My Daughter’s First Halloween Soon After Her Adoption
Mistakes happen even when we prepare and do our best
As a young woman, I never expected to have five children calling me Mom. But now that I do, I can’t imagine life without my unwieldy, noisy caravan of wacky kids. I love all of them fiercely even though they entered the family under different circumstances—three by birth and two by adoption.
Our first adoption was an infant who melted into my embrace. It was great to have a baby and none of the postpartum hormones or stretch marks—truly amazing! Our next adoption was a bewildered four-year-old who was old enough to realize that it was very strange to suddenly have a new family. She stuck by her same-age brother, and lucky for us, he embraced his new shadow and even shared his toys and clothes with her. I remind him of that now when they are squabbling over something ridiculous. Slowly the family grew into what we are today, but it wasn’t without bumps, tears, and a conscious effort to love them all without reservation.
I keenly recall the first Halloween with our newly adopted four-year-old. Dressed in a Little Red Riding Hood costume, which, of course, was of no relevance to an Ethiopian child who’d only been in this country for two months, she followed her excited siblings out the door. Although we’d read loads of adoption books, preparing for challenges such as issues of attachment, loss, identity, and trauma, we never sat down and said, “Guess what, Honey? There will be all kinds of strange people roaming about in strange costumes, and there’s no need to be scared.” She may not have understood our words, since English was still a vague series of sounds and well-intentioned hand signals, but the point is that we blithely headed into the streets where goblins, ghosts, and witches roamed free. Clueless as to what horror might await, she followed her sibling pack to the first door, moving tentatively. Then when she saw the candy offering, she grabbed a handful and stuffed it in her mouth. Quickly realizing that candy was being handed out door to door, she took off and raced past the throng of trick-or-treaters, and her little legs didn’t stop running until she’d hit every house on the block.
She’s now 13, and we recently reminisced about that first Halloween. She laughed at her mad dash between houses, but my thoughts turned to her incredible bravery and our remarkable cluelessness. That’s the pain and beauty of adoption. I’m happy she remembers only the funny part, but reflecting on those first months together is a poignant reminder that we will make mistakes even when we strive to be prepared and do our best. Isn’t that the essential truth of motherhood—be it biological or by leap of faith?
A sociologist who taught at Northwestern University for over a decade, Marika Lindholm is the founder of ESME, Empowering Solo Moms Everywhere, a confidential community of support and connection for Solo Moms.
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