The end of the school year can do crazy things to us. Make us do and say things we cringe about later, our brains and hearts a haze of goodbyes and remembering to bring sprinkles to the Kindergarten Memory Day. And then there are the days afterward, in which no one is getting enough sleep and they tumble out of bed each morning asking, “What is the fun thing we are doing today, Mama?”
They rub red eyes and complain about every single choice you lay out for breakfast. Nothing and no one quite meets with their approval because they are dictators in a regime that has gone off the rails. Brothers are especially good at not rallying during these early days of summer, at least our brothers are. Which is why I intervened for the umpteenth time as they were picking at each other’s loose threads and I heard Abe, whispering under his breath, “I wish I was in China with a new family.”
It took my breath.
Forget that he was four when he came home and seems to have very little recollection of his time there. Forget that he is an overtired seven year old boy who hasn’t spent his whole life watching brothers interact and has little idea that they love through wrestling and razzing. That muttered sentence hit me hard. I felt gutted for about an hour, even as he shook his anger off and ran outside to shoot hoops with his other sibs.
Could he really be so angry he’d rather be there instead of here? I don’t have any idea what his orphanage was like, how he was treated, but I do know that we have spent the last three years undoing damage inflicted by someone or something, reassuring him that we are forever and we are never letting go and helping him surrender to the the foreign idea of family, both the eight of us and our village, who adores him.
So we drove out to Nana and Papa’s cottage where he could splash in the waves with his cousins and swing on the swing so high he surely thought he’d never come down. We dined out and then had ice cream at the most quintessential lake-side ice cream stand, superman dripping down his soft, brown arms.
Then we drove home to see daddy and the pups and to be quickly showered and popped into bed, eyes already closed before the end of his blessing. And as I left the room heart full to overflowing, he called me back with this, “Mom, I don’t really want to go back to China.” To which I replied, “I know son. And we’d never let you because you are our boy forever and we will never let you go.” Probably a trained professional would have a better response, but I am him mama and I know the words his heart needs.
I tuck those yummy babies in and wonder at what those lives would be like if they were there instead of home. I also wonder what those lives would be if their birth mamas and babas could have raised them. And so I tuck them in with their blessing, which goes like this:
The Lord bless you and protect you.
The Lord’s face radiate with joy because of you (and I know it does).
May his gracious favor be upon you and his precious peace be all around you.
Each tuck in, each bickering fight between siblings far too tired for anyone’s good, each teeny and big thing, each good and bad, they are gifts, all. The Lord’s face much surely radiate with joy because of these people, and I pray mine does too – at least most of the time.
This won’t be the first time he will think of China, speak of it, wish for it. And I pray that my response is always full of love and grace both for him and for the family and country that birthed him. I pray that someday I can walk that soil again and help find some answers to any questions he has. But even if we do, I will still say to him…
“You are our boy forever and we will never let you go.”
My heart is so full.