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I was in the kitchen this afternoon when Honeybee asked me one of the most important questions of the day.

“Mommy, what’s for dinner?”

“Well, I replied “I’m still figuring that out.”

“Can we put meat into tortillas and make burritos?”

I smiled, “That’s a great idea, let’s do it.”

“Thank you Mommy! Today you are my favorite mommy.”

“I’m always your favorite Mommy.”

She looked up, “No, you’re not, my Enat is my favorite Mommy”.

“She was very special and I’m glad you love her.” (pause) “You know, it would be okay if we were both your favorites.”

“Well, today you are my favorite.”

“I feel so special,” and I hugged her close.

“You are special, but you can never be special-er than my Enat Mommy.”

“I know, I know”, and I gave her an extra squeeze.

I’m still thinking about it — two hours later.


  1. shannoncl (Reply) on Tuesday 24, 2010

    I have so little experience here… but all I can think of is… imagine the guilt she must feel- or would feel if she committed herself to you? It must be like when someone dies and you don't feel like it is 'right' to move on with life. And they are so young… still so much time to figure it all out. HUGGS

  2. carla (Reply) on Tuesday 24, 2010

    I'm not sure how that made you feel, but it had to be tough. You've been in this longer than I have with much counseling, but I know that our adopted daughter struggles with this, she just hasn't learned to verbalize her feelings yet but I can feel it…praying for you. And by the way, you are very special, VERY.

  3. Cat (Reply) on Tuesday 24, 2010

    Hmmm… Hugs

  4. Paula Spears (Reply) on Tuesday 24, 2010

    Hugs. You are a very special mommy. Even though our grown up selves know it’s not a competition, we still long to be their most treasured mommy, don’t we? Honeybee loves you so much. Thanks for sharing this story, I can relate so well to it.

  5. gjisaac (Reply) on Tuesday 24, 2010

    makes my heart heavy. i realize how often i forget all that our little ones have been through.

  6. Jillian (Reply) on Tuesday 24, 2010

    Bless their hearts. Our Parker Yared that is not very verbal/doesn't sign much..he often draws his ET mom VERY large on the picture, beautiful with make-up and fine details…I will not go into how he draws me(here online) -but, it shows very clear feelings towards me..and a very clear difference. I want him to know he can love both, I want him to know that right now, I would even take loving her and liking me *wink*… plays out over and over, should I say-should I not, should I do this, should I not…It isn't a competition for me, but I just dont want him to live with a "split" heart….

  7. Bruce (Reply) on Tuesday 24, 2010

    I suppose while I perceive the perspective of your daughter to be child-like and shortsighted not realizing how special you are to her…my perspective on how special her "Enat Mommy" is may be equally shortsighted if not more so in understanding where she is. Our adopted teenage son recently met with his birth-mother for the first time in over seven years, and my wife was there to awkwardly observe their exchange and notice how he seemed to effortlessly talk with her even after all she had done or not done And in my wife's experience, their discussions are so forced as if she were walking on eggshells. This sense of ownership we have for our son and our desire for him to express his belonging can be difficult at times. Thanks for your thoughts.

  8. Heather Nordstrom (Reply) on Tuesday 24, 2010

    Oh Lisa – I'm sure that had to hurt your Mommy heart! I think you are very special and so does God! Praying right now that God would give you the grace & strength to be the very best Mommy to your children. Press on……..

  9. Kim (Reply) on Tuesday 24, 2010

    The same thing hit me last Oct. … and was why I started blogging!

    Glad you are her favorite today! And that you can handle sharing the special-ness.

  10. Debb (Reply) on Tuesday 24, 2010

    WOW. Your honesty is priceless. Your heart, pure. May God give you the patience to endure the wait ~ while He helps your daughter realize how beautifully she can love you both. Guilt-free. Blessings to you and yours…..

    • One Thankful Mom (Reply) on Tuesday 24, 2010

      Thank you, Debb. This is complicated stuff! BTW, I love the t-shirts on your blog!

  11. sandee (Reply) on Tuesday 24, 2010

    I have thought about this…as Olivia talks frequently about her "mother who is sleeping". Yesterday for the first time, she called her, her "real" mother. Saddened me. I knew what she meant, but still, I am real too, (and going through real pain). I told her, I am your real mother too. And she said, yes I know, but you know my real mother. And I said, your birth mother. And she just went on with the story. I know just two and 1/2 months home…there is not a lot of connection still here. She had a dream that night she told me her mother who is sleeping came to her and told her not to go to California.

    It is hard, being the second choice (or no choice) mother. With my first adoption, I did not get this, but this time, with an older daughter, I realize, I have signed up for the second half of her childhood….at 11, ..and her grown-up daugher/mother momma. And it is different. hard. yet it is what it is.

    • One Thankful Mom (Reply) on Tuesday 24, 2010

      Sandee, you are doing such a good job being aware of your new daughter's emotions. It is true, our children had no choice. My Honeybee was still waiting for her "real" mother to come claim her when I showed up ready to fill that gap…a gap she didn't even know existed in her life. Apparently nobody had ever told her that her mother had died. Can you even imagine?

    • Kate in NY (Reply) on Tuesday 24, 2010

      Those early days are hard, especially when it feels as if the attachment will never come. I used to think of it this way, and still do on the tough days (which still can happen, btw, even after 5 years): what if my beloved children disappeared one day (God forbid). And suppose that after I had grieved for a while, I was taken (without any input from me) to a new country, where I didn't speak the language, and I was given new children to love and raise as my own. Eventually, probably after a number of years, I might come to love these new children. I am a loving person, and I probably would. But no matter how fabulous, sweet, adorable, smart and funny these new kids were, and no matter how hard they tried to please me, nothing could ever replace the longing in my heart for my first children, or the ache I would always have without them. I find that when I acknowledge this truth, my need for my son's unconditional, fierce love abates somewhat. I also take his rejections of me less personally, because I understand they are sooooooo not about me.

      I think it is probably easier for me, though, because I was a biological mother before I became an adoptive mother. I am not saying one way is more meaningful, valid or important than the other – just that it is easy for me to say "I am not dependent on being my child's favorite mom" precisely because there are 3 kids for whom I am always the favorite (well, maybe my 14 yr. old doesn't always feel that way, but . . . ) so I'm sure it would be harder without that validation.

      Sorry to ramble . . .

      • One Thankful Mom (Reply) on Tuesday 24, 2010

        Kate, so beautiful. Thank you.

      • AmyAJ (Reply) on Tuesday 24, 2010

        Wow. I really like that perspectivce. I am not an adoptive mother, but I often feel "second" as a step-mother. It is a tough job, but not doing the job would be much tougher!

  12. FullPlateMom (Reply) on Tuesday 24, 2010

    Ouch. I get that too. It comes from my six-year-old, who was adopted from Ghana five months ago. In the car just yesterday he made a comment about his "mom" to one of my other kids. They told him that they didn't know what he was talking about, mom had never done that. He replied "NO! My REAL mom, the one in Ghana". Again, OUCH. I told my husband how much that stung. He told me that he might always feel like she is his "real" mom. I know that in my head, but in my heart it still really hurts.

  13. Kate in NY (Reply) on Tuesday 24, 2010

    Sometimes I'll do something extra nice or special for my son (11y, in our family for 5y) – and I'll jokingly add, "OK, so who is the best mom in the entire world?" And it will hit me – I can't frame questions in that way for him. It's not fair, even as a joke. I love him to pieces and I'd do anything for him, but I do feel less a sense of "ownership" with him than I do with my 3 biological children. That is because he has a mother whom he loved (and still loves), who raised him for 5 years. I feel we are blessed to be raising him, and I'll take being the best mom in the entire western world . . . but I have let go of feeling any competition with his habesha mom. When he expresses his love for her, or how he misses her – – – those are the times that I feel particularly close to him, if that makes any sense at all. All tough stuff, but good to discuss.

    • One Thankful Mom (Reply) on Tuesday 24, 2010

      Kate, I hear what you are saying. The moment the words were out of my mouth, I realized what I had said. It is tough to navigate. Thank you so much for your comment.

  14. Julie (Reply) on Tuesday 24, 2010

    Oh Lisa – the depth of her pain is so evident. She still has so much grieving to do. I wish she could see that she has "permission" from her other Mama to love you both. Maybe ask Deborah how to help her know that it's okay. I felt much the same when my Dad died (I was 12) and my Mom remarried (at 14). My attitude towards my step-dad was, "I have to respect you, but you will never, EVER be my Dad." No one else could ever have measured up to him and I would have felt like I betrayed him if I gave my love to another.

    BTW, you are one of my favorite friends, and you are that special.

    • One Thankful Mom (Reply) on Tuesday 24, 2010

      Thank you Julie. Deborah has talked with her about how happy her Ethiopian Mommy would be to know how much I love her. I think it is just going to take time…years.

  15. Karen (Reply) on Tuesday 24, 2010

    My oldest daughter will be 11 years old in a few months and her adoption was completed when she was only 4 months old. We have contact with her Guatemalan mother (and father) and while I have the awesome responsibility of raising her and being her "day-to-day" mom, her Guatemalan mom is her mom. She refers to us both as Mom and yet there is no confusion as to whom she is referring. My daughter's time of processing her adoption, however, has been longer than Honeybee's time and my daughter was placed in an orphanage at 2 days old, so she has no memories of life with her mother.
    I don't know much about the openness of Ethiopian adoptions, but is it possible for you to establish contact with her biological family? I know for my daughter, it gave her a TREMENDOUS amount of peace once we established that contact.

    • One Thankful Mom (Reply) on Tuesday 24, 2010

      Karen, thank you so much for your comment. Honeybee's parents are no longer living, but we do have contact with her grandmother and extended family. She was in the orphanage most of her life and only met them when she was in Ethiopia last January. I wish we had better communication options, but we are working at it.

  16. One Thankful Mom (Reply) on Tuesday 24, 2010

    Becky, I am okay with sharing my role as Mom, I just wish there didn't have to be a "real" or "favorite". I hope that years down the road, with more attachment and maturity,she will come to that realization. In the end, though, this is not about me. Hang in there!

  17. ichoosejoyca (Reply) on Tuesday 24, 2010

    Thank you for your honest and open blog posts. It gives me so much perspective in to how many other adoptive moms must feel. Being adopted from an orphanage myself, there are so many "issues" in adoption that I just "get" intuitively. This one is one of those topics. Adoptive parents seem to see love as something with dichotomy, whereas those of use who have loved two families differently can see how it all makes perfect sense and don't need our adopted children to love us best or most. That isn't even what love is! It helps me to read your perspective because I can understand my adoptive mother better by reading some of your posts. Blessings, Jennifer

    • One Thankful Mom (Reply) on Tuesday 24, 2010

      Jennifer, thank you for sharing your perspective as an adoptee. I think I "get it", but that doesn't fix it. My brain is there, but sometimes my heart has to work hard to catch up. As an adult, I don't see love as exclusive or a limited pot. I have eleven children, and I don't have a need to love one more than another, or love Sweet Pea most because she came first. But those relationship are not laced with the sorrow of loss that comes with adoption. Loving differently is not the problem — it's loving most or better that is harder.

  18. Tonggu Momma (Reply) on Tuesday 24, 2010

    I read this post today and thought of you… Almost of us struggle with this – it's tough stuff.

  19. Emily (Reply) on Tuesday 24, 2010

    Lisa- this made me cry…but not for the same reasons it hit most of the others. For the other reason that it probably hit you too. Because I know that your heart ached for another in that moment too. I love you!

  20. Momto4 (Reply) on Tuesday 24, 2010

    I hear this same thing every day from my daughters – they talk about their Ethiopian mothers non-stop. It's hard, but it's what we signed up for. Hang in there.

  21. coffeemom (Reply) on Tuesday 24, 2010

    I get it. And the same way sometimse from each of my children who were adopted, both domestically and in ET. From my teen, I am "mom", "Mommy' when she is wheedling for something, and I think she loves me as best as she is able…..still a very self centered sort of love, very immature (but she has devel delays so it will be so), but it is what it is….and can't be much more than that after only one year anyhow. But she speaks all the time of "my mom, G——-" and always my mom etc…..which shows that yes, her first mom is the primary mom. And its ok. I'm glad she had that unconditional loving relationship, so deep, w/ her mom. It has helped her immeasurably. It's hard a bit, doing the HARD work w/ this girl…to be not "my mom" but even so…..perhaps someday we will both step a little more firmly in those roles. My other ones…(ok my preK Gabey..he is too young to sort thru this yet, verbally)…they are US born…and they too think and talk of their first moms, even tho they didn't know them at all. And thus, when they are angry w/ ME….oh the talk and fantasty that is sometimes spun. All normal…not always easy.
    Hang in there mama, you handled it perfectly. And these are the things we moms get to "ponder in our hearts".

    • One Thankful Mom (Reply) on Tuesday 24, 2010

      Yes, lots of pondering going on here. Hopefully there will be more time to write about my ponderings.

  22. Donna Jordan (Reply) on Tuesday 24, 2010

    When we go through mom memories I have to remember that I have a heavenly Father who loves me even more than my earthly Father and sometimes that is hard for me to see. I have two fathers who love me. My child can have two mothers who love them very much. I pray for wisdom each step of the way as they grow in their love for me as I grow in love for my Father!

  23. Jensboys (Reply) on Tuesday 24, 2010

    Thanks for sharing … not sure how I have never stumbled upon your blog before :) But appreciate the link above to mine as well. These ARE universal feelings, arent they? Honestly, I found it easier wtih older child adoption to understand, with my babies, Its harder … I am the only "safe" mom they have known, and yet, she is still loved – DIFFERENTLY. It is complicated.

    • One Thankful Mom (Reply) on Tuesday 24, 2010

      Jen, I thought the same thing when I saw your blog! I need to spend a bit of time there — hopefully one day soon.

  24. Lori S (Reply) on Tuesday 24, 2010

    My 9 year old Ethiopian daughter once told me something that she thought would be so special to me…."You are my the second best mom in the world!" I could clench my teeth and think, "wow, that makes me your least favorite since you only have 2 moms" or take it as she meant it, as a compliment that in her mind and heart I have finally become her mommy. I have 3 bio children who are older than her and I know that there have been times in their lives where I was not their favorite mom. :) They just didn't have that 'perfect fantasy mom' to go to in their minds. Regardless, I realize that God gave me each one of these children to raise to know and love Him and that's what I need to focus on! Thanks so much for sharing! After struggling with this for a while, it's nice to know that I'm not alone!!

    • One Thankful Mom (Reply) on Tuesday 24, 2010

      Lori, thank you so much for sharing your experience with this too. You are right, I think being "second favorite" is a compliment – at least it acknowledges my "Mom-ness".

  25. Cassc (Reply) on Tuesday 24, 2010

    Wow, raising children is complicated and adoption like it or not adds another lay of complication. I think a lot of people who are drawn to international and/or closed adoptions do so for this very reason, there is a hope admitted or not that if their child is adopted at birth or is far far away from their birth parents they (the parents) won't have to feel the sting of "competition" for lack of a better word. Reading everyone's relies to this post has been so interesting. Parenting is an amazing task, who doesn't start their family with hopes and dreams, who doesn't dream of happy, healthy, successful loving children, and then as our future unfold how hard is it for us to let go of those dreams, for some this is a simple process of gaining wisdom, growing up, maturing, but for others it's harder, for the mom with the autistic son who won't return hugs or eye contact, or the dad who doesn't understand how his little girl turned into a trouble teen, or all of the mom's who have comment on this post learning how to love a child who also loves another. And new challenge are always around the corner, bringing pain, joy and sometimes both (like seeing you daughter walk down the aisle!). Thank you for being a wonderful witness to motherhood!

    • One Thankful Mom (Reply) on Tuesday 24, 2010

      And thank you for your encouragement. Love is complex, to be sure, but so worth it. "Love never fails" and "There is no fear in love". Personally, I think that should be the motto for adoption.

  26. learningpatience (Reply) on Tuesday 24, 2010

    Oh, and now I'm going to be thinking about that for days.
    When these sorts of conversations come to our home, I tell myself over and over, "It's okay, because I get to be the mommy NOW. So even if I'm not the favored or best or whatever, I am the NOW mommy." It at least reminds me that this is where God has called me now . . . and I feel comforted that God chose me for that even if my child wouldn't have. ;)

  27. margaret (Reply) on Tuesday 24, 2010

    the weird thing is, we get to be WITH our kids, like we get to parent them and their first moms don't…