I had an emotional day today. I don’t feel like blogging about writing, so today’s blog is going to be personal (again.)
Some of you may know, I am an adoptive mom. It is something that defines me as much as anything else. I did not meet my daughter until she was 10. She did not call me ‘Mom’ or say “I love you too” until three months after our adoption was finalized. She spent six years in the foster system before us, lived in nine homes that weren’t hers, attended eight schools in six years, made and moved away from so many friends she forgot how to make new ones….and that was the good part of her childhood.
I am also a trauma mommy. I read Ever After High to my daughter from the floor of a hospital room because the gurney she was on was the only furniture in the room. She doesn’t remember it because she wasn’t quite awake yet after having been medicated out of a meltdown. When my father told his grand-daughter she was welcome to “stay with him as long as she liked” over summer break, I (along with my husband) had to deal with the tantrum that came from her mistaking his show of unconditional love and acceptance as the beginning of yet another transition, another forever family that was ready to give up on her. That is called a trigger. My daughter has many of them.
I once had a parent ask me, when my not-yet-daughter was in the middle of an epic meltdown, if I had other kids. When I said I didn’t, she replied “I thought so.” Other mothers judge me–and her–based on how we differ from their own mother/daughter experience. They may know, but they don’t get that my kid didn’t grow up knowing who would be her parents (or her teachers, her peers…her pets) tomorrow or the next day. That she was introduced to three sets of “forever parents” before my husband and I proved to actually mean forever when we said it. That the fear of being taken (or given) away is always in her mind. It always affects her. It is not something she can just ‘get over’.
But it is something she can overcome. Her principal last year told me, “If I look at where she is now, I have to say…it’s not great. But if I look at how far she’s come, it’s remarkable.” How long does it take to grow out of a childhood of pain, uncertainty, and loss? How can we rush it, ask her to pack it away and move on when she’s accustomed to packing in trash bags?
My daughter is fortunate. My husband and I always wanted to adopt an older child. I am ashamed to know how many of the friends and family that she looks up to now, once advised us against ever meeting her. “You definitely want a baby.” “Those older kids are bad.” “You can’t bond with them.” “The damage is already done…ya know.” NO!
My daughter is as firmly bonded as any 12 year old girl, though when she misbehaves, she always worries we won’t love her anymore, that we will regret adopting her. And instead of “I wish you weren’t my mother,” when she’s mad at me, she gets to yell, “You’ll never be my real mother.” But I am her real mother…and she and I both know it. I am the only MOM she trusts to keep her safe. And most times she is better mannered–with a bigger heart–than other girls her age that haven’t known her struggles, but you wouldn’t know it on her bad days, on the days routines change and she is forced to cope with something new and unfamiliar. On those days, even if you did know it, you might forget.
I would wish ever single person who knows or may ever know a foster or adoptive family watch this story. While fictional, they are the most remarkable (and accurate) depictions of foster care and adoption–particularly from an older child’s point of view–that I have ever seen.
I hope you’ll watch…and maybe consider adopting from your state’s foster care system. There are so many children in need of parents.