Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Becoming Daddy - a sad farewell to Ababa

Two weeks ago the United States of America legally recognized Yikealo as my son during a very brief court hearing.

In a much more gradual process I've recently become a daddy. While this may sound surprising to some (what? you adopted in June!), I'm referring to the manner in which Yikealo addresses me. My son is slowly losing his Amharic and, for me, the toughest word to see drop from his vernacular is "Ababa" - Daddy in Amharic.

In all candor, I had looked forward to this word being something special between the two of us; it designates Yikealo's unique cultural heritage, stands separate from other son-father forms of address, and even has a linguistic relationship to the term Christ used to address his own Father (Abba). Sadly, it is not to be. Ababa has gone the way of so many other Amharic words that Yikealo is losing. He still understands the word, but nearly always prefers to use "daddy".

I understand the change; all of Yikealo's cousins have a "daddy". All of the children at church have a "daddy". This is the term he constantly hears in reference to male parents, and he has accordingly hung the title on me. Don't get me wrong, I like "daddy"; who wouldn't? It's just that I had hopes of "Ababa" being our special word.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas Through a Child's Eyes

A few weeks ago, we went to Bluffton, Indiana for the Loving Shepherd Ministries benefit concert. Six different singing groups performed, and it was a very moving evening, but the song that really touched my heart this year was a medley of "O Come Little Children" and "Christmas Through the Eyes of a Child" sung by a mother and daughter duet. It wasn't the typical type of song that makes me cry, but sure enough, there I was with tears streaming down my cheeks as the lyrics described the childlike faith and wonder of the youngest among us. I couldn't help but to be overwhelmed and thankful at the thought of our first Christmas with the beautiful little boy who has completely stolen our hearts, and to praise God for His goodness and mercy in bringing him to our home - in spite of our own selfish desires. Of course, Mihiret was on my mind too. What would she give to witness the joy that our mutual son feels over new experiences? Yikealo saw me crying, got down off of his cousin's lap, came over to me with a worried expression and asked, "Mama, you sad?" I told him that I was crying because I was happy, which made him look totally confused, but he fished a tissue out of my purse and tried to wipe the tears away. Awww!

It IS wonderful to experience this holiday season through Yikealo's eyes, and it's so exciting to watch my son trying to process the whole concept of Christmas, and yet it makes me realize how much of a responsibility I have too. Yikealo is 3 1/2 - that's old enough to comprehend a little bit of the story of salvation, and I don't want to bury that underneath all of the trappings of an American Christmas celebration. So how do I keep Jesus at the forefront, when to a little boy (who until very recently never had anything to call his own) the lights and decorations and presents seem like the whole point?

We were shopping several weeks ago, and I mentioned the word Christmas, which prompted a question from Yikealo. "Mom, menden (what is it?) Christmas?" I thought for a minute and said, "Well, Christmas is like a big birthday party for Jesus. Do you remember the story that we read about Baby Jesus? (Yikealo nodded.) Well, Christmas is when Baby Jesus was born, and we are so happy that God sent him to us, that we celebrate." He listened intently, but he was far more interested in the Thomas ornament that we bought for the Christmas tree, which he LOVED setting up with us the day after Thanksgiving!

It's still a little hard to believe that I have Thomas the Tank Engine hanging on my tree! :-)

Of course we tried to make an even bigger deal out of setting up our Nativity scene, and told him the whole story of Baby Jesus again. He liked that too, and spent quite a bit of time over the next few days rearranging all of the pieces. The only problem is that I'm pretty sure that Joseph and Mary did NOT put Baby Jesus out on the roof of the stable while all of the wise men turned and walked away!

Maybe we are getting a little of the real meaning across though. Last weekend was our church's Christmas program, and Yikealo was sitting on the bench beside David while the choir sang "How Great Our Joy", which has become the boy's favorite song lately. He asked David, "Why joy?" to which David replied, "They're saying 'we're so happy that Jesus is here!'" Yikealo immediately jumped up, sucked in an awe-struck breath, looked back toward the lobby with a look of complete excitement (and joy!) on his face, and said, "Jesus is HERE?"

Monday, December 14, 2009

Adoption Finalization

Today was the finalization hearing for our adoption of Yikealo. I'm sure that it didn't mean much to him, but it was nice for us, since we missed his court date in Ethiopia back in June. David was very excited, and kept telling Yikealo this morning that it was a very special day because a judge was going to say that he was our little boy forever. I don't think that Yikealo understood it at all, but it did prompt him to ask some questions about Mihiret again for the first time in weeks.

The hearing was held at the county Probate Court, and was attended by the three of us, David's parents, our attorney, our social worker and the judge. The judge was certainly correct when he said that day was undoubtedly the easiest stage of the process! He asked, "Is it your intention to complete the adoption of Yikealo David, knowing that this decision is a permanent one?" We of course said "Yes," to which he replied, "Okay, that takes care of everything!" We were handed two pieces of paper, which state that we have met all of the requirements and now Yikealo is officially ours. Not that he wasn't before, but this is basically the county and state formally recognizing him as our son. Now, in six to eight weeks, we'll get a new birth certificate issued from the state with our names listed as his parents and with his birth date officially changed to June 12th, 2006. Yay! Another step completed on the way to citizenship!

David's Mom brought a sweet gift for Yikealo to give to us: two Christmas mugs with "Best Dad" and "Best Mom" written on them. Thanks, Grandma!

When we left the courthouse, Yikealo was a bit put out that the judge didn't actually SAY the words, "Yikealo is Daddy's and Mommy's little boy!" We had to show him that we got some papers that (sort of!) said that, and then he was all smiles again. Life got even better when we visited the grocery store afterwards, and I gave in for once and allowed him to ride in the obnoxious, enormous "car" cart. I figured that today of all days, he should be allowed to have his way a time or two!

The rest of the day was pretty relaxing: some final Christmas shopping, some naps, and dinner out at Carrabba's - since Yikealo's all time favorite food is pasta. He confiscated David's sausage and lentil soup though too, and practically licked the bowl clean. All in all, today will be a nice way to remember an end point to this momentous journey in our lives!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Introducing George...

As of today, Yikealo has developed an imaginary friend named "George." George is, of course, a monkey. (Hmmm...I wonder where he might have gotten THAT idea?! I have a feeling that this particular friend bears a striking resemblance to a certain simian creature created by Margret and H.A. Rey.)

George seems to hang out mostly in our car, where he sits beside Yikealo's carseat and takes an inordinately long time to climb in and out, and in Yikealo's bed, where he wears a red sleeper just like Yikealo's and shares Y's stuffed doggie.

So far, I think that George exists mainly to give the boy someone to boss around and to serve as a scapegoat. As I was leaving Yikealo's bedroom tonight, I noticed a certain foul smell in the air, and asked, "Yikealo, did you toot?" I was assured that no, he had not tooted. It was George...