One year ago today, we were 7,367 miles away from our home at an office in Nanjing, China, meeting our son.
It has been a wild first year with Titus for sure. It was full of ups and downs, getting used to one another, getting to know one another, and learning to love one another.
Adopting an almost four year old is decidedly and markedly different than adopting a child who just turned two. A four year old’s personality is much more set, and he is much more aware of the people in his life and what they mean to him.
He remembers what he had and he misses it.
He had habits and likes and dislikes that are already formed, and a huge part of adoption is fitting those preferences into what you already practice as a family. And in our case, Titus is so verbal and he was so well-prepared to come and live with us that it was often hard to remember that he is only four.
In the midst of the struggles and the adapting and the learning and the adjusting, I am utterly ashamed to admit that I too often forgot one enormous thing.
Titus is a miracle.
Just think of this boy’s life in the last year alone. One short year ago:
- he left every person that he loved and who in turn deeply loved him, including a family with whom he had lived for at least two years, to come and live forever with a bunch of strangers.
- he left the only country he had ever known for a foreign one.
- he left his school and his friends and his teachers. He left behind their rules, their schedules, their goals, and their familiar classroom setting.
- he left all the tastes and sights and sounds that were familiar to him. He came to live with people who had no idea what food he loved, what smells made him comfortable, and who spoke in a language that he likely had never heard used consistently.
And the miracle didn’t stop with all that he had to survive leaving. It continued with all he had to learn on this side of the world.
- He met a whole new family. Not just a mom and a dad, but two brothers and a sister. He met two set of grandparents, three uncles, two aunts, and five cousins, not to mention a church family who already loved him before they even met him.
- He started at a whole new school with a classroom of kids who had been there for months already and who already knew the rules and the routines.
- He learned how to walk, to be less dependent on his wheelchair and more on his walker.
- He was poked and prodded by lots of different doctors who wanted to make sure they understood as much about him and his medical issues as they could so they could treat him.
- He endured two surgeries.
- He started physical therapy and occupational therapy for the first time. He has gotten so much stronger and has learned to do amazing things like write his name.
If I had to do all of this, I would flat out fail. Fail hard. I’m not sure that I would have the strength to go through all of that and not just survive, but thrive.
And Titus is thriving. Here’s what our miracle does now.
- He laughs and wrestles with his brothers.
- He plays wheelchair baseball and constantly sings the national anthem.
- He cheers louder than anyone at Liam’s baseball games, getting so excited about the team’s success.
- He asks questions. All. Day. All the questions. About everything. No topic is off limits, and all will be explored until they are thoroughly exhausted. Or his parents are.
- He inhales food he loves and is always hungry, but can be crazy stubborn about not eating anything he doesn’t like.
- He learned to be in a pool without screaming and he met Daniel Tiger at an amusement park.
- He was baptized and has completely grafted himself into the life of the church.
- He is obsessed with the death and resurrection of Jesus. It was hard to talk him and Vivi out of going as the cross (her) and Jesus (him) for Halloween. Instead, he dressed up the drummer from our church’s praise band, who is second only to Jesus in Titus’s eyes.
- He goes to school and loves it and wishes it would last all day. He talks eagerly about his teachers and his friends and everything that they have learned when he comes home each day.
Sometimes in adoption the picture of a new family seems consistently rosy. You see that family in church or at the store or in hallways of the school and ask how things are going. The answer is often a smile and a quick reply of “Great!” but no deeper answer is offered – or expected.
Here’s the reality. It’s really hard to add another member to a family any time it happens. It’s especially difficult when that new member is an opinionated four year old who is trying to figure out so much and is so aware of the incredible number of changes that he has been through.
We have all had to learn to love each other, to share one another and share space, to build relationships. We have our good days, and we have our bad days.
But here’s the thing. Despite the hard, this is so worth it. It truly is. A little boy has a family forever. A family has a son and brother, grandson, great-grandson, and nephew.
During the course of our two adoptions, many people have made it a point to tell Tim and me how wonderful we are for doing this. They comment on how hard it must be to deal with Titus’s wheelchair or another set of doctor appointments or a second physically-challenged child.
When it comes to the wheelchair and the walker, it took some getting used to for sure. We’ve had to think a little more ahead before we plan to go places and we’ve had to make sure that we have accommodations set for him in school so that he can participate as fully as possible.
But in the end, the wheelchair and the walker are just the tools that he uses to get around. He doesn’t use his feet, he uses those other tools. It’s not a huge deal. And the medical appointments are something that we have always viewed as just something we need to do, same as we do for our biological kids. It just means that we spend more time in doctors’ offices than the average family.
When it comes to any kind of great sacrifice or noble gesture Tim and I may have made by adopting Titus (and Vivi), please hear this: Tim and I are not special, nor are we noble or well off or better equipped to care for a special needs child anymore than anyone else is.
We are no different than any of you reading this post. We are so far from perfect that I sometimes wonder if we’re anywhere close to just sometimes getting it right. We have our bad parenting days. Sometimes we have more of them than we care to admit. We screw up and we apologize and we try to start every day fresh.
But when children need a home, they don’t need perfect parents. They need love and security and belonging and care.
Tim and I are no different than anyone else except for the fact that we answered a call to adopt and dared to say yes to something that we knew would challenge and stretch us beyond our comfort zone.
It was a leap of faith for sure, but the thing about leaps is that when you do them in faith, it’s not a free fall. It is a trust fall. And the arms of God catch you every single time.
And now, a year into being a family of six, we still trust that God will catch us on the hard days and joyfully watch us fly on the good days. We implicitly trust that he is still at work in our lives changing hearts and building relationships and growing love.
Happy Family Day, Titus. Today we will celebrate with a chocolate chip cookie cake that you, our little baker, help to make. Tomorrow we will have your beloved dumplings.
And we will talk about China and our memories of being there and meeting you. We will talk about what you knew before and what you know now. We will talk about you and how important you have become to our family.
We will celebrate the amazing boy that you are. And I promise not to forget again that you are a miracle.