Sunday, November 11, 2012


The neighbor children are outside playing almost every day.  Claire wants to play with them, and they have tried.  They have tried to color on the driveway with chalk, but she won't draw.  They try to play make-believe games, but she doesn't understand.  They try to play running, jumping, or hopping games, but Claire can't run, jump, or hop in any sort of usual way.  The little boy next door even brought his tricycle over for Claire to try.  It is way to small but she is able to pedal after a fashion, as long as the road slopes downhill, or I am pushing the trike with a push broom.  Believe me, it isn't pretty.

But she wants to play with the other kids so badly.  So, we decided to get a bike that is big enough for her--with very sturdy training wheels.   She was so happy about buying the bike, and even enjoyed helping Daddy put the training wheels on.  It was even fun to sit on the bike in the house.

This is definitely the bike I want!
We have to "pay the lady."
Get those training wheels just right.
OH yes!  I am amazing on my new bike!
Everyone wears a helmet, even Daddy.
But, when I took her outside to try to ride it, she wasn't going to play.  She expected it to just happen with no effort.  Claire does NOT like effort.   But, her mama is more stubborn than Claire.  Mama also understands that  learning a new skill will feel good and open up some opportunities for play with other people.

So, we went out and vowed not to go back in the house until Claire could pedal.  Claire would sit on the bike and lock both knees.  Coaxing didn't work, so I resorted to a little brute force by poking her in the back of the knee to get her to bend it while I moved her other foot around on the pedal.

Then she countered with the  floppy noodle effect. She would simply go limp and slide onto the ground.  So, I rolled her on her back, grabbed both feet and began working them in a bicycling motion.  She couldn't get away from it.

Then I'd pick her up and put her on the bike while I used my hands on her legs to make them go in the right motion.  In spite of my aching back, we made it to the end of our street.  By then I was exhausted from doing ALL the work while Claire sat comfortably on her bike and pouted.

I gave up.  It didn't seem like she would ever be able to figure this out.  Her legs went in every direction except the right one.  Her arms twitched.  She would either push both feet at once or none at all.  I was at a loss.  So...I sat down on the road and told Claire I was tired. She would have to pedal home.  Well, we sat for a long time because she wasn't going to do it.  But, time was in my favor. It was lunch time.  I explained that there was no food on the road.  She could not eat unless she pedaled back to the house.  She wasn't happy, but I finally saw some effort to figure it out.  Enough effort that I got off the ground to help again.  As soon as I got near her, she stopped trying.  She had pedaled almost 3 feet before I got up.  But once I was standing, she wanted me to push her.

I must confess that I didn't keep a sweet tone or loving eyes or any of the other  requirements for bonding that all the adoption training courses demand.  My voice was angry and my words said so.  My eyes made it clear that I was not happy with the way things were unfolding.  But--anger can be very motivational.  She started pedaling.  A few feet and then she stopped.  But, as I walked close, she would pedal away, keeping just ahead of me.   When we got almost back to the mailbox, I had her turn around and see how far she had come. Then I launched into the hurrays and happys like never before.   She smiled.

Yup.  She smiled.  That ugly face went away. She said, "Eat the lunch," and pedaled the rest of the way home.

After a nice lunch with a few pieces of "choc-oh-li"  to celebrate, I suggested we go back out and ride again.  I really wanted to build on that success.   She said "no" in no uncertain terms.  I still had one trick up my sleeve.  I explained that we needed to take a video to post on the computer so her friends could see her ride.  (She had just watched a video of Cora riding a small  toy earlier in the day.)  That got her. Out we went.  She pedaled off while I filmed. (I had never used this camera before, so I apologize for the video quality.) She didn't  want to stop! She was having fun!  In spite of herself, she had learned to pedal and she liked it!

She kept going around the block, and I followed, providing a little push when it was hilly and shedding a few tears of joy.  This little girl who isn't supposed to be alive, is riding her bicycle and clapping her hands and making it clear that God defies all the human expectations and writes the story according to His plan!


  1. This sounds a lot like when we tried to get Maria to ride a bike. We are still trying to get rid of the training wheels. Great success for Claire for the first day.

  2. Dear Rebecca

    How extraordinary. How beautiful to see her ride. You're doing a great job! So are you Claire. Hooraay Hooray.

    Help me understand. What do you think is happening here? Is she afraid to fail? Is it that she's never had to work at anything -- except of course to survive. Which would leave you feeling powerless. Have her nannies always done everything for her? Maybe it's part of her deep and unexpressed desire to be taken care of by her mother. A test?

    There are so many possibilities here. I know it's hard to know but I'm interested in your hunches.

    As a psychologist I believe it's too soon to know anything for sure about her developmental disabilities if there are any..

    I'm sorry for the flurry of questions. I know you've probably addressed them elsewhere. I just got subscribed to your blog.

    As I've told you in a personal email: your honesty and bravery are an inspiration to us all.

    Johnny Drimmer
    dad to Zoee age 8 from Jiangxi

    1. Johnny,
      I really think there is not a single cause to any of Claire's behavior habits. The combination of being in the hospital for long periods of time, living in an institutional setting (even though it was a very good institution)for years, and having your whole world changed abruptly multiple times in your short childhood all play a role in creating response patterns that are really complex. Perhaps, as language continues to develop, we will be able to gain some insights into what is going on inside Claire's mind. For now, we muddle along with our guesses and pray that God will fill in where we fail to get it right.