This is the third post in our 2016 Adoption Trip series. Days One and Two were spent in Beijing. Day Three was spent primarily traveling from Beijing to Guiyang and settling into our new digs in preparation for the real event, meeting our new daughter Peyton. Day Four was the big day.
The three families in our sub-group met in the lobby and boarded a bus. (Our overall group of six families split up after Beijing and will meet again in Guangzhou.) All sixteen of us, (eight children and eight adults, including a couple who came along to help one adoptive family), were quietly and anxiously anticipating what was about to happen. We arrived at the Guiyang Adoption Center and made ourselves at home on sofas in the lobby. We weren’t the only families being introduced to their kids that day. We estimate that at least ten families came and went.
About thirty minutes after we arrived, two Chinese women and a German woman walked into the room holding the hands of a six-year-old boy and a two-year-old girl. For a few seconds we didn’t recognize Peyton, because she had more hair than we’d seen in the pictures. But a closer look told us she was our little girl. She walked quietly over to us without any fussing or resistance and stood right in front of us, checking us out, as if to say, “Not sure I approve.”
After giving her a few minutes to get used to us, Janet gently scooped her up and sat down on a sofa with her. She didn’t make a peep, but she did back away whenever I got too close. (I think I resemble the monster that Chinese parents tell their kids will get them, if they don’t go to bed on time.) But even though she seemed mostly unruffled by the new people, she still didn’t seem happy. She had a sad, resigned, almost stoic, look on her face for the rest of the day, far too serious for a two-and-a-half-year-old.
One person who wasn’t stoic was Elijah. He was quite unsure of what to do next. We’d talked about his new sister and he’d even promised to share his toys with her, but now that the moment had arrived, he wasn’t sure what to do with her. At times, he looked a little pensive, almost like he was thinking, “OK, we’ve seen her. Can we go now?”
At other times, he was quite curious, stretching to look around us and watch her, as if to say, “I think we can make this work. As long as she does what I say, doesn’t KEEP my toys for more than thirty seconds when I loan them to her, and doesn’t think she can take my place on Mom’s lap anytime she wants, this might prove to be a beneficial partnership.”
And then, there were a couple of touching moments, where Elijah seemed to sense Peyton’s sadness and reached out in a very un-big-brother-like way to comfort her with a gentle touch. We don’t know how much, if anything, he remembers from his own adoption experience, but we do know he has a soft, compassionate heart underneath his mischief-making and “boy-ness.”
After several hours of paperwork, we were able to take a family photograph at the Guiyang Adoption Center entrance, leave the Adoption Center and make our way to a park with an underground Walmart, where we stocked up on essentials like extra diapers, snacks Peyton would like, (which we’ve discovered is every snack), and other things that would make staying close to our hotel room for a couple of days more comfortable. We spent the rest of the evening on our own as a family and ended the day with a big surprise, as Peyton came out of her shell and began to play with the other kids, smiling and giggling.
Earlier in the day, we left the Guiyang Adoption Center through a big lobby with huge, two-story-high paintings on either end. As we stood in the lobby waiting for our bus, I looked up at one of the paintings and realized it was a image of the Old Testament story of Moses, specifically the part of the story when his mother puts him into a reed basket and he is discovered by the daughter of an Egyptian Pharaoh.
I remember thinking, “How strange for a country that is officially secular to have a biblical painting in a government buildings.” I even poked one of the other adoptive dads and pointed it out to him and he acted equally puzzled. I walked out without giving it a second thought.
Then, out of the blue today, it occurred to me that Moses was taken into the home of Pharoah’s daughter and raised by her, much like an adopted child is taken into a new family and raised by them. I’m not sure why that didn’t click at the time. I suspect that calls my credibility as a pastor into question. But in hindsight, it’s a really fascinating choice to grace the hall where family after family departs for new lives with children who, moments before, were orphans and now are not.