ASIA, the agency we used for our third adoption, has a new program for older and special needs kids. It’s not quite clear how this differs from Hope’s Journey or Special Focus, or whether it includes the children in those programs. All I know is that the kids in ASIA’s blog posts about the agency’s trip to China are adorable and make you think, is there room for one more?
Some of these children are quite young. Those old enough to speak were interviewed about what they wanted in a family. They all agreed they wanted to be adopted.
Of course that was the case in the video of TJ taken when the agency representatives traveled to China to meet and evaluate the children in his group. But how many of them really understood the word “adoption” and the enormous distance and even more frightening change it would entail for them?
Eighteen months ago today we arrived in Guangzhou to meet TJ. He was frightened, tearful, angry, obstinate, prone to shut down, sit down and stay put, unmoving and screaming, at the worst possible moments. During the months that have passed, we have all had some trying moments — O.K. trying days and weeks, to be honest. Jiejie and Meimei had to make a lot of adjustments. So did Mom and Dad.
But no one has had to adapt and rise to challenges more than TJ has. Always a negotiator and wheeler-dealer, TJ seems to have a future in one of the “talking professions.” And his English vocabulary is soaring. He was truly astonished by the rainbow he saw and photographed on Sunday. Wide-eyed and open mouthed, he was glued to the rainbow until the last pillar of the spectrum ha faded and his Jiejie announced that the rainbow ended at Ikea, and perhaps that was our pot of gold.
TJ, however, reverently pronounced the rainbow “hilarious,” one of his new words, along with “weirdo,” seemingly reserved for me, and “jealous.” When I asked what that meant, he said, “nervous.” And when I asked what “nervous” meant, he said “when you don’t want to do something.” And now, everyting is “lame,” but at least he knows how to spell it.
His teachers say it’s great that he is being adventurous with words, especially because he needs to work on being able to tell a story, in writing. I am hoping that soon he will tell us a little more of his story, now that he is stockpiling an arsenal of words to use. He still uses Chinese grammar and syntax sometimes, but more and more, he gets a whole sentence out sounding like you average American boy.
At a recent meeting with his teaching team, one specialist noted that, for his age and maturity she was surprised he did not know the names of common foods, including steak and sweet potatoes. We really don’t eat steak, and sweet potatoes are kind of a rare item except for a ceremonial appearance on Thanksgiving, and alas pizza was not on the list, but of course that was not the point.
Yes, TJ is older than his peers in school, but no, he is not mature, although he is maturing. He fits right in with kids two years younger, at this point, and of course his experience generally does not compare well with that of classmates his age who have grown up in this country. It did not seem so strange to me that a child of his background did not have an encyclopedic knowledge of American food, or even one that rivaled that average first-grader’s.
Later, the teacher stopped me and asked what I meant when I used the word “orphanage” about TJ. Was that an orphanage in this country, she asked? (Do we still have orphanages in this country? Note to self: E-mail Newt Gingrich.)
It seems TJ had stumped the panel and the reading specialist had not guessed that one reason for his deficits might be that he did not grow up here, or in a family, or speaking English. Not that I think stumping the panel is a good thing, necessarily … but, as TJ would say, hilarious.