100 days ago we arrived in San Diego as a family of four.
I’ve written a list of ten things that I want you to know about your first 100 days in America.
1. Your speech is really coming along. You have the following English words down pat: Up, please, thank you, excuse me, I love you, mommy, daddy, Lucy, car, bus, chop choo, book, cereal, yogurt, banana, more, again, ball, Elmo, here you go, one two three, night night, bye bye, hello, pizza, jump, eyes, nose, cheeks, pee pee, yay, shoe, uh oh, oops, help, and baby. You also spice things up by maintaining some of your French: boi, l’eau (for every drink), chaud, chapeau, bain, deux, encore, and Lingala: yaka awa, and probably other things. You are so bright.
2. You love to figure out how things work. Today, Grandma Joan said “You’re going to have to put him in engineering school. He’s amazing!” as you were taking apart something while she sat next to you on a bench in the backyard. You have nimble little fingers that can unscrew bottle caps (and screws on toys) and you are always taking things apart to see how they work. Papa Norman loves to have you over in the backyard–he always says “Gideon is so smart! How does he do that?” He is so proud of you. We are too.
3. You have lots of favorite foods. Cereal is probably your number one. But squeezable yogurt is definitely a contender, too (We’re going through 4/day at this point, with no signs of slowing down). You like Thai fried rice, and bananas (though not as much as you used to). You like chicken drumsticks, pasta, chicken pot pie, french fries, avocados (a new development), Ritz crackers, beef jerky, milk, Black bean chips from Trader Joes, soda/juice (you’re not allowed to drink soda, but you were in Congo), mac and cheese, eggs, pizza.
4. You like to read a lot of books before bed. That’s also a fairly recent development that mom and I are excited about. Your favorites right now are a Thomas Goes to Sleep Thomas the Train book, a Boys Potty Book, and the books that have flaps that you uncover (Baby Playtime, Bathtime, etc). You have a soft spot for the finger puppet books, too. Lately, you’ve been enjoying the French books that mama can read to you (C’set Petite Moi, and a French Dictionary, plus a few from the library). You often ask to read the same book two or three times in a sitting, and you have little traditions in the book. In the Thomas book, we count the circles on the first page and say “bye bye Thomas” when he leaves the station and point at the owl on the third page and say “night night” on the last page every single time.
5. You love going to music class with mom. From the first time that we went, you loved the clean up time the best. You love the routine of putting things (drums, maracas, etc) away and of distributing them to your classmates. You’re sort of the star of the class, at this point. The teacher loves you.
6. You are BUSY. You move all the time, running from place to place, leading with your head, falling towards the finish line of whatever goal that you are pursuing. Right now, one of your favorite things to do is to stand on something high (the arm of the couch, your bed, the ottoman. You make eye contact with me or mom, and then just collapse onto whatever the soft thing below is without catching yourself with your arms at all. You are so proud when you bounce up and see that we were watching you. I love your headlong energy.
7. You love your sister. Wherever she goes, you follow. You repeat what she says and copy whatever she does, all the while looking at her for approval. She loves you, too. This week, she cried several times because she is in Seattle while you stayed here with me. Two weeks ago, at the zoo, older kids tried to jump in front of you in line for the slide, and Lucy yelled at them to wait their turn and then held your hand and helped you up the stairs. I hope that you two are lifelong friends.
8. I am scared for you. These first 100 days have been marked by lots of unrest, especially along racial lines, in your new country. I think often of the Ta-nehisi Coates’ line from Between the World and Me: “Black people love their children with a kind of obsession. You are all we have, and you come to us endangered.” I don’t pretend to identify with all of that quote, but since Tamir Rice and Trayvon Martin, and especially since meeting you, I am conscious that you are endangered. Most nights, as you sleep, I place my hand on your head and pray the benediction from Numbers 6 over you. “May the Lord bless you and keep you. May He make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you. May He turn his face to you and give you peace.” I pray especially for the “bless you and keep you” and for the peace.
9. You are a ridiculous flirt. In the grocery store, you make eyes at everyone. You know that you’re cute and, as long as me or your mom is holding you or very close, you like to play it up. You shout “Bye Bye” to the cashier and seem to listen to them say “Isn’t he the cutest?” as we walk away. You like to lower your chin and stare down me and momma flirtatiously, daring us not to kiss your cheeks. You love to kiss your family. Today, Papa Norman’s face was angled to the side, so at first you kissed his cheek. But then you grabbed on to his cheeks with both hands and forcefully turned his head so you could kiss him right on the lips.
10. You are so loved. Your family has embraced you so quickly and completely that I don’t think you know what has hit you. Amy and I are in awe of how well that you are adjusting to extended family life. Your cousin Caden, age 7, was the first person other than me or mama to hold you. You love him and your other cousins. This adoption journey has been the hardest thing that your mom and I have ever done. But we are so grateful that we get to be your parents. We waited so long for you, my son. We would start over again tomorrow. You are so loved.