Soccer—or football, as we have learned to call it—is HUGE in our home, so you can only imagine the buzz in the air right now with the World Cup happening! Huzbo was born in England and moved to Canada as a teenager, so the passion for the sport was carried across the pond with him.
We are not a big sports family in general—either with playing or watching—but Huzbo loves watching soccer, especially when English teams are involved. He carries this birth-nation patriotism over to large international sporting events, like the Olympics or Pan-Am games, even if soccer isn't involved.
Naturally, our kids get caught up in the excitement that he generates, and I will confess to also enjoying watching soccer on the international pitch, like the current World Cup being played out in Brazil.
We are an international family, with Huzbo's birth heritage and Baby Girl's country of birth factored in.
So who do we cheer for?
Huzbo was born British and feels a deep loyalty towards their competitive soccer athletes, but he does cheer for Canada during the Olympics; however, we both encourage Baby Girl to always cheer for her country of birth in any sport or match that they are playing, and we cheer right along with her.
We cannot simply remove that vital part of who she is, erase it with the paperwork that granted her citizenship to Canada, nor would we ever want to. She is Canadian by our doing—not her own. She was born in South Africa and that is an integral component of who she is, more so than her Canadian residency and citizenship. We don't ever want her to feel that South Africa is simply her birthplace—it runs much deeper than that, and when we adopted her, we agreed to do as much as we could to instill a sense of pride for her beloved South Africa. This is not always easy, for obvious reasons.
So, we cheer for South African athletes whenever they are competing, and not only for Baby Girl's sake. We have come to consider South Africa as the country that helped us form the beautiful family we have. It helps that we also happen to love the many incredible features of the country itself, including the incredible people we met while travelling there.
The last World Cup was easy—it was HELD in South Africa! We had been in South Africa adopting Baby Girl when the building of the soccer stadiums was going on, eight months prior to the 2010 World Cup. We had awoken every morning during our week in Cape Town to watch the stadium there taking shape from our rented flat overlooking the construction of that venue. Needless to say, Huzbo was a little disappointed that our adoption didn't coincide with the actual World Cup in South Africa!
Sadly, South Africa did not qualify for this year's World Cup, but we will cheer for the other African nations that did, as well as Huzbo's England and my own personal favourite—Italy.
Recently on a holiday in the Caribbean, our daughter participated in some children's shows on stage at the resort we stayed at. Each child was introduced and asked where they came from, and Baby Girl proudly told the audience, "South Africa," with no hesitation. It caused a number of vacationers there to ask us how long it took us to fly there from South Africa, but we didn't mind the explanation required—we were proud of our daughter's pride in her heritage and hope that our four years of cheering for South African athletes have contributed to her pride.
I tried yesterday to get Baby Girl to tease her dad a little about Italy's defeat of England in their first match, and also tried to convince her to kid with him that she was only going to cheer for African teams, but she was having none of it.
When I asked her who she wanted to cheer for, she answered:
"We should be cheering for ALL the teams, mommy. They are all trying hard and doing their best and ALL the countries should be friends no matter who wins or loses."
I am once again the student of my daughter's brilliant insights.
Hi! Thanks for reading my post. If you liked it, you might be interested in this post about a South African woman's perspective on international adoption. Or, you may like this light-hearted look at one dad's suggestions on what questions about international adoption can be compared to.
It was a hot, sunny day. The date was June 10, 1975. The little girl was four years old, and was enjoying swinging alone in her backyard, trying to build up the courage to jump out of the moving swing and land on her feet.
She fell, not fully breaking her fall with her hands, and felt her tummy bang against the ground when her knees gave out.
A searing pain ripped through her stomach like none she had ever experienced. She tried to stand up, but the pain was so strong that she doubled over, clutching her belly. She wanted to cry out, to scream for her mommy, but she could see through the slats of the fence that their neighbour was asleep sunbathing next door, and the little girl didn't want to wake her. She ran, hunched over in pain, to the side door of her house and burst through it, where her mother was working in the kitchen. The little girl collapsed, sobbing, trying to explain what had happened. That's the last thing the little girl remembers of that day.
That same little girl remembers waking up in a post-surgery recovery room. Her parents had taken her to the hospital when the pain continued and the colour drained away from the girl's complexion. The doctors assured the parents that she had probably ruptured her spleen in the fall, and that it was a routine 20-minute surgery. Four hours later, they were finally approached by a doctor who told them "You've got one very sick little girl. She'll be lucky if she makes it."
What the doctors found was no ruptured spleen, but a kidney that had been secretly hiding a cancerous tumour, silently growing it without any symptoms. The fall from the swing had ruptured the tumour, thereby rendering her kidney a useless organ requiring immediate extraction. Internal bleeding had required 24 bags of blood transfused, and the little girl was spiking a fever, despite the alcohol rubdowns, flow of orange popsicles and IV drugs she was receiving. To this day, that little girl can't even smell an orange popsicle without feeling sick.
The little girl stayed at a cancer hospital for a month, receiving daily doses of radiation to her abdomen because the rupture of the tumour meant that cancer cells could have moved almost anywhere in her body. The doctors assured her parents that her tiny little pelvic bones were close enough together to form a protective shield for her reproductive organs from the laser of death but sadly, they weren't quite right about that. After the radiation came the chemotherapy. The IV tube would fill, and the poison would flow into her body, bringing with it instant vomiting and nausea that never left.
They let her go home once she learned to walk standing up straight again. Even from home, the parents had to bring the little girl back for regular doses of chemotherapy, the really toxic kind that is not even used anymore because it causes worse cancer years after being treated with it. Always with a bucket and box of tissues at her side on the ride home.
One morning the mother went into the little girl's room to wake her and when the little girl sat up, her hair stayed all over her pillow. It wasn't cool in 1975 to wear funky head scarves, so the parents thought a wig to cover her scalp was the best way to help the little girl. They didn't realize that a little girl of four wasn't capable of keeping a wig properly positioned on her head, nor did they realize that kids are really, really cruel and would tease the little girl when her wig shifted too low on her forehead from her winter hat. Once, the little girl was cornered and forced to surrender her wig for the big kids to play keep-away with while she silently cried, watching. Of course the big kids got into trouble, but that didn't take away the little girl's memories.
Weekly chemo turned to monthly, then that stopped, and the little girl only needed to have monthly blood tests and chest x-rays to see if the kidney tumour cells had relocated to her lungs, where the doctors said they would try to hide. These tests seemed easier than the chemo, but the little girl had no idea how much damage frequent x-ray radiation could also cause.
After a number of months, the little girl was suddenly hit with terrible pains in her tummy again. She was terrified that the same thing was happening all over again, not understanding that this was impossible. The doctors explained that the surgery to remove her kidney had caused scar tissue to form in her bowels and now they were obstructed, so another surgery was required. The little girl had no control over any of this — no control over her body, no control over what was being done to her body — she was a living science experiment.
The little girl grew up being told how lucky she was. Funny, but she didn't always feel "lucky" at various times in her life when the tentacles of that tumour tapped her on the shoulder occasionally. Times like when she tried for years to conceive a baby, times when she suffered post-traumatic stress, times when she was never able to fight off every cold, flu or virus making the rounds because the chemo and radiation had permanently weakened her immune system.
Yet somehow, after becoming a mother through adoption, that little girl finally did realize her luck — she was alive. She was able to walk, talk, see, hear, think and live, laugh and most importantly — love.
June 10 is my 39-year anniversary of being lucky. I don't know who or what pushed me off that swing, or if it was just coincidence, but I'm grateful it happened because an undiagnosed kidney tumour could have done far worse than what I've endured.
I can only hope to keep celebrating each additional year of luck as I receive them.
Hi! Thanks for reading my story! If you're interested, I also wrote this story about what I did when my first marriage ended, or this story about the time somebody assumed we adopted our daughter to be our maid.
Our daughter's sixth birthday was in April. She began talking about her birthday in January. In fact, she talked about it so much that she had invited her entire class without us knowing and before we had even decided what type of party she would have! With her classmates, friends, neighbours and some family, we had 24 children enjoy the magician party we hosted at a local recreation centre. It was crazy, hectic, fun, chaotic, and amazing.
That rush wore off quickly though when we got home, sat down to recover, and watched my daughter unwrap A LOT of presents.
My heart sank. I felt such guilt over the excessive pile of stuff growing with each gift she opened. She just didn't need them all. I wanted to kick myself for not suggesting charitable donations for gift ideas, as I had with the parties in previous years.
I felt embarrassed because I hadn't thought of it earlier, and during the party-planning phase I hadn't realized that Plan Canada has an amazing Plan Canada Gifts of Hope Birthday Registry. I kicked myself, especially considering I wrote a post last Christmas about how Plan Canada's Gifts of Hope made perfect Christmas gifts for those who have everything! It made me think that if even *I* hadn't considered this ethical gift-giving program, then most likely the average parent who hasn't written about it might not be familiar with the program and wouldn't necessarily think about it either.
Check out this video about the incredible impact of Plan Canada's Gifts of Hope:
There IS a birthday party gift-giving alternative that is much more meaningful than all of those toys your child doesn't need. This program gives your child a far more important gift — that amazing feeling of knowing you're giving hope and sustainability to a child or family who has so much less than you do.
You can create a learning opportunity with your child as you browse online from over 40 gift ideas (starting at $10) supporting education, literacy, health aid, clean water, or girls' rights. You simply register for life-changing gifts, then invite your guests to shop online and purchase one or more of these gifts in lieu of — or in addition to — a small gift for your child. Guests can even choose to have a free card sent to your child!
While you're on the website, you can buy party favours to thank to your guests. There is a great selection of other merchandise that make meaningful loot bag presents to continue the theme of giving hope.
I have certainly learned my lesson — there are still new toys and games littering my family room because we can't find a spot for them in my daughter's already-full toy cupboards. Never again! I am fully committed that from now on, my daughter's birthday parties will have meaning and give hope and support to those who need it far more than my daughter needs more toys and clothes.
Apparently, I wasn't the only one feeling guilty about getting so much when others have so little. As my daughter completed her gift-unwrapping carnival, she told me she didn't need all of those things and suggested that maybe we could give some of them to boys and girls who have less. It was the perfect opportunity to talk about Plan Canada's Birthday Registry, and I know my daughter will love using the registry to share the fun of her future parties with those who need it most.
Do you love the idea of throwing a birthday party that gives back? Read these articles and learn how you can throw a birthday party that will make a difference in the life of a child.
Then make your next birthday one to remember by registering for Plan Canada’s Gifts of Hope: Birthday Registry.
Simply invite your friends to purchase that are meaningful to you, then enjoy your special day knowing that your birthday gifts will make a lasting difference in the lives of children.