I was getting ready in the bathroom this morning when I started to hear Jasara babbling and music coming from the other room… “Your love never fails, it never gives up, never runs out on me…”. I opened the door and saw Jasara at her finest…so happy and giggly, talking up a storm, and rolling around the big comfy bed. Jennifer had my ipod going and was dancing around the room. It was the perfect song to wake up to. God’s love never fails – Jennifer and Jasara will have lives that prove that over and over. When the girls saw me dressed Jennifer immediately motioned that she wanted to get dressed and then Jasara started stripping down too. Today we put ‘American’ clothes on the girls – yesterday we let them stay in the clothes they came in. Jennifer put her new dress on with a squeal, twirled around in circles and then when I got out her new sandals she put them up to her nose and smelled them with a smile. I could see her mind say, “Brand new!” I also have never seen a 2 year old excited about clothes, but Jasara literally knew that this was something special. She was so excited to go show Jake her outfit once she was dressed, and Jennifer was busy dancing around the room trying out her shoes. :)
We also are facing A LOT of obedience and behavioral issues…nothing that came unexpectedly. In fact, watching the girls has reminded me so much of how Justice was when he first came. These girls have learned to fight to survive. It is very clear. This isn’t the “terrible twos” or a personality issue. A lot of the behaviors we are seeing are straight products of the environment they’ve grown up in. They’ve had to be strong-willed, otherwise they would not get food, get to keep their food long enough to eat it, get their needs met, or be heard. Plain and simple. There is a lot of hitting/smacking, hoarding, unwillingness to share, and direct disobedience and defiance like running away when we say it is time to be done with an activity. The sand box rules elevated to a higher level so to say. For the first day Jake and I would smile when we would see an issue and say out loud, “We’ll have to work on that when we get home.” But today it is clear that we also need to teach them to respect our authority from the beginning. It is a strange balance because at the same time, we are also building trust with the girls. So we’ve picked just a couple of the main misbehaviors to work on while we are here. With Jasara it is hitting. If Jennifer tries to even touch something Jasara is looking at, playing with (or was playing with) - like a book - then Jasara will smack Jennifer’s hand and give a blood-curdling scream and tighten her grip on whatever it is she is holding, or if it was something she had set down then she makes a mad dash to go get it. After she hits/smacks we will then take Jasara’s hand and say a stern, “No.” In a split second that brings on a major fit of crying, screaming, and kicking. This little lady has learned how to always get her way (because she is so darn cute!), and she does not like us telling her no! One of the things I’ve learned in adoption education is to do “time in” instead of “time out”. So when the above scenario just played out in the hotel room I took Jasara out of the chair and away from the book and sat next to her on the bed while she threw a fit. I just kept saying to her, “I’m sorry but we cannot hit our family,” and she let me rub her back while she cried. In about 5 minutes she was done crying and on to something else. She did test us again a few minutes later to see if we had a consistent reaction, and back into “time in” she went where another fit ensued. Of course we can do this in the luxury of our hotel room (and yet I still wonder what the workers think about all the crying they are hearing!). But it’s a little hard to do out in public, so we are hoping that she catches on fast!
Jennifer actually does a pretty good job of sharing. The main thing that we are working on with Jennifer is just plain obedience to our commands. Earlier this morning when we were swimming we said it was time to go. We got out and went to dry off with the towels. At first Jennifer got out with us, but then she realized that we were leaving. She grabbed her Barbie and headed back to the pool. I looked at her in the eyes and said a stern, “No Jennifer. It is time to dry off with the towels.” I also use a lot of hand motions when I talk to her so she knew what I was saying. She looked at me and giggled and as I walked toward her she SPRINTED back into the pool (dangerous in itself because the tile was all wet). The other hard thing is that Ghanaian children love to be chased. They think it is a game. Justice was the same way. Jake went up to Jennifer in the pool and said again, “It is time to go.” Then he told me to just get our stuff together and act like we were leaving and she would follow. And she did, almost as if on cue. This direct disobedience is kind of hard to correct right now because we cannot reason with Jennifer in the same language. If she spoke English we would have spoken to her once we got into the hotel room and told her how she would be disciplined should she choose that route again, etc. I am thankful we already went through all of this with Justice so we aren’t surprised at these behaviors and we also are well-rehearsed in our responses.
Lastly I just wanted to touch on the topic of food. Eating meals with these girls makes me so sad because their past becomes so evident. Last night I laid in bed and asked the Lord to forgive me for living in such comfort and luxury while His children on the other side of the world are starving. It just breaks me. When Jennifer’s plate of food is set in front of her she scarfs it down, just like you see orphans do in the movies. Each meal Jake will gently put his hand on her arm and say, “Jennifer, there will always be plenty now. You can slow down when you eat.” In both the girls you can sense that there is a fear that more food won’t come later. They better eat now or they might not get another chance. We know they will understand in time that they don’t have to live that way anymore once they see for themselves that meals will come consistently. Jennifer also doesn’t know what to do when her tummy is full. Yesterday she got breakfast and lunch and dinner. Usually Ghanaians only eat two meals per day if they’re lucky. And for children, they share plates of food. So a normal plate of food that I would give JJ or Justice is shared by two children here. We had to keep that consistent for the foster mother’s children, Rosemund and Justice, who ate with us yesterday. Otherwise, what we’ve learned is that their stomachs will grow in adjustment if they receive extra food while we are here, and then when we leave they will be even hungrier than they are to begin with. When Jennifer received lunch yesterday her tummy was so full and round. She was walking around saying she was going to be sick. I'm sure it's a strange feeling to feel full when you’ve never felt it before! Eventually she ended up falling asleep up in the hotel room and she slept if off.
Jasara has some real issues with food….I almost don’t even know where to begin to explain it all! Again, this is nothing that we didn’t expect. In adoption education you are made aware of these sorts of issues that could come. Jasara’s comfort is definitely food. She went so long being malnourished and just plain hungry. I know when we met her in March that this was why she was so inconsolable. Although she was getting small amounts of food by then, her body hadn’t caught up to receiving the nourishment it needed yet. If Jasara sees someone eating, or when we head into the hotel restaurant she almost immediately starts whining for food. If she doesn’t get any fairly soon she will start crying as if she is in pain. I’ve already been able to recognize her different cries. :) She cries a painful cry for food if she sees it, or is in a place where they are serving it, or if someone else is eating in front of her and she doesn't have any. She doesn’t even have to be hungry. If she knows there is food, she wants it. I also have noticed that Jasara doesn’t feed herself. If you physically put something in her hand she will eat it, but for the most part she sits on our laps and we spoon feed her what is on her plate. This is great for bonding right now, but I also have no doubt that this is one of the reasons why she is so assertive when she sees food. She literally relies on others to eat and drink, and she will make sure that you know when she wants it. In America we always picture 2 year olds roaming around with their sippy cups in hand with the convenience of grabbing a sip whenever they like. I did bring a sippy cup for Jasara but we have to hold the cup for her and tip it back. I’ve tried a couple of times to have her try and do it herself, but old habits are proving hard to break! In addition, there are big issues once meal time is over. Jasara does NOT like seeing her plate being taken away, even if she is finished eating...learned that the hard way! I did make the connection of how the foster mother worked her away around these end-of-meal-fits. When the meal is through her foster mother made sure to hand Jasara a biscuit or cracker or piece of bread that she can take with her in her hand. That way as she leaves the table she still feels that she has some food with her, and in a few minutes she moves on and forgets about the meal being over. I can tell that Jasara feels comfort when she has some sort of food in her hand. This will come in handy for the plane ride, but will take time to work through once we get home.
Oh, I also wanted to mention that the girls are doing a great job of trying out some English! Jake and I actually have to remind ourselves to teach them it! We are so used to communicating through hand motions – and even when Jasara jabbles something you know exactly what she wants. Just today we started saying phrases to them before we give them something, “Drink please” “more crackers please” and “thank you” etc.
Thanks everyone for praying for us! We got GREAT SLEEP last night as the girls slept through the whole night. Jasara had to feel around for my face a couple of times when she woke up to know that I was still there, but she would fall right back to sleep. No crying the whole night, which is pretty amazing when you think about them being in an unfamiliar place with a mom and a dad that they barely know! God is showing up in the transition and planting peace in their hearts. :) Please keep praying for us.