It was a rainy Sunday.
A day of rest.
I told the children to go grab books and have “reading and rest time” after church. All was quiet — and then our littlest who is now four and a half came quietly in my room.
He came home when he was just over 2 years old, and he has been home for just over 2 years.
He crawled up in bed beside me and snuggled in close.
“Mama. Will you sing my ‘Yao a yao’ mama?”
Oh my heart. It always takes me back. And it makes me so thankful that I picked ONE thing. One thing to focus on to help us attach.
I remember after our first adoption which was bringing home our fourth child (from Ethiopia) — I tried just so hard to do everything right. I put so much pressure on myself to “cocoon” for the right amount of time, focused eye contact every day, limiting outings… the list went on and on. These, of course, are all wonderful efforts and wonderful ways to help with attachment. But the list was so long, and I was trying so hard. Doing so many things. Spread so thin.
When attaching took longer, I struggled. I was trying to so hard. I had read all the books. Applied most everything I had learned of. Yet still. I was pushed away. And I learned during this first adoption — that you just love, meet needs as they come and do what you can. But instead of trying to do it all and not doing anything really well—pick one. Or two. Or even three if you can. Ask the Lord to show you your child’s heart and what he or she needs to really connect.
Years later, we were guided to what I call the country of my heart — China. I had lived there in my 20’s and had always dreamed of living there once I had a family or maybe even one day adopting again from there. Although I had lived there for just a year, I thought maybe my broken Mandarin might even be helpful. Y’all. My language skills are terrible. But just maybe the little I had could be helpful again.
I was homeschooling our four children when the Lord led us to adopt our fifth, and this time it was from China. With four children ages 8 and under, I was realistic in my inability to learn the language before traveling… although I did buy Mandarin on CD disks and ask the children to listen to them while momma had another cup of coffee. It was as foreign to me then as it was in my 20’s. But God used that realization to make me just think about what our 2 year old would need — not a lot of language… but more so — a whole lot of momma love.
I reflected on our last adoption — and just knew I couldn’t wear myself thin again trying to do it all. So I picked one thing.
I always loved to rock and sing to my babies each night. It was something that not only connected my children to me — but also me to them.
So I picked my one thing to help me really connect to our next child who was waiting for us in China.
I wouldn’t cancel life completely for us or our other four children. I wouldn’t expect the eye contact games work instantly. I wouldn’t perfect the Chinese language. I would rock my new one — and I would learn just ONE song in his language. I would pick ONE song that I thought just might be familiar… Rock-a-Bye… in Chinese.
I wish I could tell you I had it perfected before I boarded that plane. We have our plans as mommas don’t we? But there was so much to do to prepare — and some how the days and weeks… and months… of waiting is full of life and sitting down to learn a song in your child’s language is hard on a waiting momma’s heart too.
I had the chorus down from the A Little Mandarin lullabies I had fallen in love with on iTunes and Rock-a-Bye soothed my soul. I listened to it on repeat over and over on that 17 hour flight… also thankful for the pinyin provided to help me along the way.
After we got home from meeting our little love and got back for the night, I was putting him to bed. He was afraid and scared. I picked him up — I’ll never forget starting to sing that song — and although I couldn’t speak like his caregivers could to his ears… that song startled and grabbed his heart as I began.
The translation different in our language…
My baby wants to sleep I sang to his heart. Our eyes met — and I knew he understood the words. And together “Wo de wua wua yao shui jiao,” we sang. Just that line. And I knew he had heard it before. Something familiar… a classic lullaby. And had he not heard it — the words he would have known.
What I love about singing in Chinese is that you don’t need tones for the words to be understood. I often sang while I lived there to make sense to my friends… so while I was brainstorming ways to connect — I knew I’d be safer with songs over language — and I was so glad I just picked ONE to memorize.
Two years later — it’s still his song. The one that instead of being scared — he snuggles up to momma and asks for. I’m thankful I focused on just one thing… and one that could be carried over year after year in our connection time. I imagine he will be 16 or even 18 — and I’ll still be combing my fingers through his hair singing those words to his ears and heart. “Wo do wua wua yao shui joao…my baby wants to sleep…”
How thankful I am for the little things in those first days of connecting. And even more thankful that my one thing is still a part of our daily rest time and nightly bed time. It’s something only we share — and one I love that his heart knows word for word in his first home’s language.
This one thing started our connection… and what a treasure it will be to stand in a doorway to hear him sing this song to his own child one day.
Take a deep breath. The little things are sometimes the things that connect us the most. And it’s never ever too late to learn a simple song.
In this journey with you and for you as you love your littles,
– image by Tish Goff