A story of “Firsts”

Has it really been 5 months???

Almost… on July 7th, it will be five months since we picked Cara up at the orphanage! Where does the time go? She has been home almost half a year already! As I type this, I remember the tiny, frightened little girl, who was crying uncontrollably in the orphanage director’s office after they brought her to us. A little girl with no where to run, desperately looking for an escape route. The frightened little girl who had to be forced into a car seat as she reached for people she knew, screaming in absolute terror as the car drove off with her pinned inside. How she cried. How I tried so hard to comfort her, and how she would have none of it. This tiny 6 year-old girl, all 24 pounds of her, crying and kicking and rocking back and forth as we drove further and further away from the only home she’d ever known. Her whole world turned upside down and inside out. My heart broke as she cried, wild eyed and terrified of the unknown.

A little girl that was so terrified of the dogs, she screamed blood curdling screams until we got them far away from her! A little girl that begged to go home if we were out anywhere but Costco and the grocery store! From day one she loved to shop!

The little girl who had no idea how to play with toys of any kind, but knew how to sweep like an adult, fold clothes like a pro, and could make my king size bed well enough that I didn’t feel it was necessary to remake it.

Five months later, this terrified 24 pound little girl has grown 4.5” and gained 11 lbs! She is outgrowing clothes and shoes faster than I can keep up! Her English is amazing, even with a limited vocabulary. She is fun, and funny, and so incredibly smart! She loves “her” dogs, and has learned to play with toys. She’s learned it’s fine to help fold laundry, but it’s not her job to do it. She says almost every day, “I like mommy, daddy, home!” She prays each night before bed, “Thank you Heavenly Father. Thank you for mommy, thank you for daddy, thank you for dog, thank you for cat. Thank you for food, thank you for my family.”

She’s learned all of her alphabet letters by sight and knows all of her colors. She is learning to write letters, and working on writing her name. She loves to color, loves her babies and stuffed animals, and talks to them as if they are real!

Today, Ron and I took her to her first movie at the theater. We waited this long because she has been so afraid of the dark. Afraid to the point that if we were out and about and it got dark before we got home, we had to turn the light on in the back seat or she screamed in terror all the way home. She slept with a light on until just recently. When she finally allowed us to shut off the bathroom light when we went to bed, we felt she was ready for the theatre. And she was! She didn’t like the movie much, Monsters U, but she wasn’t afraid of the dark theater, and was willing to sit as long as the popcorn bucket was full.

Taking her to the movie made me think about all the firsts she’s experienced since picking her up. Her first night in a hotel, and first restaurant meal. First taste of French fries and ice cream. Her first visit to the capital city of her birth. First McD’s chicken nuggets! Her first plane ride!  Her first bedroom to call her own, even though she won’t sleep in there! First trip to Texas, first time at the beach and seeing the ocean, first collection of sea shells! First time seeing the stars and the moon! First time in a grocery store, shoe store, and clothing store! First taste of spaghetti, or ska-betty as she calls it. She has not acquired a taste for it yet. First time at church and first time learning about Jesus. First time she didn’t have to share shoes and clothes with several other children. First toys to call her own, and first time she had mommy and daddy.

With children we bring into our families by birth, we mark the milestones, proudly recording the date they smiled a real smile, rolled over, sat up, first tooth, date they started crawling, had their first solid food, took their first step and said their first word. There are so many “firsts” during that first year, it’s overwhelming. We forget about the second and third year of firsts. Such as the first time they fell and skinned a knee. First goose egg, first time they played in the grass barefoot or tasted a dill pickle. We forget that these firsts are just as important but since the big “firsts” have already been recorded, we don’t think to write them down.

Bringing Cara home at the age of 6 has been so different, and there have been more firsts than I ever imagined. During the 30 hour travel time to get her, I was lamenting about how much I’d missed. All those firsts we parents are so excited to see as our babies grow. I was feeling a little sorry for myself that I didn’t know her as a younger child, and couldn’t share any of that history with her. It wasn’t until a couple of days after we picked her up that I realized how many “firsts” we were going to experience together! And truthfully, the firsts you experience with an older child are incredibly exciting, because THEY are so excited. Please don’t misunderstand! The firsts of babyhood are priceless to a parent. But watching an older child experience the world for the first time is a humbling experience. Everything we take for granted is an absolute wonder to Cara. Can you believe she had never seen the stars, or the moon? I knew she hadn’t been to a grocery store, or been to a park, or flown in an airplane. But never seeing the stars? Her excitement truly humbled me. We take the stars and the moon for granted. We know they will always be there. Cara is still amazed that they are there every night.

Last weekend, I took her to the park for the first time. I’d avoided taking her for a while because I knew she would hate having to leave, and scream all the way home. And when it was time to leave, she did just that. But, watching her go down the slide for the first time, and pushing her on the swing for the first time was priceless! She screamed in excitement as I pushed her on the swing, then in terror as she got too high! As I slowed her down, she begged for more, laughing, and then catching her breath as fear overtook her again! I think she would have had me push that swing all day if the slides didn’t call out to her again! Watching her run through the playground equipment, trying out everything she could was wonderful but also bittersweet. It made me sad that she’d missed out on this small pleasure for so long, but it was also so wonderful to watch her experience it for the first time.

I know Cara and I have many more “firsts” to experience together, and hopefully, they won’t become so “routine” that I forget to write them down for her. I plan to start a book of “firsts” for her. We may never know when she took her first step, but we know when she first put her feet in the Gulf of Mexico, took her first plane ride, and experienced so many other things for the first time! There is another exciting first about to happen… She’s very excited! Stay tuned…