Sunday, September 05, 2010

Mindful Monday: 'Opia

This past week, the week we officially began homeschooling, coincided with Yonas getting sick for the first time since he's been home. Just you're average cold, nothing too awful. But man, oh man, it triggered something in my boy. He regressed to where we were at about the two-months-home mark. A screaming, tantruming, rabid mess. He started using Amharic words he hasn't used in four months. Milder, less alarming versions of his previous food issues emerged, he wanted to be carried everywhere, sucked his thumb more, hit me, slammed my finger in a drawer on purpose.

He also started talking about Ethiopia, " 'Opia" a lot more.

On Friday it rained for the first time all August, it was a gray, cloudy day. While Yonas had lunch and the girls were off playing, we had this conversation:

"Baby cry 'Opia"
"A baby cried in Ethiopia?"
"Yeah, baby Ula cry 'Opia."
"Baby Ula cried in Ethiopia?"
"Yeah. Baby Ula sad. Baby Ula hurt."
"The baby cried. The baby got hurt. Did Yonas cry in Ethiopia?"

After lunch I sat down with him and we looked at the pictures of when he lived in Ethiopia. We looked at his friends, the women who cared for him. He didn't seem particularly sad or affected, just happy to see pictures of himself.

I was so overwhelmed in the moment, thinking about how much of his life I won't ever know. He has a couple of scars I don't know the source of, visible reminders of the life he lived before he came to us. But it's all the internal scars, all the pain and grief, all the physical and emotional hunger that I can't ever know that I try to honor but sometimes lose in the face of daily living. His presence seems so natural now, such a given, so right, that it can be hard to keep his losses in the forefront of my mind.

Perhaps being sick shook loose some cellular memories he needed to exorcise. Or maybe he was feeling secure enough to let loose more of the pain. Whatever was happening I found myself struggling not to regress with him back to the pain and fear of when we first got home. It's tricky business, this attachment stuff. We let go, surrender just enough to trust each other so that we can fall in love a little more, then hang on for the unpredictable ride that love unleashes.

I try, I do, to stay open to his heart, to the hearts of all my children. Sometimes I get it so wrong it keeps me awake at night. But occasionally there are moments when I let go of my "shoulds" and give myself space to see what they are really after. What they really need. Sometimes I can actually give it to them. And sometimes all I can do is sit with the awareness of where we both are and it has to be enough because in the moment I can't get any closer.

My practice for mindfulness in parenting, in my life, is to get closer to being with my children and myself wherever we are at any given moment. Whether they are slamming my finger in a drawer or pulling me close and whispering, "Luf you, Mama" in my ear.


Sha Zam- said...

Teg has just recently stated in asking and talking about opia too. Another family I know with kids there the same time is having very similar experience. Wonder what this trigger is??? Hugs to you and your family!

rebekah said...

I wish I had some eloquent words to respond, since I feel a need to respond. Alas, I am worded out. Working hard on being present for all the kids takes all my words right out of me.

rebekah said...

Sorry about your thumb.

InventingLiz said...

What I worry about is not so much what I don't know about Elfe's life before me, but how much SHE may not know. She talks a lot about Ethiopia, and she does have a pretty good memory, but for the first time a few weeks ago she became frustrated when she couldn't remember something that I asked her a question about. It was something simple and ordinary - I don't even remember now what it was - but it was painful to watch her struggle to remember and not be able to come up with an answer.

Shannon said...

hey ashley;

it seems we are on somewhat the same schedule. i have one that loves to talk about ethiopia and i am writing down the memories she can talk about so we will always "have" them. recently she has started making up memories about ethiopia, like "i loved this dolly when i was in ethiopia" when the doll was never in ethiopia. she just loves to talk about it!!

Her twin on the other hand does not speak about ethiopia very often. i asked him a question the other day about ethiopia and for some reason it triggered the flood gates. i held him for sometime and let him cry. i asked him if he missed ethiopia and he said yes (when the answer is usually no). i told him i loved and missed ethiopia too.

we have come a long way in six (amost seven) months, but on somedays it feels like we just walked off the plane. luckily those moments are becoming fewer and we mostly have good days filled with lots and lots of noise, love, hugs, play etc etc. it's exhausting being the mother of six!!