Today was my hardest day. I didn’t think it would be – I’d got this far with barely a lump in the throat, so focused I was on Daniel and how he was, and had assumed I was home and dry.
What is that annoying saying? Something about pride and falls?
We arrived at the children’s home for the Childrens Day concert to discover it was a big day to thank sponsors for their contributions during the year – local organisations like the police and army (I did flutter my eyelashes at a rather handsome tall police chief but he didn’t seem to notice) along with businesses. So there was a pretty packed house.
The concert was wonderful. The children were all dressed in new clothes made specially for the event by one of the carers. The girls in pretty satin cape dresses in different rainbow colours, each with a different musical note on the front and pretty mop caps. The boys were in clown costumes or smart shorts and shirts.
The concert was a combination of party pieces performed by the children with the carers participating in different costumes themselves – clown, princess, doctor etc and entertainment for the children. Party games I hadn’t seen before like the “soup or compote” game – each child was given a picture of a fruit or vegetable to hang around their neck and if the Doctor shouted SOUP all the children with vegetables around their neck had to get up and run over to be stirred in the pot, likewise COMPOTE and fruit. Much hilarity and herding of cats ensued of the kind you expect with 3 and 4 year olds who aren’t always totally sure of the difference between a cherry and a carrot.
It really reminded me of Daniel’s nursery concerts and suddenly what was different hit me like a tidalwave. Same excited children as nursery, same adults keeping the thing going through minor (and adorable) blips and even on occasion the same music.
But no little faces searching the audience for that one person who matters. No relief as that face is spotted. No eyes lighting up. No surreptitious (and not so surreptitious) waving.
Every child seemed excited by the occasion and enjoyed themselves hugely and I tried to focus on that. But I just kept thinking about Daniel’s searching eyes at every performance he has ever done, not resting until he’d identified me in the crowd. And I couldn’t help but feel how wrong it was that these children weren’t looking. They had no reason to, there was no-one to look for.
“Are you crying?” Daniel interrogated me with a frown. He was baffled. Happy, jolly concert + mother in tears = 10 year olds confusion.
Certificates were given out thanking each sponsor ending with one in my name being called out. I felt such a fraud as most of the money had been given by others and also I was such a sobbing wreck I thought I might dent the mood somewhat. So I compromised and sent Daniel up to be presented with it.
Eventually I was persuaded up and managed not to disgrace myself.
The crowning glory was the children being given a “treat” of bananas and juice paid for by various teachers and parents from Daniel’s school. I’d petitioned for ice cream but I was assured that juice and bananas was about as much of a treat that they would cope with.
When we had been to the big warehouse to buy the juice, Daniel insisted on buying one for every child there – all 91 of them. No amount of persuasion by Dinara (our translator and friend for the week) or I would persuade him that some of the children were really too small, that the babies couldn’t drink juice.
He dug his heels in firmly –
“No, that’s not fair, juice for ALL of them.”
I hugged him, he was right. Every child matters.
I limped through the rest of the day an emotional wreck. There was a post concert reception where we were publically announced and Daniel manfully fielded a range of questions about his life.
He was puzzled “It’s really very ordinary. I go to school, I play with my friends, I play sport, I spend time with my family”.
I know now how zoo animals feel, poor sods. They even fed me buns.
I didn’t adopt Daniel to save him from anything, I am way too selfish for that. I wanted a family and for long boring reasons, this was the best way for me. But now I was a parent with experience of the joy and frailty of childhood and I found it almost unbearable to be faced with these children who had so little compared to ours, in the ways that really matter – attention, importance, a place to be permanent not transient.
I know it could be worse and compared with many others around the world they have a decent life, with decent women who genuinely care for them and they are well fed and looked-after. But at four or five they will move to another home and then again at seven and at 18 who knows? The statistics aren’t great and it was hard for me to accept that these little pre-schoolers gleefully clapping along to –
“Lollipop, Lollipop, Oh Lolly-lolly-lolly”,
were highly likely to end up in crime or homeless, living on the street or committing suicide.
That adoption story I’ve always hated for it’s overtones of “rescue” rather than love came back to me…
There was a man walking along a beach one day and he saw that thousands of starfish had been washed up on the beach by the tide which was retreating, leaving them stranded. He noticed a small boy further along the beach waving his arms around.
As he got closer, he realised the boy was picking up the starfish and throwing them back into the water. He looked at the thousands of starfish stranded on the beach and said –
“Why do you bother, there are so many – you can’t possibly make a difference?”
The young boy paused, then shrugged, then looked at the starfish in his hand,
“It makes a difference to this one.”
Make a difference. Today. In any way you can, while you still can. To the people close around you and those further away, it will make a difference if we all do.
And hold on tight to your children and give them juice and bananas whenever they want them.