I read a post a few days ago called The One Thing Christians Should Stop Saying, by Scott Dannemiller. Anyone who can talk about the beatitudes and mention his kids’ poop in the toilet in one blog post is my kind of people.
Okay, spoiler alert, he says the one thing we should stop saying is that we’re “blessed,” when we’re referring to material wealth. It resonates with me, and it also has me noodling over another way people throw out “blessed.”
As an adoptive parent, I hear “blessed” all the time:
She’s so blessed to have you!
What a blessing for her to get to be in your family!
She doesn’t know how blessed she is.
I assure you I’m not some raging semantics police who’s all hot and bothered about wording, and I’m not deeply offended or angry. I live with my foot in my mouth. When you talk as much as I do, it’s bound to happen.
However. Let me tell you why this feels worthy of a foot popsicle.
Actually, let me let one of my daughters tell you.
Evie: I wish I was still in Ethiopia with my first mommy.
Me: I know. It’s okay to feel that way. I’m sorry. I’m really glad I get to be your second mommy, but I’m so sorry you can’t still be with your first mommy in Ethiopia.
Those blessed comments that people throw out sound a lot different when you add on reality:
She’s so blessed to lose her first family!
What a blessing for her to get to leave her culture forever!
She doesn’t know how blessed she is to grow up in a family where she feels different every day.
Don’t ever tell my daughter she’s blessed to be here.
She doesn’t see it that way. Every day she’s trying to figure out what happened. She’s asking questions, trying to understand why she isn’t with her first mommy, the one who looks like her. And she’s recently discovered that she’s in a white family.
I mean. No adoption seminar on transracial parenting will prepare you for your daughter realizing she has a freaking white mom. This is hard for her.
Recently she peeled back my eyelids one morning and asked why she’s the only “brown person” in the family. She and I started naming all the “brown people” in our life — friends, neighbors, people at our church, people at school. (I told her about President Obama and how he like runs the whole dang country, but she didn’t seem that impressed, so I added Princess Tiana and Doc McStuffins and she was fine. I don’t think they’ve covered civics in preschool yet.)
But no matter how many “brown people” I name and how many “brown” children we adopt or foster, I will always be her white mom and she will always long for her first mom.
She and I were playing with her dollhouse one afternoon. She has the Fisher-Price My First Dollhouse. When her grandparents ordered it, it came with the toy black family, and then her other grandparents called Fisher-Price and asked if we could mix and match the families. They sent us a white family for free, so now we have two of everybody.
So on this particular afternoon, I was holding the white mommy and she had the black baby. La-di-dah, playing dollhouse, and trying to focus and not check Twitter. And then she got my attention, switching the white mommy for the black mommy. I asked her why the switch, and she said, “These match.”
My daughter wants to match. She wants her first mom. As much as it rips the throbbing heart out of my aching chest, I get it. It’s impossible to teach a four-year-old all the unfair, broken intricacies of how she ended up in our home, but every day I try to answer her questions. When we stepped into her world, into her life, we entered into her pain and brokenness. We can’t give her back her first family, but we can walk with her as her second family.
This bond that we’ve been trying to form for two-and-a-half years is tender and precious, and stunningly beautiful. In spite of all the attachment struggles and the two steps forward, five steps back progress, what a privilege it is to be her mommy.
When we’re snuggling together in a tangle of brown and peach arms, I love her so much from this deep, deep place of pain and longing for wholeness and health. As Dannemiller concludes, I am grateful.
But my daughter wouldn’t say that she’s blessed.
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