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Winter Fun

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’d meet 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 with her bottle on my lap, facing firmly away from me.

Within days, though, 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 mom, who’d traveled to China with us, hold her.

But she wanted nothing to do with Tim. He’d dutifully shaved his beard at the suggestion of our case worker, who, although she didn’t come right out and say it, probably thought this 6’2″ bearded giant would look like a sasquatch to a 13-month-old Chinese girl. 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 I had to hand her over so I could take a shower or help one of the other kids, Tim spoke soothingly and even tried to comfort her in Chinese. “Bao, bao,” he’d 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 do it, 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 crawled away to the farthest corner of the room and turned her head toward the cabinet. She wouldn’t even look at him.

Tim’s a philosophical guy and not one to take things too personally. 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 by 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’d been with us for three months, suddenly scooted over to Tim and laid her head on his arm. He paused only for a moment, his eyes meeting mine over her dark little head. Then he went on 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.


  1. Soleil says:

    This is such a wonderful post! I love it! Happy Father’s day to Tim !

  2. I’m tearing up at the idea of people giving you thumbs up. Seriously beautiful post Shannon.

  3. Lisa Fyfe says:

    What a touching post. Thanks for sharing it.

  4. Gave me chills! Such a great story.

  5. Michelle says:

    Thank you for sharing such a sweet Father’s Day story. 🙂

  6. Pam Ott-Morse says:

    I have read your blog, my only blog I follow, and I have to say you are an amazing writer. ‘the gentle pressure of his youngest daughter’s warm cheek pressing against him.’ I was right there w/ Tim in his thrill. Keep up the great work; amazing 4 children!!

    1. Shannon says:

      Pam, thank you so much for your kind words. It means more than you know.

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