I’m sure what you all really want to read about are updates on our kids, and I love few things more than sharing about our precious little ones. I should make a disclaimer that though this month (February 8, to be exact) marks one year for Wilson and I in the Promise House, most of the kids have been in the Promise House for two years. J is the exception as he moved in a little while after the others. He turned 5 this year which we celebrated with a fun trip to the pool at a nearby hotel. As his birthday is in August, it marked the halfway point of our year and was a good checkpoint to see how far we had come.
J was a very late walker, and I believe had only been walking a few months when we moved in. He had the most adorable waddle and would’ve fit right in with Mr. Popper’s penguins. Over the last year, his walking has gotten much steadier and he now transitions easily between surfaces and terrains. He has pretty much mastered climbing the playground ladder and can go down the slide all on his own. Our oldest, L, likes to try helping him up the small inclined rock wall on the other side of the play structure and while he was quite terrible at this at first, he’s actually looking like he might make it up one of these days. For his birthday, he got a tricycle, the plastic big wheels kind, and at first could barely keep his balance to even sit on it. He would usually just find his way to the nearest stable object so he could pull himself up and get off. But now, he will scoot around on that tricycle for an hour at a time. He still hasn’t figured out pedaling, but his balancing and steering are on point. The next skill J needs to master is to stand up without pulling on something. His much preferred method of standing is to plop his bottom on the ground if he is sitting on something and then scoot to the nearest person or piece of furniture and pull himself up. Now he is able to stand up when sitting on a low stool and if he’s on all fours, he can get into a bear position and then stand up, we just need to get him from his bottom to his hands and knees and he’ll be all set!
Many of the skills we work on with J and the other kids are meant to foster their independence. Aside from mobility, eating is one area where we’ve been able to do this with J. A year ago, J was being fed only pureed food. He would tilt his head back with his mouth open like a little baby bird waiting for mama bird to drop the food in. He has progressed to regular bite sized pieces of food and with certain foods, like crackers, he can bite off a piece. When we first started letting him eat with his own hands, he would just pick up every bite and throw it on the ground. Eventually he started putting them in his mouth, but if he picked up another while his mouth was still full, he would throw the new piece on the ground. I can’t say he never throws food on the floor anymore but usually I can put a few bites in front of him and he will eat them one at a time. We’ve done a bit of hand-over-hand with a spoon, but that’s still pretty challenging for J. He can now drink from a sippy cup without any help, as long as we offer a little guidance to get the cup back on the table when he’s done drinking instead of throwing or dropping it.
By far, experiencing J’s social and emotional progress has been the most wonderful and rewarding. I read through one of his updates from before we moved in which said he didn’t make eye contact with others. What I did see in his eyes was a lack of trust, fear, and frustration. Kids trust fully in their parents, which is why fun games with your little ones include twirling them around and tossing them up in the air. These activities petrified and paralyzed little J. His whole body would tense up and try to curl into a ball while he tightly clutched whatever he could. We took things slowly, allowing his trust to build, and over time we could see him starting to relax, starting to trust us. It wasn’t long before he was reaching up his hands asking for more and grinning from ear to ear. J was also very physically aggressive. It didn’t seem to come from anger, but perhaps frustration at his inability to communicate or just being unaware of his own strength and actions. For weeks he was pulling out fistfuls of my hair and hitting me or whoever else he came in contact with really hard. J still gets excited and isn’t always as gentle as he should be, but we see him interacting with the other kids in the house more and more. He loves to play chase or kick a ball around with M. He loves to just be a pesky little brother to L, always coming up to him and touching his arm or something, and L is astoundingly patient with him. And now he’s my best little cuddlebug, nestling his head in my neck and gently stroking my ponytail. It no longer feels like a grown-up just meeting the basic needs of a young child. When I’m with our little Jer-Bear (a nickname taken from another little Jer-Bear I adore!) it feels like true love. I pinch myself all the time because it just doesn’t feel real that I get to be the one taking care of him.
I simply do not understand how our sweet Jer-Bear doesn’t have a forever family yet. Maybe it’s because they haven’t heard his delightful giggles, or seen his face light up when someone he loves walks in the room, or felt his tender snuggles. Maybe they just haven’t heard about him yet, so spread the word. My heart will break in a thousand pieces when he leaves our home, but what J needs is a family that isn’t trying to meet the needs of so many children with such a high level of need. He needs a family that will love him unconditionally and do everything possible to help him reach his God-given potential. What J needs might just be you 😉