Thirty-six years ago today I lived in Columbia, Missouri, with my then-husband Jim. I was doing some freelance work for the association he worked for, and we'd been hoping to start a family one way or another, with no luck.
Just a week later we would celebrate his 34th birthday.
And about a week after that, I got a phone call as I was getting dressed to go into the association office to do some work.
It was the Boone County Social Services Office. They had a baby girl for us. Born Feb. 17, 8 lbs 13 oz.
We held her for the first time a day later, this then-blue-eyed, dark-haired butterball of a cherub, and the following day, two caseworkers brought her home to us.
It had been a long labor and delivery -- about four years total, as I recall. Biological parents have it easier: one lucky night, and you're pregnant. No home study, no questions about your marriage or your finances or your religion or what role you expect a child to hold in the family or your medical history.
A little more than a year later, she was ours legally, birth certificate duly changed and court-approved.
She was the center of our family from the first day, and we all loved her, grandparents and uncle too. She was a cherished child, a very much wanted addition to the family, and her life was documented in photos by her daddy from day one. We went through first day at school, soccer games, birthday parties, Girl Scouts, church choir and youth activities, first date, prom, and various academic achievements. We fought, we made up, we talked, we cried, we laughed.
My baby girl is 36 today. Except for those first two weeks or so of her life, I've been her mother. I remember things she doesn't. I know things about her that few others do. I love her like no other ever will. And I wish her happy birthday, happy, happy birthday, and hope for many more good ones. We will celebrate her tonight with gifts and dinner, and I'm grateful to have her close enough to do that.
It has not all been fun nor good nor easy. Especially in the past several years, she has struggled with some monstrous demons, some of her own making, some not. I've wished many times that her problems were the ones I could kiss and make better, but they aren't, and I've had my own struggle to accept that I can't fix her or even help her sometimes. She has to do that herself, has to want to do that enough to do the work. Some days she does; some days she doesn't.
Most of us would not continue a relationship where we are treated poorly, lied to repeatedly, and disrespected -- and yet many of us were similarly scornful of our own parents, if not to their faces (in a different time and place and custom), certainly behind their backs! And yet they loved us still -- and we loved them because we were family. Even when we don't like them, we love our family.
Some parents and children seem to have it easier: maybe their karma allows that on this round, and they are so very blessed to have it. I hope they know how lucky they are.
My children have had issues and problems that have not been within my control: the only thing I can determine is how I allow their issues to impact my life. That's not news in these pages: I've written a lot about setting boundaries and working to rebuild fragile relationships. And I've also written about loving them.
I think it's remembering how much that child was wanted that keeps parents still loving the errant and difficult adult that sometimes emerges from that darling baby. It's hope that keeps us praying and sometimes lecturing and supporting them as they try -- or don't try -- to work their way through their issues. It's hope that keeps us wanting the best possible future for them, and hope that allows us to continue to walk beside them, holding their hands as they follow and falter on their life's path. No matter how dark it gets, may they always know that they are dearly and deeply loved!