We spend a restless first night with our son. All four children are wrapped into separate twin beds in our adjoining room but every sound has us up to check on our explorer, and a mid-night drunken disturbance in the hallway brings several kids running to our room. Yun sleeps as he lives, in constant motion, the covers flying everywhere. This is in such complete contrast to Ava’s regulated and careful sleep that it amazes me. We worry he will leave in the night, his curiousity compelling him down the hall to explore. He is fearless and a bit boundary-less. Street smart and savvy. He does not need us – or he doesn’t know he does.
But he stays. In the early morning I hear the thrashing of covers and see his body moving amidst all the other still ones in their beds. I know he must wonder about the rules. When can he get up? How long must he wait? His ordered life has been disrupted and I must teach him new ways. I walk to the bed and he immediately buries his head in the blankets, playing dead. Matching the others in the room in his stillness. I ignore this and pull him out of bed, his body completely stiff in my arms. He is dead weight, smaller than Ava but so much denser and heavier. I throw him in the bed next to me, his whole body tense. What is this? I feel his spirit asking. And then I give him my phone with a game on it and he relaxes next to me. Even lets me move in for a little baby cuddle.
I enjoy these moments fully as the other three kids wander in slowly. These moments of watching his eyelashes brush his cheeks, of watching his full upper lip in it’s pout over his lower lip, for memorizing the details of his eyebrows and his chin. He is a boy and full of sound effects, and I laugh as he makes the universal boy sounds in any language, the sounds of guns and explosions and high pitched war cries in response to the game.
He forgets to be afraid of me, forgets to wonder at this strange intimacy of a white woman in pajamas laying next to him in bed. He laughs. His giggle, you guys. That giggle.
Ava climbs into bed and wants to be between us and I find myself now snuggled between my girls, listening to Ava’s Chinese instructions to Yun for Minecraft, listening to them both laugh. Soaking in a completely ordinary moment. Loving that we are all together and there is no fear, no tension, no worry – not right now.
Breakfast with Jing Yun promises to be an adventure, as he is all loud swagger and reckless motion, while the dining room is all five star glamor and calm. I hang on to his hand tightly as we walk in, my “twins” one on each side. Ava, as always, the picture of grace and poise. Yun, as usual, completely and hilariously unregulated. He sits down at the table and examines the flatware with great interest, commenting loudly on its strangeness in Mandarin. We all laugh. Hand in hand I take him to the buffet and he chooses fruit, fruit and more fruit along with a single steamed bun. He rejects the bacon but I decide we will keep him anyway. That’s gonna have to change though, this is a bacon family. 😉
As we walk back to our table Jing Yun spots his new dad across the room and yells out for all to hear in Chinese ” it’s my dad! Hey dad! You guys look, my dad! Yea!” I can’t help but tear up a little. Here’s my rough and tumble little one embracing his new life. He is proud and I am so thankful.
Back to the table where the rest of us sip and murmur while Jing Yun loudly and ferociously attacks his fruit with a combination of whatever utensils feel right. Slurping is abundant, smacks and long happy sighs and burps follow the bites. After each drink of the juice which he declares sour, he throws himself back against his chair with a loud “awwww”. I think this boy will get along well with my other one. Passionate eaters, both.
I cannot eat, my stomach still churning from my flu, but we hurry along to meet our guide in the lobby for a nine am appointment to make this thing legal. We met this child yesterday at 2 pm, not even 24 hours ago. And today we will make a life time commitment to this young man who we haven’t even had time to get to know. This is faith at it’s very finest. Not faith that it will all turn out well, but faith that we will do the hard things well anyway because grace lives in us. Because we are the parents. Because he is worth it.
We sit through two interviews for us and one for him. He is ten now and old enough to choose whether he wants us for a family, legally, in China. I say yes to all the questions, carefully and with great attention. But not without fear. I must tell you the truth. I want more time. I want to get to know this child. I want to feel the fear of all the unknowns melt away a little more before I say yes. We are asked if we will ever abandon or abuse him. Of course not (and God give us grace). We are asked if we will love him like our biological child? Of course (and God give us grace.) We are asked if we want to choose this child. YES. We choose. We choose. We choose. And for all the rest of all the complex feelings, there is always abundant grace.
Now home to the hotel where we finally fulfill Jing Yun’s endless requests to use our iphone. It’s tech time for half an hour. Yes, this a fourth child, bonding looks different. Don’t judge. Now that I know him, I understand why he is the fourth, why three children have changed me, made me flexible, taught me so much more about letting go in preparation for this sweet boy.
Phones and ipads put away, we walk to the shopping mall down the way for a quick lunch at McDonald’s, a no-no for us in America, but a survival tactic in China. Jing Yun practices making me a better mom and I work on teaching him to stay close enough to me to make me comfortable that he is safe. We are on high alert at all times for this wild irrepressible wave of a boy that sees nothing wrong in veering into the crazy city traffic to check something out.
Lunch in the mall is more great fun. This kid has a lot of catching up to do on the food front. We play rock, paper, scissors and table top soccer with straw wrappers as we wait for the food arrive. The more occupied he is the less he is running off to explore.I discover that Jing Yun is a “sauce person” like me as he surrounds himself with dipping experiences for his french fries. He devours both his meal and someone else’s. We watch ice skaters in the mall below us as we read the awesome Chinglish signs on the walls. Jing Yun insists that he could be really good at ice skating and we make a plan to return tomorrow for another brand new experience.
Now back again, more walking along crowded streets. This time I task Naomi to keep hold of her new brother so that Quinn can talk with Dad and Ava can have me. Naomi feels the stress and struggles to keep her assigned job but we work it through. This is family. This is life.
Home again to the hotel where Ava and Jing Yun prepare to go on a climbing adventure at a kids rope course nearby. Ava spotted it a few days ago and we promised it could be something fun for her and her new brother. I rest my stomach and my body while David mans up to the job of accompanying them on this four story ropes adventure. They return a few hours later, breathless and dripping sweat with great stories of their conquest. I do not understand Jing Yun’s eager shouted stories but I get the flashing eyes and the proud face.
It’s been 24 hours and it feels like a lifetime. Day 2 is halfway done.