8 Years on Earth.
3 Birthdays with A Family.
Just over 2 Years in America.
The morning started with the bike and other presents. Although she was excited she also had a kind of stunned, spaced out look on her face. We gave her a new kite, Kinetic Sand, a kid harp and some summer overalls (since the long overalls from Christmas had been packed away for warmer weather.)
She also got a watch from my Dad, a trip to the Zoo from Dean’s parents, and an outfit (which she is wearing in the rest of the photos from today) and new helmet from another friend of mine who was part of our adoption process.
When she was done with presents she wanted to go get dressed to ride bikes. After a few minutes I went up to check on her and she was visibly upset. I asked if she was disappointed with her presents, and she just shook her head silently with big tears starting to spill down her cheeks. I asked her if she was feeling overwhelmed and explained that is when we feel a lot of things at the same time, like happy AND sad AND excited AND stressed and she shook her head Yes.
I bent down to give her a hug and she whispered in my ear “I am just thinking of my Birth Mom.”
Ah. Yes. That.
Birthdays for adopted kids are just so much more than most of us realize. Her challenges only compounded by years in an orphanage where she wasn’t even deemed worthy of celebrating at all.
I scooped her up and took her in my room and closed the door so she could just sit a cry for a few minutes. We talked a little bit, and I reassured her that this was totally normal to be happy and sad. To love us AND wish she had been able to stay with her birth parents. To be excited about her birthday and to be overwhelmed by it.
And I told her that wherever she is, whatever she is doing, that a Mama never forgets the day their Baby is born and I am certain her birth mom is thinking of her too.
I reassured her that she could always talk to me about her birth mom, that it doesn’t make me upset. I understand why she would wish for a life she will never know, and I told her I was really proud of how she was choosing to talk about her feelings instead of keeping them inside until they came out as anger and tantrums.
We sat for awhile in silence. Then she asked me where her special candle was from last year, for her birth mom. And I said “Baby, it was already out on the table. I got it out last night for you because I thought you would be thinking about your birth mom this morning, and it was there while you were opening your presents.”
Her eyes lit up. “Really?!?”
Really, I said. It was there the whole time.
(I even have photographic evidence, although now I can see why she didn’t see it behind the mound of presents! Way over to the left, in the heart shaped glass she picked out last year)
“Ok Mama, I am ready to go ride bikes now!” She wiped her face, I straightened out her hair, and we headed back downstairs to have the rest of her day.
While they walked the dog with Daddy, I ran and got donuts. Birthday Breakfast of Champions.
Then, because she just simply could not get enough of her new bike, Grandma walked with them as they rode all the way to our neighborhood park, and back again! Meanwhile, I was frosting a homemade cake to Vi’s specifications. She wanted a flower “cause my birthday is always in Spring!!” I got a little over-zealous and made the entire thing from scratch, even the frosting. I’m usually a box mix kinda gal, so I really don’t know what got in to me here!
When they came back, they played a bit with her new sand, and played outside while Daddy prepared hotdogs on the grill for her birthday lunch. We usually do a special dinner, but since it was a weekend day and could be more relaxed we went for lunch instead!
Figuring out this harp takes major concentration, but she really likes it and I think it’s good for her hands and eyes too!
Bug caught a bug. Of course.
And Little Man has a lightsaber. Because honestly…..when does he NOT have a lightsaber???
Before lunch Vi decided it was time to light her special candle so it would be burning during lunch and then she could blow it out before cake. I decided to let her light it this year, and she was very pleased with that. Such a big girl. I told her sometimes people who are missing someone they can’t talk to will write a letter or even release balloons up to the sky with a special message but she said “No, Mama. This candle is good. This is all I want to do.”
It was a beautiful day, perfect for lunch outside on the porch. It has still been cool enough that there really aren’t any flies or mosquitoes yet to bother us!
Vi wanted to sit on my lap for lunch. I was happy to oblige. Not sure how much longer I will be able to accommodate her, she has grown so much!!
(All the boys wore red today, no idea why!)
Watermelon with hotdogs is a Must!
After lunch she rode her bike some more. Her Aunt & Uncle and little cousins had come by and brought her a gift too: Riding gloves! Super awesome and thoughtful gift, her Uncle is an avid bike rider and he didn’t want her to get any blisters pushing and pulling the new steering mechanism on this cool bike!
She also got one last present when the mail came, some new dresses from Uncle Ryan & Aunt Toni!
We went back inside for cake, and Vi blew out her candle. She said a little prayer for her birth mom first as we all sat silently. I told her it could be an out-loud or silent prayer, whatever she wanted, but that we would all sit quietly for her. She barely whispered and I couldn’t hear her words, but I have no doubt they came straight from her heart.
Then it was time for Happy Birthday and Cake! She hid her face the entire song, later she told me it just makes her feel embarrassed when people sing to her. I think she still doesn’t quite believe that she deserves this kind of celebration, but I continue to hope that in time she will realize she is worth every bit of it.
It was a good birthday overall I think. She seemed happy for the most part, but still with a little sad around the edges. And that’s ok. I think everyone was a bit more emotional and edgy than usual. Small arguments erupted over who was sitting where, and what to play, and why are you looking at me like that etc. And I think a lot of that had to do with how in tune everyone was with Vi’s wide range of emotions. It isn’t a simple and straightforward thing, like it is for the other kids to have a birthday. I don’t mean to say that is a bad thing, I actually think that the fact that her feelings about the day had such a profound affect on everyone is just another indication of how much more attached we have ALL become. We are a family, and what affects one of us surely affects the rest of us.
In the end though there were more smiles than tears. More happy memorable moments, like serenading Aunt Shannon on FaceTime to “Let It Go”, than short tempers. It wasn’t a perfect day, but it was a good one. My heart hurts that it is complicated for her, but I am so impressed with how she chose to express herself today.
This is Vi and her little adopted cousin. I have no doubt they will have some real heart-to-hearts some day about what it means to be born from one mom but raised by another. For now, I just hope that I can continue to find the right words and actions to help Vi on this journey.
Happy Birthday, Big Girl.
Eight years old. It doesn’t seem real.
When you tell me you wish you could have been a baby here with us, I hope you know how much I wish that too.
I wish we had more time together when you were small.
I wish I had always been there to rock you to sleep,to protect you and keep you safe the way you deserved.
I wish I had seen your first smile, your first tooth, your first steps.
Instead, we have just two years together. A lot of tough memories. Transitioning lives was so hard on you, I can’t begin to imagine. Holding you while you screamed, trying to explain to you why it isn’t ok to hurt people when all you had ever known was hurt, looking for ways to connect when neither of us knew how. Our first year together was the most difficult of my entire life, and I would guess it was for you too.
But look at us now!
Look at how far you have come.
That little terrified and angry girl is blossoming in to a compassionate, understanding, thoughtful and insightful young lady.
You had some big, BIG feelings today. And you came to me. And we talked it out, cried, and moved forward.
I hope you always feel you can come and talk to me about those big feelings, even when they are scary and difficult. I hope we can always laugh and cry together. I hope that even in all our imperfection, you can see that you are loved, wanted, and celebrated.
I will always feel regret for what we missed in those early years of your life. But I will also always be grateful for what your future can be.
All My Love,