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Archive for June, 2014

Guacamole Hugs

Several weeks ago Annalise and I swung by Subway to grab some sandwiches and a couple bags of chips for a quick dinner before we had an appointment with one of our case managers. While sitting at our kitchen table inhaling our food, a tiny bit of guacamole slipped out of my sandwich and on to my face. I don’t really remember how it happened (or why I didn’t just wipe that green mess off my face with a napkin), but in the moments that followed I ended out chasing Annalise around the living room jokingly trying to hug her and smoosh my guacamole drop all over her face. In a monstorous voice I yelled, “You’d better run or I’m going to get you with a guacamole hug!” She giggled and ran around the room while I (now cleaned faced) continued to chase her and smother her with loving bear hugs. She absolutely loved it. And guacamole hugs have now become our thing.

Annalise came to my house with a huge wall built up around her. When she misbehaves and you ask her why she did such-and-such, she will reply, “That’s just who I am. I’m a rough girl. Ain’t nobody gonna change that. I don’t care what anyone says. I’m rough.” Over the past almost two months I have worked really hard in helping to tear down that wall and build up a wall of safety and security built on truth. “Annalise, you may have rough behaviors, but that’s not who you are. It’s what you do. You are kind and compassionate and helpful. You are not rough.”

So when guacamole hugs became a thing, that was the first glimpse I had that maybe we were getting somewhere. It’s the first time she belly laughed. The first time she let me touch her and she didn’t shrink away. And since that day she has been toeing the line of vulnerability. I can tell when it’s coming. I can tell when she needs that affection, that affirmation, that love. She will stop what she’s doing and say, “You can’t get me with your guacamole hug!” And she eggs me on until I stop what I’m doing and chase her around the room. She lets me catch her. She wants that hug. She won’t ask for it specifically but she needs a physical touch from someone who is not going to hurt her. My touch is the first one she can trust. She can’t admit it yet, but she wants to be hugged.

A couple nights ago we were having moving night and were watching Tangled for the umpteenth time. We had to stop it half way through for bedtime and apparently not having a conclusion really messed up her poor little mind. The last three nights she has been afraid to sleep because she’s afraid someone is going to break into the house and steal her. “I know how Rapunzel feels!” she cries. “Rapunzel got taken from her family and is now a foster kid. I know how foster kids are.” It has been a struggle every night to get her to sleep because she’s so petrified that she will be removed again. She blames herself for being taken into foster care; thinks it was all her fault. And perhaps that’s the greatest fear of all – the fear of losing your family because you just weren’t good enough.

The first night she couldn’t sleep I sat in her room with her and prayed over her. I hugged her tight and reaffirmed her that everything was going to be okay. Honestly, it was late and I was tired so there was absolutely nothing magical about my words or even my attitude. But I did it because I knew it was the right thing to do. So last night as I hugged her goodnight, Annalise said, “Miss Shelly, you know what? Last night after you left I fell right to sleep. You know what I think? I think your hugs are the reason I can sleep at night.”

The thought resonated through my spirit. I have absolutely no idea how much the little things I do impacts the life of a child. It may be  a prayer. It may be the time I spend brushing her hair. It may be the hours we spend on the living room floor playing card games. Or it may be something as simple as a guacamole hug. Love makes all the difference in the world.

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