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.