Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Resilience II

Morning Clouds Over Pichincha

My daughter Maya has been struggling, and it has been very painful for me to watch her sadness these past weeks. When I asked her about her day at school yesterday, she told me that she simply endures her days, holding herself together in anticipation of her ballet and orchestra practices, where she feels more comfortable. She tells me she has no friends and that the children laugh at her and make jokes. She is acutely aware of the limitations of her Spanish, and although I believe she understands alot, she is very careful not to say anything for fear of being misunderstood or ridiculed. She misses her life in Baltimore, her sister, her friends, her teachers, her house, her dog, her haunts, and would rather be 'home'.

I knew the transition would be challenging for her. I remember moving when I was twelve and in retrospect, the move was devastating, and sometimes I think I never really adjusted. My parents had made a decision they believed would improve our lives and offer us more opportunities, yet my sisters and I felt foreign and forever out of place. We all left Edmonton and never returned. I moved my twelve year old daughter from Salt Lake City to Baltimore, and she too, struggled for years, and could not wait to leave never to return, and has very bitter memories of her adjustment to Baltimore. I believed at the time that the move would enhance her life, and again, offer her all sorts of possibilities, but in the end, I feel much guilt and sadness about causing her so much pain.

Cartwheels on the Equator

Maya is an easy child, is usually happy and friendly and positive. We have been planning our move to Ecuador for months and months and she has been part of the preparation and had appeared to be hopeful about the move. I spent months choosing the school, which, in the end simply felt like the best fit. Of course, I also chose a Spanish versus English school, thinking that at nine, she would learn the language quickly and easily. I also believed that children are resilient and that if the parents adjust and are happy, the children follow suit.

I have learned that Maya is timid, and that children learn languages differently than adults. In a few months Maya will be speaking Spanish far better than I will, but for now, the shyness and the fear of speaking Spanish poorly, keeps her from engaging with other children and she is lonely.

Mitad del Mundo Handstands

In addition, the transition to Quito has been fraught with unusual challenges. I was inconsolable for days when my camera was stolen, we have all been traumatized by Eric's experience with 'armed robbery', frustrated by the drawn out process of getting new phones, and waiting five weeks for an ATM card, I have been upset with Maya for losing her jackets at school; there have been too many such complications. Of course it has to impact Maya!

I received a phonecall from Maya's school last week with a summons. Eric and I were asked to meet with the psychologist at her school and the appointment was today. The day was grey and rainy and we were late for the appointment because the traffic was worse than usual. We met with two psychologists and the principal of the 'Primaria'. They were worried about Maya and her difficult adjustment, despite being confident that in a few months she would be speaking Spanish beautifully. She has been retreating and closing herself off over the past few weeks, and they want to reverse the negative slide. My task is to ease the pressure at home and help her feel confident and safe. I am not to push her to study or read Spanish. We will try to arrange playdates with children she is closest to. I felt good about the meeting and relieved that we are all on the same page about Maya.

Happy Days

I watched her play soccer in the rain. She is the only girl on the extracurricular team, a good soccer player and clearly comfortable with the coach and her colleagues. Maya seemed happy to see her parents at school, and did not ask many questions about what we talked about with her teachers. She had a good day at school today, had played with a new 'best' friend, and had alot to laugh about on our way home. I wondered if I had been worrying for nothing, if leaving her to sort herself out is enough, that she truly does not need all these adults messing with her life, that she is in fact resilient and will be speaking Spanish fluently in a few months and will have sorted out her friendships on her own. It is my own guilt that drives me, more guilt about Tara than about Maya, and it is my own painful memories of moving as a child and never figuring out how to be my new self in a new place or how to be myself in my new environment. In truth, Maya is doing far better than I did, and I ought to feel relieved.

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