The question I get asked the most about our upcoming trip to China is if we are planning on taking all three of our kids with us. We have one adopted daughter and two biological boys all ages nine and under so I think people are often surprised to hear me answer “yes!”
When we adopted our daughter three years ago, we took our boys on the trip. They had never even been on an airplane before so the 30 plus hours of travel time from our front door to our hotel in China was definitely a huge risk. They were only ages six and four at the time so keeping two little boys still on a plane for hours upon hours was no joke. Plus we often had to help them haul their suitcases and book bags across airports when their arms and legs got tired.
Yet, we have absolutely no regrets about that trip. Our boys were able to walk away from their time with a context for the country of China. When we talk about China now, they can conjure up in their minds the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and even the feel of the streets beneath their feet. They have an admiration and love for their sister’s birth country and they feel connected to her culture because they have experienced it first hand.
They were there the moment our daughter was placed in our arms and they watched her cry and sensed her fear those first few days. We became a family of five together. Our little girl carefully watched as my husband and I loved, protected, and cared for our sons and she began to trust that we would care for her too.
Our boys helped fetch diapers and bottles and snacks. They taught her how to play with Legos and stacking cups. They blew bubbles and showed her how to eat ice cream. Our daughter was used to having a lot of children around her each day so the boys provided a sense of immediate comfort for her.
Our sons were there when she gave us her first smile and then later that week when that smile turned into a giggle.
They were there as our guide explained to us that our daughter’s orphanage hardly had any toys. Then my husband and I watched as they chose to donate their own money at a local Chinese market to buy blocks for the other orphans who remained.
They were there when we visited her orphanage and they saw the almost empty playroom. I watched the look of realization begin to creep in as they both knew that back home their own playroom was brimming with toys.
I saw them interact with the other orphans and deliver the blocks they purchased. I watched their faces as we walked through the room where their sister spent the first two years of her life. They started to understand the reality of her life before we joined it.
As we walked past crib after crib in our daughter’s orphanage, our youngest son turned to me and asked, “Mommy, who is going to come adopt all these kids? These kids need mommies and daddies too.”
That was the moment that made it all worthwhile to me. The long flight with kids. The extra suitcases. The cost of a bigger hotel room. I realized right then and there that our son’s heart was starting to break for the things that break the heart of God.
The two weeks in China together as a family of five is my most treasured time we have ever spent as family. Were we jet lagged? Yes! Exhausted emotionally? Yes! Missing familiar foods and the comfort of home? Yes! However, our primary goal during those weeks was to bond and we were able to do that without the worries of household chores and work and a million other distractions.
When we returned two weeks later, we were stronger because of our time together. Our family unit had slowly started to cement itself in the mind of our daughter.
As we entered our house, we quickly realized that as happy as we were to be home, every single thing felt unfamiliar and new to our daughter. It was in that time that our sons were a precious source of comfort to her. She recognized them and they felt safe to her.
I am well aware it isn’t always possible to take any or all of the siblings to China as you adopt. Here are some topics to think through as you weigh your options:
Know Your Kids: There is a lot of waiting during those two weeks. What are your kids’ personalities? Are they old enough and able to patiently wait as you travel, interact with guides, meet with adoption officials, attend doctor’s appointments, and have the newly adopted child receive the majority of your attention?
Cost: If you choose to take your children, you will need to factor in the added cost of airplane tickets, meals, additional tickets to tourist sites, and perhaps a bigger hotel room.
Childcare Options: Is there someone you trust to take care of your children while you are away? Would your children feel more comfortable staying home with a relative for a few weeks rather than traveling to a foreign country? Or is the better option to bring your children with you?
School/Sports Commitments/Time of Year: A trip to China is often two weeks. Are there sports or school commitments that your children need to fulfill at home? Is it a bad time of year for your children to be away from home? Perhaps school is just starting or a new sports team is forming and you want your children to remain home.
Number: It may not be feasible to take all of the siblings to China, but you might consider taking one child with you. I know plenty of people who have chosen to do that and that is a great option as well. I also know families who have asked a relative or friend to travel with them to help them throughout the trip so they can focus on their newly adopted child.
Special Needs: Finally, it is wise to factor in your newly adopted child’s special need. Depending on your child’s situation, would it be best to travel without siblings in order to give your child the care he or she needs?
Our boys were forever changed by their trip to China to adopt their sister. The extra cost and effort to take them along was well worth it for us as we saw them interact with orphans and other adoptive families.