My daughter likes to play dress up. Only she does not call it dress up. She just calls it clothes.
She will wear rain boots on a sunny day and a flannel nightgown in the middle of summer. She marches to the beat of her own drummer, and I hope it stays that way.
She is an only child, but she is not my only child. She had a sister who was supposed to be here, too but tragically died before I had a chance to deliver her. I had 37 weeks with her sister, and they are some of the proudest weeks of my life. When she died, a part of me died, too. I did not know how I was supposed to go on. I did not know if I wanted to go on.
After years of trying the old fashioned way and the new-fashioned way (fertility treatments), we were not having any luck conceiving on our own. So we chose adoption as a way to grow our family. We were scared and afraid, but we knew we wanted to be parents and that we had to step outside our comfort zone for that to happen.
And happen, it did.
When my living daughter was placed in my arms, I knew that she was mine. Although not from my blood, she was my family and that was that. There was no adjustment time or hesitation at all. She was as much my child as the one I carried under my heart for all those months.
I was finally a parent to a living child, and I was overjoyed. I was also petrified.
If you ask other parents who have lost a child, they will say that they love harder because they know how fragile life can be. I do not know if that is true, but I only know of raising a child after a loss, so it’s difficult to say.
I want to give my daughter the world. I also want to make sure that she’s not too spoiled or that she takes too much for granted. While I do not want her to grow up in her sister’s shadow, I do want her to know that her sister made me the mom that I am today.
When my daughter wants to walk on the curb when everyone else is walking on the street, I hold her hand. When she wants to slide when everyone else is using the swing, I spot her at the bottom. I think it is so important that she think for herself and even though I do not like when she is stubborn, I appreciate her determination (most days!).
Recently, long after I read my daughter two books and sang her even more songs in an attempt for her to go to sleep, I heard her whimpering in her room. I ran upstairs to see her stuck in an outfit from one of her teddy bears. She decided that she wanted to wear the outfit that her Build-A-Bear was wearing, and she almost got it on.
I could have gotten angry that she was up so late. I could have gotten mad that she ripped the clothes a little bit in an attempt to get them on her 4-year-old body. Instead, I laughed with her, helped her out of the ill-fitting outfit and tucked her back into bed with a smile and one more song.
We laughed about it the next morning. We talked about why it was a silly idea and discussed perhaps not trying to do it again. We shall see. If it takes her a few more tries until she understands, then so be it. At least she is not giving up. At least she is strong.
And because of her, so am I.
We stepped out of our comfort zone and chose to adopt a child, and it was by far the best decision we have ever made.
So dress up if you want, be silly if you want. Choose to live your life the best way you can – even when you are not sure you can go on. Yes, even then.