"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Paul to the persecuted at Philippi (2:5-11)

03 February 2011

A break from the bad news...

My youngest child is that special blend of both stubborn and shy. Almost stereotypically Korean, the little stinker refuses to risk losing face by admitting strong emotion. He hates to applogize. He's fiercly proud of his Korean heritage and has asked repeatedly to go visit Korea, but he's also particularly shy about trying out his Korean words. And the greatest compliment he's given both our rector and his tae kwon do instructor has been to announce in his gravelly pooh-bear voice that "I'm not shy at him anymore." Before he had turned five, he had firmly anounced that, "I don't like it when girls look at me." And likewise he refuses to say "I love you." I don't think I've ever heard him say those words, except once or twice in a lighter moment to a grandmother. Grandmothers, it seems, are safer.

If asked, he will occasionally admit, with a stubborn expression and silent head nod, an affirmative response when asked "do you love your brothers, do you love your mommy, do you love your dad." But never with words.

He's as affectionate as the day is long. He's gentle and well adjusted and firmly attached to his parents, especially to me. He responds, according to his own personality, within the same norms as his brothers do, who are not adopted. But he doesn't say the words.

Lately however, as he is just beginning to learn to write letters, he has begun to experiment with writing as a a new way of expressing his affections. He started out drawing pictures of our family, all in a house together, with five beds (oddly all stacked up) and all holding hands. If he was mad at one brother he sometimes drew him outside, or on the other side of the bed stack, or not at all. If he was especially happy with someone, he drew just him and that parent/brother in the house.

The other day, with help from his dad who showed him how to make the letters, my youngest child came in with a card that read: "MOM, I LOVE YOU." And he signed his name.

Tonight, all on his own, he wrote me a note. It says: "BEQL EQO FEL"... When he handed it to me he said "I was trying to write 'I love you.'"

He may be adopted, but moments like that remind me of my dad and grandfather. He never met them, but when it comes to emotions he's just like the men of my dad's family. My uncle Marion, who usually sits silently strong, a lifetime of memories behind his eyes; my grandfather, who loved deeply and with great affection but unless given an invitation would presume nothing; my dad, who expressed his love equally with the words "I love you" as with the words "you're retarded kid." (You had to grow up with his humor to understand the affection and amusement behind those words) and dealt with real grief by silently staring out the window.

I understand that culture. There's a stubborn shyness about it, but also a solidity to that sort of love. I never doubted my dad's love. I was sure I was my grandfather's secret favorite. I have my own sense of reserve, the closer things are the less I may say about them.

Adoptive parents often get nervous if their kids don't seem to "attach" the way they expect them to. If they don't give hugs and kisses, parents may come to feel rejected. If after four and a half years of parenting they never hear the words "I love you" they may begin to freak out a little. And sometimes there is something amiss. Attachment disorders do happen. But sometimes things go beyond words, especially for reserved, stubborn, grandfatherly men in little boys' bodies.


  1. Mikey loves you too... he doesn't say it, but since he bounces around like a kangaroo at the thought of seeing you, I think I'm safe in making the call. :)