At first glance, saying something has gone from extraordinary to ordinary might sound negative but I challenge you to rewire your thinking and here is why…
A family we traveled to China with, Brandi and Brian from South Carolina, returned to China over the holidays to adopt their second daughter. As I looked at those amazing pictures of their “gotcha” day experience on Facebook, I noticed something that made me realize why going from extraordinary to ordinary is a really good thing in the adoption experience.
There was one great picture of the entire family at the civil affairs office and everyone in the picture was so happy and smiling – with the exception of their new daughter, Macy ChenWei (Cool Name!). This is no surprise for those of us who have adopted before – that is a very emotional and confusing day for the child getting adopted. But what I did love was the huge smile on Faith’s face, their first daughter. And that is when I realized it! At some point, our families cross over an important bridge and these wonderful children we bring into our worlds are no longer an unusual presence in our family dynamic – they are a necessary piece of the puzzle. They feel loved and secure. They finally have a place to belong and it shows in their faces. As I stared at the shell-shocked look on Macy ChenWei’s face in comparison to the warm and loved look on Faith’s – it was like a visual timeline from alien to assimilated right in front of my eyes. I was then struck by the reality that Meili too had gone through this transformation right under my nose and I had not even detected it.
Meili has gone from an extraordinary presence in our family to an ordinary member of our family. And that is a really good thing!
It will be three short years this spring since we brought Meili home from China and in that time, she has become as much a crazy Davenport as the rest of us. She loves to play with her dolls along side of Leila and really likes it when Tristan brings in his action figures to take up the energy a notch. If Mom is not around, big brother Corbin is the perfect surrogate because he is just like Tracy in almost every emotional quality. And of course, Meili has cemented her importance in the hearts of her Mom and Dad like filling a pothole in our lives that we could never do ourselves. She loves to sit and watch movies while snuggling on the couch and she is usually the next to last to get out of bed – our 14 year old still holds the record there!
Mostly it is our family life and it’s ordinary pace that Meili has grown accustom too that warms me most. It’s watching her rome the house looking for a toy (or a bite to eat) that makes me realize that the connection has taken hold. She feels the safety, love and acceptance that we all long for and she no longer has to feel the touch of Tracy to know life is done changing (for a little while). It is also that magnificent temper and spirit that all Chinese women have deep within them that shows me she feels quite comfortable in our family! When you feel like a bother, you are not going to ask for anything or express even the slightest want. To the contrary, I believe we have done a good job making Meili feel at home because we have seen that gritty determination manifest itself in a full-blown fit more than one time – all you other parents who have adopted Chinese girls can now shout AMEN!
But it is that grit and determination that is at the core of why Meili made it to her first birthday. We don’t look at it as a flaw in her character but an honorable badge of recognition from a war of survival she should have never had to fight. Now, like flaps on the tail of the jet engine, we are just trying to angle that flaming thrust in a healthy direction!
Speaking of Meili’s birthday – she turned 4 this past December 17th and we had a bouncy party for her. She loved the party and was indifferent to the gifts. But the cake was fantastic! Just like her Mom, Meili is growing fond of that fluffy goodness. Of course, following the trend of “princess birthdays”, we had a “Tangled” part for her. As far back as I can remember, Meili has been fascinated with long hair and asks for it everyday – so why not go with the longest hair ever…Rapunzel! It was fun to celebrate another milestone with her but the age of 4 seemed so much lower in comparison to the depth of love in our hearts for her. I am starting to believe that loving connection grows in doggy years when speaking of adoption.
Christmas was fantastic – this being her third Christmas with us (wow, I can’t believe how much time flies!) she is quite familiar with the tradition of sitting in the living room and reading the Christmas story before opening gifts. Still, just like any other 4 year old, the wait is almost too much to ask of her. Thank goodness the birth of the everlasting Savior is no longer than 20 versus! Meili loves opening gifts – I think she likes the process more than the result. Because even after she opens her gifts, she is on the lookout for available opportunities in other piles. You best keep your eyes open on Christmas morning or you might have a little tanned elf going to town on your gifts.
What has changed the most for me is how often Meili runs up with arms outstretched, looking for Daddy to toss her up in the air. At the very least, she wants to climb up my chest and sit on my head! We are constantly amazed how God tucked so many working parts into these little Asian bodies – she is still so petite that tossing her in the air takes little effort and should not be done in a stiff breeze. But what I am most appreciative of are those tender moments when she lets her guard down and will finally admit that she loves Daddy too – of course, it is after clearly stating that she loves Mom first (and maybe all the kids and dogs) but I now have a place in that tiny little heart.
Although Meili’s life in our family has gone from extraordinary to ordinary, the sweetness of having Meili in our lives has continued to increase. Not a day goes by that we don’t verbalize a thought or expression of how thankful we are to have been the family that was able to adopt Meili. Of all the orphaned children in China, we got Meili and we know it was simply meant to be because you cannot imagine how perfectly she fits into the fabric of our lives.
It’s still a process but more than ever, I feel she is gaining trust and growing roots. Walking behind her as she enters our house after a long 3 hours in pre-school and watching as she sheds the backpack, followed by the coat, followed by the shoes on her way to her favorite toy – I know she feels it deep inside her… welcome home Meili!