Saturday, August 30, 2008

Blast From the Past -- Playacting

If you've clicked on the link for our Xiamen Adventure blog, you know that the girls and I lived in China for 5 months in 2007, while I taught at Xiamen University Law School in Fujian Province. We also had a chance to go back to Guiping and visit the SWI and the girls' finding sites. Zoe was 6 years, 3 months old; Maya was 3 years, 5months old when we arrived in China in February 2007.

Here's what I posted on June 9, 2007, 15 months ago, just before our trip to Guangxi Province, where they were born:

Zoe and Maya are big-time into playacting these days. I’m always hearing one say to the other, “Pretend that I’m . . . ,” and then the game is off and running. Well, we had a surreal game of pretend this evening. I was on the computer reading one of my favorite adoption poems – I bet you can guess why:

Your Chinese Mama

I kiss your pudgy cheek every night when you sleep.
I smell you and breathe you.
My heart and soul ache for her.
I know I am not as courageous as she.
So much love and hope for you,
she swaddled you and placed you in a box.

A manger to me.

I talk to her every night when I kiss your cheek.
I breathe your smell, and her soul.

-- Lynne Curran

I didn’t realize that Zoe was reading over my shoulder until I heard her say, “That’s a pretty poem. Why a box?” (It’s hard having a reader – you can’t spell things over her head any more and she can freely snoop into things she shouldn’t!).

I figured this was my opening to talk more about going to Guiping SWI, and going to her finding place. (I know most people advise that you consider going alone and not taking the child since you’re not quite sure what the finding place will look like. I don’t have that option since we’re not traveling with anyone I can leave the kids with. And from what I do know about their finding places it should be OK.)

We talked about the one child policy (which she’s heard me talk about before), and I told her a little bit more about the “grown-up rules,” including the fact that birthparents can’t just take the baby to the orphanage and hand her to Mr. Gan (all orphanage directors are Mr. Gan to Zoe) because they might get in trouble. So most birthparents try to put the baby somewhere where she will be found quickly and taken to the police station. (Zoe really likes police officers these days, and waves at the guards at the university gate each time we pass. And I wanted to mention the police station in case we get a chance to go there in Guiping.) The police officer then takes the baby to the orphanage, where the nannies take care of her until her forever family comes for her.

Now, we’ve talked about parts of this many times before, but I hadn’t really emphasized the finding part. I wondered what Zoe’s reaction would be, and then she said spritely, “I know, pretend I’m the birthmother . . .” and she was off and running to wrap one of her baby dolls in three layers of clothing and a little hat (this is part of her story we know) and put her in a cardboard shoebox. Maya got to play the part of the finder AND the police officer, and Zoe was also Mr. Gan, who took the baby and said, in a solemn voice, “I will name you Jin Yi Ling.” They were also the nannies who took care of the baby. I was instructed to write a letter to China, so I wrote, “Dear China, May I please adopt one of the babies who lives in the baby room? I promise to love her and take care of her forever.” Zoe, a.k.a. Mr. Gan, then answered the letter (we haven’t covered the CCAA part of this yet!), “OK, only if you take good care of her.” Then Mr. Gan knocked on my hotel room door (Maya was the door!) and handed me the baby. Big-girl Zoe then acted out the part of baby Zoe, by climbing in my lap and putting her head on my chest and falling asleep, as she knows she did on Gotcha Day.

And then we had to do it all over again, with each of us assigned different roles this time. I got to be the birthmother. Zoe was Mr. Gan again (I really hope we get to see him in Guiping, I think Zoe will be very disappointed if we don’t). Maya refused to be the door because she didn’t like being knocked on!

I’ve found that the hardest thing about being a parent is always questioning whether you’re doing the right things. I never expected to be so uncertain – I feel completely competent in my professional life, so why would I feel like such a dope when it came to child-rearing?! Well, this was definitely one of those moments. I’ve probably scarred them both for life. But it felt right, especially since Zoe was directing all of the action. But who knows. . . .

So after all this theatre, I asked Zoe what she thought about going back to Guiping. She answered, “It’ll be like going back to the very beginning.” Indeed.

How very much like scaffolding is "adoption talk." We lay a foundation, we build one story, we put up another layer, more solid than the first, always going higher, stronger.


zoe'sfriendsyd said...

I am so politically incorrect when I think about Sydney's birth mother. I KNOW I should love her and thank her for this beautiful gift she gave me, but I am not moved in any way by thoughts of her. I have read it all, and am sad as a whole for the people who have to suffer from the one child per family policy. But as far as the birth mother is concerned, my feelings haven't developed at this point.
I think it's because we have no background, no picture, no nothing. And I resent that my child has to fantasize about who she "may" be. It's not her birth mother's fault. I know she comes from a different culture, and someone in her birthfamily took a HUGE risk leaving her wrapped in adult clothing at the gate of her orphanage. She was close to the guard's quarters. They could have been arrested!
But still, all my emotion is for Sydney and any friends she may have who look in the past and wonder who their birthfamilies are. I have analyzed this on many occassions while I think of how compassionate so many others are toward the birth family. My heart and soul ache for other reasons. I think it's too painful for me to even fathom the idea of having to ever give her up. And I have knots in my stomach when I think about how cold she must have been on that late November night. Maybe I'll get there, I feel guilty about my lack of being moved by her. But, then again we Momma bears are always thinking of how to protect our little cubs.

zoe'sfriendsyd said...

PS Malinda you are so right that we all question whether we are correct in our actions / words. So I have not shared my own thoughts above with her on any level. I try to do the right thing and let her express to me how she feels and hear her thoughts. Yes, she thinks Kristi Yamaguchi could be a close likeness to her birth mother....I didn't even tell her she was in the wrong country!

malinda said...

I understand exactly where you're coming from, and thanks for being so honest. No need to feel guilty, there's no right way to feel about birthparents! I plan to post a bit more about my journey from fear/resentment to partial understanding/acceptance to sympathy/longing with regard to my kids' birthmothers. But no matter how I felt, I did the same as you-- expressing only positive things when we talked about birthparents. I always thought it important that Zoe and Maya see their birthparents as basically good people faced with terrible choices. Of course, we don't know anything for sure about their attitudes toward their relinquished birthchildren, but I can tell the girls that I THINK their birthparents did the best they could for them, and made some loving choices.
It's obvious you've thought deeply about this, and are still processing it -- how lucky Sydney is to have you for a mom!

Wendy said...

Sydney's mom,

I don't think you are wrong either; it is something very personal. I guess until we meet the birthparents (if that day ever comes) we will then be able to make our personal decisions about them and their choices. I think we carry feelings very different from our kids and it is just important that we remain neutral. It is important not to romantize the birthparents because we don't know them or the reasons behind their not caring for our kids, but not to demonize them either because again, we just don't know. It is hard.
When M first came home I felt like you, I just didn't feel anything for them and maybe to some degree angry as I hadn't seen the finding place, checked the weather for the day, and had no information beyond the finding ad. It didn't bode well with me. However, I have since received additional information about the time, exact location, the clothes M was wearing, and the people surrounding her finding and it really changed things for me. I am much better at remaining neutral--I still don't know their specific situation obviously, but I have a better understanding of the day, the environment, and the specifics relating to M.

Looking back to your first sentence, I don't think you should have to love her or think that she gave you a gift, she didn't--the CCAA allowed the adoption and her birthfamily probably has no idea that she ended up in another country. I don't think our feelings matter in the end, it is about the kids and giving them a healthy approach to their adoption--not roses or weeds.

zoe'sfriendsyd said...

Wendy and Malinda, Ya'll are so sweet and open, thank you! All the I Love You Like Crazy Cakes people who didn't skip the last page early on (now I don't) would slam me!
I do remain neutral with my daughter.
I just don't think my feelings will change - it's been 6 and a half years. Don't get me wrong, I feel sad for the social aspect of having to give up your children for ALL the Chinese people. I can't imagine such a thing, but then again, I am a spoiled American - thank you GOD!
But I can't connect with her as some have done. And, again, I think it may be because I can't see her, I don't know her story, I don't have anything to tell our children. Overall, I feel a connection to the Chinese people and culture through my daughter - but that's it.