Saturday, April 30, 2016

A letter to my daughter on her prom night

Dear oldest daughter/child of mine who just so happens to be adopted:

It is now after midnight on the night of your first prom.  There are so many things that I want to tell you; so many things that have flooded my mind these past few days; so many things that have brought me to tears. 

I look at you and just marvel at the beauty you are, but no one even knows the true beauty you possess, for the strength that is in you and the scars you bear in your heart are not visible to the naked eye.  Your beauty is so much deeper than anyone can possibly fathom. You are a beautiful soul.  

I will never forget the day that we picked out your prom dress.  It was a snow day, and we took full advantage of it by going to the dress shop.  You had found a dress in a catalog that you wanted so badly, and they just so happened to have it.  You tried it on, and I could immediately tell that is was not what you had dreamed it would be.  We kept looking...and looking....and looking....and looking......You tried on so many dresses, and I encouraged you to because I wanted you to find the perfect one.  I had picked out a dusty pink dress that I wanted you to try on, and you hesitated because you didn't think you wanted a pink dress.  You don't think you like pink.  I helped you into the dress, you walked out of the dressing room, stepped up onto the pedestal to look at yourself in the mirror, and I saw a sparkle when your eyes met your reflection.  And I smiled.  Because I know you like pink.  You see, I saw that same sparkle in your eyes fifteen years ago when we got to experience Christmas with you for the first time.  You were three years old, and you had just come to live with us a few weeks before Christmas.  We were young, newly married, and broke, but we managed to buy you a few things. One of those things was a coat.  And it was pink.  When you pulled it out of the box, your jaw dropped, your eyes lit up, and you immediately begged to put it on.  You wore that coat, and the sparkle in your eyes, for days.  

After you tried the pink prom dress on and subsequently fell in love with it, we realized it was over the budget that your dad had set for you, so we called him. All it takes is a simple, "Daddy?" in that tone of voice you seem to use to your advantage, and you typically get your way.  But, somehow, you are still unspoiled and extremely grateful.  As we went downstairs to get your dress fitted, my attention was drawn to a teenage girl your age who was shopping in the section of the store that held clearance dresses.  Someone who wasn't a parent or family member had brought this girl to look for a dress.  She could not find one in her price range no matter how hard she tried.  I cried and I told you I wished I could buy her a dress. What I didn't tell you, though, was that as I watched her, I thought about the fact that that could have been you, had you stayed in the same living situation you were born into.  No one close to you to take you dress shopping, worrying about how you would pay for an event as expensive as prom.  I know how nervous you get about things and how passive you can be, and I couldn't even bear the image of you trying to do all of that on your own.  In that moment, I mourned for her, but I rejoiced for you.  But, mostly, I rejoiced for me. Because, you see, I'm the lucky one.  

I know these past several years have been rough on you.  I missed so many things. I left the end of your freshman year, and then again your sophomore year.  I missed cheerleading tryouts, cheer camp, and you getting your permit.  I missed Parent night, and I can only imagine what was going through your mind when they announced both your dad's and my name....and I was not there.  I know you well enough to know that your neck and face probably got red.  And it probably made you mad.  But, mostly sad.  

I am sorry for so many things, but mostly, I am sorry for putting you through having a drug-addicted mother...for the second time in your life.  Your biological mother left you because of her drug addiction, and I used to hate her for it.  I couldn't fathom how someone could do they could choose a drug over their child.  Unfortunately, I was given a front-row seat to understanding how those things happen, and, had I not gotten into treatment/recovery when I did, I can say with a fair amount of certainty, that I would have ended up in the same situation....and you would have too.  When she died after her struggle with drug addiction and I saw the hurt it caused you even though you barely knew or remembered her, I knew that it was now my duty to make sure you never experienced that again.

I remember the night of January 10th, 2015 when I asked you to take a ride with me. We ended up in the Wal-Mart parking lot where I told you that I had to go back to treatment...that the first time hadn't been enough and that I had relapsed.  I watched you crumble into a million pieces and you begged me not to go.  You said, "Mom, I don't think I can do this again.  Please don't leave."  When you first came to live with us as a three-year-old, you attached to me so quickly, and you constantly worried about me leaving you.  Every time I got up to leave the room, you would say, "Don't go somewhere".  In three-year-old language, that translates to, "Please don't leave me."   I promised you that I wouldn't, but, tragically, I broke that promise...not once, but twice. I explained to you the reasons why I had to go back, and, when I looked into your light green eyes, instead of seeing the brave teenage daughter I've raised, I saw the scared little toddler who needed protected.  I wanted so badly to tell you that I would not go, that I would stay home for you.  But, in all reality, I needed had to go away for you.  

Tonight was one of the reasons I went to treatment when I did. Sounds silly to say I would go away to rehab for prom, right?  But, when I made a list of things I knew I would miss out on if I didn't get my addiction under control and either ended up in jail, losing you, or dead, prom made that list.  I can't imagine not being here with you for all of this. I can't imagine the look on your face as your eyes pored over the crowd trying to single me out, then realizing that I was not there.  I know I lost my cool and got stressed out and frustrated at/with you over the past couple of weeks, but I wouldn't change all of the running and stressing for the world.  I am grateful for every minute of running you to the tanning bed, to the dress store, to Sephora.  I am grateful for the evening when we got our eyebrows done together.  I am thankful we got to go together and pick out everything for your corsage and then sat at the dining room table until midnight with friends making it. I am thankful that I got to bring you your favorite meal while you were getting your hair done.  I'm grateful that I got to spoil you. Truthfully, it is by God's grace that either one of us is here.

As I was doing your make-up today, I noticed that you have lost that little girl look, that you are beginning to look like a woman.  I thought about how it probably won't be too far into the future when I will be sitting in a room with you, doing your make-up as you get ready to walk down the aisle to the man that you will spend the rest of your life with.  The days, months, and years are passing by so quickly, and I am just sorry for all of the moments I have missed out on.  I'm sorry for you, and I'm sorry for me.

I'm thankful I was in that crowd tonight at Grand March.  I'm thankful that I got to be the annoying parent who was in the very front of the line, who stood up when your car approached, and who made you stop and look at the camera so that I could get a picture. When your date walked you down the sidewalk, my mind wandered back to the evening that he walked you down the aisle at your adoption ceremony. I'm thankful that when I later finally found you inside the prom venue that was swarming with people, your eyes lit up.  We took tons more pictures, and then I hugged you and kissed you, told you to have a good time, and we left.  But, I only made it halfway across the room before I turned back around, made my way back to you, and hugged you and kissed you again.  I said, "Bye, have a great time! I love you!" again, and you said, "OK, MOM. BYE!", which, in eighteen-year-old teenage girl language, translates to "Please just leave now.  I'm not a child.  You are embarrassing me."  I smiled at you, turned away, and a tear ran down my cheek.  Because, in that moment, there was just one thing I wished I could say to you.  "I'm not going somewhere.  Never again." 

I love you, Beef.


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