Mirroring Mirror

“Echo is the voice of a reflection in a mirror” – Nathaniel Hawthorne

It was a pretty typical morning as far as routine goes, only this time Kiddo was moving as slow as frozen molasses taking over 3 hours to bathe, get dressed and make her bed. “Finish your breakfast please,” I said, “then bring your bowl to the sink and brush your teeth.”

“Okay Mama,” was her reply. I then headed down the stairs to finish up some laundry.

Ten minutes later I found Kiddo crawling on the floor with the dogs. Her cereal was still untouched and teeth not brushed.

“So I noticed you have been horsing around a lot” I said approaching her, “and now your bad choices are causing us to run late.”

Though I had already brought each incident to her attention as they occurred, I began listing out each of my complaints once again:

1. Playing in the bathtub without first washing up only to have the water turn cold and then complaining; 2. Not making your bed but instead rolling with your covers on the floor; 3. Taking over an hour to get dressed and still coming out to the kitchen half naked; 4. Spinning around under the table with the dogs rather than eating and brushing your teeth like I asked.

Seeing we had less than twenty minutes left, I put on my “Micromanager Mom” hat. “If you want to arrive with yucky breath that is up to you,” I said. “But I am leaving as soon as I am done brushing my teeth.”

As I reached for my toothbrush and toothpaste, I could see my daughter glancing at herself in the mirror with a look of judgment on her face.

Any other day I might have missed this teachable moment, but this week I have been doing some mirror exercises and self talk techniques, so I was able to notice my daughter was learning to criticize herself for the choices she had made.

A caption of her facial expression might read, “You are a screw up. Can’t you ever get anything right?”

I knew beating myself up for this wasn’t the answer, so I used this as an opportunity to remember some common false beliefs: believing you never measure up no matter what, believing no matter what you do is never enough, believing you can never do anything right, believing you need to be perfect in order be deserving of love.

“You know,” I said, catching her eye in the mirror. “It really doesn’t matter what I think or what your dad thinks when it comes to your choices, you know. What really matters is what YOU think.”

I rinsed my toothbrush then got down to my daughter’s level so I could lovingly look her in the eye “Kiddo, you are perfect exactly as you are,” I said, “And it is really important you remember to be your own best friend, even when things get messy, okay?”

Kiddo’s frown turned into a smile as she began modeling some mirror work for me to see: “I love myself,” she said, “And mistakes mean I am learning and growing, right?”

I began to laugh “Yes, that’s right, and I am really sorry that I told you your choices were bad. They are just information,” I said.

We then spoke about her playing with the dogs rather than eating all her breakfast.

“I still feel a little hungry,” she said.

We then went through the remainder of the list, only this time my daughter discerned for herself how each of her choices had impacted her morning.

“Mama,” she said holding me close, “I don’t want to horse around in the morning anymore.”

“Awww,” I returned her hug then looked at her through the mirror. “Just keep loving yourself no matter what. It’s all okay.”

ETE

PS: For those of you wondering, I still choose to call my daughter “Kiddo” here out of respect for her individual privacy.

A Forever Family

“He is mine in a way that he will never be hers. He is hers in a way that he will never be mine. And together we are motherhood.” – Desha Wood

“To adopt means to “legally take another’s child and bring it up as one’s own.” (Webster’s dictionary)

My husband and I took Kiddo’s hand and headed to the court room. So much had led up to this adoption day. For weeks I had toggled back and forth about whether becoming a forever family was in the best interest of all involved.

Was I making the right choice? Would the love I could offer this kiddo as ‘mother’ be enough?

“It feels like I should be loving this child more than I am,” I said to my mother just days before. My mom lovingly reassured me my child needs me, and the love I feel would keep growing over time.”

On many levels she was right. I had already turned to two other mom friends for advice. One helped me understand that most new mothers have a chance to bond with their baby for 9 months while in utero, then deliver a baby filled with love that is pure and absolute.

Another reassured me that my kiddo’s need to hate and fight at times was much like a feral animal filled with terror. The bruises on my skin and in my heart would eventually go away.

Yet despite all these wise words, I still found myself grappling with uncertainty right up to the night before our trial date.

Pouring my heart out to other foster/adoptive parents I asked,
“How do you know you are ready to adopt? I keep questioning if the love I can offer is enough.”

The outpouring of love and support I received was immense:

“It took me longer to bond with my child then the other two we adopted for many reasons but I now love him, delight in his strengths, accomplishments, his love for others, his relationship with each member of our family . . . (the list went on and on)”

“Love is a choice. I have spent many a day praying for God to help me. Hang in there. This is a calling not just a romance.”

“All my children have come to us through adoption (none through birth) and all at different emotional and developmental stages. Each bond has been unique, coming in its own time, no right or wrong, just uniquely. Some felt fast and others took much longer. Who says our love and bond has to be instant? Thank you so much for sharing your heart.”

“Doubt is normal and nothing to be ashamed of. Love can move mountains. It’s just such a slow process when you have trauma, abuse or attachment issues. Praying for your strength and clarity.”

Now here I was just moments from being sworn in and still a little doubt remained.

God must have known it too, because as soon as we walked into the courthouse waiting room, our caseworker pointed us back outside.

“We have a big problem,” she said. “Kiddo’s birth mom is here.”

A flood of emotions filled my heart. Were we in danger? How come she missed the termination hearing? Was she here to take back custody?

Silently I said a prayer. “Dear God, though it may break me, if it is in the best interest of our child to stay with the birth mom, I promise to be strong and let go.”

Several long minutes later, law enforcement asked the birth mom to leave. It was then I knew I had a choice: either ignore this woman as she passed us on the sidewalk, or offer her compassion and closure with a loving heart.

“You are kiddo’s birth mom, correct?” I asked as she neared.

She nodded with tears in her eyes.

“May I hug you?” I asked.

With her permission I held her, then genuinely thanked her for giving Kiddo birth.

I then watched her weep in gratitude before saying goodbye to her baby one last time.

As we approached the court room, our caseworker shared that the mom showed up to make sure her child was happy and would be going to a good home.

Every ounce of my being then knew with certainty that I am safe to love my DAUGHTER now and forever, and to call her my own.

ETE