I’m not brave. I’m not a superhero. I’m not gifted in any particular way or a saint. Please don’t put that on me. That’s an expectation I cannot live up to. I’m an adoptive mom. That’s all. I love my kids a probably normal amount. Ask them and they will set you straight. They aren’t shy about telling me how much I suck as a human and a mom. To be fair, picking up their clothes off the floor and picking up toys is probably prohibited in their interpretation of the Geneva Conventions as war crimes. So, you know, totally rational response. Where was I? Oh, right. Anyway, I think in most regards I’m just a normal(ish) person doing a normal(ish) job. 

My kids were adopted at ages 10, 9, 4, 3, and 1 and a half (not all at the same time and not in that order actually) Think about how bewildering it would be to find yourself at any of those ages adjusting to a new family. The older ones were overwhelmed and emotional (which is an expected response) the little ones were mostly confused about all the unfamiliar people. But they were all of them braver than I could ever hope to be. 

One of my kids was a caretaker for a sibling who was only a year younger while they themselves were still in diapers. One of my kids would give up their food to make sure a sibling had some. They were dragged through so much trauma, such terrible situations, that no one should ever need to endure—and they’re incredible humans. 

They aren’t lucky to be here. They aren’t meant to be grateful for someone saving them. They are kids who kept living even though it was nearly impossible. They adapted ways to keep themselves and, in some cases, their siblings safe. They were meant to have families that take care of them. Their birth parents had to suffer too. They were likely mistreated as kids and didn’t know a different way to be. I try to give them the benefit of the doubt, regardless. The point is, that my home was not a plan A for their lives. It was more like a plan D and we are all doing our best to make it work. 

I wish that I was brave enough to face the monsters in my head every day with the determination that they do—to push past every instinct screaming out that they must be in danger or there is something wrong. So much of the time my kids are facing emotions from trauma they don’t remember, but it still destroys their peace. 

As they grow older and mature, I’m so impressed with who they are becoming. They are interesting people with incredible stories. They go through life constantly fearful but going on about their day as if they weren’t. 

I wish I was as brave as my daughter who told me she had a bad day at school. She was so sad, and she let me see. She didn’t hide her sadness or her fear. She didn’t want anything from me but a hug. She was brave and asked if she could sit with me for a minute. 

Every day, kids who were adopted who lived through massive trauma go through the motions of life and are knocking it out of the park. They might even be labeled as “troubled kids,” but they are trying to do better. 

All of this to say, as we’ve just rounded the corner from Valentine’s Day, and are headed towards spring, I’m thinking a lot about changes and how they affect us. The weather has to get warmer for the plants to grow, but if it gets too hot, too wet, too dry, or too cold, the plants can’t grow. But some plants can grow just fine in what other plants consider to be too extreme. A cactus will die, for instance, if you overwater it or leave it out when it’s too cold. A sunflower won’t grow well in the shade. Most plants have a range of conditions they need to survive and then a narrow range of conditions to ensure they thrive. 

My brave kids have been put in conditions that could have in some instances taken their lives. Their bodies and minds will never be the same again. Now that they are in the right conditions, or at least better conditions, they are growing better, but they still struggle from their past trauma and the way their personalities meld with each other. But they keep trying. 

I know when people talk about or think about bravery, people tend to think of firefighters, soldiers, doctors, and nurses. I think about my kids and how they are, despite all odds, growing and changing into people who are amazing. I think about how small and fragile they were when we met. I think about all the children right now who are looking at a world gone a bit mad and are fearful for their future. I’m a grown adult and I find the news overwhelming on any given day. I find my own journey and mental health to be daunting at times. 

I cannot quite fathom most of what happened to my kids or really any kid who is suffering from trauma. I can’t guess it feels good to them to hear people say things like “You’re so brave for adopting them.” No ma’am. I am (at the risk of sounding cheesier) so blessed by them. If there is anyone brave at all in this relationship, it’s them choosing to try again every day when what they are facing is so hard. 

I wish I could be brave enough to face every fear I had straight on and with only slight hesitation. I wish I was brave enough to tell every person who has ever said anything bad about adoptees to go take a hike. I’m working on it.