Papa

Our boy loves his daddy. And who could blame him? His daddy is tall and handsome. He’s smart and strong. He can kick the soccer ball and is willing to hold him endlessly in the pool. All adoption-related material about acclimating kids to new parents says that children will often attach themselves to one parent over the other. I’ve read it and seen it in other families, but I guess I never really thought Ezra would gravitate more to Brent. How vain can a girl be? With our kids at home, I was the number one choice and daddy was an acceptable substitute. This may have something to do with the fact that I was the singular source for their nutrition for the first months out of the womb but who knows.

 

I’m not complaining. It’s been such a pleasure watching Brent with Ezra. He’s a natural nurturer, which I already knew. And Ezra hasn’t completely ignored me. He’s allowed me to feed him and rock him. I gave him a shower yesterday and he was fine. Runner-up isn’t so bad, just an adjustment.

 

In the Congo, as in a lot of other African countries, the men are often called papa and the women are called mama. (If you want to call someone “my mother” it’s mama na besu.) It’s a term of familiarity and respect. It shows the village culture at its best: we’re all here to raise these kids because it takes all of us to do it right.

 

Today, I heard Ezra call Brent da-da. This may have been him parroting the times I’ve referred to Brent as daddy, a habit from home. But I’d rather think he said it because Brent has crossed an imaginary line in Ezra’s mind. He’s gone beyond the men around our hotel—Pablo who drove us to the market and high-fives Ezra every day or Carlos who cleans our room and lectures him in Lingala about obeying his parents or Samba who rakes the gravel in the parking lot.

 

Whatever is going on inside his head, he’s starting to trust us. When he wakes up in the morning, he looks unsure of where he is and who we are. After a several minutes of sweet-talking and offering food, he warms up to us. It’s a game we’ve played every day we’ve been here and we’re ready to play it for keeps.

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