a year and a halfApril 30, 2012
It was only eighteen months ago that we picked Mara up from her prior foster family’s house and brought her home. In the 18 months prior to that, she had moved from her mother’s care to her aunt Samara’s and then moved from one apartment to another with Samara and her family, after which she entered foster care with her first foster family, who also moved houses while she was with them. With us, she’s moved from the little house to the piano house last summer and had Val and Alex move in and then move out. That is a whole lot of change for one little person, but she is doing so amazingly well with it nonetheless.
In the last week or two, she’s suddenly stopped saying “I miss my family!” or “I miss my daddy!” every single day, the way she had been for maybe a year. I don’t think this is a sign that she misses them any less, but I think she knows we understand. Especially since having her siblings stay with us, I’ve made a point of saying, “I miss Trinity!” or “Don’t you think Andre would like doing this?” and I know she says that sort of thing too. During the parent-teacher meeting, her teacher clearly knew her siblings’ names and some of their preferences (that the little brother likes marbles, specifically) just the way she would for any of Mara’s classmates who live with their brothers and sisters. One of the things I’m most proud of is that we’ve been able to get her in touch with her family, and I’m so impressed with how her family has welcomed us and made us part of the family too. Mara comes from wonderful people, which is not a surprise when you see how amazing and gentle she is but it’s still a delight.
Getting to know her family has also made me think more clearly about how poorly kinship caregivers are treated in our state. I feel a push to educate other foster families about the benefits we’ve seen to an open adoption and everyone about how much more support people like Mara’s aunt Odelia deserve.
In the last 18 months, I’ve become a mom, though still not one with full legal standing. It turns out that a lot of the fears I had about parenting were unfounded and that most of what I do has come naturally to me, though that may be partly because I spent so much time thinking about parenting before I actually did it. I’ve stopped being dissatisfied with the way I look because I don’t want Mara to pick up on that, and it really was almost that easy to let those worries drop. I’m generally more kind to myself than I’d expected, though I’ve certainly made my share of parenting mistakes. I’m a good mom for Mara, and I’m willing to say that. And despite hitting serious low points when Val and Alex were with us, Lee and I are a better team than we’ve ever been and getting better all the time.
As for Mara, I took her to church yesterday and as we walked back to the car she was looking at some cats sitting on a porch. She said, “Why those cats looking at me? I think they think, ‘What’s that beautiful doing???’” I love that she thinks of herself as a “beautiful,” though I know challenges to that are coming as her own sister changed Mara’s Mii icon for our Wii to have lighter skin and straight hair, a message she herself had probably internalized by age 4. I love that Mara is smart and poetic, that she is cuddly and independent, that she’s musical and can draw for hours. She’s gentle, kind, intuitive, loving. When we brought home that sad, scared girl 18 months ago, we saw the spark in her eyes that told us she’d be amazing, but our Mara and our life with her are so much better than we’d ever imagined.