Happy Birthday, My Teenager

Luda turned 13 recently. Soon, I will be parenting a teenager… whaaaat?

I had been stepping forward on adoption-autopilot, taking the next step, then the next, without really focusing on the who and the why. Until her birthday.

Gus doesn’t get all of this paperwork and process stuff. He always expects to find her when we pull up to a notary or to the police station to be fingerprinted, or anywhere adoption-related. His heart is always a bit broken once he comprehends that she isn’t there.


Her birthday was no different. He knew it was her birthday, and that we’d be calling. In the morning, he excitedly ran into her room, and seeing her bed empty, let out a long, sad sigh.

Calling her is quite an ordeal. I’m not sure if she still has a phone, and shares it with others, or if she is simply borrowing other peoples’ phones. We tried calling… no answer. Tried again… no answer. I gave up and let the kids watch a movie, messaging her “happy birthday”. She quickly replied “thank you”.

I asked, “can we call you?”

L, “yes! yes, mama!”

I paused the movie and we called. I said, “hi! happy birthday! i love you!” and passed the phone to Gus.

G: “Hi, Luda! Happy Birthday!”
L: “Hi, Gus… I love you.”

That’s when my heart melted. I could hear it all in her voice– that ache of missing someone so much, but being so glad to hear them again.

It was the same with Reed and Lena too. Each of them just so happy to connect with her… and her them. Those sweet conversations of so few words, but so much excitement just to have a loved one on the other end.

This adoption is different than the rest. It’s not a child joining out family for the first time… it’s a homecoming. It’s finding someone so precious to us who we thought we’d lost. It’s a whole different bucket of emotions.

I won’t make promises about a happy ending… trials will come. Adoption is hard. Picking up and starting over at any age is hard, but I have to think 13 is a particularly difficult spot. But, my kids’ love for Luda reminds me… she is already family. She may not be legally one of us yet, but that doesn’t matter to them.

It doesn’t matter if we share a last name, or a common language, of if we’re thousands of miles apart, because family. Family doesn’t mean that we won’t face hard things, but it means that we’ll face them together.

It means we matter enough to one another to keep going when things are hard. To keep loving, even when that’s not easy. Something worth fighting for.

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