A few weeks ago, I signed Curly and Mister up for VBS. Because the age limit was 4 years, I went ahead and signed Abi up too. Then this week came along, and I went, "What was I THINKING?!?!" Because we're still bonding, because she barely speaks English, and a little bit because she's blind, I realized that I would have to go to class with her. That meant Bean would have to come to class with us too.
Oh my sweet Jesus in Heaven above.
What was I thinking?
But I did it, because I'd told her she could go. She was all excited, like the older kids, and I'd already said yes. I talked to the teachers ahead of time, and got permission for myself and Taz to attend class with Abi. They were wonderful and welcoming, which was a relief, after the nastiness from a few years ago at the Palouse Suzuki violin group when Mister was a baby.
The days started with me pleading, scolding, bribing, manipulating, begging and nagging Abi to eat her breakfast. (Still dealing with food issues, and Abi is NOT a morning person.) Hubby, thankfully, stuck around for half an hour to help with clothes and shoes for everyone. Even so, Curly only went with brushed hair a couple of the days. Oh well.
Then we loaded everyone up in the big, blue stroller and walked the 1/2 mile to the Nazarene church. (Nope, I still don't drive, and I love it.)
When we got there, it was a matter of trying to keep Bean corralled, guide Abi through the 4yo stories, snack (hello food issues again), games (try finding a yellow ball when you're blind) and craft.
Some interesting and unforeseen problems arose, and I'll copy my Facebook posts from this week to give you a glimpse of what we ran into.
First day of VBS. Bean and I stayed in the 4yo class to help Abi, but she did great! Thanks to the little guy that we met at the park who wanted to be Abi's partner when all the "perfect" little Christian kids didn't want to. Little Park Dude, you were more like Jesus even though I'd be willing to guess the only time you ever go to church is for a week in the summer. You rock, little guy. :)
Day 2: Wow, VBS could not have gone worse. The theme was Daniel and the lions. So lots of talking about lions, pretending to be lions to chase each other, etc. Well, lions have made Abi really weird and sad and homesick before, and today was no exception. Not to mention lots of talk about the poor kids in Africa, etc. Abi was a wreck, Bean was a holy terror, and I am exhausted. Ugh.
Day 3 VBS report: No lions today. Whew. Abi got to act out Silas in the Paul/Silas/jail story. Apparently prisons are less frightening than lions, because she had a ball. Bean threw a lovely fit about painting during craft time, so he got a nice ride in the Ergo backpack on my back for the rest of VBS time. Cooled him right off. One of the teenage helpers took over leading Abi around, and she did better without Mommy hovering, and got into the games and activities. Overall, I'd say today was a success.
Older girls helping Abi are really the best. She doesn't assume they are taking her home like an adult, but she can be off with the kids like everyone else and not have to be with Mom when nobody else is by their moms. So it works socially for her, but doesn't disrupt our bonding and attachment like adult women tend to do.
A side comment: I am not sure why this VBS has picked out the most horrific and gruesome Old Testament Bible stories to present to the kids. So far they have acted out being in a firey furnace, a lions' den and now a first-century prison. Having grown up in church, I probably would not have thought twice about it, except now seeing it through Abi's point of view, those things are really scary and disturbing! I hope the message that God delivers and provides even in those awful situations comes through as clearly! All week, I've been kind of wishing for a nice Jesus-and-the-loaves-and-fishes story instead. ;)
There are lots of little things I notice. Like the pastor saying "This offering money goes to sponsor a little child who's not like you. A little child who has no food who lives in Kenya." My thought: That's exactly like Abi, actually. Teaching kids that little needy African kids are "not like them" tends to make American kids more xenophobic than they already are, I think. Not to mention that little needy African kid probably has a more loving home and family life than 3/4 of the materialistic American kids sitting in those pews. We don't have everything right here by a long shot, but we sure like to think we do. It's weird how my perspective has changed after two trips to Africa and seeing the world through my little girl's eyes.
But those little things aside, the VBS has been quite a lot of fun, and they're doing a terrific job. They are super organized and have plenty of help. The timing is good for the activities, and the teachers and helpers really have sweet hearts and love kids. I don't mean to come across as overly critical at all! I just am surprised at the weird things that stand out to me now that as a church kid I have heard all my life and never noticed.
I don't know if it is because Abi has a disability, or dark skin, but I have been a little shocked at the number of kids who refuse to sit by her, or stand by her in line, or be her partner in games. I'm glad she can't see them run away. It makes me sad that these well-groomed little church kids are so sheltered that they are scared of a perfectly sweet, fun little girl who happens to look a little different from them. Still, watching some of them warm up over the course of the week is cool. It's a shame that my daughter's role is to constantly be teaching people how to expand their comfort zones, but it's still neat to watch happen. It makes me realize how strong my little girl really is, to overcome all of the trauma that she's had in her past, and now to keep having to talk people into seeing past her white cane and dark skin and be her friend. She is amazing. :)
So, was it worth it? Yeah, I think it was. Abi learned that even going to a group of little kids (that feels a lot like the orphanage did) doesn't take her away from Mom. It'll make next year easier, as well as other things like Sunday School or Preschool. And among the Bean-chasing, I had some fun moments. I really still like kids, and 4yos say some of the funniest things! The teachers were so nice about having Bean in their classes, even though he could not sit still or be quiet. Their welcome really blessed me. :)
VBS Day 4. All of the little kids were squirrelly today, so possibly Abi's inattention was just more of the same. She kind of just sat like a lump. This week has been interesting, to say the least. I think she didn't understand a lot of what was going on because she doesn't have enough English yet. About the middle of the morning, I finally gave up and took her and Bean off by themselves to play on the stairs to the balcony. As soon as she was with just us, she opened up like a flower, and started running around and chattering. Hmmmm... But she says she likes VBS, so we'll go ahead and finish out the week tomorrow. The church is inviting all the kids to come on Sunday too, so they'll probably think we're pagans for not showing up, but I'm on the worship team Sunday at our church, so we're not going to go, and ::oh well:: to what they think. ;)
VBS Day 5 - Last day. Whew, I did it! The kids go around the house singing the songs. Everyone had a ball, and I got to see other adults. I think it was worth it. I echo the youth pastor's sentiment that what he has planned for next week is a lot of napping!