One of the many resources we have available to us because we adopted Ella through the State of Utah, is access to the Family Support and Treatment Center in Orem. The staff is amazing and has helped Ella tremendously. They have a parenting program called Love, Limits and Latitude which was developed by some professors at BYU. The instructor comes to our home each week (how great is that?) and goes through the cirriculum with us and then we have an assignment. The basis for the program is that parenting is done in "a thousand small moments." I love, love, love that concept.
The first week we discussed love through play. Each day Lynn and I have "special play time" with Ella. The first words out of her mouth each morning are, "When are we having special play time?" We set aside 15-20 minutes to be one-on-one with her. Ella leads (she's all over that!), which means we don't teach and we track her emotions and what she's doing. We also do that in filial therapy with her, so it wasn't new to us.
Ever since she danced at the Covey Arts Center with TDC, she always wants to play "stage". She asks me every day when she gets to go on the stage again. During the practice run before her last performance, she came running back to me in the green room and was so exasperated that no one clapped for her! I had to explain that there wasn't anyone in the audience this time and that next time they would.
She's come so far from her first performance when she wrapped her arms around her teacher's (Miss Stephanie, Director of TDC) leg and wouldn't let go. Stephanie coaxed her out from behind the curtain and she was fine. Fast forward to her last performance--she's running out on stage, has a huge smile the entire performance and waves at the audience as she walks off the stage! She knew all the steps to the dance and did awesome! She's in love with performing.
Special play time often involves "the stage". The entire family comes to watch the performance. Ella tries to prolong play time by insisting that everyone gets a chance to perform. When the timer goes off, she innocently asks, "What's that noise and what does it mean?" So funny.
Her other favorite play time scenerio is the "Grand Ball". Today the celebration was a Valentine's Ball. (Notice the decor in the background.) Everyone loads into the carriage to attend the celebration that's very far away. Before we go, everyone lines up to watch the carriage goes through the car wash. Then we always forget the treasure chest back at the castle and have to return many times. When the timer goes off, she asks, "But what about the Ball? We haven't gone to the Grand Ball yet!"
Ella repeats these same themes over and over. Both performing and car washes have been fearful experiences for her. It's absolutely fascinating to me to see her overcome obstacles and celebrate her victories through her play. Children's little minds are amazing. They can't always speak what they're feeling, but they can share and show through their play. I've seen Ella grieve, let go of anger and sadness, experience joy and happiness and so many other emotions all through her play. I get to help her identify those emotions and show her that I'm there for her by tracking what she's doing. It has been very difficult at times, but I also can't express how blessed I feel to be a part of her healing and growth. She's amazing and brave and filled with so much wisdom. She's such an example to me. I just keep thinking, it's all part of those thousand small moments.