A Family of 5? 6? 7? YES!
“He got love. He got security. He got a family.”
"1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7" … "1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7" …"1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7" … we must have counted that out a thousand times while we were in China in June 2015.
"We have five children. We have five children??? We have five children!!!" It seems like every time we say that phrase there is a different emphasis. We certainly had never expected to have five children, but we'll let you in on a secret … it's awesome!
We are now the parents of five wonderful children: two biological children and three that happened to have been born in China. Our adopted children's ages ranged from 23 months to 10 years old at the time of adoption. Each of our five children has brought their unique blessings and their unique challenges and concerns … and their unique joys!
In 2012, we were pretty happy with our new "empty nest" status. We had two children and had seen them through elementary school, middle school, high school and then had seen them off to college. But we both had been thinking (mostly separately) about adoption, though, and when we both got a sense of peace about that idea then we knew that it was time to act!
We suddenly realized that we had another child, but that this child was waiting for us halfway around the world. Fortunately we were able to find him on a BAAS listing, and once we saw his face we knew that we had to do everything possible to get our third child home.
It took paperwork and time, but our third child — Jaden — came home January 2013 at the age of 3 ½.
Initially we had concerns about a lot of things: language issues, what would he eat, how would he feel about parents who looked so different than him, and (let's face it) we were not as young as we were when our first two kids were young.
But none of those things turned out to be a problem. He got what he wanted. He got love. He got security. He got a family. And he has really thrived.
It took him about a year to start talking about his time as an orphan, and he described it as feeling "alone." He tells us "I am very happy that you came to get me, and I'm glad you didn't leave me alone any longer." He did tell us once, "I'm glad you got me, but why did it take you so long to find me?" … which was heart-warming and heart-breaking at the same time. Another comment that always gets Tim is, "I'll always be your son, and you'll always be my dad."
So in 2013 we had gone from a family of four to a family of five, and things were going great. But we both quickly came to the realization that we weren't done yet!
Something changes in you when you step into an orphanage. Something that you can never change back. When you look in the faces of those who are left behind, those who don't have a Mom and a Dad, those who don't have a family, you are changed forever.
And so a few months after Jaden came home we started discussing the idea that perhaps we were supposed to be a family of six. Who would have guessed that was possible? We had been a family of four, and then we had become a family of five. But six? Really?
Interestingly, some of the same concerns surfaced again. Concerns about language, food, family dynamics, our age, and other issues. And there was a new concern: Jaden's adoption had gone so well … should we "tempt fate" and bring another child home?
And then Tracy saw Katie's face on the BAAS site, and we knew. So we contacted BAAS again, and away we went!
Katie was 23 months old when she joined our family in April 2014. Jaden went with us, and he would always introduce her as "my baby." He told many people in China that he was now a "gege" (Chinese for big brother) and also liked to tell them that "I was from China, but now I'm from Oklahoma!"
Did Katie have a problem with any of the things that we had worried about? Nope. She got what she wanted. She got love. She got security. She got a family. And she has really thrived.
Admittedly, she was more like an infant in a lot of her behaviors and her development when she first came home. At age 23 months she had to learn how to eat solid foods and she had to learn how to play, and there were other developmental milestones that she had to attain, but she has steadily thrived.
And so in 2014 we were a family of six, and things were going great. But six wasn't the number, either.
It turns out that Ian was waiting for us. And so we contacted BAAS again, and away we went!
As a special blessing, all of our children came with us when we went to China in June 2015 to bring Ian home. Ian was 10 years old at that time, and so in addition to all of the concerns that we had experienced with our prior two adoptions there were new ones: worries about bringing an older child into the home, bringing home a child who had ten years of life experiences in an orphanage, etc … and we still weren't getting any younger.
Did Ian have a problem with any of the things that we had worried about? Nope. He got what he wanted. He got love. He got security. He got a family. And he has really thrived.
A couple of months after being home Ian started school, and he has been accepted warmly and wholeheartedly by his teachers and his classmates and is enjoying American culture.
All of our children have attached well and LOVE being in a family. Sure, we have had some challenges including several that we did not foresee, but we recognize that we have been blessed!
All three of our adopted children had special needs (and honestly both of our biological children would have met that criteria had they been born in China), but with therapy and with the help of wonderful organizations like Shriner’s Hospitals and with other specialists, their needs are being addressed.
All three of our adopted children truly love being a part of a family, and they have really enjoyed taking on the role of brother/sister, son/daughter, and grandson/granddaughter.
As a parting thought, we encourage everyone out there to consider adoption. We had no idea that we had three children waiting for us in China until we opened our hearts to the idea, and we have been immensely blessed by having them home!
We hope that you will be blessed by adoption as well.
~Tim and Tracy Sanford