Wow… that’s what I have to say after two days of working in the orphanage. It’s one thing when you read and learn about psychological conditions such as Failure to Thrive and attachment disorders. It’s a whole other thing to see these conditions manifest themselves in tiny children that you hold in your arms. To be honest, I was so overwhelmed by what I saw on the first day, that I wanted to run away and scream or cry or something. I did not even know what to do. There I was, sitting in the middle of a small room with ten babies/toddlers all around me who all have the same empty look in their eyes. Only one of those ten would return a smile. Remember, all of these children are between 1 and 3 years of age. None of them speak real words. Most of them don’t make any sound at all. They are all much too small for their ages and are clearly behind in interaction and socialization skills.
The worst part is what I call the “giving up” effect. There are a few of them that do this, but one boy in particular stands out to me. Because of their delayed development, I cannot give a very good estimate of his age, but I would guess he is around 15-20 months old. In many regards, I might say he seems to be doing well. He is the one that will return a smile when I make faces with him, giggles when I tickle him, and knows that I will respond if he reaches out to touch me. He will often run across the room to me and grab my legs, looking up as if to say, “Here I am! Play with me! Hold me! Love me!” In all these aspects, he is miles ahead of nearly every other child in my Little Snails group. However, he consistently demonstrates the “giving up” effect. When I am holding or playing with him, he will periodically tip his head back, go stiff, and stare blankly at the ceiling with his mouth gaping open. He cannot even lift his head back up when this happens. I always have to be careful when I notice that one of these moments is about to happen so I can put my hand on the back of his head and support him, or protect him from smacking his head on the hard floor. If he is already standing or sitting on the floor when this happens, he falls all the way back and lies flat, looking at the ceiling. Sometimes, he even falls forward on his face. I am trying to figure out the pattern for what causes these moments. It seems to happen every time he does not know how to interpret an interaction. For example, if I am holding him but have to set him down to help another child, he will “give up” as soon as I set him down. It is nothing like a temper tantrum, or even an attention getting technique. It really seems involuntary. I truly hope that we can overcome this by the end of the semester! He is such a bright little boy and I have so much hope for him!
I already love each one of these Little Snails. After the first day with them, their faces were already imprinted on my heart and mind. Though I know I will never be able to make up for the lack of the mother-to-child attachment and the damage that has been done in its absence, I pray that we can make major improvements between now and May. God has blessed me with a very big and draining job, and I am up for the challenge.
And so, I title this entry “Aš Tave Myliu.” This is Lithuanian for “I love you.” Now, to give the true cultural lesson behind this phrase, I should tell you that Lithuanians ONLY say this as an intimate expression of love, like between spouses. So, it is not really even said from mother to child. But, I have talked to a couple Lithuanian students who tell me that their moms say this to them. So, I am using it for this entry. My Little Snails have never had a mom to tell them, “I love you.” My prayer is that, though they are so young, they would hear God telling them “Aš tave myliu,” every time I interact with them.
PS: Just a heads up… I am off to Ireland this weekend! So, there will not be another entry between now and Tuesday. But, I look forward to being able to write to you all about my Irish adventures!
Hi, I'm Katie... just a girl, living this adventure for the glory of God. Thanks for reading!