We have two girls – a birth daughter, aged 10 and our youngest, aged 5, who we adopted four years ago…Here’s just a few gems they’ve come up over the years.
1. During a somewhat drawn-out tour of our local secondary school before making the final choices for our eldest daughter for next year, our youngest, after an hour and a half, obviously decided it was time she cut in on the action.
Lightly touching a maths teacher’s arm to gain her attention, and stopping her in mid-flow, our daughter piped up: “I can go to ANY secondary school I want to when I’m old enough…cos I’m adopted!”
“Really?” says the teacher, rising to this magnificently. “That’s great… and I really hope you choose this school when the time comes?”
Our daughter, after a thoughtful pause…
“No. I won’t.”
2. After a particularly (and unusually, these days, I have to say) fractious afternoon recently, wherein it seemed I could do, or say, nothing right by our youngest, I was pretty relieved by the time she was in bed. An hour later, it was time for our 10 year old to go up. Giving me an extra big bedtime hug she said: “My mummy. My only mummy.”
I laughed and said: “Well, I hope so!” And then, after a wee while I added, ruefully: “Though, of course, I’m not your sister’s only mummy, am I? And I sometimes think, especially on days like this one, that she’d probably prefer to be with her other mummy…”
I’d meant it lightly, I thought, but maybe she detected something that needed to be aired? So she considered this statement, solemnly, then nodded and said: “You know, birth mum’s got a huge advantage over you because, basically, well, she gave her life, didn’t she?”
“Yes, good point, love, and that’s just the way it is and there’s nothing I can do to change that,” I agreed.
“But remember, you have an even bigger advantage, Mum – you’re giving her a BETTER life than she would have had.”
3. Our youngest now regularly says she loves us but, recently, she added an extra something: “I love you mum. And I’ll never, in my life, un-love you.”
“Never un-love me,” I repeated, savouring the words and tears pricking my eyes. “I’ve never heard that before – and what a lovely phrase that is…”
She frowned, then: “It’s not a phrase. It’s what I feel.”
4. I got back from a solo overnight stay at my mum’s and the girls wanted to know how nanny’s new rescue dog, TJ, was getting on now? I said how nervous, over-excitable and unpredictable he still seemed, even two months since he’d come to live with mum.
Our youngest put her little hands on her hips, waggled her head and exclaimed, in mock outrage: “Well, whaddya EXPECT mum? He’s been adopted hasn’t he, just like me! And when I first came to live with you, you were just RANDOM people. I didn’t even know you! And really, we’re all still totally RANDOM to him!”
5. A very ordinary teatime, about a year on after we’d adopted our youngest and I’m making boiled eggs. Our eldest casually mentioned how big Auntie V had got now her baby was almost due – and was I that huge when I was pregnant with her? The youngest froze in her tracks and the room seemed to hold its breath: “So, she was born out of your tummy?”
We’d all been upfront from the beginning about adoption and discussing with our youngest her life story, before us. There were no secrets here, we thought. But what we’d not thought of before was her assumption that her big sister was also adopted.
I wiped my hands on a teatowel to give myself time to think and suddenly, thankfully, the words came: “Yes, she was in my tummy,” I said, “and, later on, me and dad and your sister really, really wanted another child to join our family that we could love and look after and keep safe. But I wasn’t able to grow a baby in my tummy anymore. So we decided to find out about adopting a child…”
“And then you came and found me,” she said, a slow smile spreading…
“Yes, we did,” I said “and, I want you to know, although the two of you came to us in different ways, you are BOTH my girls – and I love you just as much as I love your sister.”
I glanced, then, at our eldest, feeling nervous – was this an okay thing to hear, so explicitly? Without hesitation, she came to her sister’s side, smiling, slid an arm around her shoulders, her head against hers. “Yes,” she said, “and I love you too. And now you’re my sister and you’ll be my sister forever and ever.”
Then both looked at me, then, and almost in unison, said:
“Are the boiled eggs ready yet?”
6. On a day out in the park, our youngest, and a close friend of ours, climbed a hill a bit ahead of us, towards the trees. The wind was rustling in the leaves and our friend, in poetic mood, said to her:
“The trees are talking to each other, whispering secrets,”
She didn’t miss a beat:
“Yes. Or it’s the wind,” she said.