“Hon, I know you are going to think I’m crazy, but I want to host an orphan from China this summer…” This is how I greeted my husband the day that I dared to take a peek at the photo listing of children who needed placements for the summer hosting program. After adopting my daughter as an infant (I was single at the time), I felt in my heart the pull towards adopting an older child. But after marrying and settling in to the joys and challenges of a blended family, I figured that dream was behind me. Well, what a surprise when my husband said “I don’t think you are crazy!”, and we quickly moved ahead to meet the looming deadline to be matched with the child we felt drawn to host.
While we were open from the start to the idea of adopting if things went well, we were very nervous about all the ways that things might NOT go well. Hosting seemed like the perfect way to see what it might be like to add to our family in this way, and to see if this particular child was a good fit. And he was. After weeks of nervous preparation, our lives were forever changed by the adorable 6 year old boy who greeted us at the airport with a huge smile on his face. He was small for his age, and acted much younger than 6, but he drew us in with his humor and the sheer delight that he expressed with each new thing that he tried and experienced with us. I spent about a day feeling a bit worried about his immaturity, nervous about how the summer would go, but it didn’t last! I had worried so much about communication with a boy who knew no English, but really that was not a very big deal. He surprised us by singing some songs in English that he had learned in school in China (BINGO, Twinkle Twinkle, ABC Song) . He very quickly learned some words and phrases in English, and we learned a few essentials in Mandarin. What we didn’t know got communicated through gestures and pantomime. Yu Yu fell in love with ice cream at the first, unexpectedly cold lick. Every time we went out in the car after that, he would say “Mama!” to get my attention, then pantomime holding and licking an ice cream cone, as his way of asking to go get some ice cream! (I could hardly ever say no!)
The best part of hosting was falling in love with this amazing little boy. Experiencing him learning to love hugs and being held, snuggling in close and giving kisses – all things that seemed new to him. Watching him play and bond with our girls. Seeing the utter joy on his face as he experienced not only the big fun stuff, but the everyday things like a bath, being tucked in, and eating a picnic lunch in the yard. Seeing him go from fear of the water to actually swimming! Seeing how well he compensated for his right arm disability. Was every moment fun and easy? Well, no. He did his share of testing the limits, and laughing when reprimanded. He turned out to be a sensitive boy, crying easily at small things and sometimes just shutting down. Those were the times when the lack of common language was the hardest. But as the weeks went by, I feel like we were starting to see wonderful progress with his trust of us, his bonding with us, and learning to live with the limits. Those sparks of progress gave us hope that this was a good fit, and that he was meant to be with our family.
To be honest, the hardest part of hosting is right now, afterwards. Watching him leave us at the airport was one of the hardest moments in our lives. He already felt like our son, and we were losing him. Now, to be separated so many months as we go through the adoption process, it is really hard. At times it feels cruel to both him and us. But I also know that we would NOT be adopting right now if we hadn’t hosted. I know that we wouldn’t have been brave enough to take on the unknowns of an older child without meeting him and feeling him melt into our family. What a gift he was to us. What joy we have in looking forward to the day when we will finally be reunited with him, this time forever!
Thank you to Yu Yu’s Host Family for allowing us to share their beautiful story. We can’t wait for them to bring their little Yu Yu home!