One of the hardest things…for me, at least…about being an adoptive parent is knowing that I missed out on my child(ren)’s life in China. And I’ve found that the older the child is when they join our family, the harder it is to deal with that loss of knowledge about my child’s past. Our early years play such a huge role in shaping us into who we are. It’s great to tour the orphanage and visit with the nannies, but it gives only a snapshot into the child’s “previous” life. There is so much about those missed years that we will never know. So many things that shaped our child(ren) that we won’t even know happened.
It’s slightly different with my daughter. We just crossed over the one year home mark about a month ago. In her years before us, she was in a loving foster home and we have additional insight into her life…which I am incredibly thankful for. But in a way, adopting a 4 year old out of a loving foster family is harder than adopting an (almost) 2 year old out of an orphanage. I have much more information on my daughter’s upbringing and life than we do her younger brother, but she also has memories of her life in China that our son doesn’t. Memories of a life she enjoyed, surrounded by people who loved her and doted on her like she was the center of the universe.
As we approached our one year anniversary as our daughter’s parents, we began to notice some new playacting taking place. Our sweet girl was constantly imagining that she was back in China with her Foster Mama and Foster Baba, with her little brother playing the role of her (older) foster brother. For awhile, it was a daily occurrence and then it became more gradual. But a few months later it still hasn’t stopped. And along with this pretend play has come conversations about missing China. About wanting to go “home” to her foster parents. Questions about why they “gave” her to us.
The one year home milestone is such a huge one to hit with your new child. But there’s one I know many people celebrate even more…the day when their child has been with them longer than they were without them. And even though we’ve had just over 13 months with our girl, she’s still been with us less than half the amount of time that she was with her foster family. This life…though very permanent…is still her “new” life. And even though my husband and I are her forever parents, we’re still the Johnny-come-latelys in our daughter’s life.
It’s hard not to get hurt when our daughter wishes for her old life in China. Even knowing that she loves us and has attached securely to us, I’m still a teensy bit jealous of the woman she called “Mama” for nearly three years. What I wouldn’t do to have those early years. But at the same time, I am so incredibly thankful that Foster Mama did have those years. Because during that time, my baby girl had someone loving her…caring for her…fixing her hair in pretty styles…and spoiling her rotten. I’ll gladly take the trade. But I also know that having been loved so much before joining our family, our daughter is going to need time to grieve the loss of the life that she once had. I know she’ll never forget the first people who cared for her as Mom and Dad…nor do I want her to. I want her years with Mama and Baba to be savored and held tightly to her heart. They’re the reason she is who she is today. And I love who she is today very, very much. So yes, I’ll gladly take the trade. Even if it means it takes my daughter a little bit longer to wrap her mind around the fact that this is her new forever.