The headlines in the last few weeks seem to scream problems facing 13 year olds:
13 year old commits suicide!
13 year old delivers stillborn baby!
13 year old held in attack on parents.!
My Grace turned 13 last week.
When I look at her, I cannot imagine her having the problems that others do, but it does not stop me from worrying, worrying how to help her grow and mature into a safe and secure young woman.
Maybe all parents worry about how one person, one event, one grade, one teacher, one friend, can shift the direction of your child's life and the sweet Innocent baby you remember is suddenly a headline?
I don't know.
I rationalize my worries and concern because I missed the first 6 years of Grace's life, so whatever is learned during those years was taught by someone else.
Recently I have been going through boxes and stacks and piles of papers, trying to get some clutter out of this house and what remains, in an organized system. For those who know me, they know what a daunting task this is.
Anyway, going through some of my sister, Jana's things, I found all the pictures of the first minutes, days, and weeks after adopting Grace.
I think I have written recently about the first moments, when she was brought down the hall in the government affairs office, carrying a stuffed dog that was a big as she was! But that was just the beginning.
My little Grace.
Oh my. She had on a pink shirt with sequins spelling out words that did not make sense, and a pair of blue jeans, with pink shoes that were about 2-3 sizes too big for her. She had so many do dads in her hair and she was insistent on fixing it herself each time. Each barrette, clippie, and rubber band had specific places that she put them in, at only 6 years old. She giggled and laughed and loved her cousin Gillian immediately.
She loved to lead the way throughout Nanchang, as if she were our personal travel guide and this is a HUGE city. We had a great tour guide and I guess he told her where we were going, but the chance she had any idea how to get there, starting from a hotel she had never been in, was slim, but she was so confident, she would grab Gillian's hand and lead the way! The Wal Mart has three stories and is always packed, but she was the first up the escalator, grabbing Gillian's hand and the first plowing into the crowd.
The pictures show Gillian and Grace followed close behind by Jana and then Darcey, my niece, and I bringing up the rear! But it always has Grace in the lead!
She could make me laugh from the beginning. She would march in front of the bathroom door, as if she had gone to military school, shoulders back, and then crumple to the floor laughing. She finally learned to enjoy the bathtub and then could have stayed there all day!
When we went swimming for the first time, she ran ahead and jumped right into the pool, the deep end. She had never been around a body of water like a pool. Her only experience was washing clothes in a river. I was bringing up the rear carrying Darcey, whom I had to put down very quickly, so I could jump in and save Grace. It wasn't the last time she would do that. She LOVED jumping in and did not worry about the fact that she did not know how to swim!
She tolerated shopping, enjoyed any food Gillian ate, and loved to watch the Chinese version of soap operas, watching them religirously every afternoon.
I love those memories. It's not quite as wonderful if I could have started sharing our lives from her first breath, but I am so thankful for each and every moment with her.
Grace has changed a lot from those first few weeks, months, and years. She is much quieter now and rarely wants to lead the way. She remembers all details and can do a spot on imitation of most people. She reminds me more of a Southern Belle than the loud, giggling tour guide in China. She can focus all of her attention on one area and practice those skills until she has mastered a new skill. She can still make me laughter harder with her subtle observations that almost anyone.
She is 13 going on 23, but can easily slip back to 6.
So while we missed her first 6 years together, I pray we have many more together. I pray for guidance in helping the only headline she is in are about her successes. She completely changed my life and I thank God every day for that blessing.