obey a rule that she was not aware of? Interesting, though... even though I know that and this was an opportunity for me to talk to her about yet another boundary in our home, I still came away from the conversation feeling like I trusted Aria a little less. Yes, she didn't lie to me this time, which I appreciated. But she also got into my room, took something of mine, and treated it roughly. I know now I'm going to have to watch out for Aria doing that again or in some other form, because even with the boundary set in place, it doesn't mean she won't cross it.

Just this afternoon, Aria and JJ were playing together very unkindly and inappropriately. Although both were quick to tell on each other, both were also quick to deny that they did any wrong to the other. After pressing, I found out that both were lying to me. There are two things in parenting that break trust faster than anything else... lying and disobedience. Part of JJ's and Aria's correction for their misbehavior and lying was to each play in their own rooms apart from one another. I made it quite clear they were not to come out of their rooms, they were not to talk to one another from the doorways, but rather stay in their rooms and play alone. I went downstairs for about 5 minutes, and Elliana told me that Aria came out of her room and went to see JJ. I went upstairs to ask Aria about this. Once again she told me the truth and admitted she left her room. I then asked her where she was supposed to be. She told me she was supposed to stay in Aria's room. Whether by simply forgetting what I said or just trying to get away with something, once again trust was broken. I could not trust her to stay in her room without watching that she would do so.

I wish I could say these types of behaviors were few and far between, but too often the trust is broken in my relationship with Aria. Yes, I know some of this is just plain foolishness that is bound in a child's heart. Some of this could be Aria adjusting to following rules. Some of this, sadly though, is purposeful and intentional. When I give an instruction and see Aria trying to break it when she thinks I'm not looking, it frustrates me, it angers me, it saddens me. Although I would feel that way with any of my kids if they did that, it is so much more with Aria. And I think the reason for that is because I simply cannot trust Aria much of the time. And because I cannot trust her, it is difficult at times for me to bond with her. And when it's difficult for me to bond with her, it's difficult for me to feel all the warm fuzzy feelings I long to feel for her.

I know it's early in our relationship. I know we have many bad behaviors still to overcome in her. I know there is still a bit of a language barrier (although I have found that in issues of trust, that has not been a factor - I can tell at this point when she understands me and when she doesn't). I know that she is in the "frustrating fours", as my mom calls them. I know all of these things. But my mind knowing them doesn't take away the frustration in living with these behaviors way more often than I'd like. The trust here is fledgling at best. And that can make for long days, really for both Aria and me.

I look forward to the day when I know I can leave Aria alone for more than 5 minutes without worrying what she's doing or getting into. I look forward to the day that I'm confident that when I say "Don't", she will obey more often than not (rather than the other way around). I look forward to the day when I don't have to sift through so many lies from her to find the truth. I look forward to the day when our trust will be more stable and secure, rather than the roller coaster ride we seem to be on in the last month. I look forward to all these things... but to get there, we need to deal with the NOW.

And right now... we're working on having trust.