Today was hard. Today was us hitting the wall. Today was filled with ups and downs. There were a lot of factors that were different than the last five days we had visited (today was the day that most of South Africa goes back to work after Summer holiday, today was back to school, being Monday, the additional staff that works M-F were in the office, and there were a ton of visiting college students at the care home this morning, making everything loud and busy). T barely talked the whole morning. It is hard to press on when you feel like you're being ignored.
When we went to lunch, he really opened up! He was laughing and smiling while we were playing in a children's play place. At one point, he even cracked a joke. I have joked with him at other meals asking him, “Where did your burger/chips (fries)/fill in the blank go?” because he seriously inhales his food. Today, he looks at me with a serious face and asks, “Where did my burger go?” It took me a second. When I looked for his burger (duh) and then back at his face, he had a huge grin. That kid. He’s going to fit in just fine.
The second we said we had to go back to the home, he clammed up and gave us the cold shoulder. He also tested us a lot. Anything we said "no" or "not today" to was received with asking many times more or the silent treatment. He usually answers with a nod or shake of his head if he doesn't want to use words, but he wouldn't even do that in the car on the way back from the mall.
When we were back at the home, I asked him if he was mad at us for something. He shook his head "no." I told him it was ok if he was, and that we could talk about it if he wanted to. He nodded in understanding, then went back to playing. It lightened up after that and we ended on a good note (we got a hug when we left), but today was hard. It's hard playing with him when we're being ignored, but we kept pushing through and asking him questions, even if he would only respond with nods.
Our difficult day was topped off with a missed turn on our way back to the hotel after dinner. We discovered on the ensuing journey that our headlights point down and we can only see about 10 feet ahead of the car, that "dead robots" are even more dangerous when you’re going down roads with faster speed limits, and that Apple Maps and TomTom were both out to get us. Both apps sent us to the exact same wrong location. It’s terrifying driving around downtown Pretoria and being lost. Thankfully, we saw a landmark that was familiar and were able to get back to the hotel. We arrived shaken, but safe, something we do not take for granted. One of T’s caregivers was in a smash-and-grab Friday night (while stopped at a light, two men smashed in her window and started grabbing her phone and whatever else they could—scratching her arms badly in the process). You have to be on high alert while driving here, especially at night.
Some good things from today: T sat in my lap while I read him the same book twice in a row (his request). He called me "mommy" today (not just "Mommy Heidi" as he's been calling me). There were good moments mixed in with the hard and I’m glad for that. I didn't expect less than good and bad days. We are strangers getting ready to be a family.
On the whole, I think things are going well. I know he is going to fit perfectly into our family. I am excited for when he is more comfortable with us and for when we don't have to leave him at the home at the end of the day.
Some ways you can pray for our family:
- Please keep T in your prayers. He has a lot going on in his head. You can tell he’s always thinking, always absorbing what’s happening around him. There is a lot going on and he’s seven. Pray for his heart and mind to be guarded from things that are said and done that might not necessarily be helpful to this attachment process.
- Pray for Brian as he is still working while here. It’s a lot to juggle—family, church, work, and more. We are thankful he’s able to still work while here, as that’s something some families spending 6-7 weeks in South Africa are unable to do.
- Pray for me. Being gone from home this long is hard and we still have 5-6 weeks to go! I miss my bed and our shower that drains properly. I miss driving around and not feeling I have to be on high alert while waiting at a stop light. I do not miss the winter, so praise there. Well, technically I'm missing winter, but I digress.