On many occasions Jenn and I discussed the right time to tell Penelope about her mother and father in China. With pre-school looming I wanted sooner than later, reasoning she should hear about adoption from us and not a classmate. So a couple of months ago I told Penelope she had a mother and father in China. Then again a few weeks ago. Each time there was no reaction. However I am confident this piece of information sits in her memory, waiting for another piece of information to swing by and make a synaptic connection, which in turn will spark questions.
As the words “You have a mother and father in China” left my mouth I felt transported out of my body. I had no idea what reaction Penelope would have. I was scared. Scared of how the information would be received and handled by our smart four-year old with a clear and focused memory. I was curious if she would be thinking of these parental strangers.
What Penelope does not know (yet) is how often I think about her parents*. It wasn’t always this way.
One of the reasons some consider China for adoption is the near zero percent chance of someone showing up claiming to be your child’s mother or father, followed by a lengthy and painful custody battle. Something funny happened when we met Penelope; I started thinking about her mother. The day we traveled to the city of Penelope’s birth I wondered if one of the women we saw walking across the street or riding a moped was a woman missing a child. The child sitting next to me.
There was no stopping the thoughts after that. The more I read about adoption from the adoptee’s perspective and from mother’s who lost children to adoption the more palpable this unknown mother’s presence became. And meanwhile Penelope bonded with Jenn and me. I believe she may have called Jenn ‘mama’ before our flight left the sweltering heat of Guangzhou. Of course I wanted Penelope to bond with me, but I believed the connection between mother and daughter would be crucial the first few years as a family of three.
So we decided Jenn would resign her position to stay home with Penelope. These two years Jenn and Penelope have spent together are worth more than her salary from any previous employer. Note: This is not a blanket statement on parenting, stay at home or otherwise. It is simply my sentiments about our decision for our daughter. I’ve seen some well-adjusted and successful people come from dual income families, myself included.
I don’t know that I could do what Jenn does. I love Penelope dearly but spending all day, every day with her isn’t easy. Only those with children understand the amount of energy required. Jenn manages to keep up that energy while taking care of a million other things. At the end of the day Penelope still wants mama to sing to her. She still calls out for mama when she needs help with something. She even calls me mama sometimes. I can’t help but think something must be going right between them while I’m at work all day.
As I was picking out a mother’s day card I saw one that said “If motherhood was easy father’s would do it.” I laughed and moved on but the quote stuck with me. Motherhood isn’t easy. Mother’s Day is only celebrated once a year but the honor and respect mother’s deserve should occur daily.
*I’m not a fan of the terms (birth or first parents) for the people who brought another person into being. I understand one or the other has to be used for distinction purposes, but the context of what I’m writing is clear so I omit the adjectives.
Each of us defines our roles. And when we are secure in them validation is unnecessary. Meaning that both the man and woman in China who gave birth to Penelope and Jenn and I are Penelope’s parents.
Whether Penelope loves us and calls us mom and dad until her final breath or if she one day rejects the concept of two strangers plucking her from the land of birth and never speaks to us again, we will always be her parents. And whether Penelope finds her family in China and bonds to them or chooses never to search for them, they too will always be her parents.