My daughter Julia has a unique place in our family. She is my only biological daughter. When she was born, I had to keep checking her diaper because I couldn't believe that I finally got my girl. After her birth, we went on to have three more boys. She was our princess for seven years.
We always hoped to give her a sister, so when we decided to adopt it was only natural that we wanted to adopt a girl. Who knew that we would eventually end up with four more girls--- all within a 31 month age span. Needless to say, Julia was no longer the princess of the family. Now there were five!
During the beginning stages of our very first adoption of Anna and Sveta, we got some very hurtful comments. "You don't know what you are doing. You are going to forever change your children's lives and possibly screw them up. Why would you want to risk bringing in someone else's child to raise when you don't even know them?"
For us, it was a wake-up call. Quickly we knew which friends were supportive and which ones were not. For us, the idea of an adoptive child ruining our family was as ludicrous as saying that one of our six biological children might ruin our lives. We believed then and believe to this day that a child whether bio or adopted are exactly the same and therefore any sister that we gave Julia would be a blessing no matter how God joined them to our family. A biological child can just as easily cause problems in a family, and to avoid adopting for fear that an adoptive child could mess up our perfect little family was essentially saying that God was not big enough to get us through the hardships. I know better than to doubt my God. I think having this attitude from day one is what has carried us through the good times and the bad.
Anyway, Julia has handled our growing family with such an unselfish attitude, that at times I feel like it is just to good to be true. I mean how can she just be totally fine with sharing all that was once hers with four sisters now---all of whom could be totally annoying to her (and vice-versa)? There is a balance that I feel like as a mom I have to maintain with all of my children---- yet they each need something a little different. I am totally up for this challenge and find it very rewarding to be able to help each of my children feel special in their own little way.
With Julia, it is making sure that she knows without a doubt that she holds a special place in my heart (I will never forget those first seven years where it was just her and I) and I understand that she might struggle with feelings of jealousy while still letting her know that her sisters are just as important and special as her in their own way. I want her to know that I am aware that it is not only her sisters who have had to adjust to their new family, but it her that also has to adjust to them now being a part of our family. Make sense?
The other day Julia was very emotional after school. She was quiet, irritable and a time bomb waiting to go off. I picked up on it and right away thought that it must be one of the times that she was regretting having so many sisters. I was waiting for her to tell me about some huge fight she had had with one of them on the walk home from the bus or something.
As I was sitting with her on her bed, I kept trying to guess what was wrong. I was sure I had it nailed and was rehearsing how I was going to address her feelings. I wanted to be sensitive to how she was feeling yet I knew that I would have to remind her that wishing for them to be gone was wrong because they were forever a part of our family just like her brothers---- though I am sure she would like to snap her fingers and have one or two of them disappear at times.
When she finally told me what was wrong, a huge sigh of relief came over me. This had nothing to do with her not wanting sisters-- nothing at all. A big shame on me for automatically assuming that this is what was wrong. I should have given my daughter more credit.
"Today we were weighed in groups of three. And I was the heaviest, and this girl told everyone in class." Julia was devastated. I was angry that the school was still weighing the kids in front of each other after all of these years knowing full well how sensitive weight issues are in this day and age. Julia is not fat, not even close and she is very tall and beautiful, and fast meaning she is all muscle, yet now because some insecure girl decided to shoot off her mouth to embarrass Julia, now I have a daughter feeling that she is too fat. Did I mention that I was angry?
But at that time all I could do was to try and pick up the pieces of my daughter's embarrassed, broken heart and help her to realize that she is one beautiful girl. I shared with her my experiences as a very overweight girl in school that always tried to wear the lightest clothes that day just so I would weigh less. I remember those days of being weighed and they were very devastating to my self-esteem.
I am so sorry that Julia of all girls had to experience this (even when it shouldn't be an issue), but at the same time, it was a beautiful moment that the two of us got to share. It reminded me that maybe, just maybe I don't praise my children enough or tell them how beautifully and wonderfully made they are.
And just like my other daughters, Julia is amazing from the inside out.