Adoption, Parenting

My Daughter Wouldn’t Say That She’s Blessed


I read a post a few days ago called The One Thing Christians Should Stop Saying, by Scott Dannemiller.  Anyone who can talk about the beatitudes and mention his kids’ poop in the toilet in one blog post is my kind of people.

Okay, spoiler alert, he says the one thing we should stop saying is that we’re “blessed,” when we’re referring to material wealth.  It resonates with me, and it also has me noodling over another way people throw out “blessed.”

As an adoptive parent, I hear “blessed” all the time:

She’s so blessed to have you!

What a blessing for her to get to be in your family!

She doesn’t know how blessed she is.

I assure you I’m not some raging semantics police who’s all hot and bothered about wording, and I’m not deeply offended or angry.  I live with my foot in my mouth.  When you talk as much as I do, it’s bound to happen.

However.   Let me tell you why this feels worthy of a foot popsicle.

Actually, let me let one of my daughters tell you.

Evie: I wish I was still in Ethiopia with my first mommy.

Me: I know.  It’s okay to feel that way.  I’m sorry.  I’m really glad I get to be your second mommy, but I’m so sorry you can’t still be with your first mommy in Ethiopia.

Those blessed comments that people throw out sound a lot different when you add on reality:

She’s so blessed to lose her first family!

What a blessing for her to get to leave her culture forever!

She doesn’t know how blessed she is to grow up in a family where she feels different every day.

Don’t ever tell my daughter she’s blessed to be here.

She doesn’t see it that way.  Every day she’s trying to figure out what happened.  She’s asking questions, trying to understand why she isn’t with her first mommy, the one who looks like her.  And she’s recently discovered that she’s in a white family.

I mean.  No adoption seminar on transracial parenting will prepare you for your daughter realizing she has a freaking white mom.  This is hard for her.

Recently she peeled back my eyelids one morning and asked why she’s the only “brown person” in the family.  She and I started naming all the “brown people” in our life — friends, neighbors, people at our church, people at school.  (I told her about President Obama and how he like runs the whole dang country, but she didn’t seem that impressed, so I added Princess Tiana and Doc McStuffins and she was fine.  I don’t think they’ve covered civics in preschool yet.)

But no matter how many “brown people” I name and how many “brown” children we adopt or foster, I will always be her white mom and she will always long for her first mom.

She and I were playing with her dollhouse one afternoon.  She has the Fisher-Price My First Dollhouse.  When her grandparents ordered it, it came with the toy black family, and then her other grandparents called Fisher-Price and asked if we could mix and match the families.  They sent us a white family for free, so now we have two of everybody.

So on this particular afternoon, I was holding the white mommy and she had the black baby.  La-di-dah, playing dollhouse, and trying to focus and not check Twitter.  And then she got my attention, switching the white mommy for the black mommy.  I asked her why the switch, and she said, “These match.”

My daughter wants to match.  She wants her first mom.  As much as it rips the throbbing heart out of my aching chest, I get it.  It’s impossible to teach a four-year-old all the unfair, broken intricacies of how she ended up in our home, but every day I try to answer her questions.  When we stepped into her world, into her life, we entered into her pain and brokenness.  We can’t give her back her first family, but we can walk with her as her second family.

This bond that we’ve been trying to form for two-and-a-half years is tender and precious, and stunningly beautiful.  In spite of all the attachment struggles and the two steps forward, five steps back progress, what a privilege it is to be her mommy.

When we’re snuggling together in a tangle of brown and peach arms, I love her so much from this deep, deep place of pain and longing for wholeness and health.  As Dannemiller concludes, I am grateful.

But my daughter wouldn’t say that she’s blessed.


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  • Darlene

    what a beautiful perspective..and in an odd way I can relate given our set of circumstances. :) Thanks Mel for sharing your heart and the reality that is truly out there!

    • Melanie Dale

      Thanks, Darlene. :)

  • Guest

    I’m the adoptive parent of four children from India, two of whom are biologically-related (twins). My I respectfully disagree with this entire post? My children – and yours – are blessed. This isn’t to diminish for a single second the loss they’ve endured… and will carry with them. It’s heartbreaking and my wife and I would DO ANYTHING if we could change this for them. But, in the providence of God, we can’t.

    My children would’ve endured life in the lowest cast in India in grinding poverty; they might well have been one of the THOUSANDS of children begging for money in the streets while drugged by a pimp for money; my daughters might’ve been sold into a brothel, and they likely would’ve never heard the name of Jesus, the only one who could forgive their sins.

    Now they know the love of a flesh-and-blood mother and father, siblings, and friends. They receive a Christian education and have been taught that they story they find themselves in – the one with a bad turn or two – is actually part of a much bigger and better story written by the One who is making all things new.

    So, yes, our adopted children are blessed.

    • Melanie Dale

      Wow, I love hearing a little snippet of your story here. And yes, feel free to disagree with me! We are all just parents trying to figure things out. :) I think we probably agree about a lot, actually. My heart breaks for the children trafficked and abused, in poverty and without hope. I’m so glad your children have you, and I’m so glad my kids have me. Absolutely. What I struggle with is hearing people tell my daughter, tell me, tell us that she should feel blessed, that she is blessed, when right now she’s in the middle of grief. I struggled with infertility for years, and I now see it as a blessing. I am truly grateful. But if someone had come to me in those grieving years and insisted that I feel blessed, I would’ve been angry, felt defeated. As I hear stories from adult adoptees, I hear some of them saying that they felt like people expected them to feel blessed and thankful all the time, when they were grieving the loss of family and culture. I don’t want that pressure for my girls. My youngest is trying to figure out what happened and is in pain. She doesn’t feel blessed right now and doesn’t understand the very real reasons why she can’t be with her first family. She feels ripped away. Rather than telling her how blessed she is, I’m trying to walk with her through the pain. Someday, if she comes to terms with all the pain, all the loss, all the heartbreak, and us as her second family, maybe she’ll start a blog and write that she now, after everything, can see blessing in adoption. I’ll “like” that post! But it’s not for me to tell her. I just want to hold her while she wrestles.

  • Lisa Joy Thompson

    Last night I spent over an hour consoling my beautiful 7 year old who has known more heartache and loss than I can imagine. Not only has she lost her culture, she was adopted at 18 months, but the family that adopted her was abusive and for the next 5 years of her life, she endured being told she was stupid, ugly, etc. She’s been living in our family for over a year, but last night a girl at church made a mean comment about her “brownish skin” and told her that she didn’t like “brownish people” and only wanted to be friends with white people. Through tears last night my daughter told me that she was asking God for white skin for her birthday so that people would be nicer to her. :( I agree wholeheartedly about people saying my kids are “blessed” or “so lucky to have us”. I am sooo grateful for all 4 of our kids and thankful that God saw fit to allow us the privilege of parenting them, but it hurts deeply that all of our children have come from such different backgrounds and such a world of hurt and loss.

    • Melanie Dale

      Lisa, I’m crying as I read this. I was all set to write you back something involving sentences and punctuation, but…sigh. Sigh. I’m just hugging you right now with my thoughts. You’re not alone. Thank you for sharing this here. I’m fighting anger toward the girl at church and pity that she doesn’t know any better and learned that attitude from someone. I’m praying for you and your daughter right now.

  • asnair

    I think of feeling blessed the same as I think of being thankful. No one else can tell me to feel thankful for something, I must feel it for myself. You write so clearly of your child’s confusion about her past and present, I would have to agree that she probably would not say she is blessed today. One day with God’s help she will feel it, and be ever so happy to have her second family! I wouldn’t expect it until after the teenage years have past, but one day.

    • Melanie Dale

      I like how you say, “No one else can tell me to feel thankful for something, I must feel it for myself.” :)

  • Casey Alexander

    It’s not just the kids who come from different places who ache for the first mommy. We adopted two, and we “match” unbelievably well–I’ve even been stopped by strangers asking if I cloned our daughter. For our son, who was (so far) ready to be done with the “bad people” who screwed up his life, things are great. For our daughter, we have years of healing ahead. It doesn’t matter that I look more like her than her birth mom did.

    • Melanie Dale

      I hear you, Casey. My other daughter looks just like me and there is so much healing ahead.

  • Creative Simple Life

    Beautiful. Thank you for sharing this with such honesty and love. I am deeply moved.





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