This mama bear is a hot mess of emotions.
Bridget and Malaysia Doerneman graduated from 8th grade at Holy Spirit Catholic School on Saturday, May 20, 2017.
My girls are beautiful. They are BEAUTIFUL. But the feelings that I had on Saturday night were about SO MUCH MORE than just watching them be promoted into high school.
When we first adopted Malaysia, we wondered if it would be fair to raise an African American Baptist as a Caucasian Catholic.
We wondered about hair. We wondered about friends. We wondered about academics and culture and body types.
I have learned a lot in the past ten years, as I have mothered Malaysia Marie and Bridget Therese.
The biggest lesson: God has a plan for each and every one of us. It was completely obvious to Russ and me, ten years ago, that we were to adopt Malaysia.
I have Russ to thank for that. He led the way when I was full of doubt and worry.
I worried the most about Bridget, because when we adopted Malaysia, who was two months older, Bridget lost her status as fifth child. She became the sixth.
Not a big deal in way. But she also had to share her bedroom and her clothes and her life.
Most of all, we asked her to share her heart. With a new person. That she didn’t know.
That alone makes me cry. What big things to ask of a four year old.
That was in June of 2007.
That summer was full of drama and emotion, as Malaysia’s confused heart had to adjust. She had a new family. And they were large and loud and not familiar to her in any way.
She ricocheted from joyful and obedient to angry and defiant. She hugged and then she head-banged. We rode the roller coaster.
That whole year I thought and prayed about kindergarten.
Our home was a block from St. Elizabeth Ann Seton church and parish. It was a huge place and it overwhelmed Malaysia’s sensitivities.
She thrived in quieter environments. (Why God asked us, the loudest family in Kansas, to be her forever family, remains a mystery.)
So we prayed The Divine Mercy Chaplet Novena asking for guidance, totally trusting. And we found a seven-bedroom home (who makes those?) on Divine Mercy Sunday.
The home was located within the boundaries of a smaller parish with a much smaller school.
I called the principal, Kelly Bright. She told me we would be welcomed but there was only one problem. She only had one opening for kindergarten.
I knew God wanted us out in Goddard. We’d be in Goddard.
Mrs. Bright called me back within a week, telling me another spot had opened up. My two girls were enrolled at Holy Spirit Catholic School.
We moved in September of 2008, right before the birth of our 8th child, David Anthony.
The girls began kindergarten.
Saturday night, as I watched my confident, funny and gorgeous 14-year old daughters, the feelings flooded every inch of my soul.
I thought of the fights they had had during their grade school years, all of the harsh names hurled at each other.
I remember not knowing how to fix their hurt.
I reached out to their principal.
Kelly Bright is someone that sees the heart of situations. I needed her to help our hearts.
She helped, alright. She took each of my daughters, separately, to eat frozen yogurt. She asked questions, she talked, she guided; she sprinkled her principal dust upon my girls.
From that time forward, something shifted. Mrs. Bright had established boundaries. They were not to say “I hate you,” or “I wish you had never been adopted.”
By the way, if you are a mom and your kids don’t or cannot listen to you, bring in someone they admire and trust. ‘Tis magical.
Slowly, over the months and years, I watched something happen between Malaysia and Bridget. Over time, the bonds deepened. Slowly, ever so slowly, they became in tune with each other.
They began talking and laughing and merging their lives.
Now I cannot imagine my Bridget without my Malaysia.
And I cannot imagine my Malaysia without my Bridget.
They stand up for each other, they defend each other, they love each other. They laugh and they talk constantly.
It has been about the most gorgeous thing I’ve ever been privileged to witness.
And there’s more.
Rachel, my 21-year old, is home from college. She helped the girls get ready for 8th grade promotion, painting nails and finding matching earrings.
Bridget did her own hair, spectacularly.
The girls’ make-up was tasteful and made them look so grown up. And best of all, Malaysia had her heels.
I think she came out of the womb wanting heels.
It shocked me at first, her desire for heels. Seriously. She was FOUR, we were at Payless, trying on shoes and she traipsed up to me taller by four inches, “Mommy, I want these.”
That scene has repeated itself throughout the years. I finally told her, “I’ll buy you heels for your 8th grade graduation.”
On Saturday night I felt like I was watching my own Tina Turner. Malaysia rocked those heels. She had grace and beauty and strut all rolled into one. The girl was born to wear heels.
Not my DNA. For sure. But perfectly perfect for her.
I spent the morning after 8th grade promotion, sitting quietly on my deck swing.
I have made a sobering amount of mistakes. I have parented from a place of impatience and soul-numbing frustration.
Just as surprising to me, I have parented from a place of gentle, dynamic, I-am-here-for-you love, giving from places that I did not even know existed.
I felt everything while sitting on that swing. The good times, the bad times and everything in between.
Most of all, I experienced grace.
Grace upon grace.
I know why God asked us to parent Malaysia and Bridget.
He takes us weak little things, He gives us monumental tasks and then He does the work within us, changing hearts, souls, lives and indeed, whole communities.
I look forward to the next four years of high school for these girls. But for now, I sit and I marvel and yes, I cry.
Grace is big like that.