It didn't take long for me to figure out that Patrick was less than thrilled with his "foreigner mama". He flat out said it. When we left the civil affairs office he attempted to throw himself onto the concrete when I wouldn't let him run into traffic. He wouldn't look at me and asked our guide, Kelly, whether he could sit in the back of the bus. She replied, "With Mama?" I'm sure my son's answer was something akin to "Oh, heck no!", but Kelly told me simply that he declined to sit in the back if he had to take me along. He preferred Kelly to me. He preferred EVERYONE to me.
Now, I'm number one. But, it didn't happen overnight and even now, two-and-a-half months from Gotcha Day, we are still learning things about each other. We are still discovering the funny, the sad, the tender and the tortured parts of who we are and looking forward to who we will become. In many ways, I have grown more than Patrick. But trust me, just because you can "read the sign" doesn't mean you understand it at all.......
Early into our relationship of new mama and new son I determined that Patrick would know I trusted him. He needed to understand that he was important, a whole person, all his own, whose opinions and feelings and thoughts mattered. He needed to understand that there were things that could not be accomplished if he did not take part. I wasn't sure that either of us were, in any way, prepared for that amount of trust or for the repercussions if such a situation didn't work out, but God was leading and I was in so deep, there was no turning around. I gave Patrick authority over the room key. Now, I kept it in my purse when we weren't using it, but, if the door was being locked or unlocked, Patrick was the one doing it. He pushed all elevator buttons, even if he pushed the wrong one (which happened, maybe, once) and he got to hold the television remote. The maneuvering of the key and buttons and remote were incredibly important to him. He took those responsibilities very seriously and came to believe that I could not function if he did not perform his duties. Did it make him feel like he had some control over this foreigner mama? Yeah, probably so. I'm a big girl. I don't intimidate easily. And let me tell you something, it's much harder to dislike and avoid someone for whom you are responsible. That's right, this foreigner mama isn't stupid. I played to his little male ego that was driven, even this early on, to protect the woman God gave him (as a mother).
As he locked and unlocked, pushed buttons and announced "Lobby" in the weirdest Chinese/British accent I've ever heard (He sounded just like the recorded voice on the elevator) every time the elevator landed on that floor, my son began to see me as a candidate for parenthood. I don't think he'd quite decided until I bought him a Coke. Never underestimate the power of Coke. Frankly, I love Coke Zero. When I take that first drink in the morning, it's like rainbows and bluebirds, only fizzier and without feathers. Patrick's first English sentence was "Ahhhhhh....I likah da Cokah!" From then on out, I used that stuff as the ultimate reward. He hardly ever drinks it now. He prefers water. But he never hesitates to tell me "Mama, amember Guangzhou? Pahtwick an Mama likah da Coke?!"
About 3 days in, we were supposed to get the Visa picture made in the afternoon, so Patrick and I decided to go to the park. It was the one past the Dong Fang hotel in case you know the neighborhood. So, anyway, having been up since 5AM, we'd had breakfast and were on our way to the park by 8:30. We down into the tunnel and then we came up. Oops. Mistake. We went down again and began going back up, when, mid-staircase, my little boy grabs his chest and looks at me with eyes the size of silver dollars. Those are some narrow, fairly steep and lengthy stairs. I picked him up and carried him like an infant to the top. I am not a big person, but in that moment, God made me so strong, I could have carried Patrick anywhere. Once we got to the top of the stairs he hopped down like it was no big deal and yanked my arm toward the park. Once again, Little Man was the leader. We strolled around the park and looked at the lake. I really enjoy Chinese signage. It's so much more expressive than boring old American signage. So, I'm reading this pictorial sign that seems to say "No Butterflies". It was a butterfly with a line across it. What does it say to you? Now, I am the one that saw the picture of the bugle with the line across it and thought it meant no marching bands (it means no honking) but still........ I was sticking with my interpretation. Not to my credit I verbally (yes out loud) admonished a couple of butterflies in the bushes who clearly did not know they were breaking the law. And no, I did not stop to think about the reason behind my supposed rule or anything else. Oh, except enforcement. I did wonder about how the rule was enforced. But, it is not for me to question. We carried on.
As soon as the concession stand opened a certain someone reminded me that he "likah da Cokah". I bought him one. No diet. BOO. Interestingly, Patrick thanked the concessionaire in English. He wanted to ride the kiddie train. I was all for it. He looked so cute and I was really loving how he kept pointing me out to people and yammering on in Chinese. My guess, since I heard the word "mama" frequently, was that he was explaining that "yes", in fact, he had acquired a "foreigner mama" and although my Chinese language abilities are a mere 16 (Chinese for barely passing) and not the superior 18 like he claimed his English skills to be, I was pretty decent. For.A.Foreigner. Of course, he could have been trying to trade me in. We'll never know because he claims to have forgotten everything except the train ride and how very lost we got.
First, the train ride. So, it's a kiddie train. I put my kiddie in line and plan to swipe a couple of swigs on his Coke while he's not looking. Ummmmm...no. My son gets in the train and starts adamantly telling the attendant that he wants "HIS MAMA". Oh yeah, that's me, ME THE FOREIGNER MAMA!!!!! The attendant gives him the "oh, you're a big boy speech" (I can recognize it in any language") and goes about her business of putting the other little dudes on the train. My kid busts out the biggest squall you have ever heard. Of course, I got him off that train and the two of us walked all the way back to the ticket booth looking very smug, me because my status had just been elevated from "the mama" to "my mama" and Patrick's because he got his own way. I'll take it. I got a ticket and the train about gave me whiplash. We held hands through the entire thing. THANK YOU JESUS.
So, after the train ride we walked around and watched people sing and dance and play hackey sack. I'm just wondering why all those people aren't at work, but anyhoo...... Eventually, I decided we should head back to the hotel. Patrick said he knew the way. "Okay, I'm good with that because, frankly, I was already waaaaaaaay lost." After we passed the same flower bed about 4 times I realized Patrick was just as lost as good ol' foreigner mama. He just wouldn't admit because of the whole Y chromosome thing he's got going on. I was feeling like Pooh and Piglet lost in the forest, only, Tigger wasn't going to come and save us. I decided to get out on the street and just follow the sidewalk back to the hotel. Oh, the mislaid plans of mice and foreigner mamas.......
We were SO LOST. SO VERY, VERY, LOST. at first, I really thought we could just keep going in the general direction and we'd get there. I stopped at a paper stand and tried to get directions. NOTHING. The sidewalk was starting to look very old and crumbly. People tried to mow us down on their noodle-selling bikes. There were fewer cars and more trees. I started to fear that every footstep was taking us farther from the hotel instead of closer too it. The neighborhood was becoming more apartment houses and fewer stores. I started talking to Jesus out loud. "Jesus, I need to get back to the hotel. Please don't let Patrick's heart give out. Please don't let my blood sugar get low. Please don't let us get hurt. Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. When I saw the freeway on ramp I decided to get a taxi. It took 4 or 5 tries before I got one to stop. We were between 12 and 15 minutes and 20 RMB from the hotel. Patrick was elated when we got back to the room, but no more than Foreigner Mama. I was so shaken that I ordered room service. Bacon cheeseburgers, fries and Coke Zeros. Oh Man, it was heavenly. It was so funny when the server pushed the cart into the room. Patrick exclaimed, "OH WOW, OH WOW, SAHNK YOU!!!" He hadn't even seen the food yet. The presentation was almost more than he could handle.
Kelly later told me, when I pointed out some landmarks we had passed on our death march...ahem...I mean our WALK, that Patrick and I had been farther from the hotel than the hotel was from Shamian Island. I think it took me that far to read the signs and UNDERSTAND them. The "no butterflies" sign was really a sign restricting kite flying and the leave me alone and I don't like you signs I thought I was reading from my son were really signs saying "put your importance here" and "value needed", "please acknowledge efforts to survive in uncertainty".
I'm still reading my son's signs. I'm much better at it now. My favorite sign reads, "I luh loo, My Mama"! We've come a long way from being lost in the park.
May God Bless You and Keep You. May His Face Shine Upon You and Bring You Peace.