Lihang and Liyan’s grandma has her hands full.
Besides taking care of her son’s children, Lihang, three years old, and Liyan, four, she looks after a seven year-old granddaughter (her eldest daughter’s daughter), and a five year-old granddaughter (her second daughter’s daughter). But, good-natured as Grandma is, she admits it’s Lihang and Liyan who take the most care.
“Both are exhausting children to manage”, says Grandma. “No matter what I do or say, they just don’t behave.”
Even though he has suffered from ill health, Lihang is a nonstop little boy.
And Liyan is more than a match for her brother in energy and daring.
Grandma can’t be too harsh though. She knows that both children miss their parents, who work out of town in a factory and come home just once a year for the Chinese New Year holiday.
Liyan was just two years old and so sad when her parents went away that she couldn’t sleep for a long time. She didn’t remember what her father looked like. At first when they called, she wouldn’t talk to them.
Lihang was only a month old when his father left, followed by his mother a short time later. When they came home for a visit, he didn’t know them at all.
Lihang only stops moving when he is asleep.
He loves to explore his neighborhood and check in with the locals at the store near his home. He runs from one hot spot of local activity to another.
Liyan, too, is constantly in motion. At night, when Grandma is busy with chores, she often disappears. Grandma worries all the time.
“Where does she go? She runs away!” Grandma tries to follow her, but can’t keep up.
During the day, Grandma works in the fields, meanwhile trying to keep an eye on her grandchildren. Still, she must take on extra work, and will do anything that’s available—making brooms, building roads—to earn a little needed money.
Grandpa works in a city nearby and comes home when he can to help with the grandchildren, as do other family members, but they are all stretched pretty thin. Grandma was barely holding it together when another challenge hit: her eldest daughter was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor.
The daughter’s husband’s entire income now goes to pay for chemotherapy and additional medical expenses, stretching meager resources even further. Care for the children is now entirely up to Grandma.
Grandma’s burden is great, but fortunately, she found help this year when Liyan started attending OneSky’s Preschool, and she and Lihang started attending the parenting sessions in the new OneSky Family Center.
At first the children ran wild as they’d always done. When Liyan first arrived in class, her teacher said she seemed utterly out of control. She was ill tempered and “behaved like a wild horse.”
While class was in session, she would often run outside to play on her own accord. She was hyperactive and fidgeting constantly.
She had bursts of violent temper, starting quarrels with her classmates, alternating with episodes of depression.
Lihang was actually a bit shy and scared of big groups at first. But he could also turn violent. On one occasion he pushed his sister off of an elevated stage, injuring her head. He broke toys and there was concern that he could hurt the other children, even accidentally.
In time, thanks to OneSky’s nurturing care and gentle approach, both children began to show progress. And when the teachers reported some positive behavior, Grandma was encouraged and prideful.
Liyan has begun speaking to her parents on the phone, telling them what she is learning in school. Now she is focusing on her schoolwork and classroom activities and is cooperating with the other children. “She’s become open hearted,” her teacher says.
Lihang, too, is coming along, though more slowly. In the Center and during home visits the OneSky family mentor shows Grandma how to help him to open up, encouraging him to use words instead of violence to express his feelings.
Next year Lihang will go to preschool, but Grandma has asked that he and Liyan be placed in different classes, to avoid any potential conflict.
It’s clear that both children still need a lot of individual attention. Time and patience will be required, but Grandma is optimistic.
“The children smile more now”, she says, and though she has much to maintain, Grandma too, manages plenty of smiles when she thinks of how far they’ve come.
To be continued…