One year ago tomorrow, we were standing in a hot room in a government building in Zhengzhou, China. While we were waiting, you were traveling, covering the three hours between your orphanage in Nanyang and where we were. I can’t even imagine what thoughts had to be going through your head. There is no way to really explain to a two year old that they are going to meet their new mommy and daddy. If they told you where you were going at all, they would have said that they were taking you to meet your mommy, which to you meant Aunt Jenn. So I can’t imagine how confusing it must have been to walk into that hot, crowded, loud room and see some strange new white people that your ayi’s insisted were your mama and baba, when for you, we most certainly were not.
I look back at pictures from that day, and I can see, now, how scared you were. I know you and your expressions well enough now to know that you were terrified, and so confused. I can almost literally see the process of your feelings, from unsure, to shut down, to resigned. Later in those pictures, we have some of you being so cute and funny, and crazy and I remember thinking at that time that you were adjusting unusually well. Bizarrely well. And now I know that those antics are actually a coping mechanism that you pull out when you are unusually stressed and scared. So even though those pictures bring me joy because they are the day our story began, they also make me tremendously sad, because I know you now, and I know how hard that day was for you, and it breaks my heart.
Our time in China together was so good (except for every plane and bus and van ride because, child, you are the reason they make car seats, I am just saying). We got to know each other, and you started to trust. We started to learn and know how to read you better. Coming home was an adventure in itself. I’m not sure Dad had eaten yogurt again since we’ve been home, likely because you pretty much painted him with it on the airplane. But we made it and started our lives together as a family of four.
Those early days were hard for all of us, but especially for you. You were so overwhelmed, so confused. None of the things that felt homey and familiar to us felt that way to you. It smelled and sounded and felt different. But honestly, you adjusted better than we could have asked for, better than expected. You were open and willing to try. You adjusted to new rules, new expectations. In many ways, you walked into our lives like you belonged there, and set up your space. That is a unique and wonderful quality you have that I hope you don’t lose.
You are funny, and crazy. Athletic and crazy strong. You love to sing and dance and do somersaults. You are the most strong willed kid I have ever in my life met, which is awesome for later in your life, but for right now is occasionally enough to make me pull out my hair. You have made me parent in a totally different way, to be more patient, to explain more, and to choose my battles. I am a choosing battles PRO these days, so thanks, kid. You are loving, and caring. If someone is hurt, you are the first to offer comfort. You love babies and want to pet them all. You are coming around on dogs, and Finch is your BFF unless he wants to sniff your food, in which case he becomes your mortal enemy. You are an amazing tiny human, and it is my privilege every day to get to shepherd all those amazing qualities.
You told me the other day, out of the blue, “I have two moms!” I said “actually you have three moms.” You’ve asked me if you’re going back to China. When you see Asian babies you say “babies in China like Jia!” You are starting to make sense of your life up until now… who was in it, who came later. I can see your little brain trying to work out how you came from there to here, and whether that’s all going to change again. You worry, a lot, about us leaving, which usually comes out as rage and grief. We have mantra that we say over and over again… “Jia stays with Mommy and Daddy and Eden forever.” It sounds simple, maybe, but when you are tense and angry and flailing, I say that and feel the tension melt as it sinks in again. We say it every day, as many times as you need to hear it, until you believe it.
It’s been one year. One glorious, marvelous, hard, sad, happy and joyful year. I can’t wait to see what the next year brings. I am so proud of all the work you’ve done this year, and I just cannot believe how far you, and we all have come. What a crazy year you’ve hard, little bean. New parents, new sister, new country, new house, grandparents, aunts and uncle, cousins, friends, teachers…. new life. I am constantly in awe of how well you’ve handled it. Blown away by your bravery. I love you, so much and I am so glad I get to be your mom.
I am your biggest fan, always.