Pin It
Thursday, November 21st, 2013

Thankfulness, Insecurity and Adoption: A Messy Lesson

Julie's beautiful daughter Meazi/ (c) InCultureParent- Julie Corby

My daughter Meazi’s second grade class visits an assisted living facility every month. For the November trip they planned a “Make a Thanksgiving Turkey” craft for the seniors living at the facility. I signed up to be a volunteer parent. The night before I spoke to Meazi about how happy I was to be going with her and how lucky I felt that I was going to get to spend some time with her during the school day. Our trip last year to the Natural History Museum was a bit of a debacle: she ignored me the whole time. I had Meazi’s four-year-old brother Melese with me then, but this year was going to be different. Melese would be at school and I would be free to be super mom to my sweet second grader as she introduced me to her senior friends.


When I got to her school, it was the day of the school’s yearly book swap. Meazi had turned in five old books and got to pick five new titles. I told her to please avoid Disney Princess books, and to pick at least one title for her brother since three out of five of our discards had been his books. When she spotted me she gave me a sly grin, burst out laughing, and held up the biggest Disney Princess book that I had ever seen. She was so funny about it that I could not be mad at her. She loves those princesses and all of their happy endings.


We all walked upstairs to her classroom to get ready for the field trip. Meazi’s thoughtful teacher had them sit down and meditate for a few breaths to get in the right frame of mind to go and visit these elderly folks. A few of the residents are wheelchair bound, and some are blind or deaf. It can be a bit much when you are a seven-year-old.


After their last deep breath, Meazi’s teacher told all of the kids to line up. A few moms, field trip helpers, were already standing around. Meazi made a beeline for her friend’s mom. This mom, lovely and fashionable in her beautiful vintage lacy blouse and high leather boots, was a big draw for my daughter. I motioned to Meazi, signaling that I wanted her to come stand next to me in line. She pretended not to notice and took the hand of this other mom. We started to head out of the classroom.


We got down to the street and started our two-block long walk to the facility. Meazi was still far ahead of me. I called to her and received no response. I raised my voice and yelled again “Meazi,Come here!” I told her that she was hurting my feelings by not walking with me, and that the whole reason I came on the field trip was so that I could spend time with her. Embarrassed, Meazi started to cry. Another mom asked me if she was OK. Kids and moms walked around us standing there on the sidewalk, Meazi crying and me trying to get her to stop crying and walk with me.


Pissed off, embarrassed, and sad, Meazi begrudgingly began walking next to me, not holding my hand and not looking at me. We walked in silence to our destination.


We entered the facility and were immediately overtaken by the smell that is familiar to many of these types of places where folks come to spend their final years. Is it overcooked vegetables? Is it just what loneliness smells like? Meazi and her classmate, a girl she likes very much, were assigned to an old gentleman in the corner, Gabe. Gabe, an eighty-something wheelchair bound man, was in no mood to make a handprint decorative turkey with a couple of friendly second graders. Meazi tried to engage him, asking him questions about his family, and asking him what his favorite colors were. We found out that he has three grown children, all of whom live less than 10 miles away from this facility. He said that they visit him, but there was something in his voice that indicated it really wasn’t enough, that he would much prefer to live with one of them.


Gabe is so gruff, silent and makes so little eye contact that Meazi and her classmate decide to make their own turkeys and give them to Gabe as a Thanksgiving gift. They sit down next to the wheels of his wheelchair and get to work.  Meazi had cut out the shape of her hand in red construction paper.  She glued it on to the white Chinet paper plate. On its pinky finger she glued a blue plastic googly eye and on each finger, a dyed red craft feather. Cut yellow fuzzy pipe cleaners were added at the bottom for the turkey’s legs. She silently worked on her turkey, while Gabe stared ahead.


I got up and looked around, groups of two and three children were having varying degrees of success getting smiles and words from the other residents. The other moms busily passed juice and cookies to everyone.


I looked back at Meazi and saw her attempt to give Gabe his turkey. He waved his hands and declined it saying, “What am I supposed to do with that?” Meazi looked at me and shrugged her shoulders. “It’s OK, Meazi,” I said. “He just isn’t in the mood. Could I have it?” She hesitated for a moment and then handed it to me.


Their teachers had asked them to write something that they were thankful for on their handmade turkey plate. Meazi’s read,


“I am thankful for my mom.”


My eyes smarted with tears as I looked up at her. She looked back at me with an expression that said…


Why oh why are you so dense? Why can’t you see that I am an independent little girl? If I don’t hold your hand it doesn’t mean that I don’t love you Mom. Why oh why don’t you trust our attachment as much as you should?


“I am so happy to have this.” I said. She smiled at me and bounded off for a cookie.


We adopted Meazi and Melese four years ago from Ethiopia. My young son throws his arms around me quite frequently, “I love you mommy. You are so nice mommy.” He strokes my hair and snuggles into my shoulder. He tells me secrets and laughs hysterically at my jokes. His first word in the morning is always MAMA! yelled at the top of his lungs. He is always happy to see me. He has never refused a handholding or a bear hug.


My daughter Meazi likes moms who are made-up, fashionable and beautiful, who have fine jewelry and nice leather boots. She’d like to spend a few moments with them on a walk. She likes pretty things. She enjoys a good princess story. Although she loves touching their clothes and asking about each piece, it turns out the mom she loves is me, in my jeans, sneakers and practical pajamas. In spite of my insecurities, mothering failures, and sidewalk hysterics, she loves me.


And for that I am so very, very thankful.

© 2013, Julie Corby. All rights reserved.

More Great Stuff You'll Love:

The West's Strange Relationship to Babies and Sleep

How the West sleeps is different from the rest

10 Things Not to Say to Parents of Multilingual Children

Have you been guilty of any of these?

Why African Toddlers Don't Have Tantrums

The secret of why African babies don't meltdown like Western ones.


Julie Corby lives in Los Angeles with her husband of ten years and their two children, Meazi and Melese, adopted in August of 2009 from Ethiopia. She also blogs about her experiences at:

Leave us a comment!

  1. CommentsLaura S.   |  Friday, 22 November 2013 at 11:21 am

    Julie, my daughter, adopted from Guatemala, is the exact same way (and I am so like you). Thanks for sharing – I can so relate, and am glad it’s not just me!

  2. CommentsDebLite   |  Monday, 10 February 2014 at 5:23 am

    This was so very beautiful. It reminds me of when my daughter figured out that her very nerdy, strange and outspoken mom is just not quite like all the other moms – and yet she loves me all the same. Because I’m her mom.

Notify me of follow-up comments via e-mail.
Or leave your email address and click here to receive email notifications of new comments without leaving a comment yourself.

Get weekly updates right in your inbox so you don't miss out!

Why I Travel 13 Hours Alone with My Kids Every Chance I Get

Travelling with children, while definitely more of a mission, contradicts the old saying that “life is about the journey, not the destination.”

A Diverse Book for Preschoolers in Celebration of Multicultural Children's Book Day

A book that honestly and simply celebrates the every day diversity that children experience.

Why My African Feminist Mother Gave Me the Identity of My Father's Tribe

She gave me an identity so different from her own.

2 Children’s Books about Jamaica

Explore Jamaica with your child.

Costa Rica with Kids: Two Weeks of Family Travel

Two weeks of Pura Vida in a country with so much to offer families.

Should I Worry about My Child's Accent in Her Foreign Language?

See why Dr. Gupta takes offense to this question and where children learn accents from

How to raise trilingual kids when exposure to Dad's language is limited

My kids only get 1-2 hours of the minority language per day-help!

What Cultural Norms Around Bare Feet Taught This Mother in Guatemala

Her baby's bare feet ended up being a lesson on poverty and privilege.
[…] the breastfeeding culture in Mongolia compared to America. Did you have any idea that something as simple as breastfeeding attitudes can […...
From Breastfeeding in the Land of Genghis Khan
My mother born in the 1930's is originally from the northern part of Germany. I am in my mid fifties and have a terrible relationship with my mother. She is domineering and hurts those where it hurt...
From Are Germans Really Rude?
[…] JC Niala, InCultureParent […...
From Why African Babies Don’t Cry
[…] […...
From Breastfeeding Around the World
Although humanity is one Man (in a generic sense, including woman)has identified himself endless groups, religious, nationalistic, ethnic, cultural, linguistic, etc. Once you separate ME from YOU on...
From What’s an Asian? Race and Identity for a New Generation
[…] […...
From Breastfeeding in the Land of Genghis Khan
Some great tips here but not many working mothers could feed baby every hour especially if you work in a major multi-nationa...
From Why African Babies Don’t Cry
So true!!! Thanks for being so honest and self reflective. It's a proof of true characte...
From Are Germans Really Rude?
As a first-time mom I've spent the last two months of my four-month-old's life stressed out about her sleep and I recognize how crazy this is. It's clearly not working for me! I'm wondering how non-...
From The West’s Strange Relationship to Babies and Sleep

More Global Parenting