On December 29, 2008, Candy and I showed up at the Transition House in Addis along with two other couples. All of us were anxious to meet the children we were adopting. Our hosts came out and invited the first couple in. And then the second. And then it was our turn and we were told "Hailemariam is napping."
For a deflating two hours we mingled with the other children at the orphanage and took pictures on behalf of other waiting parents. We would stick our heads in the room of the sleeping 2-year-olds and hope that Hailemariam had awakened. We waited and waited, and final, his beautiful eyes were opened. And I (Rob) picked him up.
Now, I am an adoption "veteran." I know that on the first meeting of adoptive parents and children the Disney music is NOT playing in the background. Hailemariam was emotionally attached to the wonderful caregivers at the transition house. In his world, he knew who was supposed to be there lifting him out of the crib, and it wasn't (1) a man who (2) spoke a language he'd never heard. My son started crying and had to be taken by his primary caregiver.
I, the adoption vet, felt terrible. I was tired from jet-lag and totally depressed. I tried to put on a brave face, but I was bummed. My wife wisely played off the tenderness of the woman at the Transition House who absolutely loved Hailemariam. Watching her, learning from her, Candy began bonding with our boy that very day. I moped around on the margins.
The next day, we went back to the TH and ("gotcha!") took Henry (Hailemariam's new name) with us. It didn't take long for me to get over that initial disappointment. Nor did it take time for Henry to figure out that I am not a bad guy.
The first 7-9 months of 2009 (after adjustment for time periods), Henry routinely awoke any time between 4AM and 5AM. When he got up, I would bundle him up and we'd walk - anywhere from 2-4 miles. It was great exercise for me save for the fact that I never got used to getting up that early. After school started (for our older son, Henry went to nursery school) we tried to get Henry to stay in his room until 5:15, and then 5:30, and then 5:45. For us a major treat is when the boy actually stays asleep until 6 or 6:15. But, as tired as I was, those early mornings yielded beautiful bonding between Father and Son.
Now, Henry is my bud and whenever I am not home he constantly calls for "Daddy." Conversely whenever Candy is out of sight, he wants "Mommy." When she went on mission trip in early December and was separated from us for a week, Henry greeted her return with his own return to waking up at 4:30 AM (and sometimes before 4). So, it feels like we are three steps forward, two back. I guess that's parenting.
Henry has infected our family with affection and happiness. I like to think we were happy and affectionate before, but Henry has raised it to whole other level. He illumines the fog we are in when we have to get up in the predawn darkness with him by dancing, singing, and joying us into the day. As tired as I am some mornings, I can't be too crabby because he is so happy. His dark eyes are fountains of happy excitement and pleasant impishness that lighten the entire room and all who meet him. The smile that accompanies those eyes is contagious and now as Henry is learning to speak, his successes and failures alike delight us.
The early wake-ups aside, Henry's arrival has been an infusion of spring. His fit into our family is so natural, it couldn't be any better. The past year has been dramatic, tiring, fulfilling, and a daily blessing for which we thank God.
- Rob and Candy