We hung out at our apartment Saturday with plans to visit the girls later in the day after school. Yes, you read that right, they have school on Saturdays as well. We spent our day taking a very short walk to the end of our apartment complex where we found a little store which had Coke Light! Nothing like a day brightener! In the store two little Russian boys about 8 or 9 stopped dead in their tracks when they head our boys speaking in English. They were trying to figure that out, and Dominick explained “Kazakh- American…Angleski” and they grinned and watched us the entire time we were in the store. It was cute to see them so fascinated with these boys speaking a strange language.
We had a visit at our apartment from someone with the local Department of Health as they were checking us as foreigners for it again, after already checking us at the airport when we arrived. We were questioned yet again when we arrived at the orphanage today! They are really on the ball and no one has been rude, just doing their jobs. But it is uncomfortable to have someone come to our door with a purpose we don’t really understand and we can’t speak the language to understand one another.
We were going to take the girls bowling and get them out of the orphanage and away from their friends, to see if we could perhaps break through a little. We arrived at the orphanage where we waited to sign the girls out. Tanya who is in their family group was the only other child around and she smiled shyly at me, then walked down the hall slowly, alone…throwing a glance over her shoulder over and over again. I know she was wishing she could go with us and if things were different we would have invited her along and anyone else who wanted to go, but we are definitely needing some one-on-one time right now with Angela and Olesya.
We had to take two cars because there were too many of us. As it is, we have been crowding 7 of us into a small little 4 door Lada! It is quite hilarious, and we would be laughing like crazy about it if we weren’t feeling so disheartened.
So the boys all go in one taxi and I go with the girls in Alexander’s car. We have about 20 minutes or so to drive into the center of town where the bowling alley is. The girls are quiet, as usual, not looking at me at all. So I try to start up a conversation. I ask Irina to interpret and I ask them about what their favorite subjects are, what they enjoy doing, what their favorite foods are. I get curt one word answers with no glances my way at all, faces stern and looking straight ahead. After about 10 minutes, I give up and settle back in my seat for the remainder of the drive holding on to hope that maybe once we get to the bowling alley things will finally loosen up. We arrive at one only to have to leave when they have no lanes available but there is another nearby which is open. We go in, get settled and have all the kids play while we are watching. Angela and Olesya sit side by side, electing to be next to the interpreter which I can understand, but they are not engaging her in conversation at all either. Olesya gives a few shy smiles as she comes back after rolling a ball, Angela only once or twice. We try to be encouraging, Matthew offers a “high five” to Angela which she completely ignores. Luckily the boys are typical boys and they are partly oblivious to the undertones or at least are able to blow past it and be themselves. I am finding it more and more difficult to do so myself, I must admit.
The girls never really warm up, never act as if they want to be with us at all there, and before you know it, it is time to get them back to the orphanage. It was a long and very quiet drive back to the orphanage and you can imagine the many directions my mind wandered as I am struggling to understand what is going on here and what to do about it. The men folk all go home in a taxi while I accompany Irina back to the orphanage. We go in to check the girls in and make plans to go to Angela’s basketball game today and pick up Olesya to go with us. The girls give me a quick perfunctory hug under the watchful eye of the caretaker and are off back to their room.
I leave feeling my heart breaking a little more, knowing our time is limited and understanding better what is at stake here.
I don’t know what it is, I have racked my brain and had so many sleepless nights over this, as you can well imagine. There are so many factors coming into play here that it makes it convoluted. It could be they simply don’t feel comfortable around us, don’t like us or our family make up, where convinced to come with us for their own good and yet don’t feel a connection. Could be they still want to remain behind in their hearts. Fear of parents, fear of family, hardened hearts due to long term institutionalization…who knows?
So many of you have kindly offered hope and encouragement. Many have offered to us that we should go ahead and bring them home because they will eventually warm up to us or will someday understand what a family is as we can certainly show them. Also, we all know as adults what their long term futures look like, and it isn’t pretty. Should we go ahead and bring them home with us hoping someday they “get it”? Someone even suggested we do it as being abandoned in America would be far better to being left in the orphanage.
But you know what? This isn’t some sort of do-gooders “pet project”. This is 7 lives at stake and creating a family is the point. Not doing more harm than good is the goal, and byt that I mean for the girls. I want to make it clear where we stand in all of this, where we are coming from. We are not expecting love or warm fuzzies even. We are not looking to be grabbed onto for all it is worth and have “Mamma and Pappa” thrown about easily. Actually that would frighten us for what that might indicate in terms of RAD concerns. We know they don’t understand what a family is and it would be our job to teach them that.
What we need is willingness to connect, an open heart, at least the glimmer of desire to learn what this “family thing” is all about. We are not ignorant, we are not having overly high expectations. And we have parented through some difficult challenges and have come through the other side. But you can not work with stone. Or if you can, it can take forever and we do have 3 other children to consider before we decide to tackle something like this.
It makes one heartsick to see how much damage can be done in just 2 1/2 years more of institutional life. The fact is that until the day comes when parents can raise their own children, nothing will ever be "good enough", not foster care, not orphanage care...nothing.
For it is only in families where hearts are perserved.