Moving on, I'm doing a study with some girlfriends and we camped out in 1 Corinthians 13 (love is patient, love is kind, etc) for a few days and I've been beating myself up for not loving Caroline enough. I've been doing that for the past 18 months but it has intensified through this study. Then, the boldest person in our group asked me the question everyone wants to ask but never does, 'Do you love her like you love your biological children?' Through tears, I answered no, not yet. Our relationship is deepening but not yet.
I was talking to Tom about it when I got home and processing some of our conversations. He brought up the point that he loves the boys in different ways and he isn't sure what that looks like yet for Caroline, as the relationship is still finding solid ground. It got me thinking. I love all of the boys differently too but never questioned it because my love for all of them is effortless. It's a given.
To love an adopted child is a choice, for most adoptive mamas I know. It is different. You never chose to love your biological children. It was innate. That doesn't mean the love you chose is less, however. I started breaking down some of the things that a mother's love does. In the Greek version of this passage, love was a verb used 15 times to show action. It was not an emotion showing itself through action. That is sticking with me. There are many times with Caroline that I choose to demonstrate love when I do not feel it and I always have this guilt attached. What I never considered until Tom and I talked is that I do that with the boys all the time, with NO guilt!
For example, Caroline wants lots of physical affection, particularly when she first wakes up. I give that to her, gladly, but I am also thinking of what needs to be done to get everyone breakfast. Prior to my conversation with tom, I would have assumed guilt related to adoption about how I can't (or don't want to) cuddle together for three hours. Taking a step back, I see this happens with each child! Hayes is convinced he is superman and often wants to fly and crash land. I do it until my arms cannot bear the weight of his enormous toddler body. He flies, experiences turbulence, then crashes onto the couch. Every single time I end it first but he loves it. It's a bonding time and I've never associated my ending it before he did with not loving him enough. Frankly, I do not love swinging his 43 Lb body around. It's exhausting, I do it because it brings him joy. That is exactly why I do things Caroline wants but I assigned a negative connotation to that, for some reason.
Mamas, doing something purely for your child doesn't mean you love them less. It means you are putting your own agenda aside to love them in a way they can receive.
So. What is a mother's love.
A mother would die for her children, anytime, anywhere.
Would I do that for Caroline?
A mother chooses the best for her child even at personal sacrifice for herself.
A mother is a cheerleader, a safe place, a counselor, an advocate and a caregiver. A mother fixes meals, makes sure you do homework, gets you to your extracurriculars, arranges play dates, delights in your delight and hurts when you hurt. I am all of those for her. It does feel different. OF COURSE IT DOES! We just met 18 months ago! I'm not writing this to pat myself on the back. I want other adoptive moms to read this and give themselves some grace.
I get insanely annoyed with some of the boys' behaviors but I never once told myself I didn't love them enough. I love them oodles and I can still justifiably be driven crazy at some of the shenanigans.
Mamas, we are loving our kids well even when it doesn't feel good. We kiss their faces with their crazy morning breath and take them to dr appts and tuck them in every night. We tell them they look beautiful and they know they are precious to us. We color together, paint nails, and applaud every achievement. We pack their favorite snacks and make sure they socks they like are clean. We are doing this thing already!
There is so much freedom for me in understanding that different here doesn't mean less. My relationship with Caroline will be different and why wouldn't it be? My relationship with each boy is different; I just never dissected it. It didn't occur to me to do so. There is so much weight attached to this idea of adoption. I think I've assigned all my emotions/reactions to some adoption category and that's silly. Tom and I have attended great seminars, taken classes, read books, and watched dvd's about how to parent an adopted child. We are so educated in this that I think sometimes we got lost in the rhetoric and forget we are just people building relationship and that takes time.
I think moms are hard on themselves in general and adoptive moms have a whole other level to use to scrutinize themselves. So that particular relationship gets put under a microscope and every flaw is magnified and the enemy shouts condemnation in that. I think I've missed the forest for the trees in wanting so much to love Caroline well. I'm not doing it perfectly for her but I'm certainly not doing it perfectly for the boys, either. I'm doing my best and she's precious to me.
I want her in our family.
I would do this again, even knowing how hard it is.
I'm so thankful to be her mommy and call her my daughter.
I love her more than my own life.
That is a mother's love.
The next time someone is brave enough to ask me that question I will have a different answer.