Monday, March 17, 2008

Running scared

My brother Seth spent a (chilly) summer in Barrow, Alaska, working with at-risk kids a couple years ago. That’s pretty much the northernmost point you can get before hitting the Arctic Pole. He did what he likes most: surf (kidding), eat whale blubber, see 24 hours of continual sunlight, try to solve a mysterious murder, and learn respect for the polar bear. Polar bears are the only mammal that will actively hunt human beings. Where most mammals will avoid confrontation and human contact at all costs, these bad boys will literally track a human mile after frozen mile across vast tundra nothingness for weeks on end, refusing to give up their Sunday snack. They WILL find you. Gotta respect that kind of icy tenacity.

So when I saw this picture on my friend’s blog I proceeded --- with my hardened conscience sitting mutely by --- to steal it because I can so relate, and figured you might too. I think some days I’m that polar bear, happy and contented but with eyes honed in on China, totally unsuspecting of the cacophony of chaos about to be unleashed.

And then there are other days when I’m definitely the penguin poised to bring about said unleashing.

Last night I had another nervous episode. A downright petrified, freeze-me-in-my-penguin-snowtracks moment. For a few slow-moving minutes I felt the huge weightiness of what we were undertaking and thought it might not be such a bad idea to pound pavement before we awaken the giant human-hunter. Even my heart started pounding.

The thought crossed my mind: Fight or flight? Psychologists have long said you’ve got one or the other reaction in times of deadly peril. Historians of World War I added a third option: posturing. That's basically when you puff yourself up and paint your face scary colors and scream and holler a lot to scare your opponent like a warring Visigoth with testosterone sluicing down his veins, when you really should be running like all heck.

I read the story of a woman who just returned from China 6 months ago with her little 3-year-old boy. She said the other day they were out getting haircuts, and one of the chatty hairdressers (is there any other kind?) came over and hugged and kissed her little boy. She'd grown up in a Korean orphanage. All her life she had seen foreigners coming into the orphanage and she would wave at them and say, "Pick me! Pick me!" But no one ever did and she never understood why.

Most of us know why – a lot of people want to adopt a baby. Initially Jason and I thought we’d adopt an infant or young toddler, too. A wee bald stranger would be – on the whole – very non-threatening. For many people it seems “safer” and more predictable (though it really isn’t). But we delude ourselves into thinking it's less traumatic for all involved. Less of life’s harshness imprinted on a wee one. No language barrier. Just plain... well... easier.

Except for the diapers. Jason has an unreasonable fear of diaper-changing. And, actually, now that I consider it, he’s not a big fan of littleness overall. Afraid he’ll break it or make it cry. He covered church nursery the other week, which would lead one to the false deduction he’s comfortable with the miniature ones, except for one minor detail. We don’t have any children in nursery under the age of six. He figured he was safe. Hee hee hee...

Lo and behold but if a visiting family didn’t descend with a 14-month-old that week. Legend has it that Jason stood --- trembling, but not visibly --- and stared down at her, eyeball to eyeball, knowing she could smell his fear. (This is a form of "posturing.") And she sat on her little diapered tush and stared up at him. For about 18 minutes they assessed each other, mutually intrigued. Then again, maybe she was just working on a poop...

Where was I going with this?

Oh yeah.... Sometimes life decisions are not about us or about easiness (or our ability to sleep comfortably in our beds at night, unassailed by fear of the unknown venture awaiting). Sometimes it’s about Someone calling us to someone. Sometimes it’s making a choice to love. Sometimes we’re supposed to do something outside our comfort zone. Something we would never have dreamed, maybe not even as much as a year and a half ago when the journey first started.

Yes, we’ve heard a few horror stories of older child adoption. (Note to gentle reader: If you have a ghastly story we haven't yet heard, please kindly allow us to proceed in ignorance, just this once.) But we’ve also heard the happy stories. I find most days are a mix of both anyway, child or no child. When we first read about Jesse Yong and saw those sad eyes looking out at us, we knew. It’s hard to describe that feeling, but it comes with such a certainty it leaves no wiggle room.

We aren’t meant to go it alone. There's enough pain and misery out there without having to slog through it solo. Children shouldn’t be left to themselves with no one to love them. My mom is convinced that if every child had one person committed to him or her – just ONE person – that kiddo has a chance.

When you know you are loved, that counts for something. It really does. None of us are perfect, no family is a perfect family. And no child is a perfect child. We all have issues. We all suffer fear and sickness and pain and frailty. And we all need love. There’s not so much love in the world that you can afford to turn your back on a chance to give some. It may save someone’s day, maybe more.

The other day a salty old-timer came up to me with a rather bemused look on his face. Not critical per se, just trying to wrap his mind around a new concept. He looked at me quizzically. “Why are you adopting a little boy from China?”

Some days it’s confusing and hard to explain. But at that moment it came out in its simplicity: Because he needs a family who loves him.


Angel said...

OH YEAH GIRL! You are such a hardened rebel. Hee hee hee... ;0) I love that picture. I think you are so right. Life is a mix of craziness and pain and joy no matter what. It's just learning and growing and handling it right. I mostly feel like the peguin every day though. BE BRAVE! NOW RUUUUUUN! HA! HA! Angel

seth said...

i have finally joined the adoption blog-thing! Hey, i have an old bureau at Mammy and Pappy's you can have if you want...