Part 5 – Good Stuff
“Anne roamed through the pineland alleys in the park and, as she said, let that great sweeping wind blow the fogs out of her soul.”
This is the fifth installment of ‘The Mourning Doves,’ an adoption story of a single mother, her daughter, and their search for a therapy dog. ‘The Mourning Doves’ is a multi-post documentary from the Invisible Obstacles Series. To start from the beginning, click here.
THIS IS HOME
They swim like otters, dipping and gliding, floating along the surface, towing each other through the water.
Anne stays close to her mother. Occasionally, she climbs into Amelia’s arms and cradles herself in her arms, resting her head against her mother’s chest. She pauses for a beat, wiggles free, swims away, and then back again.
Amelia’s arms are her home. This is what safety feels like. When they search for each other in the water, eyes closed, shouting ‘marco…polo,’ they giggle as they reach out. Proximity is enough, trusting that they will find each other.
LAST MOMENTS OF CHILDHOOD
The sun is warm, but the air is cold on my wet arms, and my fingers cramp as I clutch the camera. Anne and Amelia keep their chins under the water, dodging the biting wind.
Here in the small waves of the pool, as she snuggles into her mother’s arms, Anne looks much younger than she did just moments ago on dry land – she finally looks her age. She’s only eight years old. She’s still a little girl.
“Anne is at that point where she is about to enter preadolescence, and it will be great to capture some last moments of her childhood.”
They play together, this small family of two. It won’t be long before Anne leaves her dolls and coloring books behind for teenage distractions. In a few short years, Anne will stand taller than Amelia. At some point, Anne will grow up.
Amelia is aware of the limited time she has left. While she hopes fiercely that Anne will grow more independent, she’s haunted by fears of what the future holds when Anne is no longer her little girl.
HOPING & MISSING
At some point, Anne will swim out of her mother’s arms for the last time. Neither of them will know she’s not coming back, it will just happen. That urge to fold herself back into her mother’s arms will weaken, replaced with new distractions and comforts.
Months, maybe years later, Amelia will realize that the last time has passed. She may not realize it at all, and the memories of cradling her daughter in the water to protect her against the biting wind will disappear entirely.
At some point, Anne will get herself dressed in the mornings, and take a shower on her own. She’ll make her own lunch and put on her shoes. Those milestones, because they have become such a hurdle, will be celebrated. The daily frustrations of parenting a child with high needs will dissolve, one way or another. Anne’s childhood will be over, and her teenage years will bring a fresh set of parenting frustrations and fears.
That frustration of each stage, which all parents feel on some level is – when?
When can we finally remove the baby gates? When can we donate the last box of diapers? When will they prep their own lunches, and drive themselves to school?
THE LAST TIME
While we’re longing for those future days of convenience and parental independence, the little routines we forgot to appreciate die off, quietly, and without notice.
While we hope and stress and worry, we fail to recognize the last time we cradle our babies. The last time we nurse or hold a bottle for them. The last time we carry a sleeping child in from the car. The last time we zip a jacket, build a snowman, or hear ‘Please, just one more story.’
We won’t know it’s the last goodnight kiss until years have passed since the last.
We trade in the hassle of tying their shoes in exchange for losing that moment of care-taking and connection.
We won’t know it’s the last snuggle – the kind when that little body lays heavy and sweet, relaxing into you, a cheek resting on your shoulder, the soft smell of baby hair and the soft fuzz of a warm forehead against your lips.
We’re busy washing dishes and answering emails, so we have to put off a million requests just to get through each day. How unfair it is that one day, they will stop asking? This is the bittersweet, heart-wrenching realization that all of us parents must go through.
This stage, with all of it’s hassles and frustrations, will pass. And when it does – it will take all the good stuff along with it.
Amelia knows this time is soon. It could be a few short years from now. It could be this year. It could be this week.
SHE IS HER OWN
After swimming, Anne & Amelia crowd into the tiny bathroom for a shower. The tub is stuffed with squeaky animals, toy boats, and colorful cups. Several swimsuits hang from a rack, still damp. Anne swims twice a day in the pool outside her apartment. She would stay in the pool all day, if she could. When she’s not swimming, she dances.
“I love that Anne never stops dancing. I love to see the look on her face, when she masters a new skill, with her school-work. I love that she isn’t shy, or care what other people think. She is her own individual person. Anne is passionate about dance. I’m sure her dancing has roots in her ADHD, and she dances because she can’t keep herself still. I think dance will be her life long passion.”
That’s what we wanted to capture most today – the joy that comes from a life rescued, with a parent who loves her deeply. The freedom to dance, to swim, to learn at a pace that works for Anne.
Amelia wants to show us all how, despite the obstacles of trauma, adoption, single-parenting, and living below the poverty line, all a Anne really needs is a loving parent.
THE PATH FORWARD
“My fears are that she will take the path of her birth mother. Drugs, mental health problems, prostitution. I fear her getting in with the wrong crowd of people. Getting pregnant before she finishes her education. I fear that her drug exposure issues and lack of awareness of consequences will get her in trouble, not be able to get a job or maintain a home for herself.”
Right now, however there is still so far to go – so many obstacles to overcome and so few opportunities left to hold Anne close. Today, Amelia is doing her best to divert Anne toward a path of independence, health, and joy. Today, Amelia is taking that moment to hold her daughter in her arms and protect her against that cold wind.
“My hope for Anne is that she makes goals for herself, and reaches for them. I want her to be a success in life, in what ever path she chooses.”
Today, they still have time. Tomorrow, they will have these memories in photographs to keep them fresh. Anne still has time before she grows up, and as she does, Amelia hopes that she can help Anne heal. We all do.
…Continue Reading Part 6: ‘Sanctuary,’ next
This is the fifth installment of ‘The Mourning Doves,’ a multi-post documentary from the Invisible Obstacles Series. Check out the other posts here:
Part 1: Her Protector
Part 2: Restraint
Part 3: Warrior
Part 4: Winging It
Part 5: Good Stuff [You are here]
Part 6: Sanctuary
This session is from the Invisible Obstacles Series. Families in the Invisible Obstacles series provide a glimpse into daily life while navigating adversity. Names and locations of minors may have been changed to protect privacy. Permission & quotes attributed to Amelia R. unless otherwise specified.
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