Friday, December 11, 2009
Simple things just aren’t that simple. I let him watch a basketball game on the computer hoping that would keep him occupied so we could get some work done. He seemed somewhat familiar with the game, but wanted me to turn the sound up making me wonder if he had a hearing problem. I went directly to the kitchen to help Lisa with dinner. He shrieked “daddy, daddy, daddy,” several times before I recognized what he was saying and that I was the one for whom he beckoned. Strange how a child you’ve known for only a couple of days, who has none of your own genetic material, can so comfortably call you “Dad.” Maybe it’s God’s way of endowing us with a spirit that seeks him in some way. Even more odd is how easily you hear your own children call over the din of worldly noise, but when a strange child calls the perceptible acuity of his plea disintegrates in the air waves between his voice and your ears. It takes time I suppose.
He was hoarding food, a common occurrence with children in foster care. I found him sneaking into a nearly week old pan of cornbread and putting a piece into his pocket. He seemed startled when I called his name like he had literally been caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Half of the piece still made it into his jeans pocket (a testament to the heartiness of week old short bread) the other half ended up as convicting crumbs on the kitchen floor. I took it out of his pocket, cleaned up the floor and tried to reassure him that such actions were unnecessary. I don’t think he believed me. I’m not sure if he now possesses the capacity to trust anyone. That too, takes much time I suppose.
I caught him in his first lie. I asked him to brush his teeth before bed and he went upstairs for a few minutes. A little while later I heard the banging above the kitchen and went up to see what was going on. I asked him if he had brushed his teeth and he responded quickly with an emphatic, “yes.” So then I asked him to show me his toothbrush. We walked to the bathroom and he immediately had trouble picking it out among the other four. Good evidence he hadn’t brushed them, but not sufficient, unreasonable doubt kind of proof. I felt the bone dry bristles. “David, did…,” he interrupted me. “I brush now,” he said. I watched and helped a little, but brushing a young boy’s baby teeth is hard anyway and doesn’t generate the parental effort that permanent ones inspire.
Everything about last night was hard. He seemed disenchanted with his dinner, but discovered the nerf, basketball goal in the boys’ room. It occupied him well for a few minutes. Bedtime was another challenge. He seemed wired for some reason, as if fighting off the sleepiness would keep us from forcing him into that room all alone and dark. He repeatedly left the bed and walked into and out of nearly every room in the entire house turning on the light as he entered. Finally, Lisa stood at the door blocking his exit and the screaming began. The dark frightens most children to one degree or another. His extreme anxiety is likely born from other deficient securities most children never have to confront. His tirade frightened my own boys who came running into our bedroom, flinging themselves on our bed before I knew what was happening. I let them stay. Eventually he fell asleep for good around 1:00 a.m.
I didn’t see his sister much. She’s slippery. Both are terrified of dogs and so our own little pooch, Ruby, has them reeling. Our friendly canine has thus been relegated to the garage or downstairs bathroom for the time being. There’s a time for confronting every demon and we’ll have to cross that bridge sooner or later.
I took him to school this morning for what may be our last time together. This arrangement just can’t work right now with his unique needs and his sister’s as well. But, it’s still hard holding a child’s hand, walking him through the glass doors and wondering if you will ever see him again. Harder still is trying to reconcile your hope that you don’t see him, or at least live in the same house with him, with your faith and its potentially different demands.
Sometimes His answers just aren’t that clear. Then again, maybe the answers are right in front of us, but we just don’t want to hear them. Either way, I know one thing for sure. Most of the time my heart is just too filled with me to let anything else in.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
It was our first time alone together. We rode in silence for some time until I was able to finally summon a question for which to pose. Small talk never was my forte and we hadn’t the rapport yet for more meaningful conversations. “Do you like music,” was all I could muster? “Yep,” was his curt response. “What kind,” I inquired? His nearly inaudible answer well displayed this six year olds deficient speech. I wasn’t sure if he was talking to me or himself or if maybe he was smart enough to instinctively protect his vulnerabilities with a confusing response to shut me up. His countenance I noticed in the rear view mirror changed little as the music began to fill the void of silence inside the car. The tension I felt we both recognized earlier seemed to dissipate, however. I was glad.
Soon we were pulling into the parking lot of his school. He dutifully walked in leading me straight to the office and showed no hesitation when I asked him to hold my hand on the way. Curious thing, holding hands so easily with a virtual stranger you’ve known for less than twenty four hours. But, kids are cool like that I guess. I waited a moment for the secretary while he sat quietly on the wooden bench beside me with his legs crossed Indian style and his hands clasped together neatly in his lap. He rocked a little back and forth while manipulating his fingers in what looked like a unilateral thumb wrestling match. It seemed a comfortable position for him, familiar too, but contrary to my own limited flexibility and older joints. He’s a striking child, stout frame and dark hair well outlining his fair skin. I offered my goodbyes and told him to have a good day. His stoic response was bothersome. I wondered what he was thinking.
I left him there and went directly to work, but thought about him and his sister much of the day. I was concerned about the sleep they didn’t get their first night in our house and how it might affect them. Of course, that may be the least of their real problems. He bore the greatest burden, forced to sleep alone because of state “regulations.” At least his sister had the comfort of our eleven year old daughter, Mary, to stop all the things that go bump in the night. He kept turning the lights on and walking down the hallway to check on his sister as if he feared losing the one vestige of familiarity left to him. It was an arduous process, until finally I gave in and let him leave the light on if he wanted. Good precedents are welcomed, but often these battles only produce two losers and no winners.
I’m not sure what will be waiting for me when I get home this evening. For sure, three biological children trying to make sense of attention diverted, two new children trying to make sense out of a drastically changing world, and two parents trying to find enough love for each other and all of them too. In the midst of it all, I hope God finds us…we need him…and fast.