China adoption diary: Homeward where yours versus mine becomes ours

Part 14 – China adoption diary: Homeward bound, Mom contemplates how parenting angst has turned slowly but surely to expectation for a future as an interracial, multi-lingual family in America.

Courtesy of the Belsie family
Laurent and Madeleine Bao Yi Belsie enjoy their last day in Guangzhou before they pack their bags and prepare for their flight back to the US as a new family.
Rich Clabaugh/Staff
Rich Clabaugh/Staff

Part 14 of Gretchen Belsie’s account of her trip with husband Laurent and their first adopted Chinese daughter – 10-year-old Grace – as they head to meet and bring home 7-year-old Madeleine Bao Yi. This is the final daily update in the China adoption series, but Gretchen will continue to provide occasional updates on the Belsie family for Modern Parenthood.

Once I’m done here, Laurent will unplug the computer and pack it in the suitcase so we’ll be ready to head out early in the morning for the Hong Kong airport.

It’s always hard for me to wrap up a trip, to say goodbye to friends, to close a chapter.

Living in five-star hotels for two weeks doesn’t replicate real life, but it’s sort of fun. Grace is sad to leave the Garden Hotel, though inveterate hospitality sample collector that she is, she’ll have enough shampoo squirreled away to make it to at least Columbus Day. Laurent will miss the respite from work. I know Madeleine Bao Yi will miss the breakfast buffet with all its choices. We’ll be scaling down the options to two items instead of half a dozen. I’ll miss seeing all the international families with Chinese children sitting in the “adoption gulag” section of the breakfast room.

I’ll also miss the camaraderie of fellow adopters, some of whom encounter more cross-cultural snags than the rest of us. It was only late yesterday that one family realized they would have to give back the stroller loaned to them from the hotel concierge and that they needed to buy something for the trip home. The father asked the concierge where he might find one in the stores around the hotel. He was given a piece of paper with Chinese characters on it and assumed that the words said “stroller.” He proceeded to the Trust-Mart and showed the paper to various clerks who, in turn, smiled, shook their heads “yes” and pointed to the floor.

After several such interactions, he came back to the hotel, sans stroller. Later on, when he asked Simon what the paper said, and  Simon smiled and responded, “Why, it says ‘Trust-Mart.’”

I suggested he try Gucci or Fendi, but my advice fell on deaf ears.       

For me, today was all about introspection. While the other three went down to the pool twice for a refreshing swim, I was busy packing things up, double checking all our documents, and reflecting on what the last two weeks had meant to me – and to us as a family. I really didn’t mind the solitude. It seemed important to examine this period of great change and see what I could see.

There had been a bumpy patch this morning when a minor turf war broke out over a pair of Mary Janes from Payless. Even though they now pinch a bit, Grace felt the shoes were hers. Period. Bao Yi, on the other hand, liked the look – especially when paired with oversized white socks that leave the heel part way up on the ankle and puffed out slightly.

Laurent used cool male logic to reason with Grace but it didn’t wash. I could tell she was bewildered and felt apprehensive about boundaries and limits with her sister. What it all boiled down to was the notion of possession.

After they all left for the pool, I felt a momentary sense of panic. With the language barrier among us, it would take some time for the basics of fair play and sharing to be clearly stated and understood. Then there was the unknown variable from Bao Yi’s past experience. Had she been deprived? Could she learn to adjust to the American standard of “more than enough”?

How would we be able to help our daughters bridge this gap?

In that brief moment, the thought came to me “What have we done?” And right on its heels came the response “What have we done!” It’s all about the punctuation. Parenting angst turned slowly but surely to expectation for our future as an interracial, multi-lingual family. Certainly there will be bumps along the road we’ll travel, but the views may well be spectacular.

So starting tomorrow morning at 5 a.m., as we get Grace and Bao Yi ready for the long journey home, we’ll have a fresh opportunity to address the question of “yours” versus “mine.”

The answer is right in front of us: From here on out, let’s think in terms of “ours.” 

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Unlimited digital access $11/month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.