People often ask me, in a roundabout way, if I feel the same way about my adopted kids as I do about my biological kids. I can't blame them for asking. Sometimes, just to mess with them, I explain that we give the adopted kids more chores on Saturday, and that the biological kids get larger portions of dessert. This always ends with an uncomfortable moment of silence, averted eyes, and instant regret on my part. Sort of like right now.
Anyway, the most recent addition to our family came at 2 years old, about 6 months ago. At this point we are still "foster" parents, but the minute she entered our home, we have known she is our daughter. I don't want to ever pretend that the unfolding story is easy, but it is a miracle. From day one, we hoped and prayed that she would bond and attach to us. This is a long process, and while we see so much growth, we know we have much work ahead. We are always questioning if we are doing everything we can to ensure our Little Sass knows through and through that she belongs.
Today I had that moment when I knew I loved her as much as any of my children. We were sitting waiting for Will, when a little girl, maybe 2 years old came running up to Little Sass. Little Sass thought it was her lucky day and that she was going to have a new bestie! She held her arms out to hug the kindred stranger and as the little girl approached, she put her arms out directly in front of her, and pushed Little Sass square in the chest, causing her to fall to the ground. I was there in an instant, but not before the little girl grabbed my baby on the arms and started pinching.
Oh my goodness the feelings of rage that I stifled…
Then the mother decided to come over with her little girl to make things right. I was thinking, "Okay, she's doing the right thing. Let her help her daughter make this a teachable moment. Don't go crazy and say things that you will regret. Seriously, Lisa. Lock it down". Little Sass sat as close to me as she possibly could, leery of the intentions of her new best friend. The little girl came right up to us with her mother, and hit my daughter. Then she pinched her arms. At that point I was done. D.O.N.E. I put my hands out to block the little monster child and her mother said, "Okay, I think we'll go away now". There was not even an apology. Nor was there any acknowledgement that she is raising a strong willed child who sometimes makes bad choices. Nothing. Just walked off and left us both feeling completely shocked at the previous couple of minutes.
Two other parents were standing nearby and looked on in amazement, which made me feel a little less crazy. We all laughed that awkward sort of, "Ha ha, can you believe that? Boy I sure didn't see that coming". In reality, I wanted to walk over to the lady and say something to the effect of, "Hey I get it. I am raising a strong willed child too, but rather than pretend she is perfect, I actually work very hard to discipline her with love and healthy boundaries.". And then in my imaginary confrontation I accidentally call her a jerk. But I feel bad about even imagining that.
I'm so flawed. Right about the time I got all high and mighty about how Little Sass was treated, she decided to hate the dinner I served her. Her rejection was akin to the previous scene of a little girl putting both arms up to knock over everything in her path. We went on to battle for about an hour, she and I, while the other children watched in amazement at the strength of wills. At one point, I thanked them all for being compliant toddlers, but did say, even with all Little Sass is putting me through, her strong spirit and challenging times are part of who God has made her to be.
By the end of our battle, she was crying in my arms, head on my chest, with quite a bit of snot pouring out on my white shirt. She knew she was loved and her needs would be met. But she also verbalized her apologies. I may be naïve, but I think she even learned a lesson. However don't hold me to that tomorrow night when I offer quinoa with chicken again.
Isn't it ironic it takes your very own child to teach you that judging others might not be such a good idea? Who knows what that mom was dealing with today, when her child acted out on Little Sass. Maybe she was at her wits end, just like I was after dinner tonight. Maybe she feels alone and doesn't have any support. Maybe she feels like it’s a lost cause. Maybe she was just simply embarrassed. Whatever it was doesn't even matter now. The take away for me today was how happy I felt about how protective and angry I felt when my little girl was bullied. That mother instinct was as real today as it ever has been, and I am so grateful to be able to not just SAY I love her. But I KNOW I love her.
Love means you take action to protect. Love is putting someone else's needs before your own. Love is sacrifice. Love is laying down your own life for another. Some times love really hurts. What a gift to be called to relinquish this kind of love. I am humbled by this job title, "Mom" because there has been nothing else on the earth that could teach me as much as it has. Oddly it's a ministry of sorts, but one that leaves me the blessed, the transformed, the forgiven, and always covered in grace.