As I mentioned in my post about yesterday’s Family Day, we actually took custody of FangFang yesterday, but we would not finalize her adoption until today. Our agency called to check on us this morning, and after I talked with them about how things were going, the girls woke up. FangFang was not thrilled to realize she was still with us and didn’t want me to pick her up for a little while but got interested when I brought out a new dress and offered it to her. We all got dressed and then headed back to the Civil Affairs Office to finalize her adoption.
I understand the reasons behind this practice, but it still seems cruel to me. We put a child (who, in our case, is too young to understand what is really happening) through one of the most traumatic experiences they could possibly have, and then the next day we return to the exact same place to see the same people, but just to do some paperwork and a short ceremony. FangFang was clearly confused, and once she saw the orphanage representative and the nanny, she cried and reached for them.
I had to complete an interview, prior to the adoption finalization, which I don’t think I had to do with CaiQun’s adoption – everything seemed to be more of a formality there, and while the same is probably true here, too, they asked more questions with more intensity. They asked how our first 24 hours together were, whether we’d been able to FaceTime with Matt and what he thought of her, whether we understood her special need and what our plans for medical care for her were, and questions of that nature. The question that always gets me is, “Is this child satisfactory to you?” What answer could I possibly give to that question? How could I look this child in the face and say no? How could I have any expectations for her at all?
And that, my friends, gets at what I think is at the heart of adoption in so many ways. There are millions of children in the world without parents – thousands of them adoptable right now. People write posts advocating for them and ask the question, “Is anyone interested in him?” or “Would anyone like to know more about her?” How can we, as a world, look at pictures of these children, knowing that each picture represents a child, a child made in the image of God, and say “no”? No, I am not interested in that boy. No, I don’t want to know anything more about her. Children are meant to grow up in families, not alone in institutions. Please, please, please consider what you can do now, today, and in the future, to move us toward a world in which every child spends their days loved and well fed and is tucked in at night by a loving mom or dad.
The ceremony at the Civil Affairs Office was brief but nice, and FangFang was presented with a gift from the representative of the orphanage, which is sweet. Then we went to the registration office, where I did another interview and paid some fees, and then we headed back to the hotel.
In both places, FangFang reached for Danny and wanted him to hold her, and she has also been attempting to engage with Sharon. I talk a big game about attachment and about parents being the only ones to meet key needs, and I am committed to that idea, but I also understand the weight of the situation. FangFang has just been torn away from everything that is at all familiar to her, and if it would offer her some modicum of comfort to be held by my brother for 5 minutes or play peekaboo with my sister-in-law, I’m going to allow that for now. They aren’t her parents, but they are going to be important in her life forever. And in the China adoption community, you’ll often hear phrases like, “China is not real life,” and “Getting through China is all about survival.” Obviously what you do during your time in China matters. You’re establishing the foundations of your life together; you’re beginning to build relationships. However, nothing about your experience of time in China is similar to what your normal life once home is like. Everything is different for everyone. I’m going to do what I can to encourage her to form her primary bond with me, and I have a lot of tools at my disposal to do that, but I’m also not going to stop her from interacting with Danny and Sharon.
After we got back to the hotel, we ventured out to explore the area a bit. We’d heard that – in addition to the mall attached to our hotel – there was also a mall a few blocks down the street with some great restaurant options. We walked over there and ate at Grandma’s Home – we got a ton of awesome food, all for less than $25 total for the 5 of us! FangFang continues to be primarily interested in suckers, but she did deign to eat a few bits of our food, and we were pretty able to demolish it 🙂
Then it was back to the hotel for naptime. We’re very flexible in China, but I also realize that toddlers do best with naptime, so we’re going to try to be reasonably consistent with that!
Once she woke up, we headed back to the mall down the street for dinner, this time eating at another great restaurant with a bird cage theme. FangFang was thrilled with herself and with our applause as she built towers of markers and then pulled them apart, and I also kept her distracted with coloring until the food came instead of pulling out suckers, and then she let me feed her a lot more real food instead of insisting upon suckers.
Mei Mei wanted to ride in the stroller, too, and we gave it a try on the way there, but it made me nervous, knowing that one wrong move from Mei Mei could exert too much pressure on FangFang’s bones, and they could fracture. And while FangFang appeared happy about it at first, she began to look less so, and after dinner she made sure to point at the stroller and announce that it was for FangFang and hold out her hand to try to keep Mei Mei away!
Mei Mei really is doing pretty well with FangFang, but she is experiencing a bit of jealousy and a desire for her own one-on-one time with Mom. It’s a tough balance to honor that and care for her while also bringing FangFang into the family, but that’s what so much of life is about. Danny and Sharon are trying to devote some good time to Mei Mei, as well, and I think that’s helpful.
Tomorrow is just a day for rest as we wait for FangFang’s passport to be processed. We’re going to head to a park with Glenn in the morning and just relax and continue to try to bond and build relationships. I’m hoping, too, for a health boost – I’ve had some yucky chest congestion and coughing, and Madeleine CaiQun has been coughing a bit, too. Then Thursday we’re going to go to Beihai, the city in which ChenFang’s orphanage is located. I’m still not positive it’s the right choice to go. It was so hard for her to see the people from her orphanage this morning, and I’m not sure it’s kind to take her back into a confusing environment. However, I also know that it’s important to people who have been adopted to have information about their pasts. There are so many gaps in her story that I won’t be able to fill in for her, but I want to be able to give her as much information as is possible, and I can’t give her firsthand information about her city or her orphanage if I don’t go. We’re going to try it. And we’re hoping that by waiting until Thursday and giving her a bit more time to build a relationship with us, a visit will be less traumatic for her. You could definitely be praying for our day tomorrow to go well and for her heart to be comforted in the midst of our day trip on Thursday. Thanks so much for celebrating and praying with us, friends.