Do you remember the first job you ever had? Mine was at Blockbuster Video. Remember video stores?
Though of course I had done my fair share of babysitting and camp counseling Blockbuster Video was my first "corporate job." I remember so vividly standing at the front of the store in my crisp khaki mini skirt and Blockbuster blue button down carefully rewinding tape after tape of the previous night’s entertainment.
Not only did this job come with a great deal of responsibility – once I graduated from tape rewinding I even got to work the registers during the“Friday night rush” – it came with a bi-weekly published work schedule. Other jobs I held in the past were always predictable. Camp runs from 9:00 AM – 3:00 PM so you report to work from 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM. But at Blockbuster Video? At Blockbuster Video sometimes I worked days, sometimes I worked evenings. There were openings, closings, swing shifts, and extra “deck hands” for the Friday night rush. As a young employee I thrilled at the pendulum of unpredictable scheduling. As a new adoptive mom, it is proving difficult.
He's wearing his favorite pajamas. They're the ones we bought for him in China after I discovered that all the clothes we had brought with us were two sizes too big. Though they look like any other pajamas to me, to him I know they feel different. Maybe it's the construction or the fabric or the fact that he has worn them every week since the beginning of our journey.
He selects three books and sits down on the couch. "Dada?" It's my husband's first week of shift work and though we have talked all day about it, I reassure Jack that when he wakes up his Dada will be back. I open Moo, Baa, Lalala, his favorite. My son cranes his neck furtively around the room. "Wait Dada! Wait Dada!" He jumps down and rushes to the our display of pictures. He finds a photo of us. "Jack Dada bye bye?" He begins to cry.
From skimming countless child development books and consulting other parents, I know toddlers need routine. Structure and predictability provide a buffer and give children a much needed sense of control. A change in schedule would be hard for any child, but for my son it's more than that.
For the next three hours my son is inconsolable. I show him Dada's clothes are still here. He cries harder. I show him Dada's shoes are still here. He brings me more photos of our family, desperately pointing to Dada. I repeat again and again that his Mama and Dada will always be here. He sobs and clings to me with complete desperation.
I think of what the past few months have been like for him. How one morning he woke up, got dressed, packed his backpack, and was then led away from the only home he ever knew.
For my son, permanency is fleeting and loved ones can disappear at any time. I hug him tighter, desperate to squeeze away any remaining doubt. He murmurs "Dada" one last time then curls himself towards me, wrapping a hand around my fingers. I take a deep breath and wait for Dada to come home.