There are layers of hidden meaning in many seemingly normal events for most older adoptees, and it can take an enormous amount of intuition to correctly deduce what is the real cause of the emotion a parent is seeing. Often the reaction is out of kilter with what would be the norm, and the parent is left only with clues from the past as they gently work their way toward the truth of what has precipitated such an outburst of feeling. It is our job, as parents and interpreters, to help our children find the words to express emotions that are uncomfortable and inexplicable. We work to create a safe haven in which the discovery of new or previously unexplored feelings can be explored and examined, and we help our children develop a new vocabulary and willingness to be open to accepting the comfort of others, where in their former lives no one could be trusted with their innermost secrets and private fears.
This morning, Angela crossed the threshold to adulthood that every woman is familiar with. It brought with it such anguish that I knew there was more to it than the usual rush of hormones. The basic facts were known, as that had been ascertained awhile back. This was something deeper, more primal. The trembling girl I held in my arms was battling more than monthly melancholy or fear of the unknown.
Once the house had been cleared and all had left for church, I held her close, gently prodding with a somewhat limited set of well defined words to get to the core of the problem. I had my gut instinct, and not much else to go on. We stood there for the longest time, embracing one another as in hushed tones I searched for the trigger, eventually finding it when I pulled her away and looked into her eyes saying "Angela, are you scared of what has just happened, or are you scared of growing up?". My heart was rent open at the passion heard in her voice as she agonizingly said from the depths of her soul "Mama, me no wanna be grown up, me wanna be little girl!"...and the sobs wrenched from her body with a strength that was exhausting.
My little girl, almost as tall as I, was being forced by an uncooperative body headlong, at breakneck speed, down the path to adulthood. Barely had she been able to begin to experience the kind of carefree childhood she had thus far been denied, and now it suddenly seemed as if the pleasures and joys of being a child were going to be ripped from her after having a tantalizing taste of it. I rocked her as she continued to burrow her head in my chest, body shaking with the tears that held the anger and frustration of years of missed opportunities. These tears were not unlike my own that had been shed for years as we all waited to be united as a family, and I recognized in her my own frustration that we were losing precious time to help create a tiny semblance of childhood for children whose years were rapidly waning. The window is narrow, and it is as if we all jumped through just barely before the doors of childhood slammed shut permanently with a loud thud.
But what a precious moment this became, as the tears slowed and the conversation that ensued was rich with previously unspoken sentiments shared by us both. We each talked of being angry at having missed so much and it not being either of our fault., and we comforted one another, my own fresh tears blended with hers as they came unbidden as recollection caused frustration to wash over me anew. I shared about my own moment of maturity and the feelings I had that were very different from hers in some respects...and very similar as well.
We talked honestly about how hard this has been emotionally for each of us, to move from being strangers to loving family. I thanked her for making it much easier than it could have been, she once again offered unnecessary apologies for the past, and I hushed her on that one, reminding her that it was just part of our wonderful story. I offered my deepest thanks to her for being there for Olesya all those years, for being her surrogate mommy when their own failed in so many ways, and told her she had done an outstanding job. I also expressed my gratitude for her maturity in allowing me to parent Olesya and her graciousness in letting me parent her as well. She responded with a loving smile "Mama, you good, strong mama...I know you be good Mama for me and Olesya. We love you so so much. You and Papa too. Thank you for come get us."
I cradled her as I reassured her that her body might not be willing to be halted in its quest towards adulthood, but that here in our home she was forever safe to be a little girl and play as she needed to...and we giggled together as I reminded her of the baby bottles, one of which I saw peeking out of Olesya's special blankie at that very moment. There was no need to move forward until she felt good and ready, I explained, and that might be years and was one of the reasons we felt homeschooling was wisest, so she didn't have to fear the taunts of others as she grabbed on to childhood with all her might and clung to it for awhile. I got the most heartfelt thank you for that, as she clearly understood exactly what I was saying, and I realized for the first time the enormity of our decision and its impact on our new daughters. I welcomed her to womanhood with a smile, and told her how blessed we were that God allowed us to share this moment together and not still be separated for it. That drew a huge smile and she said "You right Mom!".
Later in the evening I presented her with a special necklace purchased to commemorate her special day. It was a small, gold butterfly, and I explained to her that as a butterfly changes from a caterpillar into a cocoon into a beautiful butterfly, she too had undergone this transformation...and that the cocoon was our home and family where she was safe. I told Olesya that she too would receive one on her special day. She gingerly touched it and wrapped her arms around me in gratitude. Knowing she is not much of a jewelry wearer, just like her mom, we might not see it on her often but it was obvious that simply having it meant a great deal to her.
So another bridge crossed, tumultuous water beneath, and we made it safely to the other side. God guided our every word today, we rested in the arms of each other but were enveloped in the spaciousness and grace that only God could have brought to this challenging relationship. We are both reaping the harvest of the past season of growth, and we stand strong as we lean on one another, as sheaves of wheat in the middle of an autumn field.
And I am the mother of two extraordinary daughters, fully and completely their mother in all of our minds. Somehow, we made it.