“What questions do you have?” the social worker asked us through a translator.
We’ve Got Questions.
Like a MILLION.
Just as we got to the top of those 85 steps and walked through the door, we were quickly ushered into the kitchen. The children were sent to the living room to watch a cartoon and wait. It’s important to note the children had been made aware of our family about a month before our arrival. Once we had official approval to adopt the children, the kids were informed they were being adopted and their new “mama i tata” were coming to visit. So we were not the only one’s who had been waiting…..and now, 10 feet away, we waited a little longer.
The short, thirty minute meeting with the foster mom, social worker, and our agency host, Grace, was actually very helpful. The foster mom told as much about the children. We learned some of their likes, dislikes, how they interacted, behavior, traits, nicknames, and more. She shared with us what she knew about their past, as did the social worker, and encouraged us with how wonderful these kids really, truly are. Then we were given a chance to ask our questions. I think Amy had filled out six or seven notebook pages of questions the previous night, so we were armed and ready! There was much to discover.
What is their nighttime routine?
What helps calm them?
Do they have a favorite toy? Will it be coming with them?
What do they love that must stay behind when we return?
How do they feel about being adopted?
What kind of contact do they have with their biological family?
How will they feel about new, Americanized names?
Are they excited? Anxious? Dreading this?
How much do they know about us? This process? That we’re leaving in a few days?
On and on and on…..things any parent would naturally know about their children, but about which we were completely in the dark. We barely had any medical information and nothing on their social/family background.
After about fifteen minutes of our questions, it occurred to all these smart adults, there were four children in the next room very nervous and anxious to meet their new mom and dad. We adjourned the meeting with a promise to answer further questions later. Right now, it was finally time to meet the children.
Our hearts skipped a beat.
I mean you must understand until this moment, these children only existed in a picture (ONE PICTURE!) and three very short videos. We have been working hard to bring these children home for nearly a year going on nothing but a sense of Divine providence and a picture. But now we were moments and steps away from meeting them for the very first time. This is how I felt just before Chloe, our oldest, was born. That moment, when you meet your first-born for the first time, is amazing. The wonder and awe one feels for God and His creative power is unmatched. The moment when Chloe was born (and all my children, but there’s just something about the fist time) I was overwhelmed with the power and presence of God. Just unfathomable unless you’ve lived it.
This moment was not unlike that moment.
We had only “given birth” to these children in our hearts. Yet the same feeling of amazement, Godly power and providence, and ultimately joy overwhelmed me. I honestly thought, leading up to this moment, I would sob like a baby. All the pent-up emotions finally being released. Amy and I were surprised when what overwhelmed us was pure joy. Joy unspeakable. And full of glory because these children, my children, were made in the image of God. The same image into which my biological children were made. This IS that moment. It’s actually now, as I reflect on this moment, the tears come.
They were shy and nervous. I am not a small man. I was afraid I may even be a little
scary. I had decided before we left I would get on my knees to be at their level, so I immediately dropped to my knees. An appropriate response when confronted with the miraculous. They introduced themselves and told us how old they were. The two littles were clinging to the foster mom for safety while the two older were rather stoic and reserved. We asked them questions and gave them the small gifts we had brought them; a teddy bear – we bought one for all eight kiddos, and the family picture books we had made for each of them. I can’t show you the whole book, but this picture is our page. There is a page for each of our biological kids naming them sisters and brothers, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and finally, Charlie the dog. Our agency recommends these books so the children can familiarize themselves with the people they will likely meet first when they come home. You can check them out here. We walked each of the kids through their book (one specific for each child), introducing them to the family which would love them for the rest of their life.
They started to relax just a little. The children wanted to show us their rooms, where they slept, and some of their things. Now, I am a pretty big kid at heart and love to wrestle and have fun with my children. The kids had bunk beds so to break the ice I started picking them up and “flying” them high landing on the top bunk. They started to giggle, play with us, and let down their guard…..well…..all but the oldest. She was still keeping her distance, unsure of what to think about all of this.
After the “flying” got boring (more likely, daddy got tired!) we decided to walk to a nearby playground. The kids were already starting to call us “mama” and “tata” which is Polish for “daddy” (you can’t make this stuff up!). We played on the playground for about an hour and took some great pictures. The younger two girls were very interactive with us and I was just seeing a glimpse of it our older two. I would say on the playground is where I began to bond with my new eight year old daughter and six-year-old son.
The children needed to go in for lunch and the littles were going to take a nap so we decided to take their advice and head back to our hotel for a nap of our own. We had lunch with Grace and cautiously asked her how she thought things were going. She is WELL KNOWN for her honestly and FAMOUS (at least around Children’s House International Poland program) for being full of awesomeness. She did not disappoint. I kept telling her the whole time how grateful we were for her and we really couldn’t do it without her – all of which is true. But, see, Grace loves Jesus. Deeply. it’s not just we couldn’t do it without her, but that we wouldn’t want to do this with anyone else. She was and is incredible. We are glad to have her as an adoption liaison, but mostly as our friend.
Oh, and she felt like things were going very well!
We trudged back up the 85 steps to pick the children up and take them to a nearby mall which had an indoor play place. because the cars in Europe are so small, we had to make two trips. So I took the oldest and youngest and went in the first batch. Picture that. Jeff…..a giant American sitting in a mall with his two daughters HE HAS JUST MET FOUR HOURS EARLIER and who speak no English….for 45 minutes….alone.
I saw a frozen yogurt shop and, thanks to my friend Tim Enloe, knew the Polish word for “ice cream.” We figured it out and the girls enjoyed a small cup of delicious strawberry yogurt, one with chocolate topping and one with sour candy. Our oldest had ordered the sour but the youngest wanted that. I was so proud to get a glimpse of our daughter’s character when she preferred her little sister over herself and traded ice cream. It was so sweet.
Then the unthinkable happened……we had to visit the restroom.
So here I am, in the family restroom with a three-year old and eight year old daughters I’ve known for four hours, knowing no English, all by myself. Thankfully, we all survived….but let me just tell you, it was a little awkward. First time things often are.
The other group arrived shortly after. We played and had a great time in the playground.
When it was time to go home, we reversed the order and I stayed now with the middle son and the other daughter. The exact same scenario as before, and it happened almost the exact same way, bathroom visit and all. But we survived. We made it! We met our kids, hugged their necks, kissed their faces, with a language barrier, with some apprehension, with some awkward bathroom breaks……but with an enormous amount of love. They felt it. We all did.
I really believe we began to bond that afternoon. Lots of people will question how that could happen so soon, but I’m certain it did. It was an amazing “birth” day. Not with pushing and well….you know (thank God for epidurals!). But with the same wonder and awe at what the Father had done…and I wouldn’t have it any other way.