A few weeks ago at the church where I work, one of the congregants asked, “What if it doesn’t work out? How will you take her back?” A blunt, but fair question. We are, after all, adopting an older child; Shi Hui is weeks away from her tenth birthday. The questions on many people’s lips is, “Why is she still in an orphanage?” or “Why hasn’t she been adopted yet?” which is really the question, “So, what is wrong with her?”

Our adoption coordinator, Kathy, who works for the provincial adoption authority, explained that they don’t just do international adoptions. About half of the adoptions they arrange are domestic. However, in cases of domestic adoption children who are challenging are occasionally returned. She explained that this is hard for the children. International adoptions are, not exactly favored, but there is a sense that international adoptions are significantly more irrevocable. The promise we made again and again in our paperwork and in interviews was that we would not “abandon, abuse, or discriminate against” our adopted child.

Back to the question, look, it is a fair question. I cannot say that we have entirely avoided it ourselves. In the process of finding Shi Hui, Ellen worked with a man who examined the “waiting child” lists, and there were children who presented more challenges than we were prepared to meet. In Shi Hui’s case, her “finding” document tells us she was picked up beside a man-made shrimp pond in the Shiqi district of Zhong Shan City and that she had “cleft feet.” She was four days old.

She was four days old? Here are a couple of pictures of our daughter from years ago…

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I kept seeing that smile, and it is in nearly every single photograph we saw of her, and thought and think, “Four Days Old? Are you fucking kidding me?” Whatever deeply embedded indignant protective daddy instinct I had was unleashed then and continues to thrive fairly unabated.

Which is not to say that I am not pragmatic. Minute by minute every gesture, every sound, every reaction, every action goes into the great Brennan supercomputer. At some point, later, later, I will write about Sensory Processing Disorder, Cognitive Development, Emotional Development, Attachment–no not in me, in my daughter. For now, besides being hyper-protective, I am also hyper-vigilant, which is to say, a dad.