Day 8 - Traveling with Meke
Our challenges started as we checked out of the hotel, an adventure in and of itself (AWAA adoptive couples, I recommend you check out earlier than you feel necessary so you don't miss your flight). For the first time Meke (our 3-year-old) decided it would be fun to play "run away from the family" in the crowded hotel lobby. Of course, we started after her. But since everything else on this trip was fun, this must be a game, right? Evidently she thought so. Despite our firm calls she raced around the corner and was gone. When I finally caught her she squealed and giggled. Funny for her, maybe, but not for a couple parents about to navigate through a busy airport in a foreign country. A child who runs away when you call them in a public place. We need to correct this now!
This is when the frustration began for me as a father. It's hard enough to reason with a toddler. It's next to impossible if they don't understand you. All I knew to do was get down on her level, look her straight in the eyes and repeat the most firm "NO!" that I could muster. Over and over..."No, Meke. No. No. No, Meke."
But it was still a game. She laughed and squealed. So I increased my volume and intensity. "MEKE! NO! NO!" Not screaming, but loud and firm.
Somewhere around the 36th "NO" it took hold in her little brain. I saw it in her eyes. "Uh oh, Daddy means business." Then came the waterworks. LOUD waterworks. I scooped her up and ducked into the jewelry story (there's one in the Hilton lobby) and asked, "Does anyone understand English?" I asked the women working to please explain to Meke that she cannot run away from Mommy and Daddy.
That's how the trip home started. Fun Dad turns mean.
For the next hour it took to check out of the hotel and change our money, Meke was fine. Back to business as usual. Until we arrived at the airport in Addis Ababa. We pulled our bags from the taxi and the waterworks began again. Meke was scared. The experience was becoming overwhelming. She had been told what was to come but now that it was real, her little mind couldn't take it all in at once. For the next hour as we waited through lines and filled out forms Meke cried, and Rhonda held her close.
She was OK whenever our family was able to be together. Sitting and waiting was fine. Long lines and crowds of people weren't. We could expect fear and tears during those times.
As the plane ride got longer, Rhonda got sicker and Meke became more and more reluctant. She would cry and say something over and over that we couldn't understand. Finally, Rhonda asked for the flight attendant to interpret: "I want to go home!" Meke wanted to return to the familiar. The orphanage.
Two trips to the bathroom later, Rhonda needed a break. I gave up my seat in kid-free zone and plopped down into "I wanna go home" central. I held Meke and whispered over and over into here ear, "Daddy loves Mekdelawit" and held her tight in spite of her efforts to squirm free. At some my chant became a song. Then it morphed into a lullaby. I quietly sang to her until her sweaty body went limp in my arms.
When she woke up twenty minutes later mean Dad turned fun again.
We replayed this scene two times on the flight home. Meke gets scared. Dad sings. Meke sleeps. Each time trust was restored. Each time I felt a connection with my new daughter I hadn't felt before. Maybe it was supposed to happen like this. Maybe the Fairy Tale ended sooner than we expected so love could be forged earlier.