Nine years ago today our daughter came into our lives to howls of protest (hers) and tears of joy (ours).
Her face said it all, her cries the loudest in a room deafened by the chorus of crying of six Chinese babies about to begin lives as Chinese-Australian girls.
I haven’t given her my genes, but I have role-modelled behaviours, some of which I’m not proud of.
When she yells (at me or her brother, but almost never her beloved father) I hear the echo of my own raised voice. Too often. Too harsh.
At 10, she is showing tween attitude aplenty but I secretly appreciate even my own mirrored bad behaviour being played out defiantly, in her own way. She is becoming her own person, as they do – standing up for herself just like I’ve tried to teach her.
And then there are those times when I see my best – the values and morals that we have tried to instil, being echoed in her words or played out in her actions.
And so with her permission and my great pride, indulge me as I share the story she wrote (and emailed to me) about a spoilt girl called Sophie.
The Very Spoilt Girl
Once upon a time there was a very spoilt girl. Her name was Sophie. She loved getting new things each day.
Every day Sophie and her family would go shopping.
One day Sophie saw some boots that she adored. Sophie tried them on and they were a perfect fit. Her mother looked at the price tag. They were $1000.
Because of that, her mum told Sophie that they couldn’t buy the boots as they spent all of their money on other things. Sophie was crying and begging her mum. She told her mum that she wouldn’t want anything ever again. He mother told her that they couldn’t afford them.
Sophie saw a cupcake store. She asked if she could have one. This time her dad said no. Sophie was disappointed and started crying again.
Sophie didn’t know why her parents wouldn’t buy her anything. It went on for weeks. Every time her parents said no, Sophie would cry.
One day, Sophie realised that her parents were saying no to her to teach her a lesson. Sophie realised that she had been very spoilt.
Ever since then she never asked for anything she didn’t need again.
The moral of the story is not to want everything and to realise how lucky you are.
Pretty great, hey!
Miss Yin has been reading (and I’ve joined in with her) the young reader’s version of Mao’s Last Dancer, the autobiography of Chinese dancer and now Queensland Ballet Director Li Cunxin and has been confronted with issues of extreme poverty (as a young boy in the 1960’s Li and his family subsisted on a perpetual diet of yams, there was never enough) and the oppression of women, including the traditional practice of foot-binding.
Slowly the big wide (unfair, but still wonderful) world is sinking in and I know I have to let it. And just be there for her.
But I’m very conscious of not fostering any misguided debt of gratitude she might be tempted to feel for being adopted – for ‘escaping’ a life of relative disadvantage that would surely have been hers had she remained an orphan in China. (who knows, I certainly model misguided guilt in terms of the debt I feel I owe to her birth parents).
“She’s so lucky,” people have innocently said to me many times – my response is always that we are all lucky to be a family. At times I’m tempted to retort: ‘Please don’t burden my daughter with a debt she doesn’t owe,’ – but I bite my tongue.
As she’s gotten older, most people have been sensitive enough not to comment within her earshot, thank goodness.
There’s a fine line between Miss Yin taking on positive values of gratitude and anti-consumerism that we’ve tried to instil, and feeling like she owes anything to anyone – being made to feel ‘lucky’.
I love that she appreciates the lesson she had her character Sophie learn – that happiness is never found in wanting more – a lesson Lao Tzu so wisely states:
‘Loss is not as bad as wanting more’.
I love that she realises that happy isn’t found in things, but in love.
And I love that she is learning confidence and resilience, even when it comes out in indignant protests at the unfairness of life, (not howls these days, just loud entreaties).
And sometimes I still cry tears of joy, just like that first day.
Happy Forever Day Miss Yin.
Linking up with the lovely Grace, With Some Grace for FYBF.