Wednesday, 9 December 2015

when they leave

It's been coming for a while,
and this week it happened.

She wants to leave.
Two and a half years and she's done, she feels ready, she doesn't need us anymore and she doesn't want to be here any longer.

Because of language we didn't even find out from her own lips,instead finding ourselves casually informed by a well meaning friend, in-front of other well meaning friends who could never possibly understand the pain of this. And you slide your face into neutral and say some inane but positive things because your toddler is climbing on you, and people are watching your reaction, and you carry on carrying on. Counting the seconds through the world's longest team meeting with your hands shaking as they hand out snacks. Meeting each other's gaze and having to look away because you're both too honest and everyone will see what you're choking down.
Look down, look away, and get out. Cry. Get Beth from preschool. Hold it together until she's fed and sleeping oblivious, buried in teddies, dreaming peaceful dreams and having no idea that her home is aching.

Why the melodrama?
Honestly, we're still working through all the feelings.
A Transition Home is meant to be a temporary measure, a place to impart love and life skills, a place to empower and equip, to embrace and release.

The embracing has sometimes felt impossible, but we've done it.
Now the releasing feels impossible, and we have to do it.

It's healthy. It's what we are supposed to be doing. She's the only girl in her graduating class to have not dropped out because of pregnancy. She's clothed better than her peers who would have sneered at an orphan. She's got her own style, and identity, and interests, and friends, and access to financial support which we had to fight for, she's going to church and she knows how to clean herself and her home (huge deal), she knows how to access healthcare and get out of situations that make her uncomfortable, she knows how to argue and how to go for what she wants.
She knows how to gaze into my son's eyes and adore him, as he adores her and chants her name like his favorite thing.
I think she has a voice now. 

The girl who couldn't speak or look up is now a stroppy young woman who wants what she wants, and you can't tell her that what she wants is wrong. She has a voice now.

This is not a fail. T
his is - and time will tell - potentially a win.

The problem is that family is not a temporary measure. Hearts are not temporary creatures. This hurts.
She's only going to be twenty minutes drive away but she's one tiny person in a world of dangers and this...hurts.

A lot of the melodrama is to do with out insecurities and overwhelming feels of failure.
To be honest, we have messed this up many a time. This year in particular has been far too stressful and we have not always been perfectly perfect. Oh if only we could have done things differently, would she have stuck with this house until she'd finished studying? Would she have made more progress in so many of the areas that still need healing? Could we have done better? Would she be more capable or whole or confident if we had tried harder? If we had been kinder, funnier, more patient, less lenient, more lenient (discipline is hard), more huggy, less huggy, more patient, stricter....? If we were better Christians? If we prayed more? If we cooked more Ukrainian food? If we didn't make her clean her bathroom (once in a blue moon)? If we'd bought her more stuff?
Because this is not a guaranteed success. So many things could go wrong now. So, so many things that are so easy to imagine.

I cannot, however, say that I would go back in time and try harder because I know that I have tried harder than I would have thought possible. Every single day doing this 'job' is an effort and we have pushed ourselves beyond our limits juggling babies and toddlers and culture and money and worries and health and new girls and I'm just grateful we're still here. Still standing.

If it's possible to still be standing if you're on your knees in the dust, holding so many questions in your shaking hands on the day when you realise that she's going to leave.

Oh my friends, I don't know how to explain to you the weight of this. The pathetic feelings of rejection. The worry over failure and other peoples' judgments. The responsibility to supporters and fundraisers and prayer people and everyone who has ever visited with suitcases of marmite.

So much pressure and so much worry.
Years of our love - for what? I know that this would seem silly but it's how we feel.
In my gut I don't think she's ready. In my heart I wish we had longer with her. I'm so worried for her.

And for my babies. Whenever I express worry about this everyone says 'oh it's fine, they'll be fine, because people move out when they're grownups, it's normal and fine fine FINE FINE until I want to take peoples' FINES and ram them back down the throat that chucked such empty reassurance at me.
How many three year olds have twenty year old sisters? Do yours? Did your kids journey through toddler hood with family members leaving because they're 18 years older? No?
So maybe this isn't your flippant version of fine?
Maybe try again and say something that isn't nonsense?
B has loved her since she was 18 months old. Sim has known her voice since he was a tiny person inside my tummy. She's the third person he asks for every day ('mummy, B, Alla, Daddy') so maybe instead of brushing me off with FINE how about you get on your face and intercede for my tiny, gorgeous people?

We will come back from Christmas holidays and she won't be here. She's the one who can perk up Sim when he's distraught, the one he runs to every day when she's home from college, the one he has always just instinctively and unconditionally adored.
Of course I know that kids are adaptable. That in many ways - that I won't write on a public blog - this is actually something that needed to happen for the good of my babies. That it could well be God rescuing us from having to initiate this ourselves. It actually, really is that.

I know that kids forget, that she will visit, that actually John and I are their home, that Svieta will now get a look-in with Sim, that it's going to be FINE.
But first, dignify my grief and tuck that lazy 'fine' away. Try a hug. Not a side hug. Side hugs are for idiots.

Because this is grief.
Our friends the ELOY project film makers just happened to instagram a picture of Alla yesterday. There is, of course, no random about this. God is amazing and likes to work all things together for our good, including social media.
It's a picture of her, so much younger, so much softer and hair longer and clothes so much less cool and oh I just broke. Floods. She's our one, for all our failures and hurts and struggles, she's ours and she's leaving.
And underneath they wrote this quote.
'A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car that I drove...but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child.' Forest E. Witcraft

And with that, and some photo memories, I shall leave you.

I wish I took more photos. xxx

I waited a month or so before publishing this. Mainly because John asked me to, because all the feelings were so raw and he wasn't ready for me to share both of our hearts and souls quite so publicly.
We went home to England for Christmas, and by the time the plane landed in Gatwick we were actually fine! We did our grieving, had an wonderful time with family and friends, came back to Ukraine much blessed and now we're tackling the follow up care - which is a whole new challenge but a much less time consuming role. We're getting more time with Svieta and it's really lovely to see her blossom.
As for the smaller kids, they don't seem to really care that she's not around. I was imagining Sim wandering the house wailing inconsolably but it hasn't happened - he gets excited if he sees a photo but other than that I think that the kids are loved, busy and actually getting on fine. Please keep praying though, for I believe that children run deep and that the currents under the surface are the ones that only God can see. Thank you!