Saturday, October 23, 2010

Missing Pieces

Last night, after putting on pj's and crawling into their beds, Miles and Keenan and I talked about Haiti.

A year now home, both boys are able to better verbalize their experiences and memories there. In recent weeks, it has come out that, at both our orphanage's city secondary facility and their country creche, some horrifically terrible abuse occurred. So when we talk about Haiti, I'm able to casually ask questions, trying to determine what, if any, exposure to abuse they had.

Having been so young upon entering the creche, and living the vast majority of their first 5 years there, I'm sure many events aren't even in their collective memories.

Both boys love to talk about Haiti. They become very animated. Elaborate hand and body gestures. Different theatric voices for different people. Lots of details.

Miles always surprises me with his accounts. That child forgets very little. He told us about a time when someone brought 2 live chickens into the courtyard when he was little--maybe 3 years old. The chickens were squawking and hollering and running all about. He was scared that they were going to peck at him. And then he remembers watching a cook, a short while later, cut off the feathers of the then-deceased bird.

He also remembers standing at the wrought iron door on the second floor, watching the police chase down a man on the city street below. The "bad man" had been throwing stones at the police, but the police tackled him and then put him in handcuffs, "like this," Miles illustrated, holding his hands behind his back.

For Miles, Haiti is very alive in his mind.

During our talk, there was a lot of laughing and talking about memories. I noticed Miles rubbing one eye a few times, and I thought he was getting tired.

When I went to tuck them in, I could see that Miles was not okay. "What's wrong, little man?" I asked him.

"I miss Haiti," he said in a thick muffled voice. Tears began to spill.

My Miles has spent a tremendous amount of the past 14 months being angry. Really, painfully angry.

To see him expressing his feelings through different emotions-- while feeling sad and grieving and crying--as horrible as this sounds-- was wonderful. He's learning to put those deep, BIG emotions into words.

I laid down next to him and gathered him up in my arms. I rubbed his back and told him how it was okay to miss Haiti. I asked him if someday, when he is a bigger boy, would he like to go back and visit Haiti.

"Yes, Mommy, if you go with me." he responded.

While trying not to cry, I told him how we will go back to Haiti, to see where he lived when he was a little boy. So people could see him and say, "My goodness, Miles, look at how BIG and STRONG and SMART and GOOD you are! We are so proud of YOU!"

I asked my grieving son, "What would you like to do when you go back to Haiti?"

"I would like to ask people their names."

Oh my. It took every ounce of my being not to sob at that moment.

Such a little boy, with so many alive and active memories, but with so many pieces missing. Important pieces.

So often, when watching my boy, I can see how Miles feels like nothing. Years in institutionalized living, where there was very little consistent, loving interaction from a consistent adult, has left my boy with a nearly non-existent sense of self.

Some children come home from orphanage living feeling like they are worthless, or bad, or naughty. My little boy just feels like . . . nothing. Like he's not a person at all. With no good or bad value associations tied to a self-concept, because if you don't have a self-concept, you have nothing to assign values to.

I would like to ask people their names.

Hearing that request was like finding a missing piece to a puzzle. Not the finishing piece, mind you, but a pretty big piece.

Knowing that Miles has so many alive memories in his head, but that they are all nameless to him, speaks volumes.

To be able to identify memories. To put names to people and places. To hear people address him by name and acknowledge him. I can't help but feel that for Miles, that would be a big step in helping him cement his own sense of self. His own sense of his own value.

I would like to ask people their names.

And I will help you with that, my son.

Rubbing his back, I promised him that.

I will help you.


Anonymous said...

Moments like this make me realize that we are lucky to have such a bright, intelligent boy. Miles is smart, he carries a lot of complex feelings and thoughts, and he is very lucky that his mother is there to listen, to hold, and to love him.

Thank you for being the mother he needs.


bbbunch said...

Oh my goodness. I am crying. I am so glad that he is opening up to you...but how heartbreaking. That boy is going to do BIG things with his life, Sarah!

Love you all!

ManyBlessings said...

I just cried as I read this.

Healing is coming.

What a precious little soul.

I think there is a great and deep tenderness inside that little man.

My goodness.

Anonymous said...

Have you mad your childen an album of their Haiti? his could include photos, documents, information about the orphanage, etc. Also commentary about what was going on with them or you a that time.

geralyn said...

Heartbreaking...absolutely heartbreaking to hear.

Please tell dear Miles that I know his name and cannot wait to meet him in real life next summer. He is indeed important and his Haitian history is so important.

Hug that little man for me!

Sara said...

Oh Sarah, I had to go and get kleenex. I'm just crying. I could have written this post about Quinn. It's just so sad.

Quinn just told us last night, as I was baking his birthday treats for school today, that when he's 18 yrs. old he wants to go back to
China....BUT, only for 3 days and ONLY if we go with him :-) and then "come right back home." Oh, the things he tells us. He LOVES looking at his China books and all our trip albums. He, too, gets very animated and very excited when he talks/describes his "China life" as he calls it. The other night he asked me to hold him in the chair and talk about China. He kept saying, "ask me more questions mama."

Great post!

mama bear said...

Made me cry. I will pray for your boys and their healing process. Sounds like they are coming along.