Archive for March, 2015

  • Believe me…you don’t understand!

    Date: 2015.03.16 | Category: Adoption, Elyse, Jasmine (Shuang Shuang)

    Jasmine and I have long talks about what to share, what information will make a difference, what information will teach, and in the end we decide some things are just too personal to share about her previous life.  I know that fact is shocking considering how much she has allowed me to share, but let’s just say life for these kids is hard in so many ways and although there is tons of information she has chosen to share, there is just as much that she has chosen not to share.   She had a life before the orphanage and it is that life that she is most hesitant to share about.

    I believe I know at least part of the reason for this, it’s one thing to have someone question what a caregiver, who is a stranger, has told you to be truth.  It’s another thing to question what people, who are supposed to love you, care for you, and protect you, have told you is the truth.  It will take a long time to get through all the hurt from Jasmine’s first eight years.   Her words in regard to this matter are, “If I tell you about my life and how bad I really am, you could never, ever love me and I want you to love me mommy.”

    I have been so happy to have Jasmine as a translator for Elyse.  With the toddlers the language barrier wasn’t much of an issue.  We used signs and simple language, both Mandarin and English, and we did just fine.  They picked up English very quickly.  With Jasmine it was much harder at first, she knew very little English and we knew very little Mandarin.  We played a lot of charades for the first couple of months. We used Google Translate, although it does a poor job translating in very much detail.  Jasmine was pretty easy going and learned English amazingly quick.

    Elyse joined our family and knew no English.  She informed us that she would not be learning English and she refused to even try during the first two weeks home.  Jasmine’s extended stay in the hospital nipped that in the bud though and during the last 30 days she has learned many new phrases and is picking up English rather quickly and has decided that she likes knowing two languages (three if you count the ASL we use too).

    Elyse came to us with some very interesting thoughts.  I am sharing these thoughts to let others, who are adopting older children, understand that even if you think you know what is going on in their heads, you couldn’t possibly comprehend everything that they are thinking.  Unless you speak perfect Mandarin, know for a fact what their nannies have told them, and they trust you enough to have a indepth conversation with you, you are not going to know for a very long time what they believe to be the truth and what their fears are.

    I consider it okay to share these thoughts because these thoughts are not Elyse’s.   Elyse can not be held accountable for these thoughts nor should anyone think differently about her because of these thoughts.  These thoughts are the lies that she has been fed over and over again throughout her life until she finally made them her belief system.   If you will, it’s a form of brainwashing.  If you tell a child they are stupid and worthless over and over again, they will believe it.   If you tell a child that they are ugly, they will believe it.  If you tell them they can not do anything, and no one will every want them, they will believe it.  If it is the only thing they hear day in and day out, it becomes their reality.

    Elyse has been told that her only hope to be happy in life is to come to America and get her legs fixed.  Not only that, but she has been told she is lucky because she is beautiful.  Being beautiful, getting her legs fixed, and IF she can have a baby, may make her appealing enough to a man that he may want to marry her and  then she could finally be happy.

    When we told Elyse that she had a doctor’s appointment her first words were, “Will they tell me if I can have babies?”   She was so disappointed that she was just going in for a routine visit.  And if all those other lies weren’t enough, she was also told that the doctors would be able to fix her legs and she will be able to walk.  Elyse has spina bifida and no feeling in her legs.  You can not fix this kind of nerve damage.  Her legs are atrophied.  One leg will not bend and one leg stays bent.  No only did they feed her lies but they gave her false hope.  It’s heartbreaking as a parent to have to crush those dreams.

    Elyse is fixated on her looks.  It’s very important to her.  While we were in China, she would practice posing and take picture after picture of herself.  She took over 3,000 pictures.  She would stare at herself in the mirror and fix her hair for an hour.   She wants to wear make-up.  She wants to be appealing.  She worries about whether or not her hair is styled just right.  She is very sure of what she will wear and what she won’t.   All of these things are not bad in and of themselves, but the reason for being overly concerned about them is bad, and without the knowledge that Jasmine gave us I wouldn’t have known what to make of Elyse’s behavior.

    Elyse 15

    Elyse doesn’t like that her skin is darker.   She doesn’t like that her stomach sticks out a little bit.  She doesn’t like the lump on her back.  She really doesn’t like people who are overweight.   In China, I had difficulty with this.  I am overweight.   Having your child make faces and be disgusted over anyone that she sees that is overweight hurt my feelings.  I tried not to take it personally but it was difficult.   I knew that culturally that heavier people were made fun of in China.  I knew this but it still hurt.

    Here is what I’d like you to picture.  You are in China meeting the child you have waited for and prayed for for almost a year and she doesn’t necessarily like you.  She likes all the other mamas in your group because they are skinny.  She likes to point to them and then point to your stomach and say “no”.  When you eat, she makes faces.   She refuses to eat.  She bosses people around about what she would eat.  She constantly talks about being fat or getting fat.  Considering she is 9 years old and weighs 44 pounds, the likelihood of that happening in the next year is pretty slim.

    Elyse 14

    She has an over-the-top personality and she turns it on extra bright when she is with other people.   She does it in hopes that they won’t notice her disability.  This has become her life mantra…..beauty means everything and without it she has no worth.

    Underneath it all she is a sweet girl.  With Max she was adorable.   When we were in the room, she was so very sweet.  She wants to be loved.  She wants the love of family.  She is only doing what everyone during her whole life has told her is right.  You can not hold that against a child.  Without Jasmine my judgment of what Elyse was doing would have been the wrong judgment.  I would have been angry at her attitude because I wouldn’t have had the proper framework of why she thinks what she thinks.   You have to take all of these things into account when you are dealing with these older adopted kids.

    Max 5

    We used Google Translate a lot with Jasmine.  It works for short phrases.  It wasn’t until Jasmine started writing her blog and I used Google Translate to translate it that I realized how off it was.  Someone who knows Mandarin and English wrote to me and said that what Jasmine wrote was even more beautiful when it was translated correctly and they were right.  That was eye opening.  Who knows what I had been saying to Jasmine during those first few months.

    A friend was explaining how different words mean different things in Mandarin as opposed to English.  Silly in Mandarin means you are a fool.  If you want to tell them they are silly, you should say they are playful or jesting.  They often say open when they mean on.   Naughty means impish or mischievous not badly behaved.  The character for chicken and muscle are the same. The list is long on words that have different meanings for them so even if they do understand what the words means it may not mean the same thing to you as it does to them.

    These children refer to the nannies as mama.  Jasmine was told she had to call them mama or she would be punished.  They refer to older girls as jiejie (older sister) and younger girls as meimei (little sister).  Much older girls are called aunt and men are called uncles.  The elderly are referred to as nainai (grandma) and yeye (grandpa).  These are the terms they use all the time.  If they have grown up in an orphanage, they use these terms all the time but they don’t understand these terms as family.

    Children are told they have to be good or you will send them back.  They are told they have no worth and the only reason someone would want them is for their organs.  They are told you are bringing them here as hired help.  They are told that Americans are rich and they can have anything and everything they want.  Jasmine was told that she was going to another orphanage because we had 6 kids.  Elyse believed she was in another foster home because in China only foster homes have more than one child.  You just can’t even imagine the things that they have been told or what they may be thinking.

    We, as parents, have to look at things differently.  One of my friends said it best when she said that you have to parent differently.  It’s not up to them to change.  It’s up to you to change.   It is just not the same with these children.  You can not expect them to respond like your bio children do.  They come from difficult backgrounds.  They have deep scars and trust issues.  You have to lovingly help them to see what their worth truly is.  You have to give them reasons to trust and you can’t expect it to just happen over night.  I have heard others say that it takes a year out of the orphanage for every year spent in the orphanage for them to trust.  For Elyse that would be another 9 years.  I hope this isn’t true.  I hope she sees that family is permanent.  I hope that she can trust.

    Some day I hope Elyse will see her worth isn’t tied up in whether she has legs that work or not.  I hope she realizes that she can do anything she chooses.  Someday she will see that she doesn’t need anyone else to make her happy.  I hope she can one day see that she is beautiful but that is not what makes her truly lovely.   But mostly I hope that one day she will truly understand the love of family and how much we love her not for what she looks like or what she can do but just because she’s our Elyse WanQiu.

    Elyse & Daddy

     

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