A Father’s Day Story / When Tim Became Lily’s Dad
The adoption agency warned us that babies who spend their first months in an orphanage sometimes have difficulty attaching to their new parents. So Tim and I arrived in China hoping for the best when we met our new daughter, but prepared for the worst.
When the nanny and the local adoption chief brought Lily into our hotel room in Nanchang, we were entranced. She was exquisite, so tiny and beautiful. After a brief conversation and gift exchange, the pair went on their way, leaving Lily alone with her new family. She freaked out, as you can imagine. The only thing that calmed her down that night was sitting on my lap with her bottle, facing firmly away from me.
Within days, however, I made the happy discovery that Lily was perfectly open to the idea of a mom. She was also interested in her new siblings who, between the three of them, were always up to something. She was even content to let my mother, who had come with us to China, hold her.
But she wanted nothing to do with Tim. He had dutifully shaved his beard at the suggestion of our case worker, who, although she didn’t come right out and say it, probably thought that to the 13-month-old Chinese girl who had likely never seen a man before, this 6’2” bearded giant would resemble a sasquatch. The lack of facial hair probably helped, but it wasn’t enough.
Tim did his best to connect with Lily during those first weeks in China. When despite her protests I had to hand her over, he spoke soothingly and even tried to comfort her in Chinese. “Bao, bao,” he would say when she started to cry. Lily looked perplexed, as well she might have since his attempts at saying “Don’t cry, baby” were, according to our guide, coming out as “Hug me.” One night Tim danced Lily around the hotel room singing “My Brown-Eyed Girl.” Lily let him, but she didn’t throw her head back and laugh like our other kids would have.
Even after we arrived home, it was clear that Lily was only tolerating Tim. One night when I was out and Tim was home alone with the kids, he set her on the floor in the kitchen. She quickly scooted away to the farthest corner of the room and turned her head toward the cabinet. She wouldn’t even look at him.
Tim is a philosophical man, not given to pouting or fretting. As the father of babies who were all nursed the first year of their lives, he was used to feeling a bit out of the loop in the beginning. But even he was surprised at Lily’s continued resistance.
Until one night during bedtime stories. Tim was reading to the kids like he does every night, his rich baritone calming them down and getting them ready for sleep. Lily, who had been with us for three months, scooted over to Tim and laid her head on his arm. He paused only for a moment, his eyes meeting mine over that dark little head. Then he continued reading, the gentle pressure of his youngest daughter’s warm cheek pressing against him.
From that moment on, Lily was Daddy’s girl. During our travels in China, everywhere we went people gave us the thumbs-up sign, smiling and pointing to our baby. As far as they were concerned, we had taken a child whose fate was “very, very bad” and given her the chance to be lucky. But to know that you’ve earned the love and trust of such a special little girl—I think Tim would say that he’s the lucky one.