One of the things that we enjoy about our 5 year old is the unique way he pronounces things. To my secret chagrin, he is just now starting to correct his speech and talk more like a big boy.
When he arrived at our house for the first time, it took me a while to figure out what he was saying. He would make a “y” sound for the letters “L”, “R” and “W”. For example, the word “Yight” could be “light”, “right” or “white”. It made for interesting conversations.
One day he was talking to my best friend. Elaine asked him what he wanted for his birthday. He said, “I yant a py-yit cos-toom.” Confused, she asked him to repeat himself. Some kind of costume, but she wasn’t sure what kind. When he repeated himself, she said, “Oh, a PIRATE costume!”
He said, “No, not a pi-yit what says, ‘aaarrrr’ but a pi-yit what fyies a pyane.”
For kids, there is something awesome about dressing up. They love to pretend that they are something they are not. In the minds of kids, when you wear a costume, you morph into the person that you are pretending to be.
It’s not so easy in real life for a child to simply morph into a new person, to take on a whole new identity and become a part of a different family with new memories to learn about, new idiosyncrasies to figure out, and new family members to understand.
After the kids had been with us for a few months, they finally got to meet their Uncle Dean and Aunt Esther. We were excited and proud to be introducing them to the kids, and brought the family down to the GTA to introduce them to my side of the extended family.
One of the challenges of adopting kids is assimilating them into your existing family. Will they fit in? How are they going to be accepted? Will they always stand out in the family pictures like in the old Sesame Street song: One of these things is not like the other…
When we arrived at my brother’s house, my big brother rushed excitedly to the door, flung it open and announced, “Aaarrrggghhh!! I’m a pirate!! Wanna come in and hunt for my treasure box??” He even had an eye patch. From there it was mayhem. They ran in like wild goats and excitedly explored his whole house before I had a chance to say, “It’s not polite to go running upstairs in someone’s house.” My brother didn’t care about that. He now had a new niece and 2 new nephews to spoil.
To this day they still call him “Uncle Dean the Pirate”.
I have thought about this other family that I belong to. I am a Child of God, and I belong to a huge family of followers of Christ. As I’ve thought about my little family’s experience with assimilation, I have wondered how well we as Christian family members assimilate others into our family of faith.
My kids started a whole new life, and they didn’t know how to be a Bursey, or a Good. They didn’t know what it meant to be “tall like the Keefes” or the details of how Gramma Janet came over from England. They have to figure out this new identity as they go.
In our church we see people like this every week. Each Sunday and throughout the week, people are coming to Christ and starting life over.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (1 Corinthians 5:17)
They don’t know how to live this new life. It is a huge learning curve. A huge part of that new life is learning to coexist with their new family members. How they are greeted at the door and how they are welcomed into the family is so vitally important.
When the new family arrive at our church home, the door should be flung open, and the welcome mat thrown out. There are no thoughts of anyone being an outsider. You are instantly family here.