When the suggestion was made that I write an article about older child adoptions for our adoption agency’s newsletter, the name Jin Jin kept coming up.
“Have you met Jin Jin? What an exceptional child. You must meet her and write a story about her.”
So I set out to meet Jin Jin and her mom, Linda.
I stood on the family’s front porch, on the morning of our interview, waiting for them to answer my knock on the door and wondering if I would be as charmed by Jin Jin as the rest of my associates at Dillon International had been. Although I have no children of my own (I had chosen later in life to jump into the role of stepparent of two teenage boys), I love children, but very few toddlers have ever captivated me.
The door opened and I greeted Linda. I felt a small hand take mine. I looked down to see big, dark eyes in a pixie-ish face smiling back at me. Jin Jin gently pulled me into the house and escorted me to a sofa. In a whisper she said “Sit down, sit down.” After I sat down, Jin Jin started pulling on the sleeve of my coat saying in a whisper “Take off, take off.” She stood in front of me, watching intently as I slipped off my coat. She leaned forward, gently putting both hands on my shoulders, and began pushing on me while whispering “Sit back, sit back.” After I was comfortably seated to her satisfaction, Jin Jin turned around to pick up a ginger snap cookie. She placed the cookie in my hand, curling my fingers up around the cookie, and pushed my hand gently toward my mouth whispering, “Eat cookie, eat cookie.”
Never had I been so royally treated by a small child. Needless to say, I was becoming charmed by this two-and-a-half-year-old Chinese girl with her big, warm, black eyes and pixie smile.
Linda had returned home on Thanksgiving Day, after adopting Jin Jin in China approximately eight weeks earlier. Jin Jin already had a good vocabulary of Mandarin Chinese, but her transition to using English was coming along well, as I had already witnessed.
Linda showed me pictures of the town where Jin Jin was born and the location where she was abandoned. Jin Jin had been approximately 22 months old when she was brought to the orphanage. She lived at the orphanage for eight months before Linda’s arrival in China to complete her adoption. Linda believed that Jin Jin had been well-taken-care-of and loved by her birth parents, as well as by the orphanage caregivers, since she had bonded so well to her.
Linda and Jin Jin showed me around their home while Linda pointed out ways that she had helped Jin Jin adapt to her new home. Because food had been in limited supply in the orphanage, Linda placed cans of food at Jin Jin’s eye level so that she would know that there was always plenty of food in their house. The TV tray in the corner of the kitchen held several small bowls of Jin Jin’s favorite snacks to lessen her anxiety about not having enough to eat. To help Jin Jin in her potty training, Linda had picked up one of the porcelain pots customary in China before her return home to the U.S. The porcelain pot was placed next to the western style potty chair in the bathroom so that she could learn the association while still having the familiar around her.
I asked Linda what had been the hardest adjustment so far, and she explained, “Jin Jin’s temper tantrums and occasional biting.” Linda pointed to a spot in the living room that she used as a “time out” place for Jin Jin when her daughter had one of her tantrums. She explained that she would lay her daughter down in the area and tell Jin Jin to go ahead and throw her fit as long as she wanted. Then Linda would go about her business, ignoring her daughter’s fit. She told me that her daughter’s temper tantrums occurred less often after a few times using this technique.
Jin Jin showed me Tai Chi, the Chinese custom for exercise and meditation. Linda explained that she had noticed her daughter’s deliberate movements over and over again while they were still in China. One morning after their return to the U.S., she got down on the floor with Jin Jin and started following her movements with her. They continued together for several minutes– daughter teaching mother a part of her culture– until they were both kneeling on the floor, hands together in bowed stance toward the floor. Jin Jin then turned her head to her mother and whispered, “Now, close your eyes.”
It was time to leave, and I was surprised that two hours had passed. I had become so entranced watching Jin Jin’s every movement, listening to her chatter as she showed me different toys and what they could do. I was thoroughly amazed at her resiliency in adapting to an environment that didn’t have any familiarity to her former life except for the porcelain pot in the bathroom. Mother and daughter seemed so at home together that one might think they had always been together instead of just eight short weeks!
As I got up to leave, Jin Jin came over and threw her arms around my neck in a hug. As I hugged her back and told her how much I had enjoyed meeting her and her mom, she leaned her head back to look at me, then gently kissed my cheek before letting me go.
First printed in the Spring 1997 issue of Childlink, a quarterly newsletter of Dillon International, Inc., a licensed, non-profit international adoption agency.