Well before Donny and I gained the privilege of raising children not genetically connected to us, we mastered the art of appreciating each of our children’s distinctiveness.
Molly, Seth, Lee, and Lily were unpredictable, inimitable, brimming with surprises, full of secrets waiting to be unpacked. We learned that children do not look just like their parents, nor act just like them, nor share all their tastes BEFORE we brought home children of whom it was not to be expected that they would look like us, act like us, or share all our propensities. Every one of our nine has the capacity to startle and amaze, producing a gift, a knack, an opinion beyond anything Donny or I possess. Watching the children reveal their inner selves has been one of the best parts of parenthood.
In October 1999, the week Jesse arrived in America, he and I took a walk up the sidewalk of a nearby hill. A huge city bus whooshed by us with a windy dust-stirring roar, blowing back our jackets and hair. A moment later it seemed a second city bus blew by us. But it was Jesse, age four-and-a-half, who had unerringly imitated the noises made by the first bus. He didn’t speak a word of English and he had remarkably few words of Bulgarian; but he mimicked the bus perfectly.
A few days later, I glimpsed our elderly next-door neighbors excitedly leaning over their bedroom balcony, peering towards the wood through binoculars. “What’s up?” I called.
“There’s been a solitary Great Blue Heron in the woods all week!” they cried. “But now we hear a second one!”
From high in the woods there came the dry crazy squawk. A moment later, a second dry crazy squawk was heard from my backyard. I wandered down the steps and found Jesse, sweetly seated on the rope swing, facing the woods, and screeching his reply.
“Isn’t is so different to raise children by adoption?” everyone asks us.
The truest answer is: not really. The children we adopted have been no more and no less surprising to us than the children to whom we gave birth; they’ve ALL been remarkably surprising.