* These three posts were a guest blog I wrote awhile ago. I’m re-releasing it here.
Today, the day we close the chapter on being a foster family, my daughter asked to play this song again. She hasn’t asked in four months for this song. Tonight however, it was the reminder we both needed.
All of my kids have a song. A sing they chose that helped them to survive ages 1-3. A song of their choosing. A song we played or sang over and over and over and over and over again. A song that I thought if I heard one more time, my head would explode. Thankfully, so far it has not. Our youngest has chosen Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah as her song. The Pentatonix version only. I have zero idea how or why this occurred, but then again, our second kid’s song was Singin’ in the Rain (Gene Kelly only). So. Every night we sit. With Hallelujah playing in the background over and over and over and over… Sadly, last week we discovered Alexa will not play the song for us anymore. So, now we know Alexa’s limit. We ask and she doesn’t even respond. That’s how fed up she is. We ALL know how “done” our parents were growing up if they just didn’t respond. I’m waiting for some sort of article on my Apple News to pop up that says, “Some poor sap played Hallelujah 486,572 times in 2019. Click here to see why.” It will just be a photo of her… and our Alexa smoking as it self-destructs.
O.K. I get it. It’s a great song. Pentatonix really knocks it out of the park. It’s second to “Mary did you Know.” In case you are wondering. Yes. Mary knew. My oldest daughter asked me tonight while I was cleaning if I learned all my skills from Grandma. Yes obviously. Then she asked if Grandma also has 1 million eyes like I have.
Mary knew. She had one million eyes.
But I digress.
I’m fine while listening to this song. I don’t lose it as the first tone rings out like with Mary.
“But baby I’ve been here before I’ve seen this room and I’ve walked this floor You know, I used to live alone before I knew ya And I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch And love is not a victory march It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah” That’s when I can’t take it anymore. Not so much like the rage issues Alexa now clearly has, but legitimately. On a deep soul level. The same level of emotion I feel when I sing my oldest son’s song, Amazing Grace.
Because, as I rock our two-year-old….Or rub her back….Or lift her back into her bed for the thousandth time… as I try to calm her hyper-vigilant mind, I can’t help but clench the muscles in my chest as Kirstin’s voice sings out, “But baby I’ve been here before.”Because I have. I have been exactly where she is at. I’ve seen this room and I’ve walked this floor…
It’s not a comfort to me that out of all of my children, I connect with her in ways I cannot or ever will connect with my own biological children. I don’t know their story. I don’t know what it’s like to have ready-made genetic mirroring or home-cooked trauma. I don’t know what it’s like to have just one foundation and not the two that I have to balance between. I used to live alone before I knew her because I was parenting out of skills I had to learn. Parenting bio children was not my normal.
Every day, every moment I interact with her, it’s second nature to see her white flag on the marble arch. I do have 1 million eyes I use for the everyday tub catastrophes or catching kids eating candy, but I have a special one that I don’t need to use for my other children. One that sees only the issues, problems, differences, trauma, anxiety, instability, questioning, fear, etc. that only she and I can understand within in our family. “I know this pain,” will be second only to “Mommy loves you” in which I reference not myself, but another mother. One who isn’t here.
Raising an adopted child takes a whole different set of skills.
As an adoptee raising an adopted child, I’ve got skills you’ve never seen. I truly did learn a lot from my adopted mother. But parenting this child will require skills that I had to teach myself. I grew up in a time where much of the adoption rhetoric was wrong. It was flawed. It was harmful. It was gaslighting. It was shaming. The work on trauma had just begun and Bessel Van der Kolk was still working with veterans. The “Decade of the Brain” was two decades away as was the second coming of Rob Thomas. My parents did pretty well raising adopted children in spite.
However, survival meant honing my brain, my body, my emotions, my personality, and becoming a chameleon because all I’ve ever learned from love was how to shoot somebody who outdrew you. And right before that line is where I lose it “Mary did you know” style listening to this song. Right here. Where I realize that even though I’ve got more experience. I’ve got more tools. I’ve got more training and education and we’ve got support and knowledge just a click away…
I’ve said it before, and I will say it many more times. Adoptees live in the in-between. In the stark contrast of the cold and brokenness and of the hallelujahs. I thought my experience would be enough. But it’s not. Love is not a victory march. It’s still a cold and broken hallelujah.
I have a choice. I can try to ignore one part of this dichotomy. Or I can do something neither myself nor my parents could teach me, to hold the cold and the brokenness and the hallelujah’s together. It seems to be a newer concept. And I think that’s why adult adoptee voices are rising. We were never taught on how to do this.
So, hand in hand. With Alexa smoldering in the background, I will sing this song as long as she needs to hear it. I will sit with her in the cold and the broken. And I will dance with her through the hallelujahs.