I can’t even believe it’s been four years (and two months, because, well, the blog post I had intended to write on December 16 was derailed by this thing called “life” – let’s just pretend these reflections are not two months late).
We fell in love with Superman on Christmas Eve of 2012, and on Christmas of 2013, we were holding that boy we’d dreamed about all year in a hotel room in Guangzhou, China.
Every year on December 16, we celebrate Superman’s “Gotcha Day,” the day we held him in our arms, not just our dreams, and every Christmas since that Christmas four years ago, I can’t help but replay those special first days in China in my head.
Superman came to us tender and tentative and sensitive and would break down if we even looked at him in what he viewed as a disapproving way.
But it didn’t take him long to settle in.
Before we ever returned from China, we saw glimpses of his joy and contagious belly laughter and the LOVE he had for others, even in the face of a broken past.
And oh, the miracles God has performed in his tender little heart since then.
He’s come so far, that boy who screamed bloody murder the first time I tried to hold him. And he’s conquered so much.
He’s moved from a boy somewhat self-conscious about his superpowers and the ways God made him unique to a boy who now easily and confidently tackles the questions that other honest kids ask when they see that he looks different.
Of course, he once told his preschool class, “This is my Superman hand. I can do with FOUR fingers what takes YOU five!” (We’ve since talked to him about how, just because his hand is super, he doesn’t get to brag about it to his friends.) Now in kindergarten, when friends at events or weddings ask, he simply replies, “I was born without a radius, so my doctor had to turn my pointer finger into a thumb so I could have one.”
After multiple surgeries, 14 casts and more than two years of occupational therapy, that little conqueror now uses the thumb that used to be his pointer finger like a beast — cutting using scissors at school, holding onto bike handles with an opposable grip for the first time in his life, spraying water bottles and even finally buttoning and unbuttoning his own clothes (though, depending on the size of the buttons, this is still a work in progress).
He can do almost everything with his hand his other kindergarten peers can do, and he no longer finds it frustrating when he sometimes just has to do it differently.
And although his other medical needs have required intensive surgeries and full weeks of NPO and summers dotted by hospitalcations in other states, he has confronted them like a champ and embraced the daily medical care needed to ensure he stays healthy, even though it’s not fun, even though it’s an uncomfortable and inconvenient pain.
He does it, he makes the most of it and he is SO RESPONSIBLE about it. And when his little body doesn’t cooperate in the ways he wishes it would, he simply addresses it and moves on. NOTHING stops this boy from seizing each and every day.
He’s a warrior, this one, and now looks like one, to boot. Especially since he lost his front two teeth on the same day. (Let’s be honest – “lost” is actually a loose term for “my-brother-pushed-me-in-a-swing-into-a-tree-and-knocked-my-front-two-teeth-loose-so-I-just-pulled-them-out.”)
His new toothless grin and charismatic, contagious smile just SLAY me. And the affection he constantly lavishes on us (even in kindergarten, he still wants me to hold him and snuggle him every morning when he first wakes up) just melts all our hearts. If ever there were a time to use what his big brothers call Superman’s “cute smile” to get what he wants, it would be now. ;)
As he’s entered kindergarten, we’ve seen this new side of the sweetheart who makes me want to go back to China 120 more times emerge — this smart and studious little boy who already reads at an end-of-kindergarten level and who executes crazy addition problems in his head. He loves asking people their ages and then calculating how old HE will be when THOSE PEOPLE turn age x. And once you tell him your age, he never, ever forgets.
He’ll also never forget your life story, because he’s become quite the interviewer as of late.
On a day trip with Grandma and Pop last month, he spent the four-hour car ride asking each of them about the years they were born and their relatives and the years they were born and what they did with their lives. He interviewed his Uncle Lee, the one who Superhero 4 is named after, for more than an hour about his life and his childhood and his parents, and he genuinely takes interest in the stories and the histories of others.
What’s more, he LISTENS and he REMEMBERS. Because he really, really cares.
And because he’s realized that story and family and history are luxuries … one that he doesn’t have the privilege of knowing about his own biological family.
Maybe that’s one of the reasons he, more so than any of the other boys, TREASURES family and family time.
Superman has finally now, six months into life with a baby brother, settled into his role as a big. I’m not gonna lie — this little man who was the baby for four entire years grieved the loss of being the youngest for many of our first months home. One time, while driving in the car, he asked me, “Remember when we only had three kids, Mom?” When I replied yes, he replied, “Yeah, those were the good old days when I was still the cutest member of the family.”
Making him feel loved and valuable and special despite his changing role in the family has at times been a challenge. But in the last two months, we’ve seen some major fruit.
Last month, I couldn’t find our two youngest superheroes, and the house was dead silent. Knowing this was a recipe for disaster and my makeup, antique china and everything breakable in our home were all in danger, I scurried around the house calling their names and looking for them.
That’s when I walked into the room they now share and saw Superman snuggled up on the bed reading books to Superhero 4.
“Mom, we’re just reading,” he said. And then returned to the stack of books that Superhero 4 kept piling higher as he signed “more.”
The next day, when I was helping the boys get ready for school, I found Superman in the bathroom … brushing his little brother’s hair.
They’ve formed a special bond, these two.
Superman is now the one Superhero 4 asks for from the moment he leaves for school until the moment we spot him again in the pick-up line.
He’s the one he wants to play with him, snuggle him and read to him, and he’s the one he finds to say goodnight each and every night before bedtime.
Superhero 4 ADORES his big brothers, but he especially loves this one.
And Superman, after six months as a big, sure loves him.
I can’t even believe the sweet spot we’ve now hit at this six-month mark as a family of six, and as I look at everything Superman has had to adjust to and overcome to welcome a new baby into the family, my heart just bursts with pride.
Superman is something so, so special, and watching God work miracles in his life and in his heart for the last four years has been such an honor and privilege. His little heart is so tuned into Jesus, and every day we see him walking in such a confidence of God’s love.
One of his favorite things to ask is, “Who is your favorite person in the whole world?” His response is always “God and Jesus.”
Because they were his friends and faithful companions long before our family ever entered the scene. He and his God, they're tight.
But there are still cracks in that beautiful and giving heart we love so much — cracks that we know only God can fill.
Like Superman’s exaggerated fear of death.
Of losing family.
His obsession with knowing when people die.
His fear of rejection. (One “no” can turn into a complete meltdown where Superman asks us about once every six months, “You don’t want me in this family anymore?”)
And this month, his desire to meet his biological mother so he can ask her why she abandoned him. (We stress to him daily how much she loved him to leave him in a safe place where he could receive the life-saving surgery he wouldn’t have lived three days without, but we all know that doesn’t take away the pain of being separated from the woman who gave him life. We just open a space for him to share and grieve as he needs and tell him that his mother will always be loved and celebrated and hold a special place inside our family, and that she is ALWAYS a welcome topic at our dinner table.)
While we use every resource available to us and commit to pouring truth and love into his heart for every day for the rest of our lives (though Jesus, WE NEED MORE AND MORE OF YOU, because we screw this up each and every day!), we know that these cracks formed by the brokenness of his past can be filled only by the God who heals, redeems and restores.
And we believe they will be.
In His time.
Until then, all of us know how blessed we are to walk alongside a real superhero, a boy who truly touches and inspires us all.
Keep on flying, Superman. You were meant to soar.