One of the things that I've really struggled with while writing this blog is how to remain respectful of cultural sensitivities and aware of various differences while still remaining honest to how it felt to experience those cultural differences. I DO respect the Chinese culture. Also, I AM AWARE of how very, very, very, very blessed I am to be an American with the advantages that we have. I am so impressed with my experience in China.
That being said...
... remember the sweet little girl in this picture ...
... because these kind people may never have a child
after the night that they spent with her.
It would seem that our sweet baby girl was also one spoiled Asian Princess.
(I hope that nothing that I write here leads you to think less of Lyric's foster mom in ANY WAY. She did a fantastic job in a very hard situation with a little girl who would only be in her life temporarily. She gave me a little girl who is developmentally right on target, who knows how to bond, who was very well loved, and it shows in so many ways. Truly, "spoiled" is such a SMALL to price to pay for every other good thing that we have received ... but "spoiled" does make for a fun story. ;p )
I was prepared for the developmentally delayed child, for the terrified child with trust issues, even for the child who became physically violent. (It’s true, we met an Italian couple there, in the hotel, whose new son was BITING the mom. She showed us her bite marks. When the mom tried to take him out of his stroller, he raked her down the face with his fingernails.)
What I was not prepared for was the spoiled little Princess. It was obvious that someone had repeatedly given our sweet little girl, pretty much whatever was in their power to give her. Whatever she wanted to do, or touch, or wherever she wanted to go, she very obviously expected to be able to do or touch or go. I am so glad to have had this child, now, when I've raised three other two-year-olds. Some of her behavior is insecurity, some of it is grief, some of it is just being two, but some of it is old fashioned, "GIVE ME MY WAY."
Just so you'll know that it's not just me, let me quote from this nifty book that I have. It's written by a lady who was born in Shanghai, emigrated to the States when she was 13, and spent most of her adult life in New York and Colorado. In 2004 she moved back to Shanghai with her American husband and their small son. She "gets it" from both sides.
"From neighbors to elderly ladies on the street, everyone in China seems obsessed with not letting a child cry. At meal time, they tell me, you shouldn't let him cry because crying will hurt his digestive system. Right after a meal, they tell me, you shouldn't let him cry because he'll throw up. Before sleep time, you shouldn't let him cry because he will have nightmares. As you can imagine, disciplining our children is very difficult in China, because the grandparents and nannies would rather give in to our children's unreasonable demands than let them cry."
-pg 186, 101 Stories for Foreigners to Understand Chinese People by Yi S. Ellis
So here's the story:
Glen and Jessica showed up in their own car to pick us up at the hotel. This was not business, he was not being paid to be our guide, this was a social dinner. We went to eat at the Science Museum, we were the only foreigners there and while there were other kids, it was pretty nice. I was excited to hang out and experience a little bit of China NOT on the tourist route.
I don't remember what set Lyric off but I was keenly aware of feeling like I had a neon sign above my head that said unkind things about me trying to mother this Chinese child. Finally, in an effort to calm her down, I stood up. At which point, I became the tall white woman, bouncing the unhappy Chinese child, STANDING in the back of the room. <sigh> Then, just to make it worse, I knocked over her high chair with a plate full of food on it. The sound echoed around the building, time stood still (probably not but it felt like it) and servers came from everywhere to try to clean it up. At that point I gave up and took her outside, it felt like the walk of shame as I tried to find the front door.
Lyric could screech in pitches so high that they haven't been heard since the days when Pterodactyls flew through the sky. (Seriously, Cal Dude nicknamed her "Lyric-a-saurus.") That off the charts scream was my first indication that any fit was gonna be a doozy and that it came from the "BUT I WANT IT!" section of her brain. (Her insecurity and grief crying sounded much more guttural). Honestly, when she'd start those fits, I'd try to give her what she wanted. (We had an unwritten pact with the other adoptive parents that no one's parenting skills were to be judged while in China. There, we were all in survival mode.)
But that evening, outside, in front of the restaurant, on the BUSY sidewalk, she wanted to bang on the glass right next to where people were trying to eat in the restaurant. She wanted to play with the motorbikes, parked out front. She wanted to walk into oncoming, swiftly moving, foot traffic (including motorbikes and bicycles.)
No. No. No.
Heh Heh Heh Oh, Mom.
She wasn't going to take no for an answer.
So, to make a long story, short-er:
I was standing out in front, literally standing out, of this nice restaurant, in downtown Nanning. I was the only WHITE (you've seen the pictures, I glow in the dark :) ) woman that I'd seen all evening.
To make it worse I was the WHITE woman standing out ... with the Chinese child.
But then, to make that even worse, I was the WHITE woman standing out, with the Chinese child...who screamed into the stratosphere every time I touched her, who kicked her legs and threw her body toward the ground, who "cussed" me in loud Hepu baby talk, who took her little fingers and tried to dig them under my arms to make me let her go. (At one point I had her in that upside-down-over-my-shoulder-behind-my head maneuver, in a vain effort to startle her into silence. Did not work.)
All of this, in a culture that does not allow their babies to cry.
Over and over: I'd put her down, she'd giggle and cutely head straight to whatever mischief I'd already said "no" about, I'd pick her up, all hell would break loose.
In the words of infamous texters, the world over: OMG!
In K-Man's defense, he did come outside to check on me but I sent him back inside, "Talk, eat, we're in China! Don't worry about me."
<points to self> Nice little martyr.
Every woman in Nanning is still talking about the fits that she threw on the sidewalk outside that restaurant. I was honestly thinking, I just know this is gonna end up on YouTube. hahahaha
One woman approached us and said, “Ni Hao.” Right as I answered back, I thought, Crap! She's gonna think I speak the language. Yep, she started babbling away in Mandarin. Of course, I understood nothing of what she said but I couldn't concentrate anyway because Lyric, who was momentarily distracted by our new "friend," had started rolling around in my arms and I knew what was coming next. I managed to finally remember and spit out “Ling Yong.” The lady smiled and repeated it to her husband who smiled- yes, everyone is happy, happy.
Then Lyric let out a shriek that is STILL bouncing around the clouds, began to flail in my arms and proceeded to announce to the world how just unhappy she was.
The woman started fussing at me. I did not understand a word she said but I got the gist. All I could do was smile sweetly and say, “I don’t understand.” I wanted to say, “ You want this kid to be quiet? Really? You and me both, lady.” Hahahaha She finally walked off.
After another 30 minutes K-Man, and Glen and his wife came out. I put Lyric down and she proceeded to dance happily (see how cute I am?) and they laughed. Glen squatted down on the ground and tried to hold her, she immediately fussed at him and jerked her arm away. He laughed and said, "She’s like a BMW, we call them 'Don’t Touch,' here. She’s 'don’t touch.' "
OMG, my baby's a BMW! <giggle>
All I could do was apologize. For what, I wasn't sure but I had to say something. ;p
I can NOT wait to tell Lyric that she was so spoiled rotten when we first got her that I had to take her out of a restaurant and that she then turned every woman in Nanning against me. :)