On raising children

Raising a biological child is so different from raising an adopted one. Where one child learns to behave just like you, the other does it effortlessly without an cognition involved. One minute she is herself and the next minute she is you before the world had its way with you, turning you hard and guarded.

Most people who know us like to talk about Javi is my mini-me. He can cut a look or give a belly laugh that is a polaroid snapshot of me. He is an academic overachiever and loves to be smack in the middle of everyone's business, just as I did at his age. But Javi exhibits behavioral preferences and differences -- some subtle and some not so subtle -- that an aware observer would flag as a sign that his biology differs slightly from Bella's.

For example, he hates to wear a hat. Billy is rarely seen without a hat and I like wearing them, but don't because I look like a cross between Gallagher and a mushroom. Bella enjoys wearing hats, though I don't often let her because they mess up her hair, which I spend way too much time fixing. But Javi hates to wear them, and so does his biological father. These things are small and the learned behavior way outweighs the innate behavior (though Javi holds his head in a certain way while smiling that hearts my heart because he looks just like his biological father then and in pictures of his biological mother as a child, she has his face with long, dark hair).

Raising Bella has proven to be an experience that enlightens me more to who I am -- the person I was born as -- rather than who I present the world. She is petite for her age, as I was (I didn't grow at all for several years as a toddler), and smart as a whip (as my mother claims all her girls were). But there's more. She preens for an audience, basks in the attention of strangers, and plays coy with the world. She fawns over babies and brings grown women to their knees.

I want to protect both of my children from the world, but for different reasons. I want Javi to have the life his parents asked me to give him when they chose me as his mother. I want to battle his disorders and ticks so that he learns how to overcome them and lead an amazingly rich life. I want him to feel that no barrier is stronger than his will and ability.

But for Bella? I want her to be her full self, the self that sings and dances and believes that all things can be true. The self that sees the best in people and bats her eyelashes at a van full of men without worry that they'll take it the wrong way or that one of those people would hurt her. I want her to be a woman full of grace and laughter who knows she is strong, but yet has never had to claw and scrape at life.

In the end, I want them both be happy and loved and strong. However, for my daughter, I want the life I wasn't given and -- honestly -- wasn't always convinced I deserved.


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