Our family recently returned from our annual west coast trip to see family for the holidays. Now this was not just a feat because we survived a lengthy trip with layovers, luggage and traveling with four small children. It was a feat because I was able to figure out what has been bothering me the last few months on our current journey fostering.
As we started the trek west my husband articulated that his biggest fear was the level of love and acceptance that family would demonstrate towards our new daughter. How would they respond to her, would they give her the same attention as our sons, would they make an effort? Would she bring the behaviors we deal with at home with her, would she appear engaging enough, would she look cute enough? Ultimately, would she convince them adopting from foster care is the best fit for our family?
Our trip was the first time our newest addition had been on a plane. It was the first time that she was meeting a majority of our extended family, the first time attending amusement parks and a plethora of other firsts for her. Now most people would assume those aspects would present difficulties on our trip. The sensory overload, the anxiety, the many transitions, the broken routine. However, the exact opposite occurred, she excelled. Not only did she survive the chaos but she thrived in it.
She met this new aunt and that older cousin. She opened presents, she danced in pajamas and giggled with glee at everyone, everyone but me. I watched her captivate everyone in the family. Which made me feel elated and discouraged all in one simultaneous emotional drop in the pit of my stomach. I was thankful my husband’s fears proved to be false. However, it affirmed all my own insecurities that I had held hidden away the last few months.
The harsh reality I had to confront, I had to name is simply this: my daughter does better with everyone else but me, her mom. It is effortless for her to attach to brand new family members she met five minutes ago. It is easier for her to be jovial and fearless with extended family members than her immediate ones. There is a peace my little girl finds in chaotic and new situations with new people. She thrives in situations that would be fearful to anyone else. She reached out to hug her aunts, she ran to Nana to put the band aide on when she fell and when she opened the present from Santa she ran straight away to show Daddy.
Today, in this moment, I am the mom she has doing the hard work. I am the one who makes her lunch, who helps her make her bed, who sits at therapy appointments, who deals with the tantrums, who gets up in the middle of the night, who does the laundry and who deals with her triggers. I am the one who puts forth the effort day in and day out. However, I am not the one she wants, I am not who she trusts. More than that, I am not the one who captivates her in the same way that she captivated our family on our recent trip.
Our little girl has had many moms. Moms who abused her, moms who hurt her, moms who asked her to leave, moms who wouldn’t let her stay. My daughter has experienced her most prevalent hardships in life at the hands of the mothers in her life. She has not been with us long enough to fully trust that I will be different, that I will be the mom to break that cycle.
This Christmas I faced a harsh reality as I observed her. I have a daughter who loves and trusts everyone else more than me. As a mom, this is hard to process and even more difficult to accept. I know logically that I have provided the most evidence to her that I will meet her needs, that I will love her and care for her and will not harm her. Although that is the truth, it is not yet her reality.
We captured this picture of our four children one of the last days of our trip. Right before we snapped the photo I was being goofy trying to get a decent photo of all of them together. I called out to our sweet girl, “give mommy a smile.” You see the joy in my boys’ faces, as they giggled with glee back at their silly mommy, but you won’t see that look on my daughter’s face. Not yet anyways.
Josh Shipp said it this way, Trust is spelled T-I-M-E. That is what it is going to take for our daughter, more time. My daughter does not trust mothers. Mothers have created brokenness in her life and hurt her. The only way to heal that hurt is more time. Time to prove her wrong by showing up faithfully in little moments and prove that moms are the place to run to, not who to run from.
The only way to press on through the discouragement and pain as her mother is accepting the fact that my only daughter does not delight in me right now. I must name that feeling I have and know that it won't last forever, this is our bleak season that may last for a while. It took four years to build that wall against me and it will take time to tear it down. I must acknowledge we both have to walk in this painful brokenness together, because someday beauty and delighting will come for both of us. It takes trust and it takes time.