Friday, September 11, 2009

The Education of George

A while ago, CWA asked me if I would write a contributing post for their new blog. I was thrilled and replied, "Sure! Just give me a topic and I will be happy to write something." I was given a topic...school. Specifically, what going to school looked like for our adopted son.

I buckled a bit. There were things in my heart that I didn't want to admit. You see, I used school last year to run away from the realities of life with George.

I read all the literature. I processed all the advice. I even sent emails out to everyone I knew. Everything said the same thing; don't expect us to do anything, go anywhere, or talk to anyone until George was adjusted and bonded to our family. We knew the importance to establishing a firm foundation and a safe haven for George. It was imperative that he feel comfortable in his new house and with his new family. I was ready to say "later" to all my friends and all my responsibilities.

But I wasn't ready for George.

Remember that awful plane ride home? It was on the plane, probably during hour 12 or so, that I looked at Joe with tears streaming down my face and said, "I need to get George into school...right away!" Joe didn't question me...he was feeling the same thing I was. Although we never talked about it openly, we have been married long enough to know what was at the heart of the decision...time away from George. Let someone else deal with his temper tantrums and his selfishness and his anger. I had received more than I had bargained for with this child.

A few days after returning from Africa, I went to the school to inquire if I could put George in the school for just an hour or two and let him work with the ESL teacher. She happened to be walking by and with much zeal and vigor exclaimed the importance of George being in school right away, that he would thrive being there, learning the language and being around other kids. Somewhere in the pit of my stomach, I knew that was not a good idea...but I was so desperate for my life to go back to what it was like before that I jumped on the plan.

I rushed out with George to buy school supplies. He had some very confused looks on his face, but he was easily satisfied by just getting "stuff" at the store. The morning he was to start, I packed his lunch, laid out some nice clothes and then excitedly drove him to school, along with two of my kids who were attending that school.

Big mistake....as soon as we walked into the classroom, George went berserk! He screamed, he cried, he kicked, he ran...all the while Isabel, his "twin", was sobbing at the spectacle that her new brother was making of himself. The teacher looked at me and said, "You better leave...with him!". The ESL teacher came rushing in and suggested we go to the ESL room, maybe he would be more comfortable there.

George was more comfortable there, but that meant he stopped screaming. He still ran out the door and started jumping down the stairs rushing to leave the building. I gave up and came back home...angry at this child! Why wouldn't he just cooperate? Why wouldn't he just behave and be normal?

The same scenario happened two more days and then I finally said, "Enough!" George was not going to school...he would stay home. I was miserable when I came to this conclusion and ashamed at the same time. I KNEW he wouldn't want to go...he was scared, mourning and unsure of everything. His life had just been turned upside down and the last thing he wanted was to be left in a building full of children.

I had made a huge mistake...and know I needed to rely on God to help me restore what little trust we had between us. I kept George at home and we borrowed books on tape at the library. We listened to lots of music and found that we both loved playing baseball in the yard. The whole time, I would talk to him about what things were called. I was determined to get our language in sync as soon as possible.

I couldn't wait for my children to get home from school, so they could "take him off my hands". But they were reeling from the child that came to live with us as much as I was, and they longed to be anywhere BUT home. So, I found myself scheduling lots of playdates and just sitting in the yard watching George ride a scooter up and down the driveway hundreds of times. Over and over again.

I don't know the moment it happened, or what brought about the change..but at some point God gently shook me into reality. He had called me to love this child, no matter what the child acted like! Loving George included just being with him...all the time! When I made the mental and heart change...when I came to the realization that God was expecting me to love George with His love, everything changed.

Life didn't get easier. But, my heart was now open to loving this child. And love has made all the difference in our home over the last four months.

Fast forward to the last week of August. George is getting ready for school...and I am terrified that we will experience a repeat of last spring. I did everything I could possibly think of to prepare not only George, but also the school! Conferences, tours, practice runs...we did it all. And the day finally came for George to hop on that bus and go to school. He did it! This time, he knew that his momma was not leaving him. This time, he knew that school would be where he would learn. This time, he felt loved.

School is going wonderfully! Last night, Joe and I were talking to our neighbor who works as a reading specialist at George's school. She shared this short story with us: "I was walking through the hall of the school, heading to a class next door to George's. I decided to pop in and wave to the teacher, Mrs. Nelson. Mrs. Nelson rushed over to me and whispered, "Look at George!", and there he was, working with another little boy sorting shapes. They were smiling and working very well. Suddenly George looked up and saw me. He raised his head high, smiled and waved. Then he went back to work."

This story may not mean anything to those of us who have bio kids in school. But for me, this story means the world! My son was learning, working productively..that is a huge praise. Secondly, he raised his head high, smiled and waved...as a confident, content little boy would! Praise God for the changes He has made...mainly in this momma's heart.

I stay in regular email contact with Mrs. Nelson. And George is doing very well. This week he wrote both his first and his last name!

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