Thursday, June 28, 2007

We Are Family

It's the beginning of week two since we returned from Vietnam. The first week was primarily devoted to recovering from the brutal jet lag that plagued us all. It's one thing for one person to be to be short on sleep and suffering for a few days. You take a few naps and that's pretty much all there is to it. It's something else entirely when a whole family, including two young children, one of whom is brand new to the family, not to mention this country (oh, and we only have a few words in common between us), are all sleep-deprived together. There were a couple of white-knuckle moments, I must admit. But two or three days after we returned, we could feel ourselves starting to be reconstituted and that gave us all some measure of hope and allowed us to be patient with one another. It was a couple of days after that, though, before I started to feel like myself again.

Henry An is doing well. In addition to being naturally funny, he is not easily intimidated. For example, he made friends with the pets right away. He was slightly nervous of our dog, Georgia, on the first day. However, on the second day, he went right up to her and started stroking her back and bent down to give her a kiss. He seems less certain about the cats, but he likes to chase them down and pet them. For a child who has had little to no contact with pets, he couldn't be doing much better.

Greta is already a solid big sister. It's been a challenging adjustment for her to have to share everything and everyone dear to her so suddenly with someone so close in age. I don't think I fully appreciated how this transition would test her. Still, Greta is constantly impressing me with her thoughtfulness. She makes him little things - sews him a small bag to wear around his neck, draws him a picture of an animal she knows he likes - and though she is frustrated with the language barrier, she continues to try to win him over. Sometimes the disappointment of losing our undivided attention overwhelms her and she loses her composure. But I'm very grateful to see her at least practicing the art of being gracious.

The two of them are also starting to gel into a partners-in-crime duo, which, though occasionally aggravating, is actually kind of heart-warming to see.

Each day we become more like the family we imagined we would become when we started this process. Our social worker had told us that in her experience referrals always closely matched the families they are referred to. At the time she said it, it souded like wishful thinking. However, Henry An's personality is so well-suited to our family, it's hard to imagine that he wasn't meant to be with us all along. Like the family who brought him home, he is a clown. I call him the man of a thousand faces, because he's constantly got a series of lively expressions lighting up his face. I sometimes wonder if his expressive face is compensation for the lack of language. His eyebrows, in particular, are constantly gesturing. They point to things that he wants and suggest activities that he suspects are off-limits. It's highly entertaining.

His English is starting to emerge, though, in moments that surprise us. He sings parts of "Happy Birthday" along with Greta. And he's been saying her name for a couple of weeks. He says "No!" to Georgia when she comes up to him at the table, emphasized by a wagging of his finger in her face. He loves airplanes and says the word for them excitedly when he sees them in the sky. We are all suffering somewhat from the lack of a common language between us, so it's encouraging to see that he is making progress. We feel bad that we don't know more Vietnamese, but it's clear that we cannot pronounce correctly the few words that we do know.

Eventually, this feeling of being a brand-new 4-person family will be replaced by the already palpable sense that we were always meant to be together. And that will be both a relief and a loss.

1 comment:

dan said...

wow, greg, what can i say? i really appreciate your thoughts and comments about your adoption process, and i can't wait to meet henry an! maybe i can meet him at tom's wedding?

i'm sending good thoughts and patience your way. you guys are making goodness bigger in the world.