We have been doing our best to prepare ourselves and our home for bringing a toddler into our lives. One way we can do that is to imagine what she is feeling and thinking. This is an exercise we did during our classes to prepare for parenting. For us, we know, the day Mackenzie joins our family will be an amazing one, full of joy, for us. But for her, it will be the most intense grief she may ever feel. She will lose everything she knows. She is old enough to be terrified, but not old enough to understand why. So come with me on a journey..
This is what I imagine adoption will be like through Mackenzie’s eyes:
Imagine with me that you are two years old. You live, and have always lived in an orphanage in China. There are many children living with you, and you have never been alone for a moment, and your nannies are nice to you, but they come and go regularly, and are always busy with the many children you live with, so you have learned that your needs are not so important. There are not many toys at the orphanage home you live in, and they are all shared between the many children you live with. Your food is usually the same every day, as is your routine. You sometimes, on nice days, get to go outside and play on the orphanage grounds. You are washed and kept clean, but you have never taken a bath. You are content with your life, it is all you know.
One day, one of your nannies comes and picks you up, and cleans you extra well, and puts you in nice clothes. Next, you go out of your orphanage home with all of the children you know, and you go into a big scary thing with wheels. You are quite scared, but you know it will be ok, because your nanny is with you. You arrive somewhere you have never seen, and there are many big people, big people who look very strange, are very white, and they do not know how to talk. You can’t understand anything they are saying, and they are smiling and talking gibberish at you.
The next thing you know, your trusted nanny is handing you to a big scary white lady, and she is picking you up, and talking nonsense words to you. You are getting so scared, and you reach back for your nanny, but she is leaving! Leaving you with the scary white people! You start to panic, and you don’t know what to do. You have to fight, and get away from them, you have to do everything you can to get these scary people to give you back to your nanny!
The scary people take you to another place, and you are alone with them. They bring out all sorts of bright things, some are like toys you have seen at your orphanage home, and some you have never seen, and they make noise. You think these might be fun, so you push a button. The scary people go crazy. They clap and laugh, and they stare and stare at you.
After a little while you are scooped up and put into water. You are so scared! It is warm, and scary, and you don’t like it at all. You start to scream and try to get away, while the scary people put strange smelling stuff on you, and rub you with rags.
When they finally get you out, you are wrapped in a towel, and then you get put into some warm clothes, which you decide is not bad, and you are glad you are still alive, so you stop screaming.
Pretty soon, the scary people turn off the lights, and put you in a bed like the one at your orphanage home. It is so dark, and so very quiet. You have never felt so much quiet, and so much darkness. You feel alone, and you start to feel very very scared again. When the scary people hear you cry, they come and get you, and hold you, and put you in a big bed to lay with them, but you don’t know it is a bed, because it it so different to you. The scary people talk in very soft voices and sing strange songs you don’t understand, but it helps you to feel a little bit less scared, and you are so tired, so you close your eyes and go to sleep.
When you wake up, you forget where you are! You forgot about the scary people! They scoop you up, and put you in different clothes, then they start feeding you, but this is such strange food! You have never seen anything like it, and it smells different. You put one in your mouth, and then you spit it out. They hand you another, and you try it. It is not so bad, you decide, so you grab another, and then you grab a handful! The scary lady looks upset, and you start to get worried that she might take your food away, and you scream at the scary people to stay away from your food.
The scary people take you outside of this place, and it is nothing like the outside of your orphanage home. It is loud and scary, and big things with wheels are everywhere. But you see people who look like you, and they are smiling at you, and smiling at the scary people. The scary people take care of you all day, and all the next day, and the days after that.. You always have enough to eat, and they play with you, and give you lots of attention.
After a while, you start to think the scary people might not be very scary after all. You are still very sad, but sometimes, you feel a little bit happy.
One day, the people take you to a loud, frightening place, put you in a seat, and tie you in. You feel like you should run, but you are so scared! The people say things to you that you can’t understand, and you are getting frustrated that you don’t understand them. Your seat starts to shake, and your hear loud rumbly noises, and you start to cry, but the man holds your hand, and talks to you, and smiles, and you start to feel a little bit better. FINALLY, the shaking stops, and you are allowed to get up, but when the people take you out of the loud shaky place, all you see are big scary white people EVERYWHERE! You cling to your people, and they take you out of there to a different, quiet place. It smells funny, and looks strange, and you don’t think you like it. They are smiling, and they look happy, but you don’t know what they are saying.
Days and days go by with the people, and you start to think that maybe the people are not scary people after all, but people that you are thinking you could like. You are starting to understand some of their words, and you like the bath now. You have many toys to play with, and plenty of food, and you kind of like it here. Now you are sometimes afraid that they will send you back, and so you try to always make sure you can see the people and that you stay close to them. The strange lady and the strange man are always kind to you, and now you are beginning to learn their names…mommy and daddy. You like those names, and you have decided you might like to stay for a bit longer…