All That We Could Have Missed

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There is a popular hashtag I see moms and dads use when posting celebratory moments from their family’s adoption stories. This beautiful and emotional social media tag is #wecouldhavemissedthis. My wife, Amber, used this hashtag when she posted one of the FIRST pics of us with our adopted son, Jonas. The wonderful hashtag both moved and resonated strongly with me. It still does every time I see anyone post it with his or her adoption story.

We could have missed this. 

Five powerful words that express the love, the laughter, the priceless memories, and the truest definition of what family can be all about. Five words that indicated there came an important choice. If fear and uncertainty had won, all of the wonderful memories and moments would have never been realized. The adoption of our son brought some new challenges, but what we could have missed out on seems staggering when we reflect on ALL that Jonas has brought to our family.

Photo taken by Chelsea Zalewski

We could have missed that life-changing day, six years ago, on November 8th, 2016, in the city of Taiyaun, China. On that day, Jonas Timothy McCulloch officially became our son. As we walked out of the Tiayuan Social Welfare Institute, a new chapter was beginning for our family. If events and divine intervention had taken our family a different route, Amber and I would have never met our kind and loving son. And Logan, Scout, Quaid, and Sawyer would have never gained their fun and energetic brother.  

We could have missed out on watching Jonas’ growth, learning a new language, working hard at school, and achieving success, despite the cultural barriers. From seventh grade and forward, Marine City students and faculty encouraged and supported him throughout his journey as a middle and high school student. He began not knowing a single word of English and not knowing a single student in the school.

Today, as Jonas works in my English Language Arts 12 class, I read his five-paragraph essays and school work. Each word communicates the thoughts of his huge heart. And Jonas is loved and respected by many students in our school community. We could have missed seeing this amazing success story.

We could have missed that first Christmas where everything filled Jonas with awe, wonder, and joy. At his first Christmas parade, he SPRINTED down the boulevard, recklessly, trying to keep up with the band to keep hearing the Christmas tunes. Jonas worked hard, drawing a Christmas tree with gifts, and using his Google translator to translate his heartful message to English for us. His finished ornament had the phrase “I love my family” on it. Every Christmas since, he has that same joy of being a part of OUR family. 

We could have missed the love a boy has for our family dog, our Atticus. Playing catch with a tennis ball or sneaking him treats. From day one to today, Jonas continues to lay beside our Atticus, talking to him like he is one of his dearest friends. Jonas’s unbreakable bond with Atticus reminds us of what loyalty looks like. 

Amber and I could have missed out on being told “to kiss two minutes” anytime we had the slightest tension between us. Concerned with his mom and dad arguing, Jonas saw every conflict being solved by a kiss. Jonas has reminded us that it is always better to live in love, rather than conflict and tension.

Your “basketball fan club” of mom, dad, siblings, cousins, and grandparents could have missed out on watching a young man, with severe arthritis in his ankles from untreated hemophilia, trying out and making it on the school basketball team. With each game, we watched you bravely run up and down that court despite the physical challenges you faced. Your love for this game made all obstacles seem to disappear. His bravery on the court extended off the court with the challenges that hemophilia brought to his life. Never complaining, Jonas showed us courage, without even a hint of resentment or self-pity. 

Amber would have missed out on those late night conversations where Jonas shared the happy and many sad chapters when growing up in foster care in China with his mom. Your mom loved all of those conversations, and she also loves the talks you had when driving many times to Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Detroit. We could have missed this reminder of the power of just listening to those you love and care about.

The memories on family vacations and camping trips would have never been quite the same without Jonas. There was never a roller coaster he would not try. There was not a meal he would not finish. Whether at the beach at Lakeport State Campground, swimming in the pool, hiking through Eastern Ohio, or attempting to surf the ocean, Jonas always loved being there, with us. Jonas showed us how moments of being together are to be treasured as our most priceless belongings.   

There is SO much we could have missed out on without Jonas in our lives. A brother, and worthy opponent, to play basketball with in our driveway. A protector (and prankster) to a sister. A workout partner at the gym. A best friend. A son always willing to help dad or mom with tasks around the house. A selfless young man who begins figuring out Christmas presents for his family months before December 25th. A loving son, brother, grandson, cousin, and friend. All of these traits, all of the priceless memories we might have never known.

And we could have missed out on remembering what it is to be grateful. With every lunch his mom makes or when I attempt to fix his car, Jonas always says thank you. He appreciates so much of what might have normally been taken for granted, and he has opened our eyes to see the blessings around us.

He reminds us of the importance of BEING TOGETHER. Whether a family meal or an outing to see a movie or watch a game, Jonas values us being together. He makes sure that all who are available, who are home, are part of every family meal and every event.

We cannot imagine our family without Jonas as a part of it. And I was the one who was not fully sure about adoption, let alone adopting a child from China. It was greatly my fears, my anxiety over the unknown, that could have rewritten the joy-filled chapters of the past six years. Through my wife’s perseverance and prayers, LOVE conquered those fears. LOVE knew what we could have missed.

And the chapters we have had with Jonas in them and the ones that lie ahead make up a story we would never have wanted to miss.

–Guest submission from Jay McCulloch

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