"The Fine Print"

When the mundane tasks required for our dossier get complicated, each one we complete feels like a mini-victory—and reminds me of how much I want to be a dad.

The final hoop to adopting, our adoption dossier

I have no fingerprints. Or so the technician says, after her machine fails for the third time to record my whorls and arches. I try to look on the bright side. If I have no prints, it’d be easier to perpetrate a crime. Unless, of course, it worked the other way. I imagine two cops at a crime scene.

Cop 1: “We combed the area and couldn’t find a single fingerprint.”

Cop 2: “No prints, huh? I know who did this….”

Right now, the police aren’t after me. I’m being fingerprinted so that my wife and I can have a baby. We’re 10 months “pregnant,” and this is the final step in completing our adoption dossier. Unless the technician can’t collect my prints. Then I’ll wait another three weeks for another appointment, and what if the machine won’t fingerprint me that time either?! We’ve been told the wait is 32 months, and the thought of adding three more weeks is just too much. I exhale deeply, and wish adoptive parents were required to take Lamaze classes, too.

Will This Be on the Test?

At times, I can’t help but step back and see the process for what it is: a test. A long, complicated test, administered by the People’s Republic of China, to see if my wife and I are fit to be parents—financially, physically, emotionally. We even had to state our parenting philosophies, which I think could serve us well. I see us, years from now, whipping out a copy of our application: “Aha! But here, in article two, section four, we say that a time-out is warranted if a child doesn’t finish her dinner!”

Our adoption agency has been invaluable in helping us present the best versions of ourselves, yet even their explicit instructions leave room for insecurity to creep in. For example, we’re supposed to include photos of ourselves at home in our dossier. Our agency suggests scenes that “show you doing things like reading, cooking, or eating dinner.”

My wife grabs the camera, and I reach for a book to pose with…and falter. What should I be reading? Maybe a book about communism? Would that look like we’re pandering? And isn’t China moving away from communism, anyway? What if I’m pictured reading about communism, but there’s a book about democracy on the coffee table, as if to suggest what the future will bring. Except, we don’t own any books on either subject. We consider heading to the bookstore.

In the end, I pose with my laptop, hoping the person who reviews our file will assume I’m looking at a website glorifying communism, or democracy, or whatever political bent he or she has.

Reveling in the Details

Back in the fingerprint office, a loud beep jolts me back to attention. I look up, and see some fine whorls and arches magnified on the screen. The technician smiles, “Gotcha.”

Parents I’ve met say that, once you’re matched with your child, you forget about the forms, the interviews, the countless appointments. But I don’t want to forget this strange chapter in our lives. If nothing else, the elation I feel after completing each mundane task is a reminder of just how much I want to be a father.

I look forward to a time when I can tuck my daughter into bed and say, “Do you know how much Mommy and Daddy love you? We love you so much that we went to the police station to verify we had no criminal records, but the person we had to speak with didn’t work on Mondays, but we had to have it signed on a Monday because our traveling notary showed horses every other day of the week….”

Something tells me she’ll fall right to sleep.

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