Our family has had the unique opportunity to experience FOUR miracles within the span of nearly 10 years. No one journey was better or worse than any of the others, but ALL were (and still are) unforgettable. With each story, we found that we had a progressively more complete history of our children’s lives, before they came to us. It’s just the way that things unfolded. We know the least about Kyle’s life, a bit more about Dylan’s, quite a bit more about Ashley’s, and the most about Ryan’s (at least his more recent history).
Thanks to all of the new ways to reach out and connect with other adoptive families, we were able to learn so much more than we’d imagined. Ryan’s medical records in his official profile, as incomplete as they were, helped us to understand what some of his challenges could be. As with our other children, we leaned on the experts (medical staff and International Adoption Team) at CHOP to make sure we moved ahead with our “eyes wide open”.
Then we started digging deeper…Lisa found and joined a FB Group (closed and curated) that was dedicated to Ryan’s SWI. Parents who had previously adopted children from Dongguan shared their stories and their photographs. These photos in turn, gave us and other pre-adoptive families a way to SEE our children in THEIR world – how they lived, how they interacted, who their friends seemed to be, and how they were getting on – as they waited for us, their forever families, to arrive. We meticulously inspected every photo and video, searching for Sheng-Sheng (as Ryan was know to some of his close friends).
We were able to connect directly with many families who knew of Ryan, or had seen him during their visits. The correspondence with these families was immediate and tremendously meaningful. Form these stories, there seemed such a sense of anticipation for the left-behind friends of the newly adopted. It was as if they would say goodbye to their friend for now and return to their normal routines, just waiting patiently for “their” chance to walk out with ‘their” new family. We’d like to say thanks to all of the families who helped us learn what more we could about Ryan. The impact this had for us was immense.
During our trip to Ryan we were elated to have the chance to actually visit the Dongguan SWI and to meet the staff. On our second trip to bring Dylan home, we were able to see the exterior of his orphanage. But Dylan’s situation was quite a bit different, since he was raised mostly in foster care and only returned to the orphanage for a brief stay just prior to his joining our family. Our other children’s pre-adoption lives have always been a difficult thing for us. As any adoptive parent will tell you, it breaks your heart to have to look at them through their tears and say “I don’t know…” Ryan’s story is so much different, in so many ways.
Since seeing the photos and reading the stories of other families made such a difference for us, WE were determined to take as many photos and videos of as many children and staff as we could during our short stay at Donguan SWI. We can only hope that we were able to provide some of the same insights for those that came after us.
We even had the remarkable good fortune to actually MEET Ryan, while he was here in the US during a host program. We met him on day #29 of his 30-day stay. You can read about it here.
That visit, and the insights we got into his personality and his challenges, was what sealed this for us. Thanks again to this family – you know who you are.
Every child experiences grief and loss in their transition to their forever families. The nature and intensity varies as does the time it takes to heal. The bonds of friendship that are forged during their early lives are critical to how they are able to adapt and cope with SWI life. These kids are amazingly perceptive, and have an incredible capacity for kindness. As nearly all are special needs, they have an understanding of each others’ challenges. They look out for each other.
When these bonds are broken, we can only imagine the sadness, the internal dialogue, the questioning that must occur. “I wonder where they’re going?” “Will I ever see them again?” “Does his new family know that he has trouble seeing?” “When will my family be coming to take me home?” This is one part of the adoption process that we still struggle with – ALL of these children deserve to find their homes. But not all do.
Getting to the point…Far Away but Still Connected
As adoptive families of these kiddos, in many cases, we have the tools and capabilities to re-connect some of these broken links, to re-establish these relationships, to help soften the loss. The threads of our childrens’ collective stories are woven together in ways we can’t easily unwind – and we shouldn’t try. If we have the means and capabilities, it’s my opinion that we have an obligation to reconnect these children. The children will benefit from the sense of security that comes with knowing that their friends are OK; we, as parents, will benefit from new friendships and the sharing of our stories and experiences. Every adoption story is unique, but every story also follows a familiar arc. We should take advantage of the chance we have.
Whether through the blind luck of timing and circumstance, or the hard work of digging into FB/blog posts and endless email chains, the fact is that we know where many of these children, these good friends, have landed. We know where their new lives are taking root. We were fortunate to have met some on our journey. If we hadn’t been at the Garden Hotel, and we hadn’t spent so much time at the pool (even in the rain!), we might not have connected. If we hadn’t joined that FB Group, or if we hadn’t spotted our little guy in their video, we might not have connected. How, is not important. It’s the connection that we have now that is.
This week is Chinese New Year, and Lisa suggested that we record short messages from Ryan to a handful of his close friends. The message was simple and Ryan did a great job. “Hi ____, Xin nian kuia le, I miss you.” (I’m saving the outtake reel for the future – when I may need it!!)
The message was simple – but the impact was all that we’d hoped. Our parent-friends passed along reports of great happiness, when the messages were played. We (Ryan especially) were excited beyond words when the return messages began to arrive. He made us move the videos to his iPad Mini so that he could have them to watch anytime.
I am happy to report that he IS, in fact, watching them. I was doing a small project upstairs today, while Ryan was downstairs – supposedly working on his Math Apps. Our foyer is open to the 2nd floor so I could easily hear what was happening downstairs. For the first 2 minutes, it was all Math, but for the next 28 minutes he (sensing that I was out of earshot) played each one of the return messages from his friends, over, and over, and over – laughing and sometimes even chatting back to the screen. It was priceless – I should have hopped off the ladder and tried to capture it myself. I’m sort of glad I didn’t – that might’ve spoiled the magic.
The tools to reach out are at our fingertips – we just need to commit to using them to reconnect. Let’s not let distance or distractions get in the way – they deserve it.
Just my $0.02.
Thanks for checking in…