Post Author: Amy Wiegert
Our real family started in the car that day, driving home from the doctor’s office. It all boiled down to one question: did we want to be pregnant or did we want to be parents? At the red light we looked at each other. “Parents,” we both said, “We want to be parents.” I’m not really the sentimental type, but I can say without even blinking that this was the moment when my children started to grow in my heart.
We are a real family. Most days we’re just us– two parents who work—myself as a pastor, my husband as a non-profit manager, and our daughter, the stand-up comic and dancing queen.
Do we get noticed? Yes. Do we get questions? Absolutely.
Is that your real daughter? Yes, she’s an actual person.
Where does she live? Um, with us, her parents, in our house.
Where’s she from? Does it matter?
Before we brought our daughter home, I wondered if we could be parental, if we could give love, clean clothes, food, and discipline. We can. And we’re still learning how to be a family with two races and two cultures. My husband and I decide at least once a month to move to Ghana. And once a month, my daughter decides she’s African and American but not African-American. She’s also not sure how she will last one more week if we don’t buy her an iPod Touch. She thinks it’s crazy that we won’t let her, a third-grader, take the car for a spin. One day, she announced she was old enough to use the stove and the sharp knives by herself. I said a table knife would be just fine to cut up berries and bananas.
We are who we are. I am grateful for the family we have, but I am also impatient that we are not the family of four we’ve dreamed of being. I am angry at racial segregation and discrimination that still goes on in our city and our country. I am amazed at how our family’s journey has been carried forward on prayers and hope.
We are a real family. A family who tries to eat dinner together sometimes, who screams at football on TV, who talks about how we don’t match. A family who understands that grief and loss don’t have an expiration date.
Our daughter has been home about five years. F came home from Ghana, West Africa, and she adopted us just as much we adopted her. One day after she’d learned about us, but before we’d met, she walked up to a four-year-old playmate, looked her friend straight in the eye and said, “I have parents, they live abroad. They are coming for me!” She knew. I first had the feeling that I was a mom after a friend helped me arrange F’s toys and clothes. It was after lunch at the Mexican restaurant down the street, I said out loud for the first time, “Oh my gosh, I’m going to be a mom!”
It took F six months before she decided she’d call me “Mom.” She used to wonder if we were her last family, or would what it would be like if she had to go off and live with some other family. She’d prefer it to be a celebrity. “Beyoncé!” She’d yell. Or, “Meee chelle O-ba-ma!”
It took us an awfully long time to get to know each other, my daughter and I, to understand the other’s looks, to anticipate the next move. It took us time to become a family. The pain that ripped through me when she’d call me any other names but mom shriveled the first time she did call me mom.
Every day, we are a real family. We love, fight, laugh, do homework, get sick. We are not strangers to grief and sadness. Every one of her birthdays, every Mother’s Day or Father’s Day comes lined with grief. We understand that our family’s very existence is deeply connected to another family’s awful loss.
I was a mom before I ever saw F’s photo or learned about her, and I hope to be a mom to a second child soon. We’ve been working on that for about three years. Can you imagine the craving and weight gain that goes with that? Seriously.
We have names for this kid growing in our hearts: the “other kid”, the “kid who is not named”, “Kid #2”. Lately, it’s the “New Kid”. We dream about when he might arrive or what she will look like. We imagine out loud together because that’s what a real family does.