Sunday, August 3, 2014
My Daughter Lily
This summer I realized Lily has problems with her memory. While I had suspected there may be an issue, I have been extremely careful not to project anything upon Lily. Since we knew almost NOTHING about her 9 year history when we got her, I didn't want to put labels on her or even assumptions. I have always expected the best out of Lily and not treated her like she was at a disadvantage of any kind. When it came extremely clear to me this summer that she has memory lapses, I realized that probably much of the three years we've had her she probably hasn't understood as much as I thought.
Lily and I got off to a horrible start in China and the first year and a half didn't improve much. I probably cried and/or had a mini breakdown at least once a month during this time. I knew it would be hard and I knew that Lily didn't mean to personally hurt me, and yet it was still very difficult to keep on smiling and making advances. Lily had ZERO emotion and I had TOO MUCH. Not a good combination!
One of the most difficult things Lily has had to understand and work through is not lying. It is our understanding from Lily and other bits of information we have pieced together that Lily didn't get hardly any interaction with others at the Big O. She lived there for 9 years, yet could not even speak Chinese. She didn't speak. In the three years we've had Lily, I have probably talked to her more than I talked to all the other four kids combined. I have made it a point to talk through everything. We talk through situations and choices and reactions. Talks about what she likes and what she doesn't like, talks about expressing how she feels, talks about tone in voice and inflections, talks about pain and how to tell when you are hurt. Many talks about feelings. By the way, feelings are REALLY hard to teach someone about who has lived in the Big O for 9 years. Because Lily didn't ever get her feelings hurt it was impossible to teach her about hurting other people's feelings.
A few months ago Lily lied to me. Again. I just lost it and cried and looked at her and reminded her of ALL I've done for her and that we've been through and on and on (wanting to show her HUGE emotion of how it made me feel. She got tears in her eyes (tears are few and far between) and just looked at me so sadly. And so deep. Which is rare. Remember, when we got Lily she couldn't even look you straight in the eye. Not at all. She had never had anyone look her straight in the eye and demand attention. So anyway, Lily burst into tears and wailed! She told me that she tries not to lie but she can't help it. She was hysterical. Hysterical. It was an incredible moment for us. It was a breakthrough for us. We cried on the bed together and tried to talk it out.
The biggest problem with Lily's development is me not knowing how much she understands and how much she remembers. So if I think she has grasped a certain issue and think we can progress, I could realize a year later that she didn't grasp it. This is tough. Even so, I've gotten in her mind as much as I think anyone could in these past three years. She is still so much a mystery. She will be 13 in a couple weeks. She is entering second grade. She has done so well in school, already completed 3 years. So far she's kept up with the other kids, although reading is her weakness. SHE HATES IT. And probably hates me most days for pushing her to learn. But she fits in perfectly with the other kids in her grade. There is no way she could advance to the grade she is "supposed to be in" due to her age. It would be so unfair to her anyway. She began her life when we got her. And she's the same size currently as kids starting second grade. So for now, this is where she needs to be and all id going good. In a way, it's good Lily is so little. If she were the size of a normally developing 13 year old and in second grade I think that would pose a bigger problem.
I have always loved Lily. Since I met her four years ago I have loved her. Even when she was mean to me and didn't show any emotion to me I still loved her. Love comes easy for me. BUT it was the attaching that was an issue. So many days and months in the beginning I would just feel like she was someone else's child and I was keeping her for the time being. Trying so hard to connect with her, yet nothing back from her. I would give ANYTHING to know what was in her mind those first two years. She was probably so hurt and confused. Maybe she thought we were sending her back one day (even though I told her we would not again and again). Maybe she thought we didn't care about her like the other caretakers in her life had. Maybe she thought we liked other kids more than her. Or maybe she didn't form any kind of deep thought like that. I still don't know.
I have asked her the same questions over the three years and often get different responses. She is changing. She is growing. She is learning attachment. But she has not attached. But one thing I can say from my end is that my love for her has changed. I have attached to her. I know longer feel like a caretaker. I feel like she is my daughter now. This is probably something that isn't popular to admit. No one wants to say they didn't feel attached to their adopted child. But the truth is, older child adoption isn't about attachment at first sight! It's about a choice that you make and a promise you keep forever. And the choice and promise was easy for me to make for Lily. The attachment took time and work. But now, I see Lily as my own and no one else's. I am confident I know that girl better than anyone on the planet (even if I don't know her fully yet). I am confident we have made huge strides and that we will make even more. I know God chose us to be Lily's parents and I am honored He believed in us! And there is no way we could do it without His help and guidance.
Orphanages and institutions are a sad place for children to live. For a short time, but certainly for years! Some are better than others, I know there are wonderful places that care for orphans. Like foster care homes, it's hard to compare any to another. Children are so precious. Getting into Lily's heart and mind has been eye-opening for me. The damage that neglect can cause on a child is life changing. I know that some people never recover. Lily has a long way to go. She is a tiny little girl that has an extremely wounded spirit and soul and body. All three of her being were affected from the 9 years in the orphanage. But I have seen glimpses of healing in her. I have seen small breakthroughs. I have seen her heart. Though it has been hardened and cold for all those years, I have seen it soften. I have seen her feelings break through. And her mind is learning to think a new way. A healthy way.
Lily has accomplished SO much in three years. I am thankful God put her in a big family. Many opportunities to learn and adapt and grow. I cannot even begin to say how many things the girl has learned (remember, she didn't even know the difference between male and female when we got her, and she had never worn underwear because they still had her in split pants which are common for toddlers to wear in Asia). Even still, I am realizing she didn't understand things in the beginning. For example, just this week I asked her if she understood why she had to have the extensive surgery on her elimination system. She said no. This was a tough time for her and she did not relate well to me while I cared for her recovering from this surgery (which she spent 10 days in the hospital from). No wonder she didn't like me! She probably thought I was just a mean lady torturing her. And yet, we were allowing her to finally get a surgery she had needed for 9 years! Bless her heart. The girl is fearless!
I love my girl. And I think she loves me. She says it now and I think she means it, as much as she understands love. But that's good enough for me. We've made HUGE progress. And I know this is just the beginning. When I think about all that girl survived for 9 years, I still get choked up. How did she make it? She's so tough. Resilient. Unstoppable. I'm looking forward to seeing this girl grow and overcome every obstacle before her!