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Adventures in Adoption, or, You CAN Go Home Again

We leave for China in 7 days. One week. This trip, one that’s been a year in the making, is finally upon us. Hard to believe. Visas have been obtained, i’s are being dotted, t’s are being crossed, bags are being packed, house sitters are being paid. In short, we’re just about ready to go. Those of you that know me know that I am one hell of a Cruise Director. If you’ve ever travelled with me, or if I’ve ever taken you to Disney, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. Pretty sure this is me.

Our itinerary is…well, let’s just say it’s “ambitious” (because in reality, it’s straight up crazy town). We are packing every big thing about China into 15 itty bitty days (and yes, I AM HOLDING A PANDA). I have obsessed about planning every detail of this adventure. I’ve spent countless hours on YouTube researching each and every stop, from the Reed Flute Cave to the Summer Palace. I can tell you more than you ever wanted to know about Chinese street food. BUT.

NONE of that is why we’re doing this. Yes, we want to see all the cool stuff. BUT. This trip belongs to Jack. He asked us if we could go back to China. We said “Of course”. He has shown more than a little interest in his heritage. It’s not surprising, then, that our house has turned into China Culture and Adoption Discussion Central.

It began to ramp up around Christmas: subtle questions about China, an increase in discussion about his Birth Family, a bit more of a struggle with his identity. Lately (read: in the past three weeks) there are almost daily conversations about whether or not he is a Chinese citizen or an American one. He knows the difference, and he knows his truth. BUT.

The inevitable pull to be more of who he is has surfaced. Right now, he wants to be more Chinese than American. That’s okay. The tide of his identity will ebb and flow. Right now, he’s still young enough that American cultural bias against China has not set in (making it, by the way, the perfect time to take him on a tour of his Homeland). Right now, all of these feelings are bouncing around inside of him. He doesn’t quite know what to make of it all, but that’s where his Daddy and I come in.

If you think I can research travel itineraries, you have NO IDEA how much effort I can put into broadening my parenting education. I have read every book on taking your kids back to their birth country (this one is my favorite). I have read JACK every age appropriate book about returning to China. We talk about it all. The. TIME. No subject is off limits. Lately, he’s been fixated on the orphanage visit (so have I). He *really* wants to go back to Chenzhou. He told me “It’s a happy building, Mommy”. I love that so, so much.

Jack and I both have some apprehension and anxiety about returning to Chenzhou, though. He’s been having a little trouble sleeping lately, and he’s been a bit more sensitive than normal. I, too, am admittedly, on edge, especially when it comes to him. Never in my life have I wanted to protect him more than I do right now. Even watching him from afar during PE at school today, I wanted to fuss at a couple of the kids who were being less than kind to him. Sure, it was typical First Grade trash talk, but still. Every slight hurts a little these days. I want nothing more than to lock his tender little heart in a box so it won’t be damaged. Feeling that and acting on it are two entirely different matters, however, so instead I put on my Big Girl Panties and move on. We’re navigating this emotional minefield together, and so far, we’re doing okay.

On any given day, by bedtime, we’ve talked about his Birth Family (who and where they are, and why he doesn’t know them), culture, citizenship, his orphanage, and the first 18 months of his life before us. Think about that for a second. It’s a whole lot more than most families tackle during the car ride to soccer practice or piano lessons. That being said, we are VERY fortunate that there are such great resources available to us. Mostly, though, we’re lucky that we have such a resilient, curious, loving kid.

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