I am a glass half full kind of person and most definitely, a glass half full kind of mother. Hope springs eternal in my heart and my life plays out accordingly. But, this week, I stopped and gave myself permission to reflect a little on the past months with Grace – just three months shy of her two-year mark with us. Amazing.
So, these are a few of my favorite things and the glass is half full, but the water isn’t filtered. It is just fine to drink and it certainly won’t hurt you – probably makes you better somehow without all of the protective parameters around it. Half full and unfiltered – here we go. Oh, and she and I will laugh about this some day in the future because I realize we are raising her to be a woman who laughs. She laughs large. We still chuckle pretty hard now and then at some of the antics her older sister pulled in her own toddler years. Her sister is both astounded and proud of her stories. Stories that wrecked me in the moments but now are comical. The two of those sisters will giggle together some day at how they are responsible for mom’s habit of putting the cereal in the fridge and the milk in the pantry. “Mom’s losing it. Yeah…we did that.”
1. Holding hands while crossing the street
It dawned on me this week as Grace grabbed my hand and placed her little one in mine as we exited the van to the store, that she did so willingly and with ease for the first time since we brought her home. Over a year and a half of this little person sprinting across parking lots, streets, shopping malls and my favorite, the weekly grocery store excursions. Wrestling her hand out of mine and you would think I asked her to hold my hand into a snake pit with the fit that ensues. She is fiercely independent and stubborn. Medically she has a long road and it will serve her well. She is also a runner. This does not serve me well. I have seen all three of my biological children try to catch her in her dash (they are faster than me) and fail. I’m laughing about it even now as I write it. I gave myself permission this week when she willingly and even sweetly held my hand – to grieve how long it took to get there and at the same time, to celebrate that we got there finally. To acknowledge that I was indeed tired and that it was ok to feel spent by the passing of time for something so simple. The time it took to get there wasn’t wasted or a stream of failures at all. She and I both were allowed to feel however we needed to feel in the accomplishment of the moment. She was blissfully happy strolling and I swallowed a range of emotions from relief, to grief, to joy, to bitterness, to a sensitivity in the way her little hand willingly rested in mine without a fight. My guard dropped, my shoulders relaxed and I was both dazed and peaceful, but it took a couple of days for me to be “OK” with the flood of feelings. I hope this gives you a chance to feel OK about however your flood feels too.
2. “You picked me.”
Grace recently walked into the kitchen with a look of curiosity and intent as I cleaned the kitchen after dinner. She had in her hand a button that we had made for all of our “tribe” who ran on her behalf in the Chosen Marathon for Adoption. I am not an athlete and I am certainly not a racer (that running thing again) but this race is simply beautiful. If you want to adopt but know you need help with the financial aspect, this generous race is the helper. If you want to support those adopting, this is your extended family waiting for you to join with them.
On this button that we all wore on that race day, sits a photo of her little face – pre surgeries and all, and the slogan “Race for Grace.” She brought it to me exclaiming, “I’m little.” (Another one of my favorite things – each day she decides if she is little or big depending on the activity). She then began asking in her jumbled speech about the button and I explained why we had it made and that so many people who love her wore it and that we came to get her right after we ran the race and that we picked her and couldn’t wait to hold her. She narrowed in on the part about being chosen and yelled loudly (think winning the showcase on The Price is Right) “YOU PICKED ME!” I was surprised by her response but met her in her joy in the same tone and volume (I just won the showcase too) and said, “YES, WE PICKED YOU!” And our voices continued this celebration in the kitchen, growing higher in excited pitch and understanding. It was the first glimpse of the knowledge of being picked, chosen, special and loved. We celebrated. There was dancing and hugging. Maybe some ice cream too.
3. Out of Nowhere
I was having one of those weeks when I felt like a terrible mother and felt the lack of anything good to give. This is not a normal place for me to land but I crash-landed there for a couple of days. There was not an overflow but a creeping deficit. I have decided that all honest mothers arrive at that place at some point and we are better off grabbing our safe people and putting it in the light so it quits creeping. I tend to think that the more people we are honest with in our struggle, the more freedom to be had. So, I’m blogging it. Crash-landed. Big freedom on the way. “Out of nowhere” loud fits of rage from Grace on everything from a pair of shoes to a magic marker. Over and over again. For several days. I found my normally big heart of emotion going a little numb and I didn’t like it. I felt for sure I was somehow missing it and messing it up for our sweet daughter. “Out of nowhere” two friends show up, one right in the middle of one such fit, and I begin to put on the table my fears and insecurities. One mom asks, “How do you know it is adoption related?” (“Because I just KNOW, I’m GOOD at knowing and I’m GOOD at this” – said with some prideful ignorance in my mind!) I begin to list all of my reasons and she says, “My child (not adopted) does that every day right now. It makes me so tired.” I wanted to hug her and didn’t even regard her own feelings of inadequacy – I was just happy to have someone in the “I am just about tapped out” camp with me. The truth is, there are parts that are without question adoption related. And some parts that just are not. Two days later, another mom friend kindly expresses, “I just don’t think you’ve ever had a child who throws fits.” Apparently not! I thought I had but now know I was playing on the B team with those fits. They were minor league and I’ve been called up to the majors. All kidding aside, it was a comfort that we could all be on the same team and not in mom competition – we could relate and encourage and reason out some ideas and game plans for future success. And we could laugh. “Out of nowhere” at the end of an exhausting week – I am laughing. And “out of nowhere” at a snow cone stand, Grace leans close to my face, kisses me smack on the lips and says, “I love you mommy.” The major leagues have some major unsolicited advantages.
Grace insists on bringing a backpack or bag everywhere we go. My older children like to take things along for the ride too but in small numbers. They pack for a couple of hours and she packs for a foreign stint in The Peace Corp.
5. Grown Ups Come Back
The “Grown Ups Come Back” theme song from the PBS children’s show Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood is sung literally every time me or my husband walk outside. Even to get the mail. The singing and truth behind the song have quieted many a fit. It has been so successful that my other children have tried to compose their own songs to “help” their sister. Titles like “Please Don’t Take My Peaches,” “Loud Screaming Makes Me Not Want to Help You” and “Mom Can Cut Your Sandwich” all have not been as successful. My older children have also become music critics, commenting to one another, “That’s not a good song at all.” Still my favorites, all four of them. Unfiltered.