Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Jonathon Letters

I just finished a book I would recommend to anyone who has adopted or is going to adopt. "The Jonathan Letters" By Michael Trout and Lori Thomas is a collection of e-mails between a therapist and a mom who adopted a troubled African American boy at four years old. The two did not meet til half way through their correspondence but were connected by a relative of Michael's. The descriptions of four year old Jonathan hit eerily close to home. Tantrums and rage and difficulty being loved. Lori at one point says unbreakable to her meant more difficult to break as her things had seen better days.
But it was the first time I read an account of a troubled child by a mom. All the way through I said, "I've been there, I did that, I'm still there and maybe I'm not that abnormal after all!" Lori lives in Northern VA. Now to find her!

With Eman's new travel team, comes new teammates who don't know him. One of the coaches asked me if I could share some of his story at their level to help them understand Eman. I was impressed with myself after writing this about how much I have really learned about Eman over the past 3 1/2 years. Now if I could just remember all that during homework time. But I thought it might help everyone to read this more simplistic explanation.

Eman was born in Africa in a country that had a war going on at the time of his birth. His parents were unable to care for him and his sister, Abegail, and they were put in an orphanage. Eman was just two years old when he went to the house that had 24 other kids in it at the time. He stayed in the orphanage until his fourth birthday when his parents you know now came to adopt him.
The violence in his country and the separation from his birth family had a great affect on Emmanuel's development and on his brain.
He didn't always get the hugs and kisses that normal kids get. He also did not have the food that we get here in America. He often only had rice to eat and sometimes he did not have any food for dinner. Sometimes the people who were supposed to take care of him and watch out for him were not very nice to him. His brain did not get any stimulation. No books were read to him, he did not watch TV. He did not even know who Santa Claus was.
This all affected how his brain developed. So his brain is not like your brain. The brain acts like a muscle and if it is not used it does not get stronger.
It is kind of like if you hurt your leg. It would take a while to heal and to get strong and kick a soccer ball the best it could.
Eman's brain is still healing from his early life, playing catch up and taking a while to learn all the things you were learning when you were 2,3, and 4 years old.
That is part of the reason Eman has trouble being patient and listening. Sometimes he doesn't know things that you might know like how to treat a friend or how far away to stand from someone.
He also has ADHD, which some of your friends might have. This is very common in kids with a background like Eman's. This means it's hard for him to be focused and sit still. Soccer is great for Eman. It allows him to be active and get some of his feelings of being mad out.
Eman does not mean to be mean or hurt anyone but sometimes he can't help himself.
Eman does want to be your friends and even learn from you. But sometimes he doesn't know how to do that. So if you are patient with him and help him when he is not listening or not doing what he is supposed to it will be easier for him.
Thanks for letting Eman be on your team. It's not only great for his soccer skills but great for his brain too.
Quotes from Eman:
E: "Mommy, why do you tell everyone we are from Africa? Because you want to impress people?"
Another quote from Eman:
E: "Mommy I feel comfortable with you and Daddy."

Scott turned 40 yesterday! Today is Grandpa Arthur's birthday. Happy Birthday to you both!

3 comments:

Adrienne said...

Sue, Can I share this explanation with Blessing' teacher? She is having some behavior issues in school. They are handling it pretty well, but I want them to understand that it isn't just Blessing, it is emotionally deprived children in general.
Adrienne

Valerie said...

Amen sister amen. Now if only I can practice what you have asked the kids to do and be patient with Akins

The Googeg's said...

This was great. I haven't read this book yet. Patience -- what a toughy -- I went years saying"How long, oh Lord, How Long". But there is light at the end of the tunnel. Hope is there -- I have seen it!

Deb