A week with Riley’s parents

It was more than I had ever hoped or imagined!

Ming Pai, now Riley, has boarded the plane and is headed for part two of his adoption journey. He is officially his parent’s but they still need to head down to Guangzhou where they will receive immigration papers allowing them to take Riley from China to America.

I was nervous about his parents coming. Would they allow us to say goodbye? Would they want to spend time with us? What would it be like to be with Riley with his parents? However, meeting his parents was more than I had ever hoped or imagined!

They’re the kind of people you can easily feel comfortable around. They welcomed our family with open arms and invited us out for dinner and to see them off at the airport. His mom and I spent time shopping and of course indulging in an incredibly cheap ($9 for 90 mins) massage!

So there you have it. I never imagined I would be having a massage next to Riley’s mom, chatting about Riley, life, China and all other sorts of stuff. I never thought we would walk arm in arm across the busy streets of China, navigating the traffic or together experience being pushed from side to side in a crowd while looking for snow boots for my kids! I never imagined I would have the opportunity to say goodbye to him before he boarded the airplane. Truly, I have been blessed immeasurably by his parents! They even brought me Chex cereal so I can make Chex mix for Thanksgiving! I love these people!

So, now, there are some of you who want more details…I won’t name any names, but you know who you are. This is where the reader who could care less about the preparation, greeting and goodbye will stop reading and those of you who want the details will continue on!

Riley and I packed his bag on Sunday night. He walked around the apartment, pointing at some of his things and saying, “I take with me.” We had been tracking the days with a paper chain and now the day had finally came to pack the bag. He chose some interesting things to take with him to America: a torn up doggy ribbon, an old tattered Easter basket, and a Rubik’s cube to name a few. But hey, it was his bag to pack and I figured this was part of the process of saying goodbye.

That afternoon, the kids pulled out all the blankets and dragged them onto the living room floor, pretending they were making peanut butter banana sandwiches together. Blankets were bread, sheets were peanut butter, and pillows were bananas; of course, the three of them were the filling in between! Riley laughed and giggled and I could see that Jolie and Isaac were doing their best to make this a memorable last night for Riley’s sake.

After playing, we went through our bedtime routine, you know, brush teeth, pjs, and potty, etc. etc. As a family we all tucked Riley in. Isaac scampered up to the top bunk and then we began singing the song we always sing for Riley, “Jesus loves you.” (We say “you” instead of “me” because we want to teach him how much Jesus loves him!

Of course, he joined us in singing as he always does and then we planted kisses gave hugs and tucked the boys in. We prayed for Riley, his future, his parents, and for our family to grieve the loss well. Lily gave him a smooch on the cheek and we closed the door so the boys could get some much needed sleep. About an hour and a half later an unusual thing happened, Peter could hear Riley crying.

When I went into his room he had tears running down his face and said he didn’t want to go sleep. I brought him out into the living room and assured him of our love. We sat in the chair and I just held him, wondering if he was thinking about everything and beginning to understand this would be his last night here with us. He eventually calmed down and went back to sleep.

Monday morning was like most Monday’s in our home. Trying to get Jolie and Isaac dressed and out the door on time for school without losing my Christian witness always poses a challenge for me. This morning was no exception; I’m quite certain Jolie had lead in her feet.

After the older two were on the bus, Riley and I prepared to leave for his first face to face encounter with his parents.

Through events too long to describe here, God lead me to find his parents online, which allowed Riley to begin an awesome month of preparing his heart for their arrival. Almost every other day he would receive a Skype call from them. His ability to see them on the web cam and talk to them was an answer to my prayers. But today he would finally be embraced by them!

In the taxi ride over, we talked about how he would meet his mom and dad and how he could give them a hug. I asked him if he wanted to hug them and he vigorously nodded his head. We arrived at the hotel meeting place and waited on a cold orange chair. Finally a Chinese lady approached me and said I was to follow her upstairs. She also asked whether or not Riley knew what was going to happen.

I told her he did, knowing that they don’t often prepare the children to meet their parents. We traveled up to the 6th floor in a rickety elevator and walked towards a conference room. I saw them as soon as we entered. They were sitting on the far side of a huge conference table–dad had a video camera and mom sat in breathless anticipation.

At first I didn’t know what to do, but I soon gathered my wits about me and asked Riley to take off his gloves, hat, scarf, and coat. Once that tedious task was finished, I asked him if he had something he wanted to do. That’s when he walked right over to his parents and hugged his mom!



From that moment on Riley didn’t look for me or ask to be held by me! I was so proud of him and what God had done for Riley in allowing him to meet them on Skype and talk for a month. Riley did want to sit on my lap in the vehicle on the way to drop me off at my apartment, but I doubt that was as much for me as it was for wanting to sit in the front seat to see out the window! The new family went back to the hotel and I went on with my morning just singing with joy in my heart for what God had done.

It was on Wed. that Riley’s mom and I went shopping and then that night our family had dinner with their family. Again, I was so impressed with how well Riley was acting. He was a bit wound up when we all went to his hotel room to get the Chex cereal boxes, but what little boy isn’t when they’re the center of attention in a small hotel room?

When we got our coats on he said, “I go with Peter and Jenny,” but his mom held him close and he didn’t push the issue further. I was sort of in a daze, wanting to hold him once more, needing to get my own three little ones dressed for that awful cold weather outside and home to bed, while also wanting to linger there and cherish each moment with the family.

We gave hugs and told Riley how much we loved him, posed for a final picture of our family with Riley, and then hurriedly packed up and headed towards the elevator. That’s when I realized it was here we would be parting, at the elevator, not the lobby like I had thought. I quickly told the kids to say goodbye again and there we were, all squished in the elevator with two Chinese ladies, looking at Riley’s new family in the hallway, trying to say goodbye, and waving while the doors closed shut. Isaac’s little “goodbye….” lingered in the air while we were transported to the first floor from the eighteenth.

In the lobby we finished getting our winter gear on and went out to get a taxi. Unlike the spring of ’08 when we left for the States and had to leave Riley behind with friends to take care of him, this time there were no tears. This time we all had peace, joy, and perhaps a little numbness from all the busyness of this goodbye.

Thursday was a quiet day for us but today, Friday, is when my final goodbye came. I felt like I had had too much going on with getting the kids onto the elevator to really feel like I had a proper goodbye on Wed. Maybe it’s the mother in me and I just really wanted another good look at the boy who had stole a part of my heart for the past few years. Maybe I just couldn’t help myself and wanted him to know we hadn’t tossed him aside, but lovingly said goodbye. Regardless, once again his parents showed their generosity towards us and welcomed me to come with them to the airport to send them off.

I called them Friday morning to see if their guide would be picking me up on the way to the airport. They had forgotten to ask and called me back after talking with the guide. It was then that Riley’s father said that the guide recommended I not go to the airport with them. I had told them yesterday that I would understand if they changed their mind, but when the reality of it came, it was all I could do not to argue or cry!

I wanted to say that Chinese people don’t parent their children the same. They don’t even tell the orphans they are leaving and that’s why they throw the fits they do! Riley knew and has planned on going on an airplane for over a month; it would be a natural thing for him to say goodbye to me at the airport….but even I wasn’t fully convinced it would be best for me to be there. I had gone back and forth on whether or not I should go. So, I tried to support the decision and quickly got off the phone.

It’s one of those moments when I knew it wasn’t an easy phone call for him, but one I also wish I hadn’t put any hope, expectation, or desire into. After I made the decision to go to the airport, which wasn’t an easy decision for me to make, I then counted on it, I planned for it, expected it, and put my heart into it. That’s something I should have known better than to do. My motto for living here in China is “to expect the unexpected.” I should have expected this change, but I hadn’t.

This interruption in my goodbye doesn’t change how great our week was. Sure, I’m sad and have tears running down my cheeks as I type this, but nonetheless, I received more than I ever hoped or dreamed of for this week with Riley and his parents! We have all been blessed indeed! I’ll see them on Skype, Facebook and e-mails and am looking forward to watching him grow into a young man. Nevertheless, an era in our lives with this child has ended and it’s time to move on.

Consequently, this weekend I’ll be getting rid of Ming Pai’s clothes, toys, and other items that are in the home, making room for someone else to come and be fostered. It will no doubt be a time of grieving for me, but a necessary part of letting go.



When Ming Pai arrived

When Riley left

5 thoughts on “A week with Riley’s parents

  1. Oh Jenny and Peter –
    Your Blog – it’s beautiful!! I can’t even think of words to describe the emotions I have while reading your blog – tears – yes- but God has certainly ‘chosen’ you as wonderful parents to foster kids – to love on them, teach them about God – and then to let them go. May God RICHLY bless you as you share your love with little ones who need it.

    Praying for you and your family as you move on and keep the memories of Riley in your hearts.

    Thanks for sharing this!! You have touched my heart!!

  2. Tears of joy for Riley and ache for your family. Foster parents have a hard but rewarding job. I am so thankful for the wonderful people that fostered my boys. When you are loving the least of these, you are loving HIM. Continuing to lift your family up to the Father who loves you and Riley more than anyone else could. Thank you for sharing the experience with me!!!!!

  3. Many tears as I read this beautiful blog. Riley is so blessed to have had you and we have a deep conviction that he will grow into a powerful man of the Father because of the love you have shown.

  4. That was an amazing story. It filled my eyes with many tears! Good thing I had a box of tissues nearby. I will miss Riley, even though I’ve never met him!!! What a completely exciting chapter in this young boy’s life…to continue being loved by his Father and family.

  5. God has created this beautiful ending for Riley’s incredible story. Blessings to you and your family for showing a young boy how much he is loved by his Father and his family. Please keep us update on Riley here in the USA if at all possible.

You know you wanna leave a comment! Takes just a few seconds...go ahead!