Last summer, I was introduced to a new member of my family. My aunt and uncle had made the decision to adopt a 5-year-old boy named Sam from China, increasing the size of our already diverse and boisterous family.
Hearing this news, I was thrilled. Not only was I about to meet an adorable young relative whose prime age would mean foolish and ridiculous acts that would send him into fits of laughter and where amazement is achieved through simple magic tricks and electronics, but it was an opportunity to experience an entirely new culture in the process.
I would hear tales of unique foods and stores, and my aunt’s and uncle’s life-changing experience of finally meeting their first child.
But within this anticipation was a source of hesitation. Before I could meet this exciting young man, I had to be informed of a few things to take into account.
Sam had been born with one leg shorter than the other and was just beginning to comprehend the English language. I had to treat him with care and take note of these characteristics.
With this cautious yet informative buildup, my outlook began to change. I was nervous.
I now expected to find a young boy clutching his parents’ legs and pleading to go back to the house he just accepted to be his home, a child terrified of his surroundings let alone hoards of people begging to squeeze and hold him until they were content.
Walking toward the cottage where we would meet, I prepared myself. But the minute I walked through the door and found a small tyke sizing me up, any hesitations dissipated. Confused by his initial reaction, I knelt down, introduced myself and told him how excited I was to get to know him.
He stood there, arms crossed, head tilted, staring at me with his dark animated eyes.
“No, no, you crazy baby,” he responded, waving his finger and raising his eyebrow in a manner so sassy I convinced myself that I was in fact crazy.
At that point, it didn’t matter that he was 5, it didn’t matter that he barely knew English and it didn’t matter that he was a cousin I was meeting for the first time. All that mattered was that he was confident, confident in his feisty attitude and confident he already knew more than I ever would. From that moment, I was hooked.
Although I was told countless times not to encourage his brazen attitude, I found his self-assurance invigorating.
Here was a 5 year old who had been engulfed into an entirely new culture for the first time and taken away from the community he grew up in and yet he managed to exude more assurance than any other child I have seen. Sam’s abrasive personality both surprised and enlightened me.
Our time spent dancing to hit songs, mini-golfing in the rain and playing sea monster in the lake encouraged me to enter new situations with a bit more assurance. I no longer avoided meeting new people and experiencing new things because of the risk of awkward moments. Instead, I went into them with a little more buoyancy when the time was right, a little more sass when it was needed, and a little more confidence in myself.