Four years ago today, I published my very first blog post. In it, I discussed the doubts I had before becoming an adoptive mother, how I wondered whether I would be able to love a child that wasn’t biologically mine. To be perfectly honest, that idea is ludicrous to me now. I understand why I thought it of course, but the fact that I doubted that I could love my daughters, whom I now love more than anything in the world, just seems preposterous.
I love them. Oh boy, do I love them. And let me tell you something: in the four years that have passed since my first post, I’ve proved it. Because like any parent dealing with any child, if I didn’t love them, I would not put up with half of the stuff that goes on around here.
Let’s start with the way-too-frequent embarrassment that comes along with being a parent. Remember that time I told you about Rosie’s eating the Cascade packet? You remember. She chowed down on dishwasher soap days after Hurricane Sandy. As per Poison Control, I had to call an ambulance that arrived on my block tailed by a giant army tank, so all of my neighbors would peek out their windows and witness my walk of shame to the street carrying a Costco-sized tub of Cascade.
Just last year, Rosie was taking music lessons for a while at a location I won’t name. Anthony and I had a conversation about whether or not she should continue, and I said she didn’t seem to be learning much, so maybe she shouldn’t. Well, that very day, Rosie came home from her lesson with music homework. We laughed at the coincidence. I stopped laughing the next day when Rosie slipped into our conversation that she had told her teacher, “I don’t think I’m coming back to music. My mommy said I don’t learn anything.” I could barely look the teacher in the eye the next time I dropped Rosie off.
Mia’s certainly provided her share of humiliating Mommy moments also. That kid has a staring problem. A serious one. We can’t go to a restaurant without her picking a random stranger at the next table to stare down. And I don’t mean to smile at coyly and play peak-a-boo. I mean a cold, deadpan, continuous stare across our tables until it becomes uncomfortable for the poor person to eat. Sure, at first they think it’s cute. They smile at her and wave; they tell their co-patrons how adorable she is. But then it never ends. They try to take a bite of their food, but they can no longer enjoy it because of the creepy, Village of the Damned child locking her eyes on theirs. I can’t control it. I can’t control where she moves her eyes. I can only sit in embarrassment, encouraging the person to ignore her and just enjoy his meal while I desperately and unsuccessfully try to distract Mia and ignore the awkward tension she has created between our tables.
I don’t know about your kids, but as babies, mine had very little regard for any object they came across. After a great deal of discipline and maturing, Rosie has grown out of this, but in truth, none of her casualties compare to the Godzilla that is our younger daughter. I call her Destructo. If the bathroom door is not shut completely, all bets are off. I’ve found bath toys in the toilet and garbage strewn all over the floor. I opened the door once to find at least ten feet of toilet paper pulled out and coiled around her legs. Just this morning, she threw my new Lakeside Collection catalog into the tub while Rosie was showering. It’s still drying as I type. She grabs Rosie’s art off the fridge. She hasn’t had a monitor in her room for months since she pulled the camera off the wall and broke it. And if the dog’s bowls are accessible to her for the smallest, tiniest millisecond, the water is spilled and the food is spread around the floor. Destructive? Yes. Loved? Absolutely.
Would we ever put up with the constant need for attention our children have if we didn’t love them? Rosie says, “Mommy” 15,722 times a day. How do I know I love her? I still love hearing it. But how do I really know I love her? I haven’t banned the word from our home. Twenty-seven times a day, she wants to show me her cartwheel. Forty-two times a day, she wants to show me her fort. Eighteen times a day, she fails to ever follow up with a question or comment or say anything else at all. I just wait in silence forever and ever. Okay, okay, at least five times day, she just wants to say “I love you.” Come on, of course I love her.
Some days, Mia wants to be my siamese twin. She wants her legs to be permanently wrapped around my hip. No, it doesn’t matter that I am boiling pasta or cleaning the toilet. It doesn’t mater that I’m trying to do my hair for the first time in a week or that I’m making the bed or getting dressed or doing anything at all in the world. She wants me to hold her. And, sometimes, even if she doesn’t want me to hold her, she just wants me. If I try to sit on the couch, she will stand in front of me, reaching out her arms and grabbing the air over and over while moaning repeatedly until I join her on the rug. This morning, I attempted to use the bathroom for two seconds when I woke up. Gosh, it was such a pleasure to listen to her wail and pound on the door the entire time. Sigh. Mom life.
We all know children often interfere with sleep, and I don’t know anyone who would put up with this if not for complete and utter love. I honestly have been lucky. Both of my children sleep through the night and have done so from a young age. I thank God all the time for this, but there are still the exceptions. There are nights when I do let Rosie into our bed, and even though I love snuggling with her, I don’t love how she finds a way to jab my back with every part of herself. There’s the usual: her arms, elbows, knees, but I swear Rosie has brought me great pain with her forehead, her chin, a single finger. It’s baffling.
Mia is one of those babies who always knows when you are about to fall asleep. If I wake up in the middle of the night and have trouble falling back asleep, she’ll stay quiet the entire time I’m awake. The minute I am about to drift back to sleep, there she is. Awake and needing me. During her naps as a infant, I would often try to nap along with her. However, if I dared complete any sort of task before laying down, if I tried to wash dishes, take a shower, or pick up a single crumb from the floor and throw it away, the moment my head hit the pillow is the moment she would awaken. Every time. I was only allowed to nap if I lay down the moment she fell asleep. She knew. Somehow, that kid knew.
Before I had children, I always said there was one area in which I worried about my devotion as a mom. That area was food. When I’m hungry, I need to eat. I worried about sitting down to dinner and needing to deal with my child’s food before eating my own. I knew when I was ready for that, I was ready to be a mother.
Rosie is an excellent eater; she just likes everything. A slight downside? She wants to eat everything I eat. Everything. I can’t tell her it’s spicy or that it’s fish or brussel sprouts. She likes it all! If I’m eating it, she wants to try it. And I’m her mom, so I have to let her.
At restaurants, though, Rosie is pretty good. Since she likes to eat, she’ll sit there and do just that. Mia? Mia wants to get up. She wants to be passed around. She wants to sneak her way behind my chair and race away into the restaurant kitchen, so that the entire staff is staring me down when I enter chasing after her (more embarrassment issues here). At this point, my food is getting colder and less appetizing on the table. Believe me. I love her.
My point, here, is not to complain. Truly. I just find it crazy that I ever doubted that I could love these amazing girls, and now I love them so much that I’ll listen to the rules of Rosie’s game that makes zero sense for the fifth time in a row and haul Mia around on my hip while I drag the giant laundry basket down the steps. I’d do more of course. Lay down my life. Step in front of a bullet. All that jazz. But share my last bite of mint-chocolate-chip ice cream? Me? Now that’s impressive. That’s something I can really be proud of.