On vacation my girls, my mom and I wandered through the outlet mall for awhile.  On various clearance racks I found t-shirts for the boys and for the little girls.  So near the end of our wandering when we walked into Old Navy, I figured that might be a good place to find t-shirts for our teen daughters as well.

I should have known better;  like most teenage girls, they are persnickety about their clothes and habitually get overwhelmed by choices in stores.  But since I’d already found things for the other kids, I wanted to get them something. A quick cruise around the store didn’t spark their interest. To simplify things, I headed them toward a display containing basic T’s in 6 different colors.  I’m always glad to have more simple t-shirts myself, and I figured they’d be useful neutral additions to their wardrobe.

“Pick something,” I said with a smile. “What color do you want?”

They looked uncertain.  They hemmed and hawed.  They picked up things and set them down looking disinterested.  Five minutes went by.  Meanwhile the other members of our party were done shopping and the grandbaby was showing signs of needing to nurse.

“Pick something,” I said.  My smile was starting to feel tense, but I tried to make my voice coaxing.  “I want to buy you something.”

But they couldn’t–  wouldn’t — make a choice.  I toyed with the idea of just grabbing two shirts and saying, “Here ya go.”  But then they’d be sure to hate the choice I’d made, which would translate to clothes sitting in the closet, unworn. My mom suggested quietly that I just give them money, which I knew they’d happily take.  But dangitall, I wanted to give them a gift, something to bring back as a memory from this trip, not hand them cash like this was some business transaction.

Finally we left, having purchased nothing.  Yeah, I could (should?) have been happy they’d saved me a few bucks by refusing to let me get them something.  But I was livid, and I knew exactly why.  This was not just about a couple of t-shirts  This was about all the times I’ve tried to show the girls I love them and they’ve turned me down flat.

Of the times I brought thrift store finds home, excited, hoping they’d like them, only to be met with wan smiles, and have the clothes languish in their closets until I insisted they wear them.  Of the hugs I’ve given that were returned with noodle-arms.  The times I’ve invited them to play games or go to the store with me and they’ve opted out.

Yes, I can force it.  And sometimes I do.  But it can be discouraging to feel such resistance to my overtures even now after they’ve been home nearly five years.

Sometimes things are good between us— like today when I broke the oven door and my 14 year old and I spent 30 greasy minutes trying to wrestle the thing into submission before calling the repair man in defeat.  We shared some absolutely lovely laughing moments.  But all too often I’m met with resistance.

I know that some of the ups and downs are normal teen stuff. Girls often have a hard time getting along with their moms– I know I did when I was 14.  For awhile I fantasized about being adopted by a rich family where I could be the only child and wouldn’t have to do chores.  I’ve told my daughters that, and I understand it’s a tough age.

But still–when a child home almost five years says you’ll never really be her mom, that signing papers doesn’t make it true, it is a knife to the heart.  A failed shopping trip, though a small failure in the grand scheme of things, feels like twisting that knife.  If we can’t even have a successful shopping trip together, what are our chances of a real relationship some day?

I comfort myself remembering how well they do when interacting with people other than me. Folks rave about how great the girls are, how sweet and fun– and I wholeheartedly agree. I’ve seen that sweetness from across the room. I just wish they’d show that loveliness to me more often.  When I do sneak a real smile out of someone, almost always the shades go quickly down over that light, veiling their hearts, snuffing the connection that flared for just a second.

I’m the second momma, you see, the substitute for the one they really want.  Maybe it’s anger.  Maybe it’s fear.  Maybe they love me way down deep, more than they dare show. (Oh, I hope so.)  But their automatic default too often is to push me away rather than to connect.

The years have scarred me, and make it hard some days to keep my perspective.  The truth is, eight of the kids think I’m just fine.  But I want these others to love me too, so much that some days my self-worth as a momma feels hinged on their acceptance.  I know how foolish that is;  they’re hurt kids, wounded souls. It’s only a little about me. But I care passionately for them and want them to feel truly enveloped in the love of our family.  No matter how wide the rift, they are part of my very soul, and I will continue to long for and work toward relationship.

I talked to the girls after the shopping incident, explained that gift-giving is one of the ways I show folks love– that I’d been trying that day in Old Navy to say ‘I love you’, and that I’d heard rejection in their refusal to accept my gifts.  I think they understood then, at least a little, why I’d come unglued over t-shirts.

While unpacking from the trip, I came across a handful of gummy bears in a baggie.  I stashed them back in a corner, thinking of a bedtime snack.  A few minutes later my 14 year old came into the kitchen, spotted them, and asked for them.  I said no, saying there weren’t enough to share with everyone.  It was true, but really it was more that I wanted them myself.

Later that evening I nibbled a few, but my conscience wouldn’t let me forget she’d asked for them.  I knotted the bag up and set them aside. The next day I came up behind her and tucked the baggie quietly into her sweatshirt pocket with a wink, then walked away quick before I could even see her reaction.  Come to think of it, maybe that’s exactly what I need to do more of:  quick stealth ‘I love you’ actions, without looking for or expecting any immediate reaction.

Sometimes I get so set on loving kids how I want to love them that I forget about loving them the way they want to be loved.  I’m not sure if that handful of gummy bears was received as the gift of love that I intended it to be.  But I’ll keep my eyes open for other chances like that.  Maybe one of these days I’ll actually get somewhere. Until then, I’ll just keep on loving my kids to the best of my ability, and hold onto the faith that God is watching over us all, and that He has a perfect plan for all our lives.


More about our family and adoption


  1. Hi, Mary,
    I enjoy your blog, though I’m not an adoptive momma myself (we have 8 kids, though, so we have somewhat similar lives). Just a thought to ruminate on–I wonder if a very small part of this could be that your girls desire a little more privacy? Having one’s additudes publicly broadcast to a large online audience could be very difficult. Changing details that would identify them (or omitting them entirely, and covering the topic more generally) may not make for as interesting a read, but it would probably be good for the kids. Keep pressing on–I will be praying for you!

    • Dawn in OR. says:

      Britt, I am sorry but this post makes me want to stand up for Mary and so I will. While it is understood that Mary is a good writer, I never have felt that she in any way used her children for a “good read”. Being an adoptive parent and being able to understand what is behind the behavior of children adopted at older ages is very important to this post.

      in OR.

      • Not only that, Mary almost always protects the anonymity of her children, so there is no way their actions are in response to her blog.

        Thanks for sharing, Mary. As an adoptive mother, I think it is important for people to know there are many sides to adoption. As always, I have learned something valuable here.

  2. Mary – Your ARE BEING a mom to them. It doesn’t matter if they recognize that or not. They don’t have to validate it for it to be real. It is true. Just keep loving them for who they are. It may not all turn out how you pictured it originally, but their choices/reactions are not your responsibility. God WILL work all things for good, for everyone involved. Hugs.

  3. Oh Mary. My heart was hurting for you as I read this. I’m so sorry that your relationship with your girls includes struggles like these. And I understand your need to vent. Huge hugs and hope for many more genuine smiles!

  4. As so much of your description sounds typical for that age, particularly for that gender, I wonder how much of it is a result of adoption at an older age and how much is simply teen angst? I personally know some parents who wish their birth children were as well-adjusted and polite to others as your adopted ones seem to be. Please understand, I am not trying to trivialize your feelings and frustrations in your own situation, I’m merely musing. I still have hopes of adopting some older children in the future, and appreciate hearing your struggles so I have better expectations. I just know that is a difficult age for anyone, and most girls have to get past it and look back to realize a) how much mom did for them and cared for them and b) how hurtful they were to their parents sometimes without even realizing it.

    • While I know that people mean well, this attachement “stuff” is different than normal teen “stuff”. It can be difficult to put into words, but since I have two bio kids and two kids that we adopted as older kids (then 6 and 8), I can tell what is normal and what is attachment issues.

  5. Hugs..I get it

  6. Jennifer says:

    Mary, I’ve been reading a long time and this is the most honest and emotional post I think I’ve ever seen from you. Here you describe adoption challenges in a way that doesn’t just hint at the behavior that’s being observed but gets to the heart of the tear and rejection that—speaking as having been adopted myself at the age of 16–I can assure you all 3 of you are feeling.

  7. Mary,
    As an adoptive parent of two hurt children, I totally get what you are saying here. I am struggling with this with a child I adopted at age two. She is 11 now and still pushes me away at times. It is a back and forth. My prayers are with you. I am so thankful for your honesty and I think what you wrote here is very important.

  8. Mary,

    As an adoptive mom I understand the pain and frustration of being the ‘second mom’ or the ‘not real mom’. That pain never stops BUT it does find a way to not hurt so much.

    As they grow and mature, remember it is their job to push away, to find themselves and grow. It is our job to pull back, teach, and above all show love. Then as they mature, realize that the biological parent not being there allowed another ‘mom’ to step in and teach, love, help them grow…they realize that a ‘mom’ is who is THERE for them. The ‘mom’ is the one that hurt thru all their hurts, cried thru all their tears, and unconditionally loved beyond breath.

    Keep going, doing, loving, teaching and above all keep strong…you are doing great.

  9. Mary,
    Please know that your success as a mom does not hinge on the responses you receive (or don’t receive) from 2 of your children. Relationships are so dynamic. What is happening today can be totally different 3 years from now. Having been adopted at an older age, it is to be expected that they would have mixed emotions about the whole thing.
    Keep your chin up. Love always wins in the end. Don’t give up. The small gestures like giving the gummy bears she wanted are not lost on her, whether she lets you know or not. Although it’s human to want a loving, grateful response when you offer love, try this…..try never expecting ANYTHING, and show them love just because they NEED it. Find your joy and satisfaction in letting God’s unconditional love flow to them through you. Let them see it in your eyes. Let them know you think they’re awesome even when they’re not, simply because they’re YOURS! That’s how God treats us! Then when the love is returned you’ll be delightfully surprised. I know 5 years has been a long time to wait for this, but it will eventually come. You are a dear. I enjoy your blog so very much.
    We have one adopted daughter who turns 10 tomorrow. Your perspective and your honesty on this blog have been so helpful to me.

  10. Prayers are with you and your family. I know how difficult it is to deal with social rejection in your own kids. We also have 2 kids out of 5 that require more unconditional love than the rest. One is due to mild autism characteristics and the other is challenged by the conditions caused by late adoption and early institutionalization. It is a hard slog for us as parents but, on the other hand, they are getting the absolute best parenting and home that is available under the circumstances. Sure, it would be better if they didn’t have to deal with their own unique situations but that is not the life they gave been given and everyone just has to move forward the best they can. Still, though, it is not easy and I certainly have moments where I become unglued as a parent. We, as humans, are such social beings that we crave that natural, intimate parent-child relationship. Take care.

  11. Mary, My heart hurts for you. I know this pain all too well. I know too that you have read all the older child adoption books on attachment. And their behaviors are attachment related…You have some very beautiful and sweet answers from some wonderful women here. But in truth, loving a child adopted at an older child involves lots of control issues and much rejection of the mother figure. Yet they can appear so sweet and loving to those who are not the mom. I wish that I could tell you to “steel your heart away”… not to give in to those moments of rejection and not to hurt or allow any manipulation of your heart by your daughters but it is not that easy for a loving mom like you to hold her heart. I have been where you are at and looking back… I have learned that only God can change these children’s hearts and open them to be loving and soft to you. When they are soft to you then they are really soft to Him.

  12. I can totally relate. Thanks, Mary, for having the courage to share and encourage other moms in the trenches. Speaking honestly about the unique challenges that adoptive families face is sorely needed, as it is often romanticized. God bless you and strengthen you as you persevere. I hope this community provides you with loving support and encouragement.

  13. Sandwich in Wi says:


  14. Hi Mary,
    Thank you for sharing this post. I recently brought home three children from Ethiopia. I have 6 children now. All my children are adopted. My oldest son from Ethiopia is 4 years old. He just got diagnosed with RAD. He rejects my love daily. I have struggled so much. We are now in therapy together. It is so nice to see and hear another mother is having the same struggles. You are a lot farther ahead than me. I am at a place of anger with my situation. I have no like or love for my son yet. You give me hope that someday I may love my son. Every therapists and book I read reminds me not to take it personally, but it is very hard not too. Thank you for sharing. I appreciate it.

    • Kari
      I would highly recommend u reading “from fear to love” by b. Bryan post. He has a very clear and love based detailed approach to helping all foster& adopted kids w difficult behaviors …..it has transformed my view and approach w my tern foster daughter and my bio kids as well!

  15. Jennifer says:

    Hugs- I get it I do- My 6 yr old is telling us he doesnt belong in this family- he doesnt look like us – Sigh it doesnt help that our bio child looks exactly like me.

  16. Mary, thank you so much for this intimate post. While I have no idea what it is like to try and bond with an older adopted child, it has been a rough start with our little adopted baby. Transparency helps others in ways we never know. I will share this post with my agency yahoo group.

  17. Mary, thank you for this post…Mothering is so hard sometimes. While I was reading it I was reminded of a post you wrote a long time ago about when your mother remarried and how hard it was for you to love her new husband when you missed your father so much. The post had something to do with car trouble. If I remember correctly, he quietly persevered and loved you without expecting too much in return. I don’t know if you have written more about it, but from what I see in your blog, it seems to have turned out pretty well. Unconditional love is sometimes challenging.
    I imagine that although it will take time, your relationships with your daughters will turn out pretty well, too.

    • Fern, Yes, that is an encouraging parallel to me too! I’ve told my girls that very story– how it was so hard to love that new dad at first and how much he blesses our family these days. He spent a week at the beach with us last week, and played pinochle for hours with the girls……

  18. This is going to be a lot of rambling thoughts on my part, but your post brought so many things to mind. I in no way want to minimalize the trauma and difficulties your kids have been through and the challenges of adopting an older child – I certainly have no basis to speak to that. But take heart – at least some of that behavior is SOOO teenager, just maybe not the teenagers you’ve had yet 🙂 For a while, my oldest was just like the commercial (a cruise I think?) where the daughter is having a great time until she catches her mother’s eye, then scowls and speeds away on a jet ski. Another was recently gone for a couple of days and I had to practically hug him by force when he got home – very prickly these days. And I’m in my mid 40s and still cringe at the thought of shopping with my mom because our experiences when I was a teen were so awful! – and it’s laughingly so much the same even now. To this day if I was in Old Navy with my mom and she picked up a shirt and asked if I wanted her to buy it for me, I’d have quite a visceral reaction I think (I can’t believe I’m admitting such childishness, but just keepin’ it real). I think you hit the nail on the head when you said you have to figure out how they want to be loved instead of doing it the way you want. I know I feel that way about my parents, and I’m trying to find my way down that path with my kids. Undoubtedly your teenage girl ‘tudes are magnified by issues of trust and attachment, but you could probably find an army of moms who had practically that same conversation in a store last weekend. We all doubt our parenting decisions, and without a doubt every child pushes different buttons. But your introspection makes it clear that you are an awesome mom, and you and your kids will find a unique way to love each other.

  19. Oh, Mary, thanks for sharing. Such vulnerability, at the very least, always yields encouragement for others who need to know they’re not alone.
    I don’t walk your particular path, but know well a few similar elements of my path with my oldest son and his special needs. I’m learning that it’s constantly about love, the verb… loving and loving and loving and loving and loving again as Jesus did and does for me (Oh, to think how I’ve been loved by Jesus, yet rejected Him time and again!)… being filled by God and loving with that love through me when I don’t have my own… definitely loving in the way that my son needs, not the way I want to do it… loving without any expectation of return at all… and treasuring whatever might come back that is recognizable as love in any form ( I’ve never in 15 years received an “I love you” or a hug from this child and likely never will, in fact, quite the opposite). The song “Anyway” by Martina McBride (sometimes country songs get simple theology just right!) and an old Margaret Becker song, “Never for Nothing” (“No labor of love is in vain… It’s never for nothing when you love with no return”) get play on my itunes in moments when I need encouragement in all of it.
    Your relationship with these daughters is something unique, with no pattern or solid, valid expectation of what it should look like to be the very best it can be, and everything they need from you. You are being a mom to them; it looks and feels different, because it IS different. Let it be what it needs to be.
    And if none of that rings true or is at all encouraging, just forget it and accept a simple “I love you” from me, and a reminder of how deeply you are loved by God. : )

    • Such a good reminder to recognize the uniqueness of the relationship. I’ve acknowledged outright to the girls that the relationship feels different than any of us experienced in our past lives because it IS different. We are doing a new thing that is often very hard. But the differentness doesn’t make our connection any less valid or real….
      Thanks, Marian!

  20. Hi Mary,
    Reading your post made my mind jump to love languages. Not sure if you’ve heard of them or not. Dr Gary Chapman wrote a book about them, and your talk of trying to love your girls with gifts made me think about how many different ways there are to love, and how that may not be how your girls best receive love. True, it may have been an off day, and no teenage girl will be easy to please every day, but I just thought it was something to consider. It’s possible that if you figure out their love language, whether they receive it better as quality time or words of affirmation or touch or whatever, and you communicate to them how you best receive love, it might make you both feel more in tune with each other.
    Prayers are with you as you continue the joys and challenges of teenagers!

    • Hi Heather,
      Yes, I read the book years ago. I have found it a bit more challenging to sort out the older girls’ love languages because of the conflict in their own hearts about my overtures. But I think that they both respond to words of affirmation, and one of them also acts of service…good tools to remember to use.

      • Thank you so much for sharing this part of your story, Mary. We are an adoptive family as well and our son struggles sometimes with this as well and he’s only six year old. I wanted to mention that they actually have a Love Languages quiz on the website, http://www.5lovelanguages.com/assessments/love/ that might be helpful to you. Know that your vulnerability in this post is helpful to so many of us!

  21. Beth G. says:

    Oh how I needed to read that someone else experiences this, and oh how glad I am that you shared it. 🙂 Thank you! All we can do is try different ways to express our love. It does get through, but there are so many emotions and memories sometimes blocking the view. Thanks again for your post!

  22. Thank you for sharing your struggles. I have not adopted any children, but have 3 of my own. My oldest (11 yrs.) shrugs off all offers of affection. What I have learned about her is that hugs, kisses, gifts, and compliments need to be given in private. Your stealthy gift of candy is the type of affection that my daughter would appreciate. I think that this makes her feel special, instead of just part of the group. Parenting is hard work, and it sounds like your are doing your best to be loving and wise!

  23. I second the recommendation of the Five Love Languages book by Gary Chapman. It is a fairly quick read and has been helpful to me with my teenager and other relationships.

  24. Mary, Thank you, thank you, thank you. I so needed to hear this today and to know that I am not alone in this crazy adoptive journey.

  25. Rebecca says:

    Oh, Mary. . .I’m doing the same thing to God that your daughters are doing to you. This post shook me up good.

  26. Thank you for being vulnerable and sharing this. I don’t really have any words of wisdom, but just wanted to say that as an adoptive mom I understand. Keep on loving them!!!!!

  27. As an adoptive Mom, thank you for making me feel a little more normal today, encouraging me, and pointing me back towards Jesus.

  28. In our therapy with B, one of the things we have learned is “treat others the way THEY want to be treated”….not the way YOU want to be treated. I think that goes in line with your gummy bear revelation. 🙂

  29. Thank you. I needed that. I feel this same thing, and the hurt of it makes me cautious in my loving which just keeps the spiral of seperation going. Then I feel like I’m just a caregiver, not a mom. I like the idea of stealthy acts of love. 🙂 So thank you for sharing this… it does help to know I am not alone.

    Something that came to mind as I was reading this… sometimes I treat MamaGod just like I’m her adopted teenage daughter, holding back my love, not accepting her gifts. Sometimes I think of love like a two-way street, when it is really a great big lovely lake to swim in.

  30. kristen says:

    Hi Mary– I’ve never commented before but am a long-time reader. I don’t have children, but I shudder to remember the ways I rejected my father’s overtures at closeness as a teenager. I shrugged off hugs and refused eye contact: it must have been, at minimum, discouraging for him. You’re doing it all right! People love in different ways. I read an essay yesterday about being given the choice to put four people into a boat, saving them and no one else, about how that choice would quickly reveal the people you love most even when you feel conflicted. Your girls would clearly need a bigger boat, but you’d be in it.

  31. I totally get it’s not about the tshirts. I’ve been reading your blog for awhile and was thinking you were magic with these traumatized kids. Thanks for showing the real side of things. It’s a hard thing to share, because it’s not very pretty. But for those of us with the same sort of struggles, it makes us realize we are not alone. Hopefully some day all your children (and mine) will be able to accept our love. If not, at least we won’t have any guilt, because we followed out hearts and kept on trying!

  32. Kimberly says:

    Thanks for your honesty and transparency… I am mom to an older adoptee (from China at 10, now she’s 11) and have not at this time struggled with this dynamic with her. In fact, she is in many ways the opposite- a Velcro tween, so to speak. Your writing reminded me to be thankful for her neediness, even when I am weary of being needed so much, all the time. I can pour out love to her in different ways and she is eager to receive it- what a blessing!!!

    I will pray for the relationship between you and your girls… I learn much about parenting from what you share on this blog! I struggle with a lot of guilt & anxiety about my mothering, even though objectively I know I am a good mom, and the kind of mom my girls need. I think we all struggle in different areas… just part of parenting.

    Thank you again for sharing! I know you will encourage so many other moms with your story.

  33. This must have been very hard to write but I am sending you hugs and prayers.

  34. Mary, this is so typical of the preteen and teen years. Some seem to go thru it harder than others. My oldest teen granddaughter went thru it for 5 years and is just now coming out of it a little. Her cousin, who is Jen’s daughter Mya, seemed to be that way a lot earlier, but at 13 is wonderful. I don’t know if it has anything to do with adoption or just being a teen and a girl. I think it is just the individual.

    • Yes, I hear what you’re trying to say and I agree that to a degree it is normal teen stuff. I raised two teen daughters before this. But it is also NOT the same, in a way that you can’t quite understand unless you have parented newly adopted teens.

      It differs in the relentless intensity, and also the lack of a previous time of life full of tranquil nurturing interactions. Moms of bio teens have a ‘well’ of good memories to draw from when the teen years get rough. They know what kind of kid they have really, which makes the tough moments easier to bear. When you come into parenting right at those difficult teen years, without positive interaction in the past as a bolster, it makes everything feel different, more intense, harder to imagine that an equilibrium will ever be found. Because all you’ve know with these kids is DISequilibrium.

      That, of course, is exactly where faith needs to come in.

      • I see another post in this reply. 🙂

      • I love your honesty in this post, and the above reply brought tears to my eyes. We adopted a 2 and a half year old girl from foster care almost 3 years ago, and you’ve pinpointed exactly what I’ve felt. She’s “high-maintenance” to say the least, and often seems to choose others over me. I think not having had the positive, nurturing relationship moms and infants have makes it harder for me to feel that we’ll ever have a deep bond. I can absolutely see that starting out with teenagers would make that lack of history much more difficult. I’m so glad when writers are honest about adoption. It’s a wonderful, God-given gift, but it’s never easy.

  35. Alisha Martin says:

    Hi mary: thanks so much for sharing your experience with your girls. I TOTALLY remember feeling this way with my mom especially when in the shopping scenario. I’m not adopted. Was raised by a single mom and actually had a hard time with the money thing. My mom being so frugal as a lifestyle would occasionally splurge on us and it actually felt very uncomfortable to me…plus I was a brat about not liking what she picked out for me and would hem and haw my way into being in trouble for being so indecisive…ha ha those were tuff times. Alas, we made it through and have laughs about it now and actually enjoy shopping (occasionaly) with one another.

    Another thing I was going to share is that my husband and I are reading The 5 Love Languages as a young married couple. We’re reading it with our church’s small group and when I read your experience I was reminded that myy mom uesd to talk about love languages and how different people are. It helped us to understand one another better as a family unit and I’m wondering if a simpler ‘lesson’ of love languages would help your family relate with the meshing of the different languages, cultures and age groups…? Just a thought – have a wonderful Easter and I pray God’s blessings on your family. I can tell from your posts that you try hard. And as a product of a hard trying mom – I say thank you!

  36. Mary, Thanks for sharing your heart. I fear the same things you wrote about when my little girl comes home. As adoptive Mommas, we need each other, through the good times and bad. To know that others are going through the same emotions and experiences. Keep writing and sharing. That is what the Kingdom is about, living and sharing in community!

  37. Elizabeth says:

    Thanks, Mary. We aren’t adoptive parents, but my husband and I both brought two kids to our marriage. I think as stepparents we deal with similar issues. Learning to parent my teenage stepson – to love him without sharing the rich history of his childhood, to decipher what is normal teen angst and what is “you’re not my mom” – has been hard. Thanks for the encouragement that I’m not alone.

  38. Keep on keeping on Mary!! They’ll come around 🙂 I think your stealth gummy bear action was the perfect way to say I love you!

  39. As an adoptive mom of 3 girls (number 3 comes home tomorrow!!!) I couldn’t help but cry at your post. My first child came home at 17 months and we had many of those moments. Even the 11 month old spent months rejecting me. I find it hardest not to harden my heart against the pain of the constant rejection. I dont think people with bio children are able to understand just how much pain lurks in a little heart, and how hard it is to walk that journey with them. Throigh the grace of God!

  40. Ahhhhh … so glad you took the step of faith to write on this. I remember our chat in Austin almost two years ago. I think about the Lord and how he loves us, yet it is up to us to receive that love. SO HARD. You know it so well. Absolutely LOVE how God was at work in the Gummy Bears moment. Praying for many more of those in the days to come.

    Thank you for being real with us, Mary. Some readers might be looking for ways to criticize, but can I just say that MANY more are NEEDING this kind of realness. Especially in the adoption community.


  41. Mary, I feel your heart. I, too, have one that pushes away my love and gives me constant rejection. I is so hard not to take it personally. I know he’s wounded, I know he has a hard time trusting, I know that he left his favorite woman back in China (his ayi), and yet… I am amazed at how much joy I can take in the little tiny crumbs that he occasionally throws to me. I just keep believing that one day he will really love me as much as I love him.

  42. Mary,
    This post was shared with me by a dear friend who has been walking with me and my family the last 4 months through a difficult adoption of not four siblings from foster care. I can relate to almost every single thing you wrote, but unfortunately, my situation has not proceeded as any of us planned. Due to complete defiance and also threats toward one of our own children and me, the oldest 2 boys were removed from our home just this past Monday. There are no words to describe what it was like to have to make that call, but at the same time, there is nothing like the guilt of feeling like you have failed your bio child by not protecting him. We are so blessed to have the support of many friends who have been covering us in prayer, but I know there will be many people on the sidelines who knew the boys and saw only the charming, loving side and will doubt our commital to them. As hard as that is to take, we know we made the only choice we could…especially considering the extinuating circumstances surrounding our family. We are moving forward with the younger 2 siblings and working to find a way to still include the boys in our lives somehow, as much as they will allow us. Thank you for your honesty and candid description of what not many people outside of adoption are aware of or understand. Your family is in my prayers.

    • Hi Carrie, How very heart-breaking. The thought that is most sustaining to me on the hard days is, ‘My hope is in the Lord.’ There’s where I get my worth, my joy and my hope. I can’t look to the people around me. That has been a hard lesson for me to learn, one I have to relearn over and over, it seems.

      God knows the terribly difficult path your family is walking and He will work all things for good, even for your child that you wanted to better protect. And as hard as it is to let go of the other kids, God still has a good plan for them. He loves them more than anyone. I am sorry your family is in the midst of so much pain.
      Praying for you,

  43. Thank you for sharing Mary

  44. Jennifer says:

    Mary, I appreciate your sharing this with us. It took much courage. You are a beautiful Mother. Be encouraged, you are doing great work.

  45. Thank you so much for having the courage to share this. I know it is so hard to know what to share sometimes, but rest assured that in posting this you have helped so many people. I aspire to be the kind of mother that you are, and while it seems effortless to those of us watching on your blog, posts like this remind me that motherhood is work for all of us. A labor of love, of course, but hard, hard work none the less! You inspire me.

  46. Thank you for sharing your heart. I was wondering how they have done with receiving love from your husband? Do they treat you differently?

    We adopted our son one year ago from state foster care, at age 7. He treated us very differently for a long time. He pushed me away, saved his angry tantrums and roughness for me. He told me he didn’t like moms much (this was confirmed by his foster mom and grandma). He never knew his birth father and was in and out of his birth mother’s custody for 6 years, so I understand his fear of being close to me. I knew all this in my head, but his rejection really hurt, esp. when I was trying to do something nice for him. Most of the time, dad could do no wrong and it was months before he pulled a tantrum on him. It’s gotten way better, I feel like our relationship is getting stronger, he will come to me for comfort now– time has helped and I am with him a lot because we homeschool. Now he is treating my mom in the same kind of way, like he’s afraid of her love, but no problem with Grandpa.

    • Hi Alyssa, The girls do really well with my husband and with their grandparents…it is just the mom thing that is hard for them. Things are way better than when they first came home though. So I think eventually we will get there.

  47. Katherine says:

    Happy Easter and I just want you to know how wonderful you are and what an incredible mother you are in everyway. I totally know what you mean, although my situation is different, I know what you are feeling and thanks for sharing. My oldest son is autistic and half the time I cannot tell if he even likes me at all. He does smile at me once in a while, make eye contact, etc. Most of the time he is doing is own thing in his own world and if I try to do new things with him or have to take him out with me and his brothers and sisters he is mad and stomping his feet and slapping himself. I know you are so right that God has a plan and it is so good and most the time I am like you and do the stealth love by buying him his favorite snacks and having as much patience as God is gracious enough to help me muster when Andrew has to open and shut the blinds and open and close all the cabinets for twenty minutes before we can leave home! LOL There are times though it feels so sad, and like there will never be anything I can ever do to make him feel the way I feel for him and actually all I guess we can do is keep on loving just as you are, just take it moment by moment and it will all work out for good. Best wishes to you and your whole beautiful family!

  48. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said “I forget about loving them the way they want to be loved.”

    Teens are hard and our expectations are different. It will be okay in the end Mary. It really will. 🙂

  49. Mary, thanks for the honesty in this post! My children are not adopted or in their teenage years yet, but I know i I and every mother have felt the sting of rejection. I will try to take to heart your point about loving kids the way they want to be loved. It’s kind of reminiscent of his needs her needs or the 5 love languages books. It seems your daughters’ “love languages” are not the same as yours. I know my sons’ “love languages” are not the same as mine!

  50. Crystal says:

    as a mother of 8 and 2 adopted at ages 12 and 9, I FEEL your post. It was even hard to heard some of the post after, only because I have heard it before. Attachment issues are not the same as normal teenage behavior. We are 3 years in and some days are harder then others. But the rejection is hard, you never get over it. You never get over how it feels when you are told I will never accept you as my mom or my family. Yes they are hurt children and yes other teenagers have I am sure said the same thing but the difference is when they have refused attachment they hurt much worse. Someday …..we will be on the side of this and breath a sigh of relief and say they can love again.
    Praying for you and yours,