Tuesday, July 27, 2010

operating instructions

you've heard the expression babies don't always come with operating instructions, right? every new parent secretly wishes the stork would have dropped off a special manual when he made his bouncing baby delivery. i know. i was that new parent once. actually, i would have eagerly accepted a directional booklet for any of my children at any age.  there is always so much to find out...so much to figure out. adopting a 2 and 1/2 year old is no different. we have used the past week to decipher the meaning of each look, sound and mood.  we've figured out little things like bella loves ice cream.  and we've figured out some bigger things like bella sometimes prefers not to be touched. she probably didn't always have an eager mommy or daddy's hands on her and we can see that. she wakes from her nap and wants us to sit near her, but not hug her tight or stroke her arm. at other times she wants very much for us to hold her closely and rub her back. it has been a terrific exercise in reading her body language.  we have figured out how she can be seemingly helpless, asking us to feed her or do something simple and the next thing i know she insists on running ahead or doing it her way. i can almost hear her adamant voice demand, "I DO IT!" we are just weeks, maybe days, away from hearing that expression come squealing out of her determined little mouth. she has this feisty little side that kind of takes people by surprise. she is tiny and delicate and sweet, but completely unannounced bossy betty moves in. she begins pointing and chattering and positioning herself. it is really something to watch. i am a little intimidated, but please don't tell her that...or at least wait until she is 18 or so. no, let's make that 30. in the meantime, i am doing my best to put on my seasoned mommy face, as i tell her, "yeah, been there...done that. you don't scare me, little miss." i find it so interesting that God has chosen for me three daughters who all have this brilliantly strong streak in them. my parents would quickly tell you it is paybacks. at the very least, it is evidence we serve a God with a great sense of humor.   anyway, she is most definitely doing all of the wonderful and terrible things two year olds do. i have a feeling this will be humbling year for me. a blessed year, no doubt, but also humbling. if you happen to see me giving in or bribing her or choosing that lovely path of least resistance parenting, would you kindly look away...or at least smile kindly? i am making her sound like a terror. she is not. she is absolutely delicious. but she is two. enough said.

bella did not come with operating instructions, but she did have a few odds and ends with her when we met:

her outfit - bright green shorts and a yellow top and garfield sandals.
a throw pillow - with which she likes to sleep. actually with which she needs to sleep. we haven't attempted to experiment otherwise.
a strange sculpture of a rat - a gift from the orphanage - umm...not sure about the rat thing.
a bag of medicine for her cold - all of which was in chinese and most of which we were clueless on how to use.   we went to see the american/canadian doctor quickly.
a baby blanket and photo album -  last year we had sent her a care package.  these were two of the items in the package. we had never been able to find out if she received them. so we were floored to see them show up with her.  the album had pictures of our family, her home, our pets and our life...perhaps someone did take the time to thumb through it with her on occasion. 
a milk container - she had in her hands a little container of milk when she walked up to us. perhaps it was supposed to be a hint about what she might drink.  when we we first layed eyes on her, we weren't thinkng about the milk container.  the only reason i know she had it, is from the pictures.  we should have paid more attention.

there is one other thing bella brought which i think is worth sharing.  we didn't recognize this gift right away, but we have grown very much to appreciate it.  we can tell bella was well cared for in her orphanage. this is not such a tangible item as those listed above, but i have had so much pleasure in seeing evidence of this gift. let me explain.  bella pays special attention to her grooming needs. she is careful to wash and wipe her hands and face. i know this seems really small, but it isn't. it tells me someone took the time to keep her clean and even to teach her good habits. last night after wiping her hands on a towel in the bathroom, it fell off the rack. she worked very hard to get it back up to where it belonged. she didn't just drop it on the floor or ignore it.  perhaps she can work with her 12 year old brother when we return. anyway, i have noticed this in how she cares for her toys and things as well. she is careful to put things back in their place.  i can tell she likes order.  in addition, if there are crumbs on the table, or a spot of something spills she insists on wiping it up.  what a bonus in a soon to be household of seven!  now you may think i am reading too much into this, but i assure you, it is a good sign. bella lived two full years in this orphanage, during a time where she was developing important building blocks for her future. i will glory in every little glimpse i discover. when the nanny handed her to us she told us (via our interpreter) that she was a favorite at the orphanage with all the nannies. they all loved her and referred to her as the "angel of the orphanage"...that was the first thing we were told about our daughter as she was placed into our arms. i couldn't agree more. when we returned a few days later and watched some of the children and nannies with her, it was clear, she had been well loved.  above and beyond all things, i am most grateful for this.  it was my specific and even desperate prayer the entire year we pursued her.  "please, Lord, let there be people around her to offer comfort, attention,  love, and a soft touch. please, Lord, allow someone to provide a soft touch for our child."
none of these items on the above list are incredibly special.  but i will never forget them.  they are all bella carried from her old life to her new life.  a typical two year old could usually fill a wagon with all their special and favorite items.  our other kids at two were well versed in the expression, "mine!" they had heaping piles of treasures by 30 months. bella held in her hand a small milk container.  is it any wonder rick and i have fallen over one another this week as we've given her toys, touches, clothes, baths, books, hugs, smiles,  puzzles, experiences, food, laughter, memories, drinks, shoes, time, boundaries, naps, medicine, ice cream cones....our love.  is it any wonder?


Lynne said...

I think Bella would have been born in the Year of the Rat... thus the rat sculpture from the orphanage. We were given a monkey paper cut for Gwen. :-)

jodymcnatt said...

thank you lynne...i had no idea. but the director of the orphanage had been so difficult, i thought maybe it was HIS SIGN. =)

Aus said...

If Bella was born in 2008, then the rat is the animal for her birth year. Here's a link for Chinese new year dates and the animals for those years: http://www.chinapage.com/newyear.html . As for the rest of your comments - our kids (the 'collective' our - we adoptive parents really are all in this together!) come with a big blank spot in their history's - and you are spot on looking for those things in her past to 'fill in' the missing places - and I LOVE the fact that she was cared for enough to be taught a little self care and pick up skills - it's a Blessing from above that she had real caregivers! And yeah - the stubborn streak - ain't it wonderful? ;)

So happy for you guys and can't wait to see the whole family together!

hugs - aus and co.