Another Man’s Child
One of the most callous things I have seen written about on this site is the refusal of some people to take responsibility for a child of their Thai girlfriend from another man.
If we have the chance to raise up out of poverty a young boy or girl, especially one who has the blood of someone we profess to love, why wouldn’t we take every opportunity to do so?
I have been with my mia noi for ten years now, and I have seen her blossom and mature from a beautiful, yet unworldly and immature girl of 20, to a responsible and caring woman of 30. She is honest, trustworthy, hardworking and over the years my affection for her has greatly deepened.
About 5 years ago my mia noi got quite sick and nearly died twice in the hospital. One of the consequences of her illness was that she cannot have children. She and I have often talked about this, since I am much older than her the odds are I will die before her, and while I have made arrangements to have her taken care of financially for life it is disturbing that she will have no children to look after her as she ages.
Just about the time she got sick, her older brother had a baby girl. My mia noi was always in love with this baby, and helped take care of her while she was an infant. The baby’s mother buggered off a few years ago, leaving the baby with her parents (the baby’s grandparents) in a village in Petchabun. My girl’s older brother (the father) could not take care of the baby by himself as he had to work in Bangkok, but faithfully sent money to the grandparents every month for expenses. The mother sent nothing.
(As an aside, how many of us have been told by an unmarried Thai bar girl that “Thai men no good” because someone got her pregnant and buggered off? We are only hearing one side of the story—it may be that the girl was a bad mother, sleeping around, whatever. I am not convinced that all Thai men are bad and all Thai women are paragons of sainthood, but that’s another post).
About 6 months ago mia noi comes to me and says “what if I take care of Ting?” (Ting is her brother’s daughter). I can’t profess to understand Thai (or any nationality) women, but I have figured out that when mia noi comes to me with an idea, she has thought it out to the nth degree and is about to put it into practice. It seems that Ting’s grandparents were unable to take care of her, she was eating little, rarely going to school and living in two T-shirts and one pair of shorts. My girl had finally convinced them that, for the good of Ting, they should let my mia noi take care of her. My girl’s older brother had agreed, and my girl had also finally received the approval of the mother (having taken some time to track her down).
Given my blessing, mia noi drove to Petchabun, got Ting, and drove her back to Loei, having stopped along the way at Big C for a full wardrobe blow-out.
We got the five-year old into a good private school, and the girl turned out to be amazingly clever and mature. She would promptly come home every day after school, immediately do her homework, and then help with household chores.
I asked my girl about the legality of this. The response was that since both parents had agreed there was nothing illegal about it, but that for it to be totally proper papers would have to be signed. I suggested that this be done right away but got the response that it was better to wait a while for everyone to be comfortable with the new situation.
Ting started calling my mia noi “mama”.
Two months ago I started thinking that for the girl to have a future, she needed English, which she would be unable to get at her current school. I made a note to discuss this with my girl. The next time I saw her, she said “what if we sent Ting to a Christian school?” She had found a school in the province run by nuns which featured an English/Thai curriculum. I said I thought it was a terrific idea, but how would my girl (a devout Buddhist) feel about the religious aspect. My girl, ever practical, responded “I will teach Ting about Buddha in my house, at school she has to learn English.”
Plans were made to enrol Ting at the “Christian school” after the New Year.
Yesterday, January 1, Ting’s grandparents and their younger daughter (not Ting’s mother) showed up at my girl’s house. They grabbed Ting, stuffed her in the car, and drove off.
It is unclear what set this off. Hypotheses:
1- The grandparents were missing the 3,000 – 5,000 baht the girl’s father sent every month (and stopped sending when Ting went to live with his sister).
2- They missed Ting and were lonely without her.
3- Ting’s mother was upset that Ting was calling my girl “mama”.
After she had a good long cry, my girl and I had a talk about what to do. She had already spoken to her brother and told him not to start sending money again. I said that if money were the issue, I would gladly send the grandparents 3,000 baht every month if they would give Ting back. My girl said absolutely not, that it was the responsibility of Ting’s mother to send money, not mine.
My girl plans to wait it out. She feels confident they will call her up within 6 months and ask her to take Ting. My girl will refuse unless they sign the legal adoption papers.
And what about Ting, a 5 year old girl who was suddenly snatched from a beautiful life and bright future? Who is thinking about her? Will she end up dancing in a bar and working on her back, or using her mind to graduate with honors someday?