Archive for December, 2006

Associate Editor

It’s been over a year now that my daughter has been living with us. I can gladly say that she has officially lived with us longer than she lived with her foster mother. Ariana turned two in June, and people have been asking for an update on her, so here goes.She is a tough, stubborn, willful girl — and she clearly lays claim to our household.I often wonder how much of her personality is natural and how much has been shaped by her circumstances. She was left by her birth mother at two days old and taken from her foster mother at the age of 14 months when a ragged group of Americans named the Burgesons showed up on one sweltering September day in Wuhan, the capital city of the Hubei province of China.I guess she has a right to be a little particular. Her short life has been packed with uncertainty and trauma that most two year-olds don’t experience. I would have thought that she was too young to have it affect her at all or stick with her, but it has.Uncertain of strangers, and ever cautious in new situations, she still has some trepidation in her life. It took the better part of a year for her to open up to us. Kisses, hugs, and cuddling were not commonplace like they were with our son at her age. She was afraid of traveling in a different car than ours, being left with anyone new, and became clingy when we went to new places.It broke my heart that even after living with us for months, she was still afraid of being handed over again to someone new. For a long time, she was nervous if at least one member of our family wasn’t in the room with her at all times.But slowly, ever so slowly, her tough exterior, and the bulk of her fears, faded with the passing of time. Now, she insists on a “kiss-hug” from mom and dad on a regular basis. And when she hasn’t seen me for a while, she will sit on my lap and watch TV or read a book, or even just lean her head on me while I twiddle on the laptop. This is any daddy’s dream. And she has me wrapped around her finger — a daddy’s girl if I ever saw one.I can’t tell you how hard it was to earn this trust and love from her — far harder than I had ever imagined it would be. But it came eventually, and when she’s sweet, she’s the sweetest little cupcake you’ve ever seen.But she still has that stubborn side. She still won’t let us forget that she’s the princess, and she likes things her way. We stand up to her, but it’s not always pretty.Some of that is the terrible twos, and some of it is baggage from her former life. It doesn’t matter, though. All kids have a personality forged from both nature and nurture. With enough love and the proper direction, I know she’ll harness that toughness into a strength that will serve her well as she grows up and moves out on her own some day.So, after a year, we’re into a groove; a pretty normal family. My seven year-old son Reidar loves playing with his little sister. She calls him geh geh, Chinese for big brother, and really the only Chinese she still speaks on a regular basis. I’d put her language skills on par with kids a year older than her. Her mind seems to have worked overtime to catch up to her english speaking peers, to the point that she has surpassed them.Part of this is probably so she can compete with her brother. They get along pretty well, and they fight like any other siblings, and the normal rivalries are there too. The house feels like part playground and part insane asylum when they are together. It’s definitely a lively joint in the mornings when they get ready for school and daycare, and in the evenings when it’s time for dinner, homework, and baths.The next challenge for little Ari, as we call her, will come in April. This is when we will welcome the next addition to our family. I don’t know what kind of magical powers Chinese babies have, but she apparently has some affect on fertility among western women. After trying on and off for seven years to have another baby, and adopting as a result of our inability to conceive, we were finally able to become pregnant — only after Ari came into our lives.Just another piece of evidence to support my theory that life is filled with strange ironies and even stranger coincidences. No doctor can explain this phenomena. But we aren’t the first adoptive family to experience it.How will Ari handle not being the baby anymore?I just hope we have a boy, because I’m not sure if there is room for another princess in our house.But if I’ve learned anything from my daughter, it’s that you just need to roll with the punches in life, take what it gives you, and stay strong. And I’m sure that’s what she’ll do.Cean Burgeson can be reached at: