Many of you will recognize the title's allusion to the musical Rent and the song "Seasons of Love," which asks the question "How do you measure a year?" and then provides a lot of answers. I'm not a big fan of Rent, but I cried when I first heard this song (at a wedding, I think) because...well, because I'm a huge sap, whaddaya want?
Tomorrow is my one year anniversary of becoming a mom. Pretty good trick, really, since in a year I've gone from meeting my new baby to celebrating her second birthday and watching her start preschool, but that's the way it goes. I took the accelerated course. It's also the anniversary of David becoming a dad. And, as I remarked this morning, 365 days of poopy diapers (that's one way to measure a year!)
Here are some more: one year of Huggies wet wipes, one year of exploring every park in San Diego, one year of wondering if anything could be blacker than Jarrah's eyes or whiter than her little teeth or yummier-smelling than her skin, one year of tiny shoes, one year of PBS children's television, one year of always seeing someone in the rear view mirror, one year of interrupted meals, one year of knee hugs, one year of sippy cups, one year of knowing that someone is sleeping snug across the hall, and a little less than that of knowing that this someone makes us a family.
At times, it seems like we've known Jarrah for 10 years. At times, 10 days. I know that Jarrah has changed a lot during this time--she's grown seven inches, gained five pounds, her hair has gotten long and shaggy, her teeth have come in, she's risen from a roly-poly wobbly baby to a leggy little girl. She's gone from expressing her every need with "Em! Em!" to a vocabulary that surprises me daily. While she once ate anything within her reach (parsley, lemon wedges) she's become increasingly toddler-picky (if it's not "chee" or "apple" she probably doesn't want it.) She's become both more unruly (hello, tantrums!) and more empathetic (remembering to say "please" and "thank you" and patting us gently on the back after we sneeze.)
The biggest difference from one year ago is that she knows who we are. We are "Muh-muh" and "Da-da," and we are very important. If we are out of sight for too long, she will not let us put her down when we come back. If we go out to a movie, she sobs histrionically from the doorstep in the arms of her babysitter. In the morning or after a nap, she wakes with one of our names on her lips. She identifies ownership through us: "Muh-muh's car," "Da-da's shoes." When I pick her up from school, she lights up when I come around the corner. When David gets home from work, she races to the door to greet him. It's been so long, I can't really even remember how, for nearly two months, she screamed and sobbed her way through the night, grieving for everything she'd lost and the strangeness of what she'd found. And though it's all right there in black and white in my blog entries from China, I can no longer access the feelings I had when she rejected me completely and moaned when so much as a hem of my coat entered her airspace.
When I get reflective, I realize that I have grown into my motherhood in the past year, though I've struggled and squirmed and resisted. I have found a little more patience, a little more flexibility, a little more humility, and these help me get through the day. I still let myself get too tired and eat bad food and lose my temper too quickly. I still sometimes delude myself that I'm in charge, I'm the boss, and we'll do the day my way. And then I have another opportunity to learn, and another, and another. And isn't that what I've been trying to do all my life? Learn stuff? Isn't that what kept me in school for 27 years? This is another kind of school--Mom School. I do my homework but sometimes I fail the tests. The lessons are dazzling and boring and excruciatingly difficult. Sometimes I get all three in the same day.
The most important thing I've learned this year, and it required no effort at all, just time: Jarrah was meant for us. We'd heard about it again and again, people adopting a child and feeling like there was no way this match could NOT have happened. It sounded sweet but perfunctory. What did I know? There is a Chinese belief that an invisible red thread connects all people--all over the world--who are meant to be joined in some way. It's one of the most prominent tropes of Chinese adoption. It's taken me months, but I finally know that it's not just a nice idea.
There are lots of ways to make a family. This is one.