This Thanksgiving we were lucky enough to get to spend it with both sides of our family. Sometimes I get in a bad mood and complain and having to drive over an hour to see my husband’s family. Or having to squish ourselves into my parents’ house because I have about a million aunts and uncles. (Seriously, there’s a TON of people in there, and it gets SO STINKING HOT). And something crazy and redneck always happens. But really, I love every minute of it. Every. Single. Minute. I am so blessed to have in-laws whom I adore. Parents and grandparents who love each other enough to want to be together. There’s so many people who don’t have that and I try hard not to take it for granted. The food was amazing (at both houses – but shout out to my old faithful tin can shaped cranberry sauce because mama found out this year that baby shark LOVES “sawce” too haha)
We spent the morning just us 5 at home watching the parade and just being lazy. Which is something we rarely ever do so it was really nice. Next we drove to Wingate and had lunch with my in-laws. I love spending time over there because I love to see my husband in his element. Where he feels the most rooted. With his people, if that makes sense. Of course his home is with us, but is HOME is there. And his whole body language changes at his parents’ house. He’s not big bad daddy in charge there, he’s Jr. and his mama still pours his drinks dotes on him and I ADORE IT. The time there is never enough.
Then we went to my parents for dinner. My family is loud. Everyone is having a different conversation but all at the same time. And they all yell it so they can be heard. Daddy hides out in the shop because he wasn’t raised in that chaos and doesn’t know how to deal. But the rest of us thrive in it. I’ve said it before, but man… I am so blessed to be a part of this family.
And then I see it. The look in my oldest daughter’s eyes. That misty, far away, can’t quite place it look that lets me know she’strying to grab hold of a memory from a holiday a long time ago. One not quite as lively and full of love (and LOUDNESS) as this one.
Holidays are always bittersweet for my oldest 2 kiddos. I know they are so excited about seeing all of our family. The presents. The decorations. The presents. All the delicious baked goods. Did I mention the presents? But the truth is, holidays are so hard. Harder on them, most likely, than I’ll ever know. Because in the middle of all of the fun and excitementand love that surrounds them, they have a huge piece of themselves missing. And that bitterness comes out hard this time of year. They wake up every Christmas morning in a house with parents who love and adore them, but that didn’t give them life. And as much as my husband and I adore our girls, we can’t magically make ourselves have that biological and from birth connection. And that feeling is harder to describe than anything I’ve felt along this journey. I want to be everything for them. But I’m not. And as hard as it is on me to just sit in that inadequacy, I imagine it’s 10x harder for them. Most of the time they are so focused on the fun that the moments fly by. But every once in a while I catch a look, like the one I saw on Thanksgiving, and I know she’s thinking about her. About her biological mom. The one who left without any explanation. The one who’s leaving prompted an immediate and irreversible change to their souls that I may never fully understand. I get it. Sometimes there’s just not words capable of expressing enough emotion. So we just share the look through the silence. It’s grief. But far beyond just losing aparent. Death comes to everyone. But this grief comes from abandonment. From not knowing what happened or why. From not having any answers and knowing you’ll probably never get them. That person who gave you life, who literally formed you inside their body, is just… gone. You can’t just erase that bond. It doesn’t go away. (No matter how hard I wish that pain away for them). You just learn to accept that it’s as much a part of you as she is, and you learn to deal.
But Holidays make it harder to deal with it I think. There’s an innate emotion surrounding the holidays that has a tendency to bring up the things my girls fight so hard to keep down the rest of the year. It comes out in sass. In outbursts. In tears or sometimes in just down right meanness. But it also comes out in hugs, snuggles I don’t usually get, lingering hand holding and increased conversations. Any type of connection they can grasp on to. And those are the moments I cherish. The ones I can use to strengthen the bond between us. They may not have formed in me, but they are as much a part of my heart as my own bio is. That’s one of the hardest parts of adopting children with trauma. It’s figuring out what you can and can’t do something about, and then getting out of the way to let God do what He does. There’s nothing I can do about the grief that hangs heavy in those moments. But just being there. A new constant in their chaos. I think that’s enough, even though it doesn’t feel like it sometimes. And even though it does bring some bitter memories, I love the holidays for the sweet reminder to cherish what’s important.