Tomorrow we will celebrate two years since we finalized my daughter’s adoption. She had already lived with me for six months at that time, but we enjoyed an extra-long honeymoon period, and the poo was just beginning to hit the fan two years ago. I told my mom recently that if I had it to do over again, I would parent differently. She reminded me that everyone probably would. I don’t presume to be a parenting expert, but here is what I know two years in.
Lots of stuff that I think should be important really isn’t. What other people think about transracial adoption? Not that important. Meals cooked from scratch? Not that important. Homework completed perfectly? Not that important. Outfits that match in any conventional sense? Not that important. One hundred percent compliance? Not that important. Other people’s opinion of my parenting approach? Not that important. Perfectly styled hair? It is through clenched teeth that I admit… not that important. So, what is that important? In our family, we prioritize physical safety, progress toward emotional health and secure attachment. Everything else is gravy.
The village is vital. When I became a mom, I was surprised at how reluctant I was to share the hard parts—even with the people who are closest to me. Somehow I had this idea that since I had chosen motherhood and jumped through so many hoops to prove that I would be a good mother, I had no right to complain. I feared that if I was honest about everything, people might somehow love my daughter less. I was wrong. If you are a friend who reminds me that I can still read books for fun, enjoy adult conversation and care about my own professional advancement, I need you. If you are a friend who normalizes my experiences by telling me that all moms are overwhelmed and emotional and slightly obsessive, I need you. If you are a friend who understands that parenting toward healing is hard, so much harder than you can even imagine unless you’ve done it, I need you.
My instincts are smarter than I like to admit. I am a thinker. I’ve never been one to go with my gut when there was an option to gather information and weigh the pros and cons of a particular decision. The more I get to know my daughter, the more I am realizing that my first instinct (though maybe not what makes the most “logical” sense—at least to anything else) is very often what she needs most. Though I am no expert on parenting or adoption, I know my daughter better than anybody else. And my heart somehow knows her even better than my brain.
Story matters. Along with our adoption day, this month my daughter will have spent more time in our home than anywhere else she’s lived. This is huge. When I became mom overnight, I underestimated the powerful effect that time and shared experience would have on helping my daughter and I bond. I loved her as much as I possibly could two years ago. I love her more today. I love that she tells our story every day when she reminisces, “Mama, remember when we…” I love that she is working hard to integrate our lives before each other (pictures, tons of pictures have been great for this) with our life together. I love that we have traditions and inside jokes. Stories do not happen overnight, and I love that we have a shared story now.
So that’s what I know. What do you know now that you didn’t know when you first became a parent?