Last night I was sitting on the living room floor in a sprawl of children gathered around John for story time. Since the littlest kids were happily sitting on either side of Dad, I pulled one of my 9 year old sons onto my lap for a cuddle. He doesn’t ask for it these days, but he doesn’t yet resist either, so I try to sneak cuddles in now and then when I can.
My 12 year old daughter who arrived from Ethiopia 6 months ago was apparently feeling in need of some mom-contact too, and came to lay her head on the bit of lap that wasn’t occupied by the 9 year old. I reached out to stroke her head, playing with the ringlets of hair just in front of her ears that always escape the braids, no matter how tightly I try to braid.
My heart was full of thoughts of her first mom. Though my daughter is doing really well here, she still misses her Ethiopian mom who is in Heaven. As I admired her precious face, and stroked the hair just as her first mother probably did thousands of times, I wished that somehow this child would see me not as a replacement or competition or as some poor substitute (all feelings I’ve had myself) but as a connection between her mom in heaven and herself. That somehow she would feel the love of her first mom coming through my fingers.
I don’t wish for my dear girl to forget her first mom. I hope she doesn’t fear that by fully embracing me she will lose something of her first mom. But I do wish that somehow by God’s grace she could feel a continuity. A love that exists as strongly on this side of the globe as it did in the country of her birth. I am privileged to carry on the job that her first mom began.
Our relationship is still very new, and I understand the moments when the everyday me is compared to the most shining memories of her first mother and I don’t look so good in comparison. This bonding thing takes time. But I pray that someday she will think of ‘mother’ and see two faces, both looking at her in love. And I pray that each touch from me will make her smile and remember not just my love, but the love we both have for her.