On this day ten years ago, Bethany and I were in Nanning, China trying to convince a two-year-old boy named Jiang Yi Jian that we were his new mama and baba (mom and dad). He wasn’t buying it. Five days earlier, “Jian Jian” (his Cantonese nickname) had been handed to us by an elderly woman who had loved him as her own since he was an infant. It was a heart-wrenching goodbye for both of them. His foster mama was so emotionally distraught that she couldn’t bear to meet with us the next day, as per our arrangement, to tell us more about our new son. We never heard from her again.

Travis Naughton

For a full week, the heartbroken toddler spent virtually every waking minute either crying out for his mama whenever we were in our hotel room or searching for her whenever we went out. Thankfully, when we flew to Guangzhou for the finalization of the adoption, the newly renamed Truman Jiang began to accept his new lot in life.

However, as an act of passive resistance, Truman refused to willingly drink a single drop of water, juice, milk, or any other form of hydration offered to him by his new parents. Ever. This protest continued at his new home in America and lasted for a solid six months. We tried everything we could think of to get him to drink. Sippy cups, bottles, fun glasses, silly straws, popsicles, ice, soup, etc. With food or without. We tried positive reinforcement and punishment. Absolutely nothing worked.

As a stay-at-home parent who was desperate to bond with his new child, it horrified me to have to literally hold my son’s tiny mouth open and force him to drink. At one point, I called Bethany at work and begged her to come home. I couldn’t take it anymore. I had started thinking that the whole thing may have been a terrible mistake.

Mercifully, I eventually discovered the trick to getting Truman to drink. Apparently, all Naughton men, not just the alcoholics, like drinking from shot glasses. True story.

There have been many people who have told Bethany and me that our kids Truman and Tiana (adopted two years later) are lucky to have us. That’s a nice thing to say, but it’s not entirely true. If they were so lucky, would they have been abandoned by their biological parents in the first place? Was it lucky for Truman to have been torn away from his foster mother, whom he considered to be his mama? Was it lucky for Tiana to spend the first seven years of her life in an orphanage?

Bethany and I are the lucky ones. We were able to find two amazing children on the other side of the world who fit perfectly into our family. We now have three healthy and happy children who love each other and are kind to one another. Everyone should be as lucky as we are.

We’re not the only people in Southern Boone County whose lives have been blessed by adoption. Children from Asia, Central America, Africa, the United States, and various other places now call SoBoCo home because of adoption. Ashland, Missouri is becoming a melting pot of sorts, and in the process, it is becoming one of the best places on Earth to raise a family.

It seems, at times, that this world is becoming a scarier place. It is natural to feel somewhat helpless when confronted with negative news stories day-in and day-out. But there is a concrete way for you to make the world a better place. Adoption.

If you can’t adopt, then consider being a foster parent. You may recall that Bethany and I fostered her great-nieces a couple years ago. Now we can happily report that they have been adopted by their maternal grandmother. Their great-uncle and his husband have since adopted two children as well. On my mother’s side of the family, two of my cousins and their spouses have adopted children, too. All of these adoptions began with foster care.

November is National Adoption Awareness Month. There are millions of children throughout the world who are waiting for a forever family of their own. I hope you will take a moment to consider opening your heart and home to a child in need.

Happy Gotcha Day, Truman!