It was the best decision we made concerning travel for our last adoption.
It would double our travel cost — but as we prayed about it, we felt certain we should extend the offer if they were ready.
We sat our seven year old daughter and eight year old son down and simply asked if they’d like to go with us to bring home their little brother. They’d have months to prepare or change their minds at least. (We also had three and four year old boys who weren’t as flexible without naps or with meals ;)). While travelling as a family makes sense for many — our younger two dreamed more of going to grandma’s house. And these two without naps — y’all… it isn’t pretty. So we dreamed with our bigs of traveling in the year ahead while the younger two made their grandma’s house to-do fun list.
As we dreamed, we talked about things we could do to help our new little man who would be just over 2 years old adjust more easily to us. It was their idea to study Mandarin. Whew! I’m not that crazy to attempt to pick up another language with my mommy brain!
So there we sat. Many mornings practicing. “Maaaa. Did I say that tone right?! I either just called you mom or a horse depending on the tone!!!”
I’d catch myself thinking this was just silly — or were we crazy to try to pick up the language together… I mean — we wanted them to go but did we really want to listen to their ideas how we should prepare too!? Wait… or were we crazy to take them along? What might they see or experience? And with our child’s diagnosis — how would they react if medication was off or he had a seizure? Was I even ready?!
Maybe this was a bad idea.
Yet — we felt a peace.
So there we sat laughing and trying our best together… ”Maaaa. Maaaa. Ni hao ma!”
Travel time finally came, and our little travelers were over the moon excited to go. Our younger two didn’t look back as they jumped in grandma’s car although we told them to at least blow kisses and we would miss them terribly. We knew they’d be well cared for, and I just took a deep breath hoping travel, and all that may be ahead, might not be too much for our others.
We had three fun-filled days in Beijing with our bigs, and we didn’t realize until we were there what a gift this was for us to just have them. Our younger two had gotten so much of our attention — it was just a rare occasion for us to have three solid days of just pouring into our older ones. Those days are treasures… full of sweet conversations, seeing new things, and risk-taking on the subways instead of cabs.
By the third day, we were all chomping at the bit to finally get to our son’s province to finally meet him for the first time… together!
As an adult – that day you meet your child is so overwhelming. You understand the magnitude of what is about to happen —kind of — as if there are words… but you wonder, will they? Oh, but you don’t even have time to think or process! Because if it hasn’t already been processed — it’s go time… you just climb into that cab headed to meet him… deep breath… we are here…we are really on your way.
I don’t remember that drive… at all. I was in that intense fog — the surreal feeling that our lives about to change forever. We sat in the room waiting to meet him — and then, just like that – he walked through the door. And my children fell to their knees to meet him.
I was so, so thankful they were there. My Mandarin still stunk — but I felt like telling him, “See — they are safe with us! You will be too. See — they trust us and look back at us with joy because we are family! Soon you will see you can trust us and we are family too!”
I do remember being in that room and feeling so thankful they were there. He wouldn’t come to us at first — but he felt safe going to them. After all, they were much closer to his size. We sat and played together, and for a time I used the “bigs” as a bridge to my newest little one. In that moment, it all made sense why I had felt such peace about our children coming with us.
I watched their faces as we toured the orphanage. They outstretched their hands to hundreds of little hands. They asked good questions. Hard questions. Questions that made the lump in my throat even bigger. Questions that I knew I’d forever carry, yet never know how to answer. And now — they would carry the questions too. I saw their eyes looking to us as we were the ones they always looked to for help and justice. Only this time I couldn’t fix anything. Oh, dear Jesus. Please say bringing them was a good idea. Remind me of that again. Is this too hard for their hearts?
The “why mommas” didn’t have any good answers. I just said, “Don’t forget them. Each and every one of them – He has a plan for. We will pray for mommas and daddies…” And I remembered what a caregiver told me during our previous adoption years earlier as she saw my eyes searching the beds and cribs with so many faces looking back at me, “You can’t… there are too many. But what you can do is go home, and be a momma to this one.” I was at a loss for words — so I used hers. I looked at my children and reminded them of this truth, “What we can do — is go home with this precious son… your brother… and be family to this one.”
We took a final picture before leaving some of our hearts behind — as family. Together.
The next 10 days were filled with appointments and fun…
…and we returned home welcomed by family and reuniting with our younger boys, too.
Weeks and months passed — and we did exactly what we dreamed of doing… we became family and our connection grew deeper with each passing day. Before long it had been months, and some days I wondered if the big kids were forgetting the travel details.. or how they were really impacted by getting to be there and be a part of bringing their brother home. I remembered that lump in my throat — and how emotional it all was for me. But them? Did they feel those things too? Did I still think it was worth taking them, the extra cost, the extra luggage pulled from place to place and all that comes with doubling your numbers?
Then when I least expected it… many months later…
We were on our way to regular Wednesday night at our church when my now 10 year old son said, “Look mom! Chin Chin! That’s got to be a Chinese restaurant doesn’t it mom?”
“Yes — absolutely.”
Now let me preface what came next with this: this kid isn’t a “feeler” and he’s all about adventure and fun. He rolls his eyes and makes a silly face if I say “I love you” and anything mushy makes him plain goofy. I had a pretty good idea if I asked about his favorite think in China it’d be a close tie between that crazy Guangzhou circus and the ridiculous line at the Summer Palace – not for tickets, but the line that formed of Chinese people on their holiday to have their picture made with my kids. (They still brag about their celebrity status in Beijing.)
So I asked…
“If you had to pick one thing that was the most amazing moment in China — what would you say?”
“What do you mean mom? Like?”
“Like — in Beijing? Or Guangzhou? The circus… oh — or what about the Panda preserve? Now that was awesome!”
And his answer told me everything. That he did get it. That taking them was the best decision ever. And how changed even they were.
“Mom. Without a doubt – it was the moment he walked through that door. They opened that door, and he walked through. Everything changed in that moment. For him. For us. That was the greatest moment of all.”
I looked over — he was of course too cool and smiling.
But not me.
I held back tears.
Because that was a moment I never thought he’d say. And yes — it was the moment that did change everything. Even him. Forever.
And I knew in that moment — following that peace that I had to take them was actually the best travel decision for our family. Yes — we changed together because we experienced a trip of a lifetime together. But we also were forever changed and divinely ruined for those we left behind… and what his walking through that door meant for all of us.