March 17, 2015
One year and three days ago, I went to sleep the mother of three children. Today, I am the mother of five. The fourth is a baby none of us knew we’d be having. And the fifth is a girl. Our girl…Our girl for now.
We didn’t know what we were signing up for. Not really. We certainly didn’t know that our first placement would be a long term one. When we picked her up, we didn’t know a single thing about her besides her first name and her age. We didn’t know if she’d be with us for a day or a month or a year, or longer. She was this unknown little entity in our home, with a history we didn’t know and a future we couldn’t guess.
If you’ve been with us through the process, or if you’ve been reading this blog, you know we’ve had our struggles. The Lord knew that I needed to be a mother to boys. But He also knew that for a season, I needed to be a mother to a little spitfire of a girl. Having her in our home has challenged me and stretched me and bewildered me and blessed me. It has laid bare my weaknesses, laid low my pride, revealed my sin and grown my compassion.
This year has also elevated her from a stranger in our home to a member of the family. I’m still working to figure out certain things about her, but she has become familiar, and familiarity changes everything. It makes quirks less annoying. It makes discipline easier. It makes hanging out together feel relaxed. It makes me shake my head in amusement rather than anger when I pick up the random trash she’s always leaving on her bedroom floor. It makes me see her side of things when she’s upset. It elicits a smile rather than a sulk from her at pick-up after school. It prompts a spontaneous “I love you, Mama” as she walks by.
To her, we have become so familiar that she has made herself a part of our family history. We were just talking about St. Patrick’s Day, and she asked if we’re going to do “that thing we do every year,” meaning the catching of a leprechaun who leads us on a scavenger hunt to his pot of gold. She said it exactly like that, as though she’s been in on it since we started this little tradition six years ago, even though she’s only done it with us once, and that was just three days after she arrived at our house. I didn’t even think she would remember having done it, but far more than just remembering, she’s included herself in all the memories of it.
She does that with lots of things. She happily recounts our trip to San Diego last summer, and talks about future trips going back there, assuming that she is now a part of that tradition. She speaks fondly of my sister and her kids, who she has only met once so far. History and tradition are very important to her, maybe because that’s her personality, or maybe because history and tradition have been lacking in her life, and she longs for those things.
She spent so much of her first months here being argumentative and selfish and entitled and belligerent. She hurled herself around the house and snarled like a feral cat and pushed and shouted and acted absolutely bonkers. She wasn’t like that constantly, but she was like that a lot. But her life is out of control. Sometimes I feel compassion for her family, and sometimes I feel really angry at them. I just had a baby, and in his few weeks here with us, he has known nothing but warmth and security and love, and it just makes me crazy to think that there are babies out there not knowing those things. It makes me crazy to think of babies crying without being comforted, of feeling cold without being snuggled, of being hungry without getting fed. I keep wondering if our girl was one of those babies.
Maybe she was and maybe she wasn’t, but there’s a reason she’s been in and out of the system. And I can guarantee you there weren’t yearly St. Paddy’s Day scavenger hunts or trips to the beach or visits from beloved aunts. There weren’t weekly traditions of chocolate chip pancakes on Fridays or daily traditions of sharing highs and lows at dinner. She misses her family, misses them because she does and because they tell her she should, but she loves us, and she loves our family and our friends and the people who faithfully invest in her, and she loves knowing that there are things she can count on.
So we’ll keep giving those things to her. We’ll include her in our traditions and follow through on our promises and love her when she acts unlovable. And because we’re not perfect and we make mistakes and we sometimes let her down despite our best intentions, we’ll also pray for her future and point her to God’s word and His promises of faithful and protective love, because those are the only things that can be counted on when all else fails.