Letter to Small daughter

My dear child.  Child of my heart.

It has been about seven years since we first met.  When the pressure in my head, or was it my heart, led me to you, there was no hesitation.  Yes, there was some grief that I would not have the story book version of life that everyone else seemed to be enjoying.  I had found Prince Charming and then quickly lost him.  At this point in my life, my career path was a winding one, and love was elusive.  Happily-ever-after was going to have to be different.  At least I was sure of one thing – that I definitely knew how to be a mommy.

So, I did my due diligence, got the required recommendations from the police, church, the local council chairman.  I submitted my applications to the babies’ homes.  I was not successful. I had not known that there would be waiting lists for 0-6-month old baby girls. Eventually I got a lead about an NGO that catered for at-risk children.  The young lady told me, “Please have a look at these two little girls. They are older than what you want, but it may be a long while before you find a baby girl. You may even end up changing your mind about adopting.” She went on “The older girl is about three years old.  She has stayed at the children’s home for a while. Somehow, she is never picked.”  I looked at the photographs and agreed to visit the home.  I do not have the photo they showed me, but I remember it.  You were shyly looking into the camera, biting the nails on your chubby fingers.

When I went to meet you, I had Big daughter with me.  She was home from boarding school.  We visited you at the nursery school next to the children’s home.  There you were, in your checked pinafore.  You were incredibly cute, with chubby cheeks and sparkly white eyes.  Your nickname was “matta’ aka milk.  Indeed, you looked yummy, like those adverts for baby jelly or margarine.  You would not look at me in the face.  I kept my distance.  We saw the other little girl too.  But the decision was unanimous.  As you put your little hand in Big Daughter’s on our way to the car, the birth pangs in my heart were already at an advanced stage.  Yes, you would become Small daughter.

As required I visited you at the babies’ home over several weeks, patiently waiting for you to get used to me.  Then one day, I took you aside, away from the other kids, social workers and maamas.  We sat on a stone ledge and I asked if you had liked the doll I had given you earlier. Yes, you had.  So much in fact that you had pulled its hair off to wear on your own head.  I knew then that you would be a perfect insurgent.  We chatted a bit, and then I stood up to take you back to your playmates.  I asked you to check if my skirt was dirty, and you brushed off a little dust. “It is okay now”, you said.  And you looked me in the face for the first time.  I held your gaze for a while. We connected.  The birth in my heart was complete.  A few weeks later, we took you home.

Adjusting to the new status quo was neither easy for me nor you. In your three or so years on earth, you had undergone so much that it was obvious that some damage had been done.  Your story was heartbreaking. Even today, when I think of the path that led you to the children’s home, I want to hug you tight.  You screamed in terror when left alone.  You had angry outbursts and would not eat food you had never seen before.  Cuddling was strange to you.  You had mysterious tummy aches.  But goodness gracious, what a resilient little soul you were.  How could someone so tiny have so much strength? Where did your strong personality come from? The high self-esteem that was mentioned on the first school report at your new school was no surprise to us. Big daughter rolled her eyes. “Clearly, she has too much of it” she said.  You became fluent in English in a matter of weeks. You took on your new name with glee, especially after seeing the beautiful singer you shared it with.  You were strong.  You girl!  You were strong.

Seven years.  You are a pre-teen now. You wear deodorant and look up movie stars on google. You can cook simple meals and mop floors. You welcomed a baby sister and made her your own. You are fiercely loyal and a natural leader. You are defiant, naughty, and struggle with following instructions. Your questions about “ess-ee-ex” make me laugh.  You love your scissors and nothing is safe. You are obsessed with plumbing and have an exceptional sense of direction. You quickly learned to read, but only the Bible holds your interest. You can’t believe that people in it have “ess-ee-ex”. Your understanding of grace makes me glad.

You fill your notebooks with animated stories about pirates with one eye and one leg.  You love robots and bugs. You beg the neighbours to let you help slaughter their chicken.  I love to watch you dance, your moves are on point.  You are still afraid of being left alone.  You cling to me on crowded streets.  You will not fall asleep until I am back home, however late.  Stress gives you a fever and tummy ache.  You lead long, elaborate prayers that show your sensitive and caring soul. You get in trouble at school and readily confess. You created a secret sister handshake.  You have trained Baby daughter to be the perfect sidekick in your adventures and endless “motivational” videos. You would prefer that your big sister adopts the accent of the country she lives in now, but as you wait for it, you have made up your own version.

You girl!  You are strong. You ask me about your birth parents, I tell you the little that I know. You speak of your birth mother with kindness and grace. Sometimes though, when those pesky pre-pubescent hormones disturb you, whispering rejection and persecution, you lash out at her. And me. But thank God I have done the adolescent-parenting thing, so I know what you are going through.  You will be fine. You know you belong to me. You know you are loved.

It makes me glad to see this knowledge in your eyes. I read it from your elaborately decorated mother’s day card.  From the notes you slip under my door. From the bracelets you carefully make for me using loom bands.  From the games you make up to keep your little sister occupied so I can have a much needed nap.  Baby daughter calls out your name when she gets bad dreams. I know you recently tried to explain that you had not come out of mummy’s tummy because she told me she wants to be “abducted” just like you.  Big daughter buys you knitting needles and yarn, and gives you strategies for winning in class. You all fight each other like cats but find unity in complaining about mean mommy. True insurgents.

Seven years!  You are strong, child of my heart. I admire you and love you.  A true beauty, inside and out, you are exceptionally lovely and it is a pleasure to watch you bloom.


1 Samuel 1:27

I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him.

Isaiah 54:13-15

13 Then all your children will be taught by the Lord,

their prosperity will be great,

14 and you will be established

on a foundation of righteousness.





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