“Nobody in this family understands me!!”


Oh how I dread hearing those words. Why? Because in some ways they are true.


They were  said by my 9 year old daughter, who happens to be adopted. She was adopted from Ethiopia at age 3. She’s right,
with the exception of her older adopted sister and brother, there are some things the rest of us just don’t get. There are things that I can empathize with, that I can try my best to understand, but that I never really will “get” because I haven’t been there.


I haven’t been abandoned. Her birth mom made a very difficult decision to place her and her siblings up for adoption. She
absolutely did not abandon them. However, when your mom leaves you at an orphanage at the age of 3–to you it really does feel like abandonment. Even if that was her best, most loving choice.


I know how my parents are doing. Her birth mom is alive…we assume.  Minute to minute we really don’t know because at the time of her adoption contact was not encouraged. We got an unexpected update a few years ago but that’s it. We hope to make contact in the future, but that’s not a simple task. This causes unsettling fears. Even though Ebola is on the other side of the continent from her birth family, she worries about that and other things.


Most everyone here looks like me. My daughter is black. I’m white. Most of our community is white. Unless I move to a predominately black community, I can’t even assume to know how it feels to look different.


I don’t know hunger. Really I don’t. I’ve always had food. I’ve always known food was around the corner. She has not.


I don’t know what it’s like to have EVERYTHING change. With the exception of staying with her siblings…EVERYTHING changed. Sights, sounds, smells, food, people. She’s been home for 5 years, but that leaves its mark.


She feels this way less and less often, but even so, my heart sinks whenever I hear those words because there is truth and pain in them.


And then, a few moments after she said those words that are so hard to hear, it dawns on me.  I had just told her she couldn’t take electronics  on a field trip.  I suggested she should hang out with her friends on the bus instead.

“Are you saying no one understands you because I said you couldn’t take electronics along?”




(trying not to laugh) “Oh honey, all your brothers and sisters understand that!”


Sometimes it’s trauma and adoption, and other times…it’s just being nine.