I was 8 years old when my first daughter Rachel was born. Scandalous? Not really. I wasn’t even aware of her arrival on this earth. Nothing changed for me. She took her first breath on March 21, 1986 and I played pretend with my friend Nora at recess. I completed 2nd grade without a single thought of becoming a mother. Her mother and father delighted in her, they watched her take her first steps as I navigated the 3rd grade. They heard her first words but her voice wouldn’t fall upon my ears for another 15 years.
My second daughter Krystal was born August 31, 1991 the week before I entered 9th grade. I was stressing about my new high school schedule and leaving my middle school friends behind. I was worried about having someone to sit with at lunch and wondering if I should go out for student council. She entered into this world and into the arms of another mom and dad. They marveled at her beauty but I wouldn’t lay eyes on her for almost 16 years.
When I was 23, I moved to Indiana with my youth pastor husband, two cats and a very rambunctious puppy. Rachel was a student in our youth ministry. I met her when I was feeling very overwhelmed on a youth trip. I’m a bit of an introvert and when I saw her sitting off in the corner reading a book, I didn’t feel sorry for her. I was jealous, and wished I had been smart enough to bring a book. I walked over and said, “What are you reading?” We ended up talking for an hour about all the books we love. Later that week she asked Mike to baptize her and when we arrived home she invited us to meet her mother. Her dad had passed away when she was 3 and her mother was very ill. We loved her mom the minute we met her and our friendship with the family grew.
When I was 26, Rachel’s Mom passed away. Rachel was 18. We stood beside her family at the funeral. She came to stay with us the same day. She loved her mom. We would never try to replace her. We offered what we had and she was gracious with our shortcomings.
When I was 29, I was the mom of three and foster mom to many. I met Krystal when she came to live with my friends. She was delightful, funny and shy. Our friend’s family was growing and it was a natural transition for Krystal to come live with us. The year she turned 16 her father passed away and the following year her birth mom relinquished custody. She asked us to adopt her two weeks before her 18th birthday. The year I turned 31, I became the official mom of an 18-year-old. Our family fast forwarded past diapers, pre-school and missing teeth. We jumped straight into high school graduation and college visits.
When I was 32 Rachel came to us and asked for a very unique Christmas present. She wanted to be officially adopted. She was 24 years old. She had been a part of our family since before we brought home our first child. She was a constant in our lives, she was the undefined family member. The honorary sister, the dearly loved friend. “Really? Yes, of course yes!” We responded with tears in our eyes.
When I was 35 Rachel and her soon to be husband sat with us at our kitchen table after the kids had gone to bed. Rich fumbled to find the words and nervously looked away. Rachel just grinned. “I would like your blessing to marry your daughter.” He asked, and we grinned back. We were honored to be included and thrilled at the addition to our family. They married in a small ceremony in our back yard just weeks later.
When I was 36 Krystal gave birth to our first granddaughter. Layla was welcomed by 3 aunts ages 28, 13, and 12 and four uncles ages 11, 7, 6 and 5. She has playmates and role models. They look out for her and love her. Mike and I are the youngest grandparents at the park and only a handful of years older than our son-in-law. This is an unusual life we live. We are childrearing with one foot deeply immersed in day to day parenting and the other in the joy of grand parenting. We love every minute of this life.
Today I am 38 years old. I just celebrated my 17th wedding anniversary. I talked to my oldest on the phone. I took my 6 youngest to church. I helped my 2nd oldest move into her new apartment. Finally, I spent the afternoon playing with my two-year-old granddaughter.
Is older child adoption difficult? Yes. There are challenges in every type of parenting. This type of parenting has brought many more unique and wonderful blessings than it has brought hardship. Our life is richer and fuller because of our two grown daughters. If I could tell my 8-year-old self one thing, it would be this, “This is the day your life is changing, you don’t know it yet but you are in for an amazing adventure.”
Are you the adoptive parent of an older child? Share your story with us in the comment section below.