It's been 3 years now, since Genea came to live with us. Three years since the day we brought her home from McDonald's, put her down for her nap, and found the raging ping pong ball with hair who took over for the polite, withdrawn child we had "visited" with the preceding 3 months.
I haven't been writing much about Genea lately because she has been doing okay and I did not want to curse her progress. My restraint is no longer necessary, ahem. She had hit a streak of progress that started around the holidays late last year. With the massive dive she took in mid- January, she recovered after about a month and went back in for another round of progress. Now I am guessing with all the unavoidable changes that the world is so rudely foisting on her with the end of school, she is coming apart for it. But we'll get back.
I think a lot of kids from traumatic backgrounds have a problem with play. Genea has never been able to pretend. She could not pick up a doll and do anything with it other than maybe use it as a pillow, or to knock something over. She will pace back and forth and pretend she is doing something. She will sprint off without warning into the next room as if she just remembered something crucial, but there is nothing. She cannot, cannot occupy herself. In three years we have found exactly one thing that she can do, do it by herself, do it without wrecking it or asking a hundred questions about it, or dropping it to the side after 5 minutes, and that is her Leapster game. She will ask for things to do that she knows she can't have, then starts a fit then a tantrum then a visit with the Wango Tango. So this has been a tough area for her.
She has started trying to pretend. I hear her, with a few stuffed animals, making them talk in a high, sing song voice. Mostly they say "hello" a lot, and introduce themselves. Sometimes she will make a stuffed animal talk to me and it will say hi, and introduce itself. I look directly at the critter (oh how those things multiply in the night) and say hi back, while introducing my own self. Sometimes the animal will inquire as to my health and say, " how are you today". More often than not though, Genea will have started to get nervous. She lets the animal flop over to the side, sits herself straight up and leans in closer to me piercing me with her eye contact. "Mama", she whispers with spit and voice "Mama, it's just really me, Genea talking. I was pretending". Oh, I always say. Phew, I'm so glad you told me!
I took what happened recently as a sign, a real sign that we were finally getting somewhere. I have not cried once in the past three years, but I came darn close that day. I have choked on it, I have cut off my own oxygen supply. I have done everything possible other than cauterize my own tear ducts. Because if I cried I would have to acknowledge how really really bad things were. If I did that, I would have to do something about it. And there are not too many choices in the "doing something about it" category. So no matter what has happened, however frustrated, angry, depressed, guilty, furious, whatever feeling whisked through I have forced it to keep going on. Totally unhealthy. Really bad. I know.
I came as close as I think I have gotten to letting the flood roll when I found Genea's beloved Henrietta. This is a pale blue web kin thing, that looks like a porcupine to me but is evidently a hippo. You'd have to ask it to be sure. Anyway, of all the toys that she doesn't play with, she has hung on to this hippo on and off. One day a few months ago I found it on her bed with a blanket on it. Purposefully placed, delicately draped over the body and head of the hippo so it could still see.
She had done this with deliberation. With caring. It was obvious she had taken a few moments out of her hurried morning to set Henrietta down and be sure she would be happy and comfortable for the day while Genea was at school. It sounds so small, like such a little thing and I suppose it is. But I felt it so strongly, a wave and a rush, that Genea can make it. It is in there. I always thought, intellectually thought, she could make it but an awfully long time really has gone by without a lot of confirmation. So, like I said, I took it as a sign that she will make it. It's been years, we are taking our progress in years.