lessons from the toliet

Our house has a rough-in for a bathroom on the first level.  Up until last year that space was used for storage.  Last year my incredibly talented husband turned it into a bathroom.  It is beautiful.  It may be my favorite room in our whole house.  I only had one worry.... the toliet paper.  It seemed to me that it was in an awkward place for the kids to use.  Kevin seemed certain that was the location it should be in.  And there it stayed.

About a week before we boarded an airplane for China, I spent an hour sitting in the parking lot of the outlet mall talking on the phone to my roommate from college, Carrie  She is seriously one of the most amazing people I know.  She is mama to four beautiful children.  One of her sons was born with many medical needs that have caused him to spend a majority of his 6 years preparing for, going through and recovering from surgeries.  Carrie is also a huge advocate for children with spina bifida and spends many hours working with the hospital and providing support to families all around the world.  Just before this phone conversation she had returned from a conference for parents of children with special needs.  One of the things stressed at the conference was to encourage independence in your children.  We talked for a long time about the subject and agreed that it was our job as mothers to provide everything possible for our children to reach their fullest potential... and sometimes that meant stepping out of the picture and letting them do things for themselves.  

I took this conversation with me to China.  From day one I determined that I was going to cheer Elie on to do as much for herself as possible.  I realize this thought can go against some of the main philosophy out there with parenting newly adopted children, but I couldn't shake that for Elie this is what we were supposed to do.  

The downstairs bathroom became the testing ground.  The toilet was difficult for her to use.  The toilet paper was hard to use.  At one point the seat pinched her.  There was the day she fell in.  And then she started to fear sitting down on this toilet   One particular afternoon she was going into an emotional meltdown about needing help to sit on the toilet   I stayed calm.  I encouraged.  But I did not do it for her.  We were in the bathroom for about a week, okay it just seemed like a week, it may have been about an hour.   She did it though.  She conquered the toilet   She can now use it like a champ and without the tears.  I told her that day that I wasn't always going to be there to help her.  Sometimes she is going to be places and have to use the bathroom and I will not be around.  And that I want her to be able to conquer all toilets because I love her.  

Our days are full of theses types of moments.  We often spend half the morning working on a zipper.  There are tears.  There is frustration.  And I pray the whole time, God let me know when to step in and help.  I try to wait beyond the time when my mommy instinct wants to step in or my patience is wearing thin.  Deep breaths.  Calm encouragement   Reassurance of my love for her.  There are times when I do have to help her out.  But many, many times she does get it.  She accomplishes something for herself and you can visibly see her confidence growing.  

Recently at her therapy office I sat and listened to other mothers in the waiting room talk about this very issue.  Now that their children are school age, the mothers notice that their children's teachers encourage their children to do things that the moms have always done for them.  As I sat and listened I wondered if things would be different in our house if Elie had been with us since birth.  I considered the mommy guilt that maybe I should have done more for her this past year.  It certainly has not been easy.  There have been many times when I can hold it together only long enough until I can get safely away from her and then the tears pour.  It is so hard to see her struggle with things that other children her age can do easily.  And it is definitely difficult to journey through this latest season of development where she is beginning to be aware of her differences.  We are beginning to see glimpses of her grieving her disability and it is beyond heartbreaking.  

And then her therapist tells me that Elie is functioning at a higher level than she has ever experienced with her patients.  She tells me that  she believes Elie could some day have full function of  her right hand.  She tells me that the sky is the limit for Elie and to keep encouraging her independence   And so we will carry on through the tears and struggles of it all so that one day she will be able to fly.  I do love her so very, very much and because of that love I let her struggle at times to discover that she can actually do it.  I am thankful now for that conversation in the parking lot and even for the awkward toilet.  


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