So, last week we packed up our little Squirrel and hit the road. By now, we were old pro’s at traveling together and navigating the potential stress of hectic airports. She had her stuffy. Lollypop in her mouth. Mama Lynn’s hand. Special snacks in tow. We were ready. What I was not ready for was how beautifully, generously, and authentically my AZ family would embrace her when we arrived. Here are 6 things they did to make my girl feel like their girl…even if they aren’t related by blood. Continue Reading
“Do one thing everyday that scares you,” Eleanor Roosevelt said.
Some days, for me, that means adopting an older child, or publishing our journey on this blog, or advocating for her special needs. Other days, it’s making caramel corn.
That’s right. I’ve been mustering the courage to make this recipe in my favorite cookbook for, like, a year. What makes caramel so scary? The way it bubbles? The fact that it can burn and stink up your house or worse, ruin your saucepan? Squirrel wanted to make it with me but her energy is too frenetic for me to include her this first time around. So I waited until the hour before she came home from school, buttered the biggest bowl I could find (and then a second one when that still wasn’t big enough) and got poppin’.
I have to tell you that I felt the joy of a little kid doing their first science experiment. Watching butter and maple syrup and raw sugar melt together is fun as it is. But when you add baking soda and almond extract (I was out of vanilla) then BAM!
It spits and fizzes and swirls. It makes your home smell like heaven. Even if you spill half of it on the floor as you try stirring the gooey treat and your dogs get more of it than you do, you can still feel proud. Even though your kitchen might be trashed and you’re way to tired to deal with it anytime soon, you still deserve to celebrate.
Your kid and wife will walk through the door and smile in surprise at the scent of sugar in the air. “What is that!?” they’ll ask, beaming. You get to be smug and satisfied. You did something that scared you. You turned a regular afternoon into a memory. You made…caramel corn. Enjoy!
Maybe it’s the scent of summer in the air: talk of Go Girls! Camp, family vacations, and lots of time in the pool. Sometimes with trauma, a season change is enough to snap us out of fight or flight.
Maybe it was Mothers’ Day. We created an altar to celebrate and integrate the idea that 4 different mothers all belong to our little Squirrel. Maybe this ritual healed some part of her.
Maybe it was meeting her sweet doppleganger—a 6 year old boy that our best friends are adopting. She got to feel competent—like, “I went through that,”—and access her big sister self. She got to feel part of a club of kids with gay parents; kids who have past lives no one really understands. “I think maybe he’s my new brother, Mommy,” she said.
Maybe it’s the neurofeedback sessions we started. When crazy levels reached an all time high, we decided extra nervous system support was the way to go. Twice a week we go together, getting side by side treatments in hopes that our bodies can find some sense of peace.
Maybe it’s taking a forced break from a friend who she’s been fighting with at school. Their dynamic went from intense to a little toxic and the school has been supporting them beautifully to take space. We navigated conversations with the other girl’s parents with respect and a mutual concern for their emotional safety.
Maybe it’s that Lynn & I didn’t give up. We cried and tried every single thing we could think of to help this little girl feel loved. Maybe after months of testing us, we finally convinced her that she is safe here. That we are not going anywhere. (Even though we fantasized about it…Mexico anyone?)
I have no idea which of these interventions helped shift the tide of panic in her little system. Maybe all of them wove together like the blankets my Mom made each of us when we were little.
All I know is that this morning there was laughing instead of screaming. Last night, there were kisses instead of thrown objects. All week was filled with love songs and imagined mermaid dance-offs. Pet names and giggling. Piggyback rides and birthday parties for her bunny. We have our daughter back. I don’t know how long we have before trauma steps in again and steals her away from us but my plan is to soak up every precious moment we get.