Friday, May 11, 2007

My Daughter's Story

My little girl was born 6 weeks premature to an alcohol and drug addict. The birth mother had gone to the ER with false labor 7 times prior to the baby's birth, and she was "high" every time.

The baby was 2 lb. 10 oz. at birth. My husband and I first heard about her when she was 5 weeks old. She was still in the hospital, and social services was looking for a foster home for her.

Since we already had a 10 mo. old foster son in diapers and on the bottle, I couldn’t imagine why we would want to lose more sleep and have even more diapers and bottles, but my husband didn’t want that poor baby to spend any more time in the hospital. We went to visit. She was so small, I feared she would slip through a gap in my cradling arms! She had light brown skin, and we thought she might be biracial. Her bio mother is black, but the bio father is unknown. We thought our foster son might be going home soon, so we decided to lessen the grief of losing him by letting another baby into our hearts.

We agreed to be the baby's foster family and brought her home when she was 6 weeks old, weighing a whopping 5 lb. 6 oz.

She was a slow grower. She slept 20 out of 24 hours every day! I had to wake her to feed her! She was very petite, and I loved to dress her up and take pictures. She started going to physical therapy, and finally started walking at 20 months. Then she moved on to occupational therapy (to develop fine motor skills), speech therapy, and early language intervention group. At age 5, she had a brain scan that showed that the part of her brain that controls motor skills was smaller than it should be.

To help her motor skills, I put her in a gymnastics class. She loved it and eventually mastered hand stands and cartwheels, among other skills. Her therapist said that she shouldn’t be able to do those things, but my little girl didn’t know that! She used to perform gymnastic floor routines in talent shows, but she’s outgrown that and would rather sing or do dances that don’t involve leotards.

When by God's grace we were finally able to adopt her at age 2½, the adoption worker described her as a solemn child who seldom smiled except at her foster parents. She didn’t have much facial responsiveness for a long time, and she wasn’t affectionate. She would cry if we gave her a stern look and throw up if she got a leg swat or if she got hurt while playing. She’s nothing like that now; look at her sternly, and she will laugh. She only throws up when she is ill, which is rare. She is very expressive and loves to jump in my lap and give me hugs. She hugs everybody! Or if she’s in a bad mood, everybody knows it from her screeching and door slamming. She has been diagnosed as having ADHD and has always been an impulsive child.

I was going to send my little girl to K4 where her brother went the year prior, but the school went to a full day K5 program, and so all K4 students were going to be bussed into town. My little girl was smaller than anyone else her age, and I wasn’t about to put her on a bus for hours a day! So I decided to homeschool her with her brother (who didn’t do well in K4, other than at making friends and playing).

My daughter asked Jesus into her heart when she was 6, and went forward to be baptized when she was 8. Sometimes she prays the most amazing, spirit-filled prayers you ever heard! At other times, she rattles off some rote prayer to get on with the program, so to speak, but at least she’s volunteering to pray!

Over the years she’s played soccer and basketball and been an Upwards basketball cheerleader—she liked the cheerleading the best, being the girly-girl that she is. She took two years of piano lessons, and she would like to take violin or guitar lessons. She’s had four years of voice lessons.

My little girl finally learned to ride a bike without training wheels when she was 7. She learned to tie her shoes when she was 9. This is how it happened—she saw a pair of red, rubber toed sneakers with shoe strings and wanted them. I said, "I can't buy you that kind of shoe until you learn how to tie them!" She hadn't been interested in learning until then. (She would tell me she would learn to tie her shoes when she grew up!) She said, "Okay, show me how to tie them!" So I demonstrated the shoe-tying for her, she immediately tied the shoes herself, and I bought her the red shoes!

My daughter is now 14. She loves pink, red, and purple. She loves hair and fashion. She loves the beach and can stand in the surf and listen to the waves roar for a long time. She still likes Barbie, though she’s aware that she’s probably "too big" for that stuff. She can read and likes Nancy Drew, but would rather play a Nancy Drew or Barbie video game or listen to music than read. Her favored style of learning is musical. If the lesson is set to music, she’ll learn it—like the multiplication tables and geography songs.

Jasmine isn’t strong academically, but she does have her strengths. She can make a great batch of peanut brittle from memory and has won many blue ribbons for it. She has a great verbal memory; when she’s in a play, she memorizes all the parts! She loves to sing, dance, and be the center of attention, but she’s also quick to encourage others in their efforts. She has taken some amazing photographs. She is a very healthy eater. She has never been very fond of fried foods or meat, preferring fruits and veggies; she loves carrots. However, she is a candy fiend; if it’s fruity, chewy, or makes bubbles, she wants it! She still has 20/20 vision, even though most preemies develop vision problems. Maybe her diet has made the difference. She’s physically strong for being so thin! She is great at coming up with a goal and making a list toward attaining that goal, and following through! If she wants to play outside, she will make a list of the chores she’s going to do to earn the privilege, and she’ll work hard to get the work done.

Yes, my daughter is different. Sometimes I wish she were normal so that she would fit in and have friends like everyone else—like she wishes she had. But she has a special gift. She is uninhibited and shows her feelings, and since much of the time she is happy, she spreads joy wherever she goes. She dances joyfully in the aisles (of stores, not church); she lives for the moment; she loves life.

I asked Jasmine to tell me what was important for people to know about her. This is what she said: "I’m a very talented young lady, and I love to sing and dance. I’m a very good actor. I’m too big for Barbie dolls." (What did I tell you??) "And I love my Mommy."

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