So the 3rd anniversary of my son’s adoption from Ethiopia came and went. Of course, this was a day of mixed emotions for me. There was the joy of celebrating my blessed family. There was the nostalgia I feel for Ethiopia (has it really been three years?). And then there was the grief and sadness I feel for the family and culture Eli left behind that day.
That day when we took him away from the country in which he was born. The land in which he and would’ve otherwise grown and thrived (and I know he would’ve grown and thrived. He’s the strongest person I know). And the day that, even though he had been in an orphanage for several months prior to us meeting him, he would never have the chance to go back to his birth family.
As much as I love him and am selfishly so incredibly over-the-moon happy to have him, I’m truly sad that he isn’t getting to grow up in his homeland. I’m devastated that he won’t grow up experiencing his birth culture on a first-hand basis.
And I feel extremely guilty that I am getting to spend my life with him — and his birth family is not. I get to watch him grow and thrive and learn. I get to tuck him into bed and make him the perfect PB&J sandwiches and push him on the swings and have dance parties with him. And his birth family does not.
Why me? Why do I get to raise him and not his birth family? In truth, it’s just not fair. Life just does not always seem fair.
I wonder if there will ever be a time when Eli resents me for taking him out of his country and culture. I can imagine this day will one day be particularly difficult for him. I wonder how long it will be now.
But on this past adoption anniversary, Eli was nothing but happy, happy, happy. He truly had a great day. He seemed to understand, as much as a three-and-a-half year old possibly could, that this was the anniversary of his adoption. That three years ago, mommy and daddy met him in Ethiopia.
To honor him, we had some of our best Ethiopian buds (the fabulous Amy and Paige and their families) over for a cookout and some slip-n-slide. And then, later in the afternoon, we took him to the neighborhood pool. Eli never stopped smiling the whole day.
As I carried him up to bed, happy and exhausted that evening, he rested his curly head on my shoulder and said, “Thank you, mommy, for remembering Eli Day. I love you forever and ever.”
Wow. What my three-year-old was telling me was that he was thankful on this day. And that’s how I should handle my emotions as well. By being thankful for the blessed opportunity to raise him … thankful for the opportunity to bring HIS culture into MY life … and thankful to his birth family and their sacrifices.