Sunday, November 22, 2015

Three Months: Nature or Nurture?


Sometimes I gaze at my kids and look for their birthparents.  Did her mother have those shoulder dimples?  Did his father have that build?  What parts of their personalities did they leave behind in their children?  

I often marvel at the tragedy and privilege of being mom to children I did not birth.  I know they are mine, but I forget sometimes that my imprint is just as strong as their genes.

It's easier to see in Johnny, who came to us as an almost-four-year-old.  It's fascinating to watch the process of who he is becoming.  I used to think that it was we who were getting to know him.  But really, it is us watching him Become.

He is becoming a brother, more specifically, a little brother.  Josiah and Johnny are figuring each other out, and they do it by rolling around the house, pulling and shouting and roaring and chasing and tickling.  Mommy, I love having a little brother!  Mommy, can Johnny cuddle with me while we pray?  And my heart sings that they have each other, even while I holler, No wrestling in the kitchen while I'm cooking!

He is becoming a mother's son.  He's not much into cuddling anymore; he's too busy for that.  Except at bedtime, when he pulls my face down to his and holds it there with an iron grip.  The whining comes out for Mommy.  The weepiness comes out for Mommy.  Mommy is the food person and the get-your-needs-met person.

He is becoming a father's son.  Daddy is the fun one;  Daddy is the wrestler and the game-player and the one you can hit in the stomach.  But Daddy is also the boss, and much to Mommy's frustration (since I discipline the exact same way as Daddy), one word from Daddy and Johnny pays attention.  He says Boo Yah! when something exciting happens, just like Dad.  I say to him, You are My Johnny!  And he says, No, I'm Daddy's Johnny.  Until I tickle him and he says he is mine too.  But I know my place.

He is becoming part of a community.  He roams the HOPAC campus at ease; he runs to "Aunt Alyssa" and he knows the names of Grace's friends on her soccer team.  His world has opened to hundreds of friendly people, and in return he displays the often unhealthy gregariousness that accompanies children out of orphanages.  But it's okay; we will help him figure it out.

He's learned to buckle his seatbelt by himself and sit in the cart at the grocery store.  He eats hot dogs and broccoli (though we're still fighting over eggs...I no like eggs!).  He is great at saying Shikamoo to Tanzanians and giving high-fives to English-speaking people.  He sings "Watch Me Whip" and "How Great is Our God"....sometimes in a remarkable mash-up.

He is becoming someone he was not three months ago.  Sometimes I still catch him staring, wide-eyed, at something he's never seen before.  It's like I can just see the brain cells rewiring as he processes his new life.

That fascinating mixture of nature and nurture is even more beautifully mysterious in adoption.  My children are who they are because they are mine.  We are inextricably linked.  And if God is sovereign, and this was His plan from the beginning, then this Becoming is not a mistake, not second best.  It is, to be cliche, destiny.  This is who my children were meant to be.

I'll still be looking for their birthparents in my children's smiles, expressions, and abilities.  But actually, all those things are so intertwined with Gil and me that it becomes harder and harder to know the difference.


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