Penelope is sick.
We knew she was in bad shape last Wednesday when Penelope asked (asked!) to visit the doctor. She’s not even three. I didn’t know a young child could make a decision like that.
The next day we were in the exam room. Penelope was a trooper. She went through the standard exam without complaint. When the strep test came back negative the doctor wanted to do a nasal swab for the flu.
The moment she said it I cringed. The swab is one of the most painful things I’ve experienced at the doctor. I felt like my brain was on fire and the flames were shooting out of my nose. This Orwellian test was the last thing I wanted my daughter to experience, but what choice did we have?
“Sweetie, the doctor needs to do something and it’s going to hurt. It won’t take long but you’ll have to hold still.”
Penelope sat on my lap as the doctor inserted the swab. I held her tight, trying to keep her head from swinging violently. Before we knew it the doctor was done. Penelope’s head bowed for just a moment. She had a grimace on her face, a mild expression of displeasure. Several years ago when I had my test done I was in tears. Not Penelope.
The weekend was a subdued affair, remaining at home and eating a lot of homemade soups. Mushroom, butter bean, and butternut squash one evening. Navy bean, kale, and noodle the next. Both were delicious. Tonight I made lentil soup, rounding out a nourishing trilogy to get us through each evening (and several lunches).
I sit in Penelope’s room writing while she plays with her “EE-I-EE-I-O” puzzle and re-enacts spilling gathered eggs as illustrated in her current favorite book, “Mama, Do You Love Me?” Jennifer is in bed, resting and hoping she will feel better tomorrow. I took off work today so the doctor could confirm what we already knew; she has Penelope’s cold.
Through this cloud of biological warfare embodied in my wife and daughter I find my mind racing with thoughts of adoption and parenthood. Penelope has had no attachment issues that we or our social worker can identify. In every respect she acts like the textbook “two going on sixteen” child. Every word we say, suggestion or command, is greeted with “no”. Her speech is accelerating faster than we could imagine. When Penelope doesn’t get her way she gets upset, then quickly gets over it. She wants to be picked up. She wants to be put down. She doesn’t seem to be listening to us but can repeat something back that Jenn or I may have said. Once. In another room. The list goes on.
I don’t know when the day will come, I only know that it will. The day when Penelope notices she doesn’t look like mama or daddy. The day when someone points out that she is Chinese. (In fact that’s happened twice. Children have pulled their eyes back and another said “She’s Chinese!” when she passed by). Or as was related in the “Somewhere Between” bonus disc, the day she’s digging in the sandbox with a friend and they say “let’s dig to China, we can find your mommy”.
The mother whose belly she grew in.
The reaction we have to her question or statement could have a lifelong impact on her. The words we use to describe the strangers who are present in our thoughts may be etched into Penelope’s memory. The tones, the choice of words, the looks on our faces, and a host of details Jenn and I may consider irrelevant might form the foundation of how Penelope envisions the people that gave her life.
I’ve read several adult adoptees blogs over the last few weeks, and especially this weekend. Their perspective and insight is priceless. Additionally I perused blogs from mothers who made the difficult decision (or were deceived and manipulated) to relinquish their children. Coupled with the sickness in our house it made for a serious weekend.
I’m not an adoptee or “birth-parent”. I write and share as an observer.
However I have skin in the game. Not to lecture or get on my digital soapbox, but to understand. I think the chances are slim that our daughter will have no interest in the choices of her parents (both sets). Doing everything in my power to comprehend the circumstances of her adoption and listen to the voices of so many who have gone before Penelope through the complications of adoption seems the least I could do.
As the 100th post approaches I’ve started asking myself “should I really write about this?” and “how much detail is enough, and at what point do I infringe on Penelope’s decision to share details about her life?”. The very nature of writing publicly about her life is a gamble. I often wonder what she’ll think about all the words I’ve expended to paint a picture of our days together.
In the meantime, I’m excited to announce a very special guest has agreed to contribute a post on transracial families. I hope her insight will be the start of something new, adding a new dimension to Penelope’s digital scrapbook and a resource for others on a similar journey.