Today, we took my daughter to her Oath ceremony to get her Certificate of Citizenship. She’s already a citizen and has a passport, but since 9/11 the rules have changed, oh, about 100 times. And while we have plenty of documents that state firmly Not Proof of Citizenship in bold “we dare you to lie” terms, this certificate is the only non-expiring, once-you-have-it-you-never-have-to-prove-you-deserve-to-be-here-again document available.
In the ongoing internet-huddle with other adoptive parents, it became clear this a certificate we needed, so after forking over hundreds of dollars and important original documents, she got her appointment for the ceremony. It’s a first — most other adoptive families I’ve checked with had different hoops to jump through. Apparently the rules keep changing over there at Immigration, so we went with the flow.
You can tell that my attitude was not the best. And that seeped into B, who is shy and hates being singled out at the best of times. She still refuses to go back to the restaurant where everyone sang Happy Birthday to her. This citizenship process involved attitude adjustment and trust cultivation on both our parts.
For me, it was sending precious one-of-a-kind documents off to nameless officials. Waiting for months. There was a hiccup and I couldn’t reach anyone who could help me. I ended up guessing, and guessing correctly. And when I can’t reach a real person, I get gut-level nervous, deeply agitated. The appointment letter told us that if we couldn’t make the ceremony, to return the letter immiediately for rescheduling. There was no return address.
For B, it was the fear of being asked to speak to a judge, about needing papers and ceremonies that the rest of her friends and family don’t. The morning was difficult, but she pulled through.
We needed to refocus on the positive. How our family was made. That being an American is a good thing. Being here is a good thing, even though she had the tragedy of leaving a family behind in another country. That this event would reaffirm something we hope will be a good thing in her life. We decided to take L out of school too so she could see this process, and learn a little more about our national melting pot.
I tried to explain all this to the girls before, with mixed results. I tried again in the car today, and was reminded by B that she doesn’t like speeches. The wonder and the awe of the moment wasn’t sinking in.
Fortunately, the moment took care of itself. The process went smoothly. The gathering was for primarily for kids; all those in the ceremony appeared to be minors being naturalized through one process of another. Everyone was pleasant and in a good mood. The official was kind and understanding, and hunted down all of B’s original documents. Even better, once we had signed the right papers and got the certificate, they gave us the option to skip the thirty to forty minutes of oath-taking.
The choice was B’s.
She leafed through both old and new passports, looked at the documents written and stamped in Cambodian and English. We looked at all the other nationalities in the waiting room with us. We translated posters in Spanish on the walls, and talked about the crack in a picture of the Liberty Bell.
Then she said “I think I’ll get impatient if there’s a speech.”
Done. We left and went for ice cream.
This post is part of a series of posts on trust, based on the 21-Day Salutes originated by blogger Colleen Wainwright. The intention is to write daily to help shift a habit. Originally, she had been told that it takes 21 days of new behavior to change a habit. She has since found out that it is apparently takes much longer. Oh well….