|Our family Valentine box thought of and made by Lily. |
She wants all of us to be putting notes of encouragement in here
until Valentine's Day when we will open the box as a family
and get all of our notes. Love that girl!
Traditionally, this is a day set aside from all others for LOVE to be celebrated and acknowledged in a way it is not on any other day of the year. Micah and I have not necessarily celebrated Valentine's Day much in our 11 years of marriage. For most of our married life it seemed unnecessary to me--a day where presents, flowers, cards, or chocolate were expected to be bought to tell another person you love them. Why? Why couldn't those things be told or shown to others on any day or every day and avoid the excess spending on this one specific day? When household items, diapers, and food seemed more important to be spending money on than something to tell Micah I loved him (which he should already know), I just avoided the holiday. In my practicality, it just seemed pointless.
Although I still think it's a bit ridiculous to spend exuberant amounts of money on the one you love just because it's Valentine's Day, I have also changed my thinking on this holiday in the past few years. Maybe it's because I'm up to my ears in dirty socks and whiny kids, or because the "alone time" Micah and I have together is fewer and farther between than ever, or maybe it's because I have to hide chocolate in my home in order to get one bite of it before someone else devours it, or because I just have a deeper desire than ever to make sure everyone knows to the core of their being they are loved through and through...whatever the reason, I have had a renewed desire to celebrate love on Valentine's Day. The Truth is...LOVE is always worth celebrating...even on a day Hallmark benefits more than anyone else! If you have the extra money, I say go for it! Spend something on your loved one...they are worth it! If you are budget conscious like I am, always remember that hugs are free, words are worth more than anything material, and notes can be written on napkins! I encourage you to somehow get in the Valentine's Day spirit and show love to those around you this week!
So, besides February 14th being Valentine's Day in our household, it also marks another milestone for our family--the 3-month-home date for Nora! With all this talk about love for Valentine's Day, it made me think about Nora and what my love for her looks like at this 3 month mark. I found myself thinking..."Well, appropriately since we went through a foreign country adoption, I would label my love for Nora as a 'foreign kind of love'". What exactly do I mean by a foreign kind of love though?
To be honest, no matter how much I have loved Nora from the moment we started this adoption process (which was before she was even born), loving her in the flesh is different. It requires more from me. I'm not loving the "concept" of adding another little one to our family and going on with my regular daily life (as emotionally draining as that is in an adoption process) or even loving a child in a photo while only taking care of my three at home (as incredibly painful as that is in an adoption process). I am now loving a little girl who is giving kisses before bedtime and unrolling entire rolls of toilet paper. Loving a toddler who prefers screaming over using her words and enjoys hanging in our arms upside-down. Loving an adorable face who calls me Mama and relies on me to meet her needs of diaper changes, nose wipes, and belly feedings. All of these ways of loving are not what makes this kind of love "foreign", however, since I have done this type of parental love to three others before her. What makes this love foreign is the fact that all of this love has not been built up from the moment Nora was born into this world, but instead has come from an unnatural and instant moment just over 2 years into her life.
I remember telling fellow moms when my other children were toddlers there was a reason God has us birth newborns and not toddlers...we may have never had more than one child! Ha! Now, I find myself in this very situation and I stand by my original statement...raising and loving a toddler who has not been under your care since infancy is "foreign". The natural way, I think, that love for our children grows, develops, and is ready for the tests that come with toddlerhood is to have those first full two years of time together under your belt. Holding them close as infants but not needing to instruct them on anything fosters a genuinely stress-free place for love to begin. Feeding them in the cradle of your arms instead of making sure they are not flinging their food all over the room with their spoon continues this bonding, more stress-free love. Watching them peacefully sleep while giving dreamy smiles instead of wondering why they are in another screaming fit while fast asleep helps bring a loving sense of security and "knowing" of one another. Slowly seeing the needs of your child develop and grow over the years instead of instantly being thrown into a situation where you are expected to meet those needs when you don't even fully know them was definitely more natural. So, this is where the word "foreign" comes into play for me. I was never privileged and blessed to have those moments throughout the last 2 years with Nora...my love for her is still foreign. Adoption, unfortunately, just plain ole' isn't "natural".
In the past 3 months I have been trying to love Nora as if I have had her in my arms this entire time just like I loved my other three children. It simply is not working well because that has not be our reality. I have had to realize a love naturally, slowly, and steadily formed over 2 years of learning and bonding is not going to instantly be there 3 months into living together no matter how long she has been "in" our lives. It's a process that is foreign to me and will take more time to figure out. Currently I find my patience thin and my anger easily flared because there is not a strong backbone of daily, hands-on love supporting my interactions with Nora yet. I haven't had time after time after time of seeing her "good" side shining through to help me remember that even though she is not choosing the best ways to deal with a situation, the ability to do so DOES reside inside her. I have not had enough time to see her simply be herself instead of mimicking us, or saying what she wants to say and answering our questions with her own answers instead of literally repeating every word that comes out of our mouths back to us. I have not had enough time to make this foreign love grow into something that comes more naturally. More than anything, I find my current greatest desire to actually not be Nora's mother for little bit of time. Ha! I know, I know...that sounds horrible after waiting 2 years and 4 months just to finally be able to say I'm her mother and I bet those Mama's still waiting for their child to come home want to slap me, but hang with me for a second and I'll explain.
Instead of being her mother, I find myself longing to be what others get to be around her--a person who is not expected to instruct, discipline, or correct, but instead, a person who gets to play with her, love on her, tickle her and enjoy her and then send her off to someone else to do the harder stuff that is still required with a toddler-aged child. I don't want to be the "mean one" who actually makes her learn how to make this life work all of the time. I'm tired (exhausted really) of saying "no, no, no, no, no, no, no" to her all day long. This all stems, I believe, from the fact I never got those more blissful moments with her in the past 2+ years and I'm grieving this loss. When I look at those around me who are not her mother still getting the chance to enjoy a more blissful relationship with her because they are not responsible for teaching her anything, I am reminded again of the loss I carry. I will not experience this type of relationship with Nora and I am grieving. I crave those missed moments where she cuddles in my arms as a sweet, innocent infant who has done nothing wrong. I long to be the Mama she looks up to from my lap and unwaveringly loves because that is all she's ever known. Even though I crave for Nora and I to have more moments of bliss instead of constant motherly instruction, the reality is our two-year-old-Sweet Pea NEEDS that constant instruction and I'm the mom God has called to fill that role. To me, it is a foreign way of loving and I'm still trying to learn how to do it well. Even today, though, God has been faithful in reminding me He is not having me do this foreign mothering love thing alone. He brought to my mind a verse that assures me He will equip me to do what He has called me to...Hebrews 13:20-21, "Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen." He is so faithful and good, friends. So good.
So, where does that leave me in my desire to love Nora "naturally" instead of "foreignly"? No great answers for you here yet except to say it's a work in progress and I'm not done working. The most important point, I think, is that even though I feel as if this love for her is still foreign, it is there. Love exists deeply in my heart for this child of mine...it may just take a bit longer to flesh itself out in more natural ways. Just as a human foreigner seems very different from myself when I first interact with them, eventually, after dedicated time with them, I find they are much more similar to myself than I originally saw and the differences that still exist are beautiful and meant to be celebrated. Even though Nora and my love will grow differently than how my love for my other children grew, it still is love underneath it all and the differences will be uniquely beautiful and celebrated...even on Valentine's Day!