Yesterday marks one year since we stepped on a plane to China to meet our son for the first time. As this anniversary approached, I’ve been reflecting on last year and even went back and read the blog posts from the day we left until now. I honestly thought I would be writing more after we were home, but after the initial adjustment period, I realized we’re just an ordinary family doing ordinary things.
Looking back at the trip last year, it seems crazy that the period of James’ rejection of me seemed so much longer. I wonder if people reading about it on this side of the ocean felt as though I were overreacting to something that didn’t really last all that long. All I can say is that having your love thrown back in your face is never easy, and though the time was short, it felt like an eternity to me. Even with all the progress he’s made, James still attaches to men he meets before the women. We visited some extended family last week, and James still gravitated towards the uncles before the aunts. That is a painful reminder to me that underneath all his adorable smiles, there’s still a little boy who has known more heartbreak and pain than a 5-year-old should have. There’s still a part of him that knows that sometimes family isn’t forever and that sometimes love isn’t enough. There are pieces of his heart that we’ll probably never touch because they belong to the first mothers he loved and lost.
But there are signs of healing, and they bring me so much joy. It has taken almost a year, but James has finally begun to show empathy to his sister and brother when they’re sad. When Brenna and Evan cry, he will now come up to them with a big hug and a chastising look for me and Joel if we are the cause of their tears. He also has really started to notice that his “owies” can be a source of sympathy from us. He will point them out to us long after they are painful until they’re almost completely healed just so that we acknowledge them. I’m glad he knows he can share his pain.
Reading last year’s posts also made me realize how much gentler he’s gotten since the day we met him. I had forgotten that aggression was ever an issue because he no longer lashes out at us. Now we get crocodile tears and a sad face that will break your heart. He does occasionally show aggression to animals, but we’re working on teaching him to be gentle with them as well. I try to remind myself that he probably didn’t have much exposure to pets in his early life.
The process of bringing James home was difficult in many ways, but I think adoption is a lot like childbirth in that you forget how painful it was at the time. God softens our memories of the hardships and struggles so that we mostly remember the joy and the amazing gift we brought home. I was so scared and nervous when we hopped on that plane to China and when we walked in to meet James for the first time, but all of those fears were unfounded. I’m not saying life with him is always easy, but he is light and joy in our lives every day. But I’ll write more about that in part 2. 😉