Two years ago today, our hearts stopped as a little bundle of yellow in the arms of a nanny proceeded down a dark tunnel into a stuffy government office in Zhengzhou, China. Two years goes by in a blink and it feels like this not-so-little-anymore precious boy has been a part of our family forever.
Some days cannot be described in words, only emotions. And Titus's "Family Day" (what we refer to as the day we first met him) had all the emotions, from him, from new big sister, and especially from us parents. If I had to wrap a word about this momentous day, it would be...bittersweet.
Bitter because he was been torn from all he knew, including the arms that first held him, the eyes that witnessed his first steps, the ones who knew his likes and dislikes. Including the place he recognized as home, with the familiar wooden crib that we later learned was taller than every other child's because he's Spider Man. Including the first language he had ever heard and the first foods he had ever eaten. Including his friends, the only "siblings" he had ever known, and his beloved playground at the orphanage where he probably spent many hours going down (and most likely UP) the slides. Did he know the night prior that his little predictable world would be completely turned upside down forever? For this, my mama's heart mourns today, with all its forever losses and heartbreak.
And yet, my heart can't help but also celebrate the sweetness of that day two years ago, along with every day since we got to kiss Titus's little cheeks for the first time. The sweetness that he's grown inches and gained weight and surpassed so many milestones just because he's eating healthy meals and getting specialized care. He's getting support for some challenges and it's truly a miracle to watch him flourish. His new best buddy and fellow adventure is his big sis, who is literally by his side every waking hour. Their bond has been inseparable from Day 1, when she first coaxed him out of his shell by kicking a ball with him in our hotel room. The highlights of his life now include snuggling his puppy, having sleepovers with his sister, riding his bike, swimming and jumping in a pool, climbing high at the park...and eating as much bacon and ice cream as he can! His infectious laugh and silly smile immerses our house every day, for which we are incredible grateful. He is able to fully write his name on his own and is getting the hang of his letters, as he's eager to learn just like big sis!
Year Two, in all honesty, has probably been more challenging in some ways than the first year Titus was home. Year one's struggles involved food, travel, language, and general routines. This year, with all the ups and downs of 2020, has been marked with times of behavioral challenges, most likely stemming from his life before us and him opening up more to us. Although this is a positive turn in our connection with him, we've also seen him test boundaries more. While trying to protect his story and not over-share, it's been mostly a year of learning for me how to best be his mama and give him the structure and support he needs to learn appropriate behaviors and thrive.
For example, last year Titus attended a little class once a week. I wasn't exactly sure how much to share with his teachers about his past and ended up saying something like, "He is a very active little boy who will test boundaries. Please let me know if he does not listen to you as we want to follow up at home with him." I would ask a general question every week at pick up ("Was he good?") and usually got sunny smiles and coos from his teacher about how cute he is. After a few months, blood-shot eyes met me at the door after class and I realized there were some major issues with his behaviors that had been going on for quite some time. Feeling frustrated that I somehow failed as his mom and didn't set his teachers up for success, I beat myself up about the situation. After some reflection, I realized I might need to educate his teachers a little more about our son, as well as ask them humbly to partner with us in helping him bloom in a classroom setting. This year, his teachers understand more of the why's behind his behaviors and we are focusing on one behavioral aspect at a time. We are now talking with Titus before and after class about a specific behavior expectation ("When it is circle time, you need to listen to your teachers and sit quietly in the circle.") and asking his teachers for specific feedback regarding this. So far, we are all feeling much more encouraged that we can work as a team to help Titus learn and grow!
So, is today a happy day around our house? Yes...and no. We had fun reminiscing at breakfast how big sister tried little brother's spicy snack a few moments after meeting him...and promptly spit that blazing hot dried shrimp right out! We went to the park and this mama watched in amazement as her growing boy scaled to the top of the rope labyrinth in seconds, shouting "I so fast, Mama!" We'll eat his favorite meal together tonight ("bu-fa-loo" chicken) and snuggle on the couch and look at pictures from two years ago in his lifebook. My mama's heart is a little extra contemplative today of all the joys and sorrows birthed from this day. His little head doesn't fully understand what today means and someday down the road this day might be full of tears and hard conversations. But for now, we're following his cues and just letting him know how thankful we are that God brought him into our family today and every day.
Two years of having Titus in our family feels like forever. We can't image what life was like before this adorable bundle of energy and love flooded into our hearts and home. However, we must acknowledge that he hasn't been with us forever. His two and a half years before us shaped him and will continue to shape him the rest of his life. But we can be thankful that we are so blessed to have him apart of our family for two whole years now and forevermore.