More than four years ago, I adopted my daughter when she was six years old. She arrived as an undersized, scared, quiet, pale little girl. Very quickly, I realized that she was smart, athletic, curious, and had a great sense of humor. To that is now added a sense of confidence, a way with words, and an excitement about life. Our life together has been filled with many joys, many challenges, and lots of love. Here are my top ten memories …

  1. The moment we met, she jumped shyly into my arms, wrapped her arms and legs around me, and buried her face in my neck.
  2. When Hannah met the rest of the family for the first time, she was pleased, happy, and slid right into the usual family holiday activities.
  3. During her first spring home, with three months of English under her belt, I drove Hannah to school as we exclaimed about the beautiful spring blossoms. She noticed that the shirt she was wearing had each of the colors we were noticing: pink, white, yellow, and purple. She smiled broadly and said, “Today, I’m Spring Hannah!” After a pause, she added, “And you’re Talking Mama!”
  4. The first time Hannah rode her bike without training wheels for a long distance was nearly four miles on a beautiful bike track, running along a small creek.
  5. Once, as we rode our bikes along the bicycle track, I suddenly decided that we should take off our shoes and go wading in the cold, early spring water. I felt like a kid, a fun-loving parent … until Hannah fell in up to her waist.
  6. When I got a diagnosis for Hannah’s challenging behaviors in May of 2000 (post traumatic stress and reactive attachment disorders), I felt discouraged, overwhelmed, and relieved.
  7. A horrible memory was when Hannah, in one of her unhealed rages, ran outside, grabbed a large, five-foot long stick, and brandished it towards me as I attempted to get her to go to the car.
  8. Our first spring break was wonderful! We went on vacation together, and the new and attached Hannah was ready to begin life. We laughed, joked, smiled, cuddled, and had fun. It was a turning point in our relationship.
  9. After 17 months of therapy, Hannah “fired” the attachment therapist. Hannah was so excited, yet still cried at saying good-bye to the person who had helped her heal.
  10. Christmas Day 2001, when Hannah and her two cousins played and rolled around on the floor, screeching in delight and joy at being in each other’s company.

Susan M. Ward, an older child adoption specialist, provides parent coaching and resources for adoptive families. Susan’s training has focused on adoption issues relating to attachment, grief, and parenting. She’s also the adoptive parent of a child healed from RAD (reactive attachment disorder). Her website is Older Child Adoption Support.