Monday, November 23, 2009

A Daughter from China Ponders the Question: "Where Were You Born?"

My daughter's innocence recedes with each passing day. 

It seems only a short while ago she and I were riding about town in the family wagon, talking about the trip we would someday take to China.  At the thought of it, she'd thrown up her arms and burst out:

"Everyone will be there to greet me!"  

She is, most certainly, surrounded with love and affirmation in our protected little pocket of life here in the U.S.  So it wasn't totally surprising she'd developed a rather optimistic view both of life, and herself.  But though I loved the ebullience of her outlook and her expectations, I knew too her view of China had become a bit... inflated.

This is no longer the case, in part, because I have worked to help her develop a more balanced, more complete view, not only of our country, but of her birth country.  Certainly, no place is perfect.  After confronting the hard facts of her abandonment last spring and grieving her losses, she knows this.  But she appears to have weathered the worst of it -- and come out the other side.  The result?  My nine year old has developed a sense of humor tinged with irony.

Driving home together from school last Thursday, she mentioned one of her friends had been born at a local, neighborhood hospital.  The topic had come up at school and friends had launched into a full discussion of who was born at which hospital.  Inevitably, the question was posed to my daughter.  As I drove the last few blocks to our house, she relayed the ensuing exchange in a punchy, sassy tone with an implied sub-text:  Were y'all raised in a barn? Don't you know families struggled in China?

"They asked me which hospital I was born at, Mom.  I said, 'What do you mean which hospital?!  Where was I born?  I don't know!  I probably wasn't born in a hospital.  I was probably born... on the floor!'"

Her timing was so keen, her phrasing so pithy, I burst out laughing. 

I meant to follow-up and check in with her, but we pulled in front of the house and groceries, dinner, the dog, the demands of homework, and the flow of a busy weeknight evening carried us straight through to bedtime.  Of course, as with most unfinished business, it all came back to me the next morning -- at 2am.  The conversation echoed in my brain and I wondered if I'd missed my cue and been hugely insensitive, if this was something eating at her self-esteem.  I made a mental note to check in with her in a quiet moment the next day, when we could sit face to face, when I could see her expression.

"Remember the conversation you shared with me about your friends, about where you were born?" I ask.  "Were you upset about this?  Was it bothering you?" I pause, then wince a little, "Should I not have laughed?"

She looks straight at me and an enormous grin spreads over her face. 

"I was joking Mom." 

She was having fun with them.  She was having fun with me. 

It's patently clear she's in command of her story and how she will frame it.

1 comment:

Billy said...

That is so lovely :-).