Friday marks two years since Conleigh has come home. There are so many things I could say about her. How the death look she gets when angry or annoyed has not changed since she was a baby. How her flair for the dramatic will probably be with us forever. How much she has learned in terms of numbers, vocabulary, and letters.
But I think that in the last few months the things that have really shown me her growth have been little behaviors, things probably a lot of other people would overlook. Maybe they are small and not as monumental as I think but to me, they speak volumes about how she views us as her parents and how her heart is growing.
The first thing that has just made me smile is the frequency with which she asks my permission. From "Mama, can I eat my snack in the living room?" to "Mama, can I play over there?" to "Mama, can I have another cookie?", she is asking ME. She is looking to ME as the authority, as the person who she needs approval from. That is a huge change in her behavior. Not because she was defiant or disrespectful. (At least no more than the usual kiddo.) But because it is indicative of a change in her heart. She is seeking to please and to do the right thing not because she fears the punishment but because she treasures her relationship. (Shouldn't that be the goal of all parenting, adoptive or not? But with adoptive parenting, I think getting to that point sometimes is trickier due to the way fear is often pervasive in the subconscious of our kids.)
The other thing I've been smiling about revolves around a supper time incident from this week. She was slow to finish her supper so everyone else had gotten up from the table which left Conleigh at the table with a bowl of rice and a plate of unfinished chicken and vegetables. She had been begging for more rice but at our house, you can't have seconds of something unless you've eaten what is already on your plate. She was reminded of this and told to eat what was still on her plate. As soon as we left, she slid the bowl over to get more rice. Sneaky...she waited until we left. Full of distrust...she was told that even if she didn't get seconds tonight, there was plenty of rice and she could have it tomorrow. The rice incident represents a heart that can be very focused on food and a heart that resorts to sneakiness/dishonesty in order to get what it wants. I stopped her and moved the rice away while asking her to finish a bite of chicken and a bite of vegetables since she hadn't tried everything on er plate. Then I apologized for leaving the rice so close to her. (I know, you're thinking that makes NO sense! But hear me out. I simply said, "I'm sorry I left the rice so close to you. I know it's hard for you to not take extra food and if I had moved it away from you, it might have been easier for you to make a good choice." ) Immediately, she was humbled. She buried her head in my shoulder and said "Mama, I feel bad." We have been working for months and months to get a genuine response from her in terms of dishonesty (sneaking food/telling the truth). We have done sour things on her tongue, extra chores, memory verses, etc.. Her response has seemed disconnected, more about her head knowing what is wrong and right but her heart remaining unmoved. This time, it was different. I told her she was done eating, that she was not allowed seconds on rice because she took the rice when she knew she was not supposed to but that the rice would be in the fridge as a left over which she could eat for lunch tomorrow. And she accepted that and went on. No crying, no fussing, no arguing.
Joy, sweet joy, for this mama...the heart is changing!