“We are designed for connection. We are designed to know God in each other.”
-Dr. Karyn Purvis
Happy Monday! Did you have a nice weekend? It was hot, hot, hot here in Alabama- but it’s starting to feel a *little* like Fall first thing in the morning, so that gives us hope that it won’t be 95° and super humid much longer. 😉
We kept our weekend pretty low key again, and Steevenson seemed to really appreciate the consistency of our similar daily schedules. Kevin did go to church to lead worship for a few hours yesterday morning, but other than that, we pretty much just stuck to our new, regular routines & activities, and did a lot of bonding with Steevenson both together and separately. Our adoption counselor recommended that we continue to keep his world very small (with extremely limited exposure to multiple people, especially adults) for at least 5 more weeks, so we are sticking close to home and pretty much just hanging out as a threesome in the same 4-5 places right now:
- Home – he doesn’t *love* being in the house, but he’s not saying that he doesn’t like it anymore, so that’s a step! 😉
- Our neighborhood – either riding on the golf cart, riding bicycle, or swimming in the pool when it’s empty during the week.
- A nearby playground – he looks SO forward to his time at the park with Kevin! They go every day between breakfast and lunch, and I use every second they’re gone to work/clean/do laundry/make phone calls, shower, pay bills, answer emails, etc.
- Our car – he LOVES going for rides to look for things (school buses, tractors, motorcycles, horses, etc.) in the afternoon. He usually dozes off for 15-20 minutes which is great because he can’t seem to/doesn’t want to rest at home.
- Grandma & Grandpa’s house – he usually asks to stop by for a quick visit once or twice a week, and since they’ll be moving in with us soon, we’re glad he wants to bond with them a little too!
Our weekend also included a breakthrough on the meal preparation issue I blogged about last Friday, so we are feeling extremely grateful that Steevenson seems to be feeling much more comfortable with me cooking/carrying his food to the table over the past few days! He has even started playing with Daddy in the living room while I’m getting things ready in the kitchen and on the table, which is something he wasn’t able to do before. Praise the Lord!
Of course he will always be welcome to help with some parts of the process if he wants to, I’m just saying it seems like he is starting to feel a little bit of relief that he (as the child) doesn’t *have* to do/make everything, and that he trusts that we (as his parents) will help him with the things he is too little/shouldn’t have to do (as a 4-year-old child).
In that previous post, I mentioned that we had started to notice that Steevenson’s melt downs primarily occurred as a result of not wanting anyone else to choose/prepare/or handle any part of his snacks or meals. I spent some time thinking about why that might be on Friday night, and it occurred to me that one of the reasons (maybe even the only reason?) might be because he’s never had daily access to a kitchen before.
We don’t know *exactly* what the first 18 months of his life looked like, but we do know a little bit about some of his most difficult early life experiences, and we also know that he was severely malnourished by the time he arrived at the Angel House in May of 2013. We also know that there is a tall, picket fence-style safety gate on the doorway to the kitchen at the Angel House that prevents the children from being able to wander in there, so obviously choosing and/or preparing food has never been a part of his daily routine.
So, when it comes to eating, the first part of his life included hunger, and the second part included trusting that food would come out of that mysterious kitchen.
Now jump to today. He’s living in our house that has a wide-open kitchen right in the middle of it. He can walk right into it, unrestricted, any time he wants. All of a sudden, he can point to any food he sees. He can slide the pantry door open (because it’s a pocket door that doesn’t lock) and find shelves full of things he loves, and things that he’s never tried before. He is tall enough to open the french doors on the refrigerator, so he can move things around on the bottom shelf (and in the lowest pockets in the doors) to create space for all the unfinished drinks and food items he accumulates throughout the day and wants to save for later. He can pull the freezer drawer open (because it’s at his level) and see more food choices in that one spot than he’s probably ever seen at one time.
When I think about what those kinds of changes must be like from his perspective, and how rapidly they occurred (literally overnight three weeks ago), it helps me to better understand what could’ve been fueling his previously all-consuming eagerness to choose, cook, prepare and be the only one to physically handle his food, and why not always being able to do that might lead to him feeling overwhelmed, scared and angry. It motivates me to think about what I can do to help make the transition from no kitchen/no choices, to wide-open kitchen/lots of choices a little less jarring for him. (*Edited to add: we will not be installing gates, and he does have easy access to a few his favorite healthy snacks and drinks at all times.)
Our focus for children from hard places must always be clear: to help them heal and become whole in body, mind and spirit. This is done not by focusing on achieving “good behavior,” but by helping our children create strong connections built on trust. Out of this can grow not only “good behavior,” but so many other things that our children need and that we desire for them. By balancing structure with nurture and always remaining mindful of the inherent preciousness of each and every child, we have the opportunity to help our children realize dramatic strides and in the process discover (and re-discover) the joy in parenting. -Dr. Karyn Purvis
I am so in love with our beloved boy. He has so much sunshine in his soul, and Kevin and I feel so lucky that God called us to be a part of his precious life. We have so much to learn about being his parents, but our focus is clear: help him heal. Help him to connect, and trust…and to know God, in himself and in each other.