Nadia's 3yr. "Gotcha Day" anniversary was this past Tuesday, June 17, 2013! Woo Hoo!
It got me thinking of all the things having Nadia has taught me and our family the last three years.
When we first met her, the only information we had about Nadia was that she was "quiet and healthy."
We also had our experience with our other daughter with Down syndrome which gave us a sense that we "knew" about Nadia even before we met her.
Both of those assumptions of "known" information were false...as we were soon to find out.:)
So here is my ever growing list of "Things I have Learned since Nadia joined our Family":
1. Children sharing the same label or disability can be as different as night and day.
While Josi is somewhat reserved and quiet in new situations... Nadia is wide open and raring to go.
You have to "earn" the privilege of being hugged by Josi....Nadia gives hugs away freely (and perhaps a hair pull just to let you know how much she 'likes' you.)
Josi is compassionate and concerned when someone is hurting...Nadia is usually the one perpetrating the hurt but has recently shown remorse for her offenses. :)
Bottom line: Please don't make the mistake of grouping people with Down syndrome(or any disability) into the same category by saying things like, "Oh, they're all so loving." or "They are never in bad moods" because like all people, they have unique, God-given temperaments and personalities that make them one-of-a-kind...like the 'rest' of us.
My one grandmother used to say that Josi is an angel sent from Heaven. I told Josi this recently and she looked at me incredulously and said, "I'm not an angel!" To which I replied, "I know you're not!" (It had been a particularly difficult homeschool morning so this exchange was hilarious and had Michael and I laughing through lunchtime.)
2.Shoes are Optional
One of the things that initially drove me nuts was getting Nadia all dressed to go somewhere and have her remove her shoes and hair bows as soon as I pulled out of the driveway. I even bought lace-up hi-tops in hopes that she wouldn't be able to remove those...wrong. If the girl can figure out how to remove the slats from under her mattress then she can certainly remove any type of shoe known to man. So, after much scolding and gnashing of teeth (MINE), I decided this was not a battle to have with a smart, strong-willed preschooler.
Most of Nadia's shoes and hair ties are stashed somewhere in the car so that they can be put on when we arrive at our destination. At the end of school this year, her bus driver gave me (literally) a complete handful of the hair doo-dads she had strewn about the bus throughout the year. Thankfully shoes are easier to keep track of but I'm sure the drivers and teachers deserve a raise for all the times they've put Nadia's shoes back on to and from school. :)
3. Depending on God and Having a Sense of Humor are NOT Optional
(Warning: This first story may have too much information for my male readers)
So, I'm driving back to NC from PA and we stopped at a busy rest area in Maryland. I took both girls into the bathroom with me and had Nadia go potty first. After getting her taken care of, I assisted Josi in making sure her pad was on right for the long car ride. It's finally my turn and as I am in mid-pee, Nadia decides to jail break the door and make a run for it. I yelled for Josi to go capture the little escapee as I finished my business with the door wide open. This kind of thing used to make me want to cry and complain about how hard my life is, but honestly, after 3yrs. of some of the hardest parenting moments I've ever known, my best response is to just LAUGH! It really is funny and everyone I've told this story to has laughed out loud...so laughing is apparently the appropriate response to these situations....because the alternative is depressing and draining.
(Are you laughing right now? If not...check your pulse.)
I've also been brought to a place of realizing that I'm not equipped to do this parenting thing without my Heavenly Father--the perfect parent. Nadia has been a complete puzzle in a lot of areas as we CONTINUE to try to figure out what causes certain behaviors, why she isn't talking when we know she's very smart, why she doesn't sleep very well, etc. I could drive myself nuts trying to figure these things out or worse try to "fix" them.
I have learned that true contentment can only come with complete trust in God and in accepting the situations He's allowing and knowing that He's got it figured out...and when it's time...I will too.
I spent the first year or so trying to turn Nadia into something she wasn't...not accepting her for who she was because who she was, wasn't developing "fast" enough to make life easier for me. I'm not proud of that statement but it's the truth.
I am almost 50yrs. old and I have never been busier as a parent with any of my children. It's draining,and at times overwhelming, but as God has worked with me to see how immensely rewarding it can be to trust Him fully with the details, I am learning to be content with who Nadia is no matter how 'far behind' she might be. Which leads me to #4 in what I've learned...
4. Verbal Communication is Highly Overrated
Nadia has about 15 words and numerous signs but she will only use them if you ask her to repeat you. However, there are very few situations where we can't figure out what she wants or needs. Would it be easier if she were communicating by talking now? Sure.
I used to think the 'talking' aspect of a child's development was a necessary benchmark to gauge her intelligence level. Having Nadia has taught me to emphasize what is truly important vs. what culture deems important. She can let us know what she needs and she knows that we are going to meet her needs, which is way more important (especially to a former orphan) than correct pronunciation or how many words she has at a certain age. Learning to "chill" in this area has been huge for me and I'm thankful for the change in my paradigm that raising Nadia has allowed.
6. Healthy is a relative term
When we first received Nadia's file in Ukraine, we were told she was born with an open oval window in her heart. This was a little bit of a surprise but in no means a "deal breaker". Thankfully, it had closed on its own and she hasn't had any major medical issues since we're home, but she's certainly had her fair share of doctor and hospital visits over the last 3yrs. which is something I initially dreaded because of my experiences with Josi in this area.
Here is another difference between our 2 girls. Josi has always been deathly afraid of anything medical. Doctors, needles, band-aids, etc. used to send her into a full-blown tizzy. We used to joke that if her childhood constipation issues got too bad, all we had to do was walk into the lobby at the dr's office because she immediately had to use the bathroom every. single. time. And it wasn't a quiet "Psst...Mommy, I have to use the bathroom." It was take 2 steps into the lobby, grab yourself and yell "POTTY!!!" at the top of your lungs. She has kicked, hit, bit, and spit on medical personnel as I apologized profusely and left those appointments vowing never to step foot in another doctor's office again. EVER. (Are you laughing now? Because it took me many years not to dread these visits and their predictable results...and no I wasn't laughing then.)
Thankfully, she has matured into a wonderful patient and even the dentist no longer needs to take her in the "special room" so that other patients don't realize how truly horrifying going to the dentist can be. :)
Nadia on the other hand enters all appointments and hospital visits like she enters most other situations. "Who can I hug?" "What can I knock over and destroy?" "Will there be snacks?"
I thought it was so wonderful that she was playing quietly with this remote at her last surgery pre-op (ear tubes, allergy testing, and turbinate reduction) until the nurse came back and said she was ringing the nurse's station every few seconds!! (Oh yes, I certainly laughed at that one!)
There are many, many other little (and big) lessons I've learned and am still learning along this journey with our Ukranian Princess. But for now, I leave you with the biggest one:
No child, no matter how difficult they may be to parent, deserves to live out their life in a mental institution (which is where Nadia would probably be by now). As I watch the waiting children on Reece's Rainbow and see how many are facing transfer to a mental institution because they've aged out of the "Baby House", or those getting ready to turn 16 and AGE OUT of the system for good, only to be given a few dollars and cast out into the streets, I can't help but wonder who will be the ones to step out of their parenting comfort zone and take in what could be a difficult child to parent? Are there days when I wish I could rewind our family's life to 3yrs. ago? I'd be lying if I said the thought never crosses my mind.
But the thought that pervades my thinking more often is how much our lives have changed for the better because of adopting Nadia.
This verse sums it up for me:
1 Peter 1:7
King James Version (KJV)
7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: