I have told many people about the very first day I met L, when he was brought to Children of the Promise (COTP). They guessed he was about six years old at the time. While paperwork was being filled out, I took him to the volunteer house to play Legos and get acquainted. One second we were playing side by side, building a tower or something, and the next second he had me in a headlock and I was truly afraid. He was unpredictable, lashing out at those around him, hitting or pushing any kids that got near him. He had, and still has, a hard time managing his oral secretions and I remember him frequently spitting into his fingers and then wiping them on whoever was closest to him at the time. I can’t even begin to imagine what he must have been feeling, having been plucked up and dropped into our little world with nothing and no one he knew.
From that time until the time we became his house parents in the Promise House, L made significant progress. He had an individual nanny to help with behavior control and he got to know the few women who worked with him and began listening to them. He was no longer such a threat to the other kids, he was spitting into a towel instead of on other people, he could help with simple chores around the house, and he was attending school in the village. The nannies had much better control of L’s behavior, but there was still something missing. In school he wasn’t socializing and he didn’t seem to really be learning much either. At home, between meals and little tasks, he sat in a chair waiting. His more aggressive behaviors had been reined in, making him more manageable, but as a 9-year-old boy, it was clear there needed to be much more to his life than that.
I could probably fill a book with the things we’ve done with L in the last year, like going to the beach for his birthday and visiting a dentist for the first time, and the ways we’ve seen him begin to really live, to thrive.
Once school let out for summer break, we decided it would be better for me to homeschool L, rather than returning to the village school. When we started, L was struggling to complete simple wooden peg puzzles, he did not know how to properly hold a pencil, and I could only keep him focused for a few minutes at a time before he would see a leaf or something that he needed to go sweep off the patio. Other than reciting the Creole vowel sounds, he didn’t know his letters or numbers. I won’t bore you with the tedious details between then and now, but he never ceases to amaze me. Anything new is pretty hard for L, but within a short time, he starts to get the hang of it, especially now that he doesn’t get frustrated as easily and has learned some patience and perseverance to begin mastering new skills. Now, L can write all the capital letters including his name and he can copy some words up to three letters. He can count in groups up to 10, cut with a scissors, name circles, squares, and triangles, sort by shape and color, and complete interlocking puzzles up to 48 pieces. L is becoming more creative with his magnetic building tiles, and likes to play with playdough and legos.
Wilson and I attend church in the village a couple times a month. Most often L comes with us and has done exceptionally well. He likes to sing and clap to some of the songs, put money in the offering basket, and eat Smarties. Even when we’re there up to two hours, he usually doesn’t have trouble sitting through the whole service. He couldn’t go a few minutes without spitting before, but L doesn’t need to bring his handkerchief to church at all anymore. Eliminating the spit towel is one of the things Wilson wanted to be sure I shared. L used to saturate several hand towels a day. To be honest, it was really gross! My insides cringes if those towels ever touched me. Okay, maybe my outsides too, sometimes! I remember pushing him on the swings one day and the spit towel fell on the ground. His immediate instinct was to try to catch it even at the cost of falling face-first off the swing. I did catch him, but he was so strongly tethered to those towels for some reason. The fact that he only spits in the bathroom or in the grass, at considerably reduced frequency, is such real and tangible evidence of how far L has come.
Seeing L socialize more and form healthy attachments has been wonderful. He and Wilson have a special relationship and wherever Wilson goes, L wants to be there too. They cook together, watch soccer games, go on moto rides, check on things at the shop, lounge on the couch, whatever it is, they love to be together. Wilson always says when L leaves, he wants another kid just like him J L has come alive in other relationships as well. Wilson’s nephew, SonSon, comes over from time to time so they can eat and play together. We recently hired the first male nanny, Frandy, who taught L to ride a bike and will play ball with him for hours at a time. L is always looking out for the other kids in our house, too. This used to manifest itself more roughly and aggressively, but he has gotten quite gentle, especially with little J. M hates naptime, but if L and M are in the bedroom together, they can make each other laugh for hours. I have grown quite attached to L myself. Because of school, more of my time is spent with him than with any of the other kids, and we recently started exercising together, running with the Couch-to-5k program. The nannies sometimes tease me about the affection I give him, like how I carry him to bed each night after our family Bible reading. But I don’t know how much or how little affection he got during the first 6 years of his life. I imagine there is some catching up to do, and I am grateful I get to be part of the process of doing that, that I get to love him and be a witness to a piece of God’s beautiful story written in his life.
One day, when L leaves to join his forever family, I know Wilson and I will shed many tears. The Promise House will simply not be the same without L and, having experienced similar pain saying goodbye to some very special kids before (read about them here and here), I can only imagine the pain we will feel. However, I also know that pain will pale in comparison to the great joy of L being united with his Forever Family, the perfect family God chose especially for him, chosen before I met L, before he or I were even born. We continue to pray that God would use us to prepare L as much as possible for his family.