(Editors Note: In honor of National Adoption Month, we would like to recognize all of our readers who are adoptees, family members of adoptees or have adopted children. This article is a tribute to all of you.)
When my daughter turned 10, I realized that life as I knew it was going to get more complicated. I knew that the days of little girl giggles, gleeful screeching, and playing peek-a-boo were so far in the rear-view mirror, I should just turn my gaze toward the horizon and hope for the best. She is getting bigger and more mature each day. My daughter was placed in my arms in Nanchang, China when she was 11 months old. Nanchang, a city known for its spicy food, would forever be the birthplace of my Spicy Girl.
This Halloween, for the second year in a row, SG was invited to a party at a classmate’s home, where she and six other kids were going to fuel up on pizza, Trick or Treat, and head back to the host’s house for candy bartering. As we are all aware, candy is a fungible commodity, and no one wheels and deals better than 10-year-olds seeking a Snickers bar. When RSVPing for the event, I indicated to the parents arranging for the party that me and my husband would like to come, I made sure to let them know it was not due to my lack of trust in their skills at child wrangling, rather, I simply want to be there to be part of the memories.
You see, I am keenly aware of the fact that I am an older mom, and with that, I have some of my own needs that are heightened. One of these needs is to be able to soak in Spicy Girl’s “kid life” as long as possible, because she’s it – the last one, and I don’t get to have a second bite at the apple.
As we traveled through the neighborhood, the parents held back and talked and the kids ran ahead. They were having an incredible time and we were enjoying being spectators. Then we arrived at a home of a family who had decked out their basement as a haunted house. My husband and I concurred that we didn’t think Spicy Girl would go inside, but we were wrong. OK, kind of wrong, she wanted to go, but she wanted me with her. “Hold my hand,” she said. And I did.
The haunted house was as homemade as it came. With “bloody” writing on sheets, a fake chain saw, and spooky music and costumes. But it also had a layer of suspense that kept Spicy Girl and her friends on their toes. There were screams. There were surprises. There was candy at the end. My hand was clenched by hers throughout, and she only let go when we got back to my husband, and she said, “That wasn’t that scary, but I am glad Mom was with me. “ Night made.
In my work-life I am an administrator on a college campus, where I work directly with college-aged students. When I speak to students about matters that are often delicate and difficult I ask them, “Who is helping you with this? Who do you have in your corner?” Based on the student’s responses (and my training and experience) I have come to learn that there is a fine line between parental support and parental hovering. When students say that they could NEVER tell their parent about a time that they are struggling, or they MUST ALWAYS talk to their parent about making even the smallest decision, I have a good idea of what side of the line we find ourselves on.
Without fail, each and every academic year, a well-meaning person asks me if I only had one child of my own because I “parent” over a thousand college students. I am quick to tell them that the one and only child I parent is my own. The other young people in my life have been parented. My role with them is completely different.
Rather than parent them, I remind them of who their “parents” (or parental figures) are. “Remember, those people whose hands you held because you needed them, and those whose hands you let go of because you were ready to go it alone? Well, they are in your corner,” I say, “I cannot make you do anything, but this I can say, if they held your hand back then, they will hold it now, and if you were ready to let go then, you can let go now. People in your corner are in your corner for life.”
For me, I simply want a few more moments of Spicy Girl’s hands in mine, but I will forever be in her corner.