Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Red Balloons

This was my first post on Pocket Lint. It explains a lot about why we are adopting again, about the joy I experience parenting my kids. I look forward to a red balloon with Evangeline.

My brother had a dual birthday party for his son and his wife a few weeks ago. I heard all about it the other day on the phone with my mom. The party took place outdoors, at a park, on a sunny California day. There were drinks for the adults, a jumping house for the kids, fresh air for all.

And balloons.

My brother’s daughter is twenty-three months old. She has beautiful blue eyes, chubby cherub legs, dimples. She is very independent and sure footed, always has a smile for anyone who needs one, and the day of the birthday party she was fascinated with balloons. She could not stop following the balloons. Eventually my brother caught her for a moment and tied a balloon to her belt loop. Then all day long he could spot her. He would look up from his food or from his conversation and instantly he would see the big balloon bobbing above his diminutive daughter.

I imagine the balloon red, lazily moving from one place to another, through peoples’ conversations, a few swipes past the buffet tables, loitering on the sandy playground near the slide. All day long he watched the balloon and he knew that his little one was safe.

Exploring her world, but safe.

Parents want children who are easy, like red balloons. At birth, our children are so dependent on us, but as they take their first gulp of air, they are already starting their ascent. And that is the goal we have for our kids; to grow, to evolve, to become who they will become while we, without too much sweat and tears, watch.

I have three daughters. It was easy to see my two older girls lifting off effortlessly, each floating away in respective directions. Elaina, my oldest, jumped from the womb full of air, and has fought for independence quickly in every stage of her development. She is trying to figure out a way to turn her balloon into a rocket. My middle daughter, Zoya, sometimes is uneasy about the air around her, she stays a bit closer, evolving quietly but surely until she is comfortable with her surroundings.

Then Polly was born. We were told she had Down syndrome and I didn't know if her body could even hold air. I spent almost a year grieving popped balloons in my mind; her future, lost expectations, my future. I was certain I would not see her float away, towards independence, towards her own life.

I was wrong. At twenty months, little by little, with a lot of hard work, Polly is lifting off.

The other day, she was looking at a book of snapshots with one of her therapists. The first page is her house; the next page is Polly, then Mama, next Mama with Polly, then her Papa, and lastly a picture of all three sisters. We take this little book out daily and slowly, we look at each picture and talk about who we see. Up until then Polly had been mildly interested, pointing to pictures, helping turn the page.

And that day it clicked. When she got to the picture of me, she said excitedly, mama, mama, mama, and vigorously pointed to the book, pivoted her little bottom around and pointed at me. She had such a bright smile on her face. The therapist and I both squealed and clapped and I am sure that my make-up was running down my face. It was like a huge puff of air had been blown into me, unlike anything I had felt before. And I thought about the red balloon bobbing above my own head.

Ready to lift off with Polly.