Every now and then, I find myself looking at the photos of that rainy October day in Nanchang. Shui Xuan hiding between his nanny and the copier behind the government office counter, his head shaking violently as his other nanny told him repeatedly that we were his Mama and Baba. Our tearful selfie in the car after he cried himself to sleep. Our first attempt to bathe him as his legs shook and he refused to let us take off his sweatshirt.
This morning, Shui Xuan (who now loudly prefers to be called Judah) wanted to be held as I made coffee and scrambled eggs, sat on my lap with his hands gripping mine as he watched cartoons, and came in giggling for a crash landing as he jumped on me from the other side of the couch. As I look at those pictures from the day we met, I am tempted to wonder, “Is this even the same kid?” Judah has gone from quiet to chatty, sullen to silly, and terrified to fearless in just a few months. He has bravely thrown himself into school, swim lessons, speech therapy, and playing with the boy next door with more than his measure of rambunctious toddler energy. We believe the Judah we are coming to know was inside of the scared little boy we met 7 months ago. All we have done is make him feel safe enough to begin to show the world who he has always been.
Gladney empowered us to do that through honest conversations about the struggles of transracial adoption, thorough training on trauma, and ongoing support. And while most of our struggles as parents these days are the same as the struggles of other parents of toddlers, we also know Gladney will be there to walk with us when the unresolved pain of our son’s journey comes to the surface.
As you consider adoption, know that this child you are receiving is not a blank canvas for you to paint your hopes and dreams on. Know the person you will see emerge from that scared, quiet child is not the result of your expertly-trained parenting or the opportunities you can afford to give him, but the genes of his birth parents, the care of his nannies, and the survival skills he developed to live through unspeakable trauma. Some mysterious combination of all of these things has made him brave, curious, playful, and compassionate, even as he lives with the lifetime scars of abandonment, neglect, and probable abuse. The best you can do as his parents is receive him humbly. Gladney will help you do that.
Jenny & Drew