For many months now, we’ve been waiting for our adoption process to go through here in Thailand. We pulled together our paperwork in record time according to our caseworker, and then we waited.
We waited for the home study.
We waited for the required class to be offered once a year with limited spots.
We waited on the waiting list.
We’re still waiting on the waiting list, which at times feels both infinite and imaginary.
And while waiting, we’ve had our share of setbacks, namely in that we are on our fifth caseworker in the process. There are only six or seven in Thailand, for the whole country to allow for adoption to both locals and expatriates, so…the task is daunting. The turn over is high.
Meanwhile, we wait.
“’Do you have any children yourself?’
He shakes his head. Looks out the window as you do if you don’t have any children, yet in spite of it all have a whole village full of children.”
I read this quote recently in Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman. It captures my life so well.
I can’t even begin to guess how many times we’ve been asked if we have children and why not. I couldn’t even count in how many languages this has been asked!
I know, there is a general path, and we’ve stepped off it. I know that in that sense, it’s a reasonable question to be asked regularly.
In other ways, I do the looking out the window so often. I am so often at a loss of how to answer a question so common.
I have a whole village of children, and yet none. The story is so long, and yet not even begun.
Last week during Playhouse, Stephen and I were on the porch with Thida, and two other moms who bake bread, while the kids played in and around the house. One of the little girls was trying on other kids’ shoes—a favorite activity for her!—and I was teasing her, Are those your shoes?
I used a more polite version of “you,” the one I commonly use with our neighbor friends to show respect to them, but a too formal for a little girl. I corrected myself with a more colloquial form, and then asked the mothers if that was correct.
They said no, I should call her daughter, and we should call all the kids daughter & son. I have been told this before—it’s quite common to use daughter, son, younger sister, younger brother, older brother, older sister, auntie, and uncle to call others according to their age in relation to yours. This is complicated for a few reasons: a) you are judging others age in relation to yours, in Asia, and I never know to guess high or low or if I’m accurate; and people can get offended if you call them older or younger than they are; b) this means that people’s names change depending on who is calling them, and that can just be very, very confusing for a second language learner trying to remember complicated names by the hundreds; c) lastly, it feels personal to a Western mind. It feels so personal; it feels invasive. Particularly with the kids, if we are the ones the kids come play with, we feed them breakfast, we give them gifts at Christmas, we know them in a very personal way for the culture; if the parents are offering them to us as own on a regular basis—we don’t want to step on toes. Calling them son or daughter, in cases where we don’t want to overstep our bounds, seems too close.
With all that background: back to Playhouse. I explained this to these ladies, all of whom we love and know so well, She isn’t my daughter—she’s yours! He isn’t my son—he’s your son! I feel shy to call them that.
To which one of the mom’s said, “But I am Sai Bo Bo’s first mother. I’m Mother 1. You are Mother 2! [My husband] is Father 1; Stephen is Father 2! For Win Mo, Pwe Pyu Hey Mother 1, and you are Mother 2. Yint Twe is Father 1, and Stephen is Father 2!”
Thida agreed, repeating the grammar lesson, “Yes! You should call all the children son and daughter. You are Mother 2 and Father 2 to all of them!” Then she looked into the house, to kids scattered everywhere over activities and games, “…Oh, mother and father to so many.”
Do we have any children ourselves?
No, not yet.
And yes: a house full, our hands full, and hearts fuller.