My third daughter turned 21 last week. It is a huge milestone for any parent and child. I am raising children who have been hurt beyond imagining and many of my children come from biological families in which alcoholism and drug use is the norm, so having a child reach the legal drinking age gives me pause.
Clara, however, is very, very clear with herself and her friends and family that she is not going to fall into the stereotypes of either her Mexican heritage, nor her Native American heritage that “they are all drunks.” She is charting a course for her own life that embraces the positives of her biological inheritance. She had time on her birthday with friends and family that was just relaxed, talkative hanging out time. If she drank, she didn’t tell me. But if she did, she did not lose herself. She felt like her birthday was a really nice day.
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A few weeks ago, Clara and I were searching through paperwork for some school records that she needed for her enrollment at her college and she ran across the box that has all of her foster care court documents as well as all the disclosure records pre-adoption… medical, placements, etc. She has never seen them before and was skimming through a few pages. She looked up at me and said with a laugh, “Geez, I was a problem child.” I chuckled with her and told her I’d do it over and over again. She declined to take the box with her… “I’m too busy with school and work for that right now.”
About an hour after she left, I figured out what I should have told Clara…. “You were not a problem child! You were a little girl who had a world of problems that the adults put on you and you survived using every skill you had.” I sent her a quick text telling her that. She responded, “Thanks. I love you so much, Mom.”
This! I need to remember to include this in my own daily self talk when I am tired and worn from what the kids are doing here at home. These beautiful children are using every skill they have to survive the pain that periodically floods them, or the brain synapse malfunctions that formed during early abuse. They are not the problem and they WILL continue to learn new skills and to survive and to thrive into adulthood.
As Clara’s birthday came and went, I realized that I was proud of all of my older daughters. Some days were pure fire and fury in the house when they were all teenagers here at home. Beatrice and Clara and Dixie, all adopted, are three completely different personalities. If they had met out in the world (and not been adopted into one family), they would never have hung out together…. different friends, different tastes, different interests…. and all with stubborn, hot tempers. As young adults, they are still all different, but now that they are not living together, they enjoy each other. Clara got lots of loving and lots of support on her birthday from her sisters.
And my heart was happy.