The other day Serenity asked me to paint the fingernails on her left hand-a red base with white polka dots. She’d already done the design on her right hand, but since she’s a lefty, she needed help with her left. As I sat at the kitchen counter painting my daughter’s nails a memory flooded my mind….and I decided I would tell her about it.
“Do you know who has long thin fingers like yours?” I asked.
You could tell she was thinking as she looked me right in the eye. “You?” she wondered.
“No-although I do have long fingers, you’re hands look exactly like your birth mothers. She has beautiful long fingers just like you do.”
She didn’t comment, but she looked contented as if I had just given her a big hug.
Serenity’s mom made some major mistakes. She had chance after chance to get her kids back and time after time she sabotaged her own progress. But from the time our daughter came into our home 9 years ago, I’ve made a concentrated, purposeful effort to never talk in a negative way about her birth family-to dig deep and find things that are positive and appropriate.
Why? Because where Serenity came from is part of her story; it’s her life, her genetics, her history. And if I am going to be the mother that I need to be and that she deserves, I’ve got to put aside my own feelings or insecurities or whatever and let her know that I respect her story. I embrace her story. I want her to own her story.
Do I want her to repeat the cycle? Absolutely not. Do I want her to be discouraged and self-conscious about where she came from? No way. But I do want her to have the freedom to talk about her roots, the family that gave her life and to be able to ask questions that may be buried deep in the recesses of her heart.
As adoptive parents, it is critical for us to allow our children to grieve. Even if a child is adopted as a newborn baby, they’ve lost something-a birth mother who carried them for 9 months. I think this is an important facet of the adoption journey that is often overlooked and sometimes covered up. We’re afraid of what will happen if we allow our kids to have answers. And yet, if we allow them to explore their beginnings and they know that we are determined to ‘go there’ with them it seals the deal; it lets your child know how much you value where they came from, their story, and them.