Our sweet little guy Clinton is all grown up . . .well almost. Clinton was the youngest kiddo at our JCO Children’s Home in Kenya up until a few months ago and it has been a bit of an adjustment for everyone. On my last few trips I have noticed that he is definitely getting bigger, just not as big as he thinks he is. You see, he is the youngest of 5 boys that play together every day and he tries really hard to be just as tough as them and hold his own. Sometimes he battles with this though because he also likes being babied a bit and no one does that for him more than me.
Clinton moved in with us when he was 18 months old, after a pretty traumatic start in life. We found him and his brother Austin in really bad shape. They each had malaria and were suffering from both severe malnutrition and dehydration. The doctors told us that they would have only lived 24-48 hours longer without intensive treatment. I thank GOD everyday that we found them when we did. After almost 3 weeks in the hospital they moved into our home. I am sure it was a little overwhelming to move into a new home and have people more or less fighting to hold Clinton when, to that point, he had not had much affection or physical contact in his life. Myself, the staff and all of our girls snuggled that boy all day everyday and he let us.
While his brother Austin was quick to giggle and just a jolly little guy, Clinton was reserved for awhile and did not smile or cry much at all at first. He just let us all hold him, feed him and care for him, but he just observed it all as if he was not quite sure what to make of it yet. Then one day I tickled him and made a silly face and he smiled! It was one of the happiest days of my life. From that day on he seemed to feel really free to express himself in every way possible.
The first year that we had him his moods were drastic, as toddlers usually are, and his experiences as a baby made it all the more intense. He would giggle and dance one minute and be screaming and throwing food the next. Our staff was overwhelmed to say the least. Everyone had gotten to the point that when he started yelling they just gave him whatever he wanted to stop the screaming. Trust me, this little guy has some lungs on him.
I came to visit again after a few months and saw this and introduced the concept of a “time out” to the staff and they thought I was crazy. Mathe (my partner) also advised them to put him in time out in the other room and let him yell all he wants. We showed them how to do it and the first few times he would yell louder for a bit, but then with consistency and patience on the staff’s part we were able to teach him that this was not the way to get what he wanted. And slowly but surely he began to change.
From that point on he was the baby in every way. Everyone spoiled him and he loved it. Over the years he has grown into a really cute little guy that has quite a lot of spunk and confidence. He is really tough as well, most of the time anyway. The staff informed me years ago that all of the kids, including sweet Clinton, seemed to cry a lot louder when I was around. I am a little over the top when it comes to snuggling, drying tears, rushing into the rescue to kiss boo boos, clean cuts and I always have really cool band-aids with superheroes and princesses on them to boot. So even though I know it doesn’t hurt as bad as their yells might suggest, I love being the person that does this for them. My mom was that person for me, the person to comfort me tons and make it all better. These kiddos have not had much of that in their lives and a lot of that is due to cultural differences, but I think all humans need to be comforted like that sometimes. It just feels good, even if it is over the top.
This last time that I went Clinton seemed all grown up. He no longer crawled up in my lap (just because) or wanted to snuggle when he was tired. He is now six years old and in his mind at least, he’s really big. So I reluctantly gave him the space he needed and didn’t try to snuggle too much or give him too many kisses. The older boys were watching and he was “big” now. However, about a week into my visit I heard a familiar cry—a very loud one at that, and I rushed around the back of the house to rescue my cutie. He had hurt his knee and it was not bad at all, but I think he just needed some snuggles and I was so happy to oblige. He sat in my lap and let me snuggle him for almost 45 minutes and I was in heaven. The same thing happened a few other times on my trip and even though I hate it when he gets hurt, I am happy that he still needs me a bit.
At the end of my trip we got two new girls, Christine (aka Baby) who is 3 years old and her sister Pamela who is 12. “Baby” became the new baby of the crew and is now the one getting spoiled at every turn by the staff and all the other kids. I am sure it has taken a little adjusting for Clinton, but he will be fine. He is still beloved by everyone in that house. He is doing great in Daycare and his teacher Monica tells me he is a very bright little guy. In January he is to start first grade and I am so proud but will definitely be a mess the day he goes—a bittersweet feeling I think most parents experience.
It has been such a gift to know him, love him, and see him grow from such a young age. I still remember the day we found him in 2011 when I had to strap him to my belly for the 45 minute dirt bike ride to the hospital. He snuggled right up to me and his big brown eyes just looking at me wondering “who is this person” and “why does her skin look like that?” I will never forget sitting with him on my lap for hours in the hospital, waiting for doctors and snuggling him while he got his blood drawn. He didn’t want to eat, that was until I gave him his first taste of strawberry yogurt. We could only communicate through our facial expressions and snuggles. I remember sitting in the hot and chaotic District Hospital for hours without food or water, but it didn’t seem to bother me. This little guy was my whole world for that day and I thank GOD so much for bringing us together and helping him to survive. Over the years he has spent hours sleeping on me and giggling with me and we have a bond that is laid down in stone. He is a part of me and I am a part of him and although our relationship must change as his needs do, it is still hard to let go of what was. All of my hopes for him have come true. He is happy, healthy, strong, and bright and I am excited to see the young man he will become. I just have to accept it and be thankful because my sweet little baby is (at least according to him) all grown up.
Look how much Clinton has grown! The first photo is after he had been with us a few weeks and the one below it was taken this February.