March 18, 2010 older child adoption, Shirlee 13 Comments

I posted this to my blog two days ago but thought it might be worth posting here, as well. Especially in light of the new shared list. This blog is, of course, dedicated to special needs adoption. For older children who wait, age becomes a very specific special need. I often wonder what it is that holds us back from opening our arms to children who are older. I suppose there are as many reasons as there are people. It has never been my purpose to push people into stepping out of their comfort zones and into things they don’t feel prepared for, but I have tried to share honestly and from the heart about the journey I’ve taken in the hopes that others might be encouraged by my story. The little snippets of our lives that I present here are only a tiny measure of the joy that Cheeky (adopted at age seven) has brought to the entire family.

I know…I’m an annoyingly prolific blogger today!

But, I just had to post these photos of Cheeky. Her birthday is on March 31, and she is very anxious for it to arrive. To understand that, you have to understand that she has three siblings who have birthdays in February and March.

Ever since February 2nd, she has been watching those siblings get presents and cake and, most importantly of all to Cheeky, things in the mail.

Yep. She’s watched them come…boxes and envelopes…and she has watched as her siblings opened those boxes and envelopes. She’s hung over their shoulders as they’ve read the cards and, gasp!, pulled out money.

And she has known that one day….one very special day…something would arrive in the mail with her name on it.

Today, folks, was the day!

We arrived home from the library, and I saw the box sitting on the stoop in front of our door. “Hmmmm,” I said, “It looks like someone got a package. Maybe it’s for….Cheeky.”

And she nearly killed herself jumping out of the van and rushing to look. “Is it? Is it for me? Do you think it’s for me? What is it? Is it for my birthday??????”

“Well, it’s for everyone,” I said. “Grammy sent it. But I bet there is something special in it for you.”

“For my birthday?” She squealed and shoved past her brother (and then had to get lectured on not shoving past people)to get a better look.

I carried the precious package into the house and set it on the counter. It remained there while the kids put away their library books and unloaded the groceries.

And Cheeky? She could barely stand it. She kept walking over to the box and staring longingly at it and then hurrying to put stuff away so she could see what was in the box.

When the moment finally, finally, FINALLY (I’m sure that’s what my daughter was thinking) arrived, we all gathered around the homeschool table, and I opened the box. My mother had packed candy and a few other items as Easter treats for the kids, but Cheeky cared nothing about the chocolates or sparkly bracelets. Her gaze had fallen upon it. The wrapped gift. The one that looked like it could maybe just possibly be a present for someone. A birthday present for someone. And, of course, Cheeky knew that her birthday was next.

“Is it for me???” She gasped, and I lifted that present out of the box, and I handed it to her.

“Yes. It’s for you.”

“And there’s even a card,” she said in wonder as she raced to the couch where all the kids sit when it’s their birthday and they’re opening presents.

And she opened that card, folks, so carefully. Opened it and looked at it and wondered over it and asked me to read it to her, and then she clutched it to her chest, and she said, “My first birthday card.”

And I really did get a little misty eyed.

I pointed out the gift card that had fallen into her lap and she studied that for a moment, and then it was time.

Finally, finally, finally time

And she ripped the present open and her eyes went huge with joy as she pulled out a bright yellow dress.

“It’s mine,” she said. “My first birthday gift. And Grammy, she gave it to me.”

“That’s right,” I said.

“And she buyed it at the store for me for my birthday.”

Then she raced into her room to put it on. She came skipping back down the hall, her face lit up with the kind of pure joy that only someone who has never ever received a birthday gift and then suddenly receives one could know. She asked all her brothers if she was beautiful in the dress, and they all agreed that she was. Sassy oohed and ahhhhed over the twirly skirt while Cheeky twirled and whirled.

I thought that maybe I should be sad that Cheeky is about to turn eight and has never been given a birthday present before, but all I felt was joy because all she felt was joy. She did not waste the moment mourning the past. She focused absolutely and completely on the experience.

I’ve heard people say (and have probably said myself) that it is hard not to be there for a child’s first time rolling over, first attempt at crawling, first step, first tooth, first word, first….first…first. Adopting an older child means giving up the privilege of being there. It means accepting that those memories are forever lost to us and to our children.

But all is not lost.

We have these moments, these most perfect and remarkable moments when we see our children grasp not just what it means to celebrate a birthday or Christmas or a lost tooth, but what it means to belong to a family, to have a blanket of love to wrap snugly in, to hear a chorus of voices shouting….You are ours and we are yours and this is what forever means. We bear witness to their transformation from children who are adrift to children firmly anchored, and the beauty of that….it is breathtaking.

Enjoy the photos of Cheeky wearing her first ever birthday gift!

13 responses to “Firsts”

  1. Stefanie says:

    That Cheeky… she is positively RADIANT!
    What a blessing it is to get to know her through your eyes, Shirlee.
    Happy Birthday, Cheeky!

  2. Eileen says:

    Happy birthday! And I agree with her brothers and sister–she looks beautiful!

  3. Amy says:

    A beautiful post for a BEAUTIFUL GIRL!

    Happy Birthday, Cheeky!!!

    And thank you, Shirlee, for sharing your experience and your heart. Thank you for the inspiration you offer.

  4. Truly Blessed says:

    Oh Shirley,

    She's beautiful, her spirit is beautiful, the dress is beautiful!

    Thank you for posting this and extra super special birthday wishes to Cheeky from our family!!!

  5. Kim says:

    Happy Birthday Cheeky!
    You are captivating!
    Love & Blessings from Hong Kong,

  6. Wife of the Pres. says:

    Absolutely beautiful—the story, the dress, your words and most of all, your Cheeky. This one really hit me hard tonight Shirlee, but I know your words will resonate in my heart many times.

    All is not lost. We have these moments …

  7. Shannan says:

    I see your comments everywhere and they always resonate with me. I saw your comment on the worst blog award, found on Christinas site. I too feel like I need to educate prospective adoptive parents and let them know it is okay to look at the dark side of adoption. Your comments were right on point and I told her to listen to you.
    Cute girl by the way!

  8. mamatree says:

    So beautiful! Wow! Radiant!

  9. The Wanderers' Daughter says:

    BRAVO!!! Thank you for this post.

  10. Michelle says:

    Oh, beautiful, beautiful Cheeky!! I hope you have a fabulous birthday!! And Shirlee, you are absolutely right! Our past nine months have been filled with witnessing so many "firsts" – each and every one very special.

  11. M says:

    What a beautiful daughter you have! I totally get the special moments with an older adopted child. I am privledged to see them often with my own China blessing adopted at almost 6 years old. She gets pure joy out of.. well everything! We are in the process of bringing home another older daughter, she is ten months older then our Manon. Manon LOVES to tell everybody that they will be Chinese Irish twins! She heard me say that once and now she tells everyone! I hope your daughter has a wonderful year! Many blessings, Brenda

  12. Ellie says:

    Oh Happy Birthday Cheeky! you are gorgeous! What a pretty dress and a wonderful first present!!!!

  13. Carissa says:

    Oh I hope she had a great birthday and received many more gifts! I hope her all that joy in that moment her whole life!

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