So much has happened in just a short month or so. We have gone through several stages of transtition. No, it has not been easy and it has been trying and it isn't over! Mark always says, "6 months honey, 6 months." This isn't a magic number, but by then they usually start to realize that we have rules that are set in stone and all the pouting doesn't do any good. They start to understand we aren't sending them back and that, Hey maybe these people really do love me! The behavior may not disappear completely at that point, but things do seem to start to mellow and do not occur as often.
At one point we had our sweet friend come and translate for about 2 hours with Lena and the family. Lena can take an attitude and it is not very endearing. Even our friend said it would be hard breaking through her barriers. By the end of the conversation we felt we had made progress and the talk ended well. That only lasted about 3 days before we were back to the same behaviors.
I am not going to go through all our trials, but lets suffice it to say they have been numerous. The director told us Lena had a strong personality. We weren't sure exactly what that meant, but we know now. Lena was rejecting any family connection and crying for her peers who live in Dallas. After they came to visit she spent all her time walking around sullen and wanting to watch the video we made of them while they were here. We finally told her she could not have any more phone calls from them until she started concentrating on bonding with her family. Her friends were sweet and understood and hopefully at some point we will be able to resume contact with them.
The rejection of her sisters was heart breaking. They were not "cool" in her eyes. They are very wholesome in appearance and she wanted to act and dress like someone who was much older. She loves music, and unfortunately the music that they teeth on in an orphanage does not meet with parent approval. They watch videos on TV that are almost pornographic in nature, very suggestive. She likes to copy cat the moves of many of these video stars which doesn't go over well with her dad and I.
These kids come with huge gaps and they have filled those gaps with behaviors that they have learned from TV or each other. It does not create a wholesome view. They may not know how to use a knife or have never been to an amusement park, but they know how to look and act like a 25 year old video diva. They know how to hurt each other with words, and sometimes with physical aggression because they have not had the constant redirection that they needed and that all children need as they are growing up.
I took Lena on several shopping trips where she bought nothing because I said no to every single slinky, breast baring, glittery, thing she wanted. So we came home empty handed because she has her mind made up about how she wants to look. She was still wearing the few things I had brought to the orphanage. I drew a line in the sand, she would just have to wear these things until they fell off I was not compromising our principals by allowing her to dress the way she perceived she should look. She may have a strong personality, but God has given us stronger ones because he knew we would have some strong willed children. Last weekend she finally agreed on clothes that are decent to meet the world she now lives in.
Alesa and Julia have been easy all things considered. Lena on the other hand is going to take longer to train to our expectations. She is already making vast improvements. She refused to take singing and piano lessons because she wanted to take them by herself and not with Julia. We don't accommodate these types of wants, we do what is best for the schedule, and the schedule does not allow Lena to have her own lessons. She would never hug us unless we hugged her and then she would move away as fast as she could.
Lena has realized that being mean makes mom's protective mother bear instincts come out, and being on the wrong side of that is not a pretty picture. We spent many long hours trying to work with her, until one day after the last hateful thing she had said to hurt Julia and make her cry, I rose to what I considered at this point, righteous anger, and let her have it in a loud authoritative tone. I think the other two girls were in shock because they have never heard me raise my voice. I said, "I realize you can't understand a word I am saying, but I know you understand the tone and body language." Poor Alesa couldn't translate fast enough. I said many very frank things to her and told her she needed to consider how she is treating the family that she said she so desperately wanted, and I ended with, we wouldn't treat our worst enemies the way you have treated us since you arrived! I then told the girls they were not to speak one more word of Russian to her she was on her own. Their kindness, especially Julias, had been rejected and thrown back at them for the last time.
For several days everyone spoke to her only when necessary because the whole family had had enough of the way she was acting. I know that some may say these children need kindness and not rejection because they have had enough of that already. You may think we are harsh but we can not allow one child to create an atmosphere of discontent in a large family. We used the same techniques on Zhenya because he had some of the same issues. It worked on Zhenya and now we couldn't ask for a finer son. It took Lena about 3 days to mull all this over, pout and stay in her room.
Last weekend, Mark, the 3 girls, a dear friend, and I went to Houston. We went to the Ukrainian ballet on Friday night and met up with some other friends from Lena's orphanage. She was still on a pout about my explosion and then subsequent rejection by the family that occurred the few days before. All the way to Houston she looked out the window while we laughed talked and had a great time. We basically just pretended she wasn't there.
When we get to the hotel she came out dressed for the ballet in nothing but tight leggings and a very short top. Our girls like to wear leggings under their skirts, but Lena had just the top and no skirt. I said, no Lena wear the dress you brought. She slammed back in the bathroom. She came out looking beautiful and appropriate.
Voila! She was very precious to both girls at the ballet. That night we had more bonding time at the hotel and she laid her head in my lap. She stayed there and let me hug and stroke her hair and told Alesa, "I love mom touching with my hair" the rest of the time I felt that we had the old Lena we met at the orphanage and a new child. We went shopping and she tried on many things with me saying yes or no. We laughed as all three modeled all these different outfits. It was a scene from one of those movies where you have them coming out in different outfits in fast mode, while the observer smiles and shakes their head yes or no, until they have selected several things, then they pay, walk out with an armload of bags, and everyone is happy.
This week she asked for singing lessons with Julia which she absolutely loved. We haven't started piano lessons but we are buying a piano from a dear friend that was seldom used, which will be Lena's Christmas present.
Lena has been smiling and very loving and huggy. She and her sisters are starting to bond and they do a lot of laughing. I think this time it will stick for longer. I know from past experience we have turned a corner and that we will now be taking more steps forward and less steps backwards.
We are moving in the right direction. I know the Lord says that about me all the time as he molds and conforms me to his image. We all come raw and rough but when we put ourselves in the right hands we have unlimited potential to change the world to God's glory. We have put Lena in God's hand we are marveling at the changes we see already.