We met our Miss Sara on October 23, 2011. She was so nervous (so were we), and went straight to Leighanne and Hannah. She gave us a little hug, but she was very timid around Ben and myself. (Normal behavior for a young teen about to be adopted.) I was grateful that the Chinese government had Sara to sign the adoption papers and make a statement that she agreed to the process. I think it really helped her to know that this was really happening and was FOR REAL.
In the beginning, Sara was very easy going, laid back, and ready for the next adventure. For the first few months we didn't see much disobedience, mostly compliant behavior. Looking back, I think that this was her way of trying to be her best so that we would love her. I'm not sure when we started seeing some "defiance", probably around January, but it was after she felt comfortable enough with us to start letting her guard down. Really, that was a positive first true step of bonding. She found out that we loved her, and would continue to love her even after she misbehaved. She also discovered that she was going to have some boundaries within our household.
Bringing a teen into our home has been the most frustrating, overwhelming, but truly humbling experience I have ever been through. Daily I see my imperfections, when I am working with Sara. I long to have this easy going relationship that I have with Leighanne (who we adopted at 9 months and is now 10), but I realize over and over that we have had years to develop our relationship, and Sara and I have only had months.
Some of my biggest struggles in parenting Sara have come from knowing when to step in and model more grown up behavior and knowing when to let her be indulgent in childlike behaviors because of her lack of a real childhood. She missed so many things in her life, and yet has lived so many that I wish she hadn't. I won't share her personal story here, but know that we have many years of healing to overcome.
One of the hardest discussions we've had, was questions about "Why we didn't get Hannah and Sara as babies like we did Leighanne." The question came from Hannah, but Sara eagerly waited for our answer. All I could tell them was that we didn't know about Hannah until 2010, and Sara until 2011, and that we came to get them as quickly as we could. It was a great question, one that I've asked myself, and one that I know that only God can answer.
Sara is slowly beginning to blossom. She is opening up more and more and she is allowing us to see the real Sara. She is very, very curious. She likes to figure out how things work, and what is going to happen next. She is gifted with putting together puzzles--she recently put together a 500 piece puzzle with out knowing what the finished puzzle would even look like. She loves games that challenge you to think, and has a competitive nature.
She likes to look pretty, and has already questioned the "when do I get to wear makeup". I think she looks beautiful without it, but I am trying to remember what it felt like when I was a teen and wanted to do the more grown up thing. So we will make a decision about that soon. Who knew that I would be having to make these choices now???
She is now reading on a 2-3rd grade level and is just now beginning early chapter books. We are still working on catching up in math, but she is making great strides in this area also. She really wants to go to school in the fall, and that is what we are gong to try. However, we have told her that if she is not getting what she needs, then we will have to homeschool another year. We have made such big gains, that I can't stand the thought of going backwards. On the otherhand, I also know that Sara resents that she is the only one that is being homeschooled. She doesn't understand that we are helping to give her a great foundation. Right now, I think she sees it as not treating her equally.
Sara loves going to "The Rock" on Tuesday evenings. This is a youth event at our local Christian Radio station WECC. She has been little miss independent, and goes without her brothers or us. I went the first week and then Sara wanted to go without me. She is making new friends and we are grateful that she is branching out. This week she is attending RUSH Week with our church and other youth groups.
I am grateful that God knows what He is doing, because I feel like I am so inept. I have really struggled with finding the love like He has, and the belief that I am doing things like I should. Sara is truly a gift to our family, but I feel like she is so fragile and that I just might break this precious sweet gift if I am not careful.