Rory is bothered by conversation.
She’s largely a native English speaker, since she grew up understanding and speaking more English than Chinese (she was raised in a large foster home with American parental figures and Chinese nannies), but the ebb and flow of conversation still goes over her head, and she’s hampered by a natural 5-year-old inability to tell the difference between a suitable topic for conversation and a random non-sequitur. But she wants to be a part of any conversation that’s going on, especially if it feels exclusive. Rob and I, trading notes on our day; Sam, describing a key moment in his last hockey game, Lily, planning a playdate, Wyatt, offering observations on fascinating mathematical subjects–if I engage in any of these with Rory around, especially in the car, the little voice will interrupt almost immediately.
“‘Member? ‘Member, Mommy?”
There is now a pause, as Rory never plans what she’s going to ‘member before she ‘members it.
“Member you hit your head on the airplane?” That’s a favorite, along with “‘member you drove away at school” (referring to a time when I started to leave the carpool line at Sam and Lily’s school while the teacher who’d opened the car door was still shutting it), and also “‘member I have lice” (oh, yes, I remember that one), and “‘member I throw up my bed?”
These are mostly memorable for having been emotional moments–I hit my head on the airplane during turbulence, and Rory was pretty frightened, although I don’t think that was her first plane ride with us–it happened another time. The lice were traumatic for everyone, and Rory took the brunt of it, getting the worst case first and having to deal with my barely compressed fury at the general unfairness of life full on. The throwing up was mostly memorable because she really, really did not want to admit to having done it, as though perhaps someone else had snuck into her bed, barfed, and then returned to sleep in their own, but once she did admit it, she was painfully pleased and shocked that I was not angry at all. (The car thing she just found really, really, really funny.) But it doesn’t seem to be the emotion of the moments that’s pushing her, since she invariably engages me not because of something she’s thinking about, but because I am engaged with someone else, and oh, that’s hard.
It used to be harder. Seeing me occupied with another used to prompt tantrums, sudden imaginary injuries, and, until I realized what was going on, the mournful announcement that she wanted to “go back China.” Now it’s just this passionate urge to be a part of things, and while it can be a little annoying–she interrupts indiscriminately; she’s five–it’s mostly endearing just because it is such classic adoptee stuff. It reads like something out of some adoption manual: “your child may be jealous and want your attention constantly. Be sure to respond in a way that shows you understand her needs.” And yet, in a classic Rory way, she preempts my response. Not only has she drawn my attention, but she’s drawn, with her “memberies,” the link between us. All I have to do is grunt out a yes, and her attachment to me is affirmed, and she can go on her merry way. It’s really very efficient. it rarely even gets her scolded for the interruption, since often all I have to do is nod. This kid knows what she needs, AND she knows how to get it.
Think I’m impressed? You’re right.
Cross-published at No Hands But Ours.