I rarely seem to get the significant conversations when I try to start them. But, I try anyway. I don’t try everyday; neither of us need it everyday. In fact, there have been weeks that go by with no real attempts on my part to open those doors. But, every once in a while, when I see an opportunity, I gently push those cracked doors of her heart open, just to keep them open. It’s part of my job as her mother, as much a part of my job as making her lunch, brushing her teeth at night, and making sure she does her homework. Heart care is what I signed up for when we put our thumbs in red ink. And, even though it isn’t always pretty, I’m in.
On her brother’s birthday, after we talk about his birth story, she may hear something like this…
“You didn’t grow in my belly like your brother did, did you? Some kids may feel a little sad or mad about that at times. I wonder if you ever feel sad or mad about it. Well, if you ever do, you can tell me.”
When someone asks her where she’s from or if she speaks English, she may hear something like this…
“I love that you’re Chinese. It’s part of who you are, and I love who you are. Some kids may like the extra attention that being special gives them. Maybe you do. But, some kids may feel a little sad or mad when people don’t understand who they really are and single them out. I wonder how you feel about it. Well, either way, you can tell me.”
A pause. That’s the most I receive from her in response typically. She stops, she hears me, she may smile, she may give me an okay, and then she’s off again. It could feel like my efforts aren’t all that helpful, that she’s too young to get it, that there’s really no need for it. In those moments, I just shrug my shoulders and tell myself that it’s good practice for me even if it’s not so much sinking in for her. But, there are other moments sprinkled in that tell me, yes, all my efforts are worthwhile.
I don’t remember what I was doing when she came to me. It was ordinary, insignificant. She came up real close.
“My China mommy misses me, but I don’t miss her.”
“Oh, honey, that’s hard. It’s hard to miss someone you don’t remember.”
I hugged her. I held her for a few seconds, just long enough to assure her, I hope, that I was a safe place for her to share her brokenness as well as all the good, fun stuff — and there’s plenty of that to share. She heard me, she smiled, she gave me an okay, and then she was off again.
It’s been my intended message all along, every time I tried walking through those open doors: Feelings are part of being alive. You’ll have good feelings and bad feelings — sometimes even at the same exact time. I’m here to process all of them with you. I’m safe. I’m able. I’m willing.
Every time I try, I firmly believe that I’m getting better at loving her well. And, every time I try, I firmly believe she’s getting better at taking it in.