I remember the year Kalkidan turned eight. Her birthday was approaching and she was very excited, so excited that I was concerned about it all falling apart. We met with her therapist early that week and spent nearly the entire session talking about what we could all do to make Kalkidan’s birthday a happy day.
Deborah explained to Kalkidan that lots of kids think about their birthfamilies on their birthdays and that can give them sad and/or mad feelings. Those feelings can make a special day difficult, so she suggested we devote time before Kalkidan’s birthday to talk about her Ethiopian family. In particular, she suggested that we light a candle and remember Kalkidan’s mother.
Russ tucked the younger children in bed the evening before Kalkidan’s birthday and then joined us in the living room. Kalkidan chose a pretty candle which she placed on a small tray, then Russ helped her light it. She sat curled in my lap as we talked about her Ethiopian family.
It was very warm and sweet, as we filled her heart and mind with memories of her mother’s love for her. We talked about how precious she was and how much her mother must have adored her. We talked about Kalkidan’s sister and how their dimples matched. There were lots of hugs and kisses.
Then we prayed and gave thanks to God for Kalkidan’s Ethiopian family and for bringing her to be part of our family. When we were done, it seemed right to close with a song.
The next day, when she woke up as an eight year-old, her heart was free to celebrate. I don’t remember all of the details of that day, but I’ll never forget the quiet moment we had to remember her family – they gave us a precious gift.
[edit: I need to add one important thought that came to me this morning. When we honor our children’s birth families, we are honoring something deep in the core of our children. They wonder, was I loved? Am I worthy of love? Do I come from someone and something good? When we leave them with questions, they may create a story for themselves that is filled with shame that settles deep into the core of who they believe they are. Our children were created by God, in his image, they are precious, and regardless of their story, we can weave that in.]
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