Happy Birthday To My Baby.
(Every year on Thys' birthday, I write a cyber-note to his birth 'rents. Here is Number Seven:)
To the parents of a baby boy born in late September, 2006 and left on the doorstep of an orphange a few days later:
Here I am again telling you all about how wonderful and precious and amazing this little man is. He is a fairly typical little boy: snarky, giggly, crabby, funny, obsessed with Pokemon, Legos, money, and play. But he's unique too: creative and intuitive, surprisingly so at times. He has an impeccable memory and he's a hard and diligent worker. He loves to help me cook, and he can sit at the piano for an hour without complaining. And he's a wicked little ice skater and hockey player, much to everyone who watches him delight. See? We're doing an okay job as his 'rents? Right? Why do I desire your blessing? And why does this partly feel like a big "I told you so letter"?
He can also be a giant pain in the ass: last night while putting him to bed, I bent over the top bunk to pray for him, and he smiled and hugged me and then asked, "Is that your oldness?" To which I replied, "WTF?" And he repeated by pointing out the lines on my neck, the wrinkles, the crevices, and he asked again, "Is that your oldness?" And I cried a little. And then we prayed, like we do each night. And after I thanked God for his innocent, childish (albeit honest and devilish) soul, he shouted out, "Thank you for mommy's oldness! In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost!" Thank you Catholic school.
This year, we decided to finally push the whole Chinese language issue more seriously than we have in the past. Partly because he seems to have a natural aptitude for new languages, and partly because he desperately wants to visit China. So I am sending both of my boys to Catholic AND Chinese School.
It began a few weeks ago. The first Saturday, I didn't think my older son would make it. He's an aggressive, articulate, and (usually) confident young man. But I found him crying at my side as we walked through the hallway of the school to the classroom, big, real tears. I asked him what was wrong, he said he felt "really uncomfortable" with all of the Chinese people (he and I were the only non-Chinese people). I asked him how he thinks his brother feels EVERY DAY at school, at Church, on the playground, etc. He said, "Ya, but he's used to it." He had a point. I vowed to stay until he felt comfortable. But then I spotted Thys, sitting in the front row, hands folded on his desk, back straightened, and a grin that said, I am here. I am ready. Teach me. And the barking, harsh sounds of Mandarin that frighten many white, European kids, fell softly on Thys' delighted countenance.
It was all rather confusing. I'm quite certain that all the parents who came in after us assumed that I was coaxing my nine-year old to stay, but had no clue who the eager young boy in the front row belonged to. Chinese adoption isn't as common here as it was in Denver. There are a small percentage of Chinese children here, but they all have Chinese parents, most of whom don't seem too familiar with the concept of adoption. I get a lot of awkward glances from them when they realize Thys is my son. As if I have upset the balance of the cultural capital and they don't know what my motives are. To make him white? To pretend I am one of them? Who am I to take one of them? Would a Chinese person ever adopt a white, North American kid and bring him to China? Is this about domination?
Here's my point, birth 'rents: I understood my own motives when I/we adopted Thys, and I still do. And I am not afraid to disrupt people's assumptions. I rather enjoy it: You don't think Christians should cuss? Listen to me. You don't think women should be assertive or have strong opinions or drink or fart? Hang out with me for a while. You don't think I can do all these things and still claim an authentic faith that I care about deeply? Talk to me. You know what happens when you put an Asian kid in a white family? Shit. Neither do I. This is where we find ourselves. In the midst of this experiment. What if Thys doesn't want to interrupt people's assumptions? What if he just wants to fit in?
This is the first year I actually wish we knew you. So that you could truly be a part of his life and teach him Chinese things. That we could share him or something, though I have no idea what that would entail.
You did not give me permission to adopt him. But. You left him. Helpless on a cold street in the middle of the night. I know you wanted good things for him because you left a bottle with him... but what did you envision his life would entail? I sometimes feel like I have a responsibility to you. To raise him well. To honor you.
I think of you often. Thys is starting to think more of you too.
Thank you for this life I get to witness. Say a prayer for us as we navigate this unknown territory.
In the name of The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit.