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Sunday, May 13, 2012

Learning to Love

A couple of years ago, my daughter, who was adopted from Russia when she was 11 years old, made a comment about her "real mother." That comment hurt me a great deal, although I know that was not her intent.

In her mind, her "real" mother was the woman who gave birth to her. I am her adoptive mother. However, I consider myself to be her real mother, as it is I, not her alcoholic, abusive birth mother, who has raised and guided her. I am the mother who is always there for her, through good times and bad.

As with many mothers and teenage daughters, our relationship can be contentious at times. Because of her traumatic childhood and attachment issues, she doesn't always make the best decisions about friends or actions. I have been to hell and back more than once because of things she has done. But through it all, my love for her has remained strong. Her love for me, however, has been in question.

Because she has attachment issues resulting from her life of turmoil and trauma, including time in a couple of orphanages, she was unable to trust that I am her mother forever, that I will never abandon her and that she is worthy of a mother's love. In her mind, if she didn't let me (or anyone) get close to her, she could protect herself from being hurt.

After years of 'testing' me to see whether I would, as so many adults in her past had, abandon her, and after years of therapy and self-reflection, she finally seemed to be learning how to give, and receive, love. I was warned by more than one therapist, however, that she will probably never care about me as much as I care about her. I had to accept this reality; this is how she is. It isn't her fault. As a result of her trauma, her brain is wired differently than that of a non-traumatized person.

Over the past few years, she has seemed to show more concern for me, but I always questioned in my heart how sincere she was. She did, after all, have to learn to be a daughter, how to accept love and what it means to be part of a family. She also seemed to find it much easier to tell friends that she 'loves' them than to tell me.

One Mother's Day a few years ago, she said she would cook dinner for me. But when it was time to start cooking, she was "too tired," so I cooked the meal. There was barely any acknowledgment that it was Mother's Day. So on Mother's Day 2012, I was pleasantly surprised to see my daughter's post on my Facebook page (grammar errors notwithstanding):

Your a mom that doesn't care about cards, flowers, or any other stuff. Your the mom that deserves and needs to hear more often that you are the greatest mom I could ever have. And that I want to thank you for all of your support and help through these years. I am sorry that I don't thank you enough but I just want to let you know that I appreciate and love you more than anyone could through the good and the bad. I love you. 

It seems that she has at last learned about giving and
receiving love. Despite my request that she not buy me anything, she proudly presented me with a new turquoise wallet. Turquoise is my favorite color, and I needed a new wallet, so it was obvious that she put considerable thought into this gift. She also took me to lunch at my favorite barbeque place.

It is sad that she has had to learn about love and that it was a foreign concept to her. But I am so grateful that she has at last learned about love -- what it means to give love and to accept it. She certainly deserves a life full of love and happiness.