Six months ago today, Jill and I sat half a world away in a stuffy, humid hotel conference room in Guangxi, waiting to meet the three-year old boy we had loved for five years.
We were excited beyond description, and just as nervous. For nearly five years, this little boy was represented only by paperwork, too many dollar signs, and sometimes-fading dreams. He was about to walk through that open door. We loved him already, but let’s be honest. This was like an arranged marriage. We would never ask the question out loud, but what if this little boy, who was not the little girl we planned for, turned out to be the Tazmanian Devil’s evil twin?? If he was an angel or if he was a demon, would get off the plane at home with a smile. We had to. But privately, we were afraid, even after all the years of preparing.
We got a mischievous angel.
moments after Jiang Yi An walked through the door
Within minutes, Jiang Yi An (soon to be Irijah) and I were playing and laughing on the floor with the toy monster trucks we brought for him. There were five other couples in the room, all receiving their children at the same time. Their kids were crying, kicking and screaming. Within a couple of hours, Jiang Yi An, or “An An,” as he was nicknamed by his foster family, was calling me “Baba,” Chinese for Daddy.
Our fears were eased.
Until the next day when he threw a screaming fit that would scare the ghosts out of Sherwood Forest.
And such has been our life in the last six months. We have daily reminders of the blessings that have come from God’s hand in this entire process. And we have daily reminders that Irijah is a refugee. He is smiling and laughing on the outside, but often afraid on the inside. Literally everything is new, from wearing underwear to meeting Santa Claus. It’s a strange new world.
Jill and I have the opportunity to escape now and then, from the trials of post international adoption to the “normal” chaos of the world we knew before. We are, after all, a busy family of seven. Irijah doesn’t have that escape, and I find myself needing that reminder often.
He is alone in his experience. There is no three-year old support group, at least not one that he could communicate his emotions with. He acts out often. He learned to work the system early, when we were still in honeymoon phase and going easy on him. That has consequences for all of us now.
It’s a learning process for everyone, even for us “experienced” parents. But we wouldn’t change a thing. He has changed our lives, while at the same time not changing our lives. Like my brother told Jill at our wedding, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but you fit in.”
Irijah fits in.
Since he has been here, he has learned English, catching up to
[sorry, I just had to send him to his room for pushing Giahnna to the ground]
where was I… He has learned English, almost catching up to his two-year old sister, which is amazing in six months, and no simple feat since Giahnna knows more than the average two-year old.
He has been introduced to new foods, new experiences, and more relatives than he can count. And he loves them all.
Irijah has learned how to dress himself. He has learned his responsibilities in the house, and how to ignore them like the rest of us. We had to do a review course in potty training, and let me tell you… if you thought circumcised little boys had trouble hitting the toilet, count your blessings. He has learned to cheer for the Steelers, the Angels and UCLA. He was overjoyed when the Angels signed Pujols. Well, probably just overjoyed that dad was overjoyed. We did newly nicknamed “Irijah Dance” together. No videos to come. I would be kicked off the dance floor. But HE is quite the little hopper, and “The Irijah Dance” is great cardio.
Very soon, his world will change again. He won’t be the rookie anymore. He kisses Jill’s belly and talks about his baby brother. He could never articulate it, but I think his position in the family is cemented in his mind because of the new little guy coming in. He has seniority.
He has been through one surgery and has three more to go. He LOVES his surgeon and his occupational therapists. He wants to play soccer like his older brother, whom he idolizes. He loves meal time and hates nap time. He is as normal as little boys come.
In a couple of weeks, he will experience Christmas for the first time. He’s learned about Jesus at church, and can say his name. We’ll do our best to help him see through the lights, wrapping paper, food and chaos to the real reason for the season.
A few months later, he will have a unique opportunity. He will be one of the rare people who might be able to remember their first birthday party. He will turn four, having gone through a lifetime of ups and downs.
Nearly two hundred people helped to bring this little boy home, and make him our son. He is truly that. But he is also truly yours. It is my prayer that everyone who helped bring our family together will be blessed to follow along with his life. I sincerely believe that his first four years will not be the most amazing when it is all said and done. He has a purpose. Something special. I am excited to have my front row seat.
Irijah JiangYiAn Morrison today (literally today. I took the picture ten minutes ago)