Right now, there is a creative, kind-hearted, silly, smart, loving 16-year-old doing geometry homework in her room. She is my daughter.
Six years ago, a little girl arrived in my Washington, DC area home from Texas. We had talked on the phone, I had visited her at her foster home in Texas, and she and her social worker had visited me for a weekend. And then, there she was. Smiling, sweet, and clinging to the teddy bear that her foster mother had given her (and which still occupies a place of honor in her bed each night). She was about to have a new mother, family, home, school, camp, neighborhood, and friends. She remains the bravest person I have ever met.
Five years ago, our adoption was finalized. Our friends and family gathered in the courthouse for the legal proceedings, and we celebrated with balloons and donuts.
A couple of years ago, my daughter converted to Judaism. She studied for a year, learned Hebrew, and went through the traditional steps of the conversion process, including answering questions from a panel of rabbis and going into the mikvah with me, her mother, as her witness. It was the first visit to a mikvah for both of us. The decision to become Jewish was totally hers; our family unit would have been filled with love, faith, and good deeds no matter what our religions were.
A few months ago, we celebrated her Bat Mitzvah. In a pancake house. With an arts and crafts theme, and a table set up with a bunch of my daughter’s favorite crafts projects, a homemade music mix playing on a portable speaker, and the din of friends and family laughing and sharing piles of pancakes together. All of this was preceded by her Havdalah Bat Mitzvah at our synagogue and a Bat Mitzvah speech that didn’t leave a dry eye in the house. (Quote from a smiling, weeping friend: “Lauren, why didn’t you warn us?!”)
To know my daughter is to love and admire her. To know us as a family is to help us, hug us, laugh with us, roll your eyes at our antics, and come along for the unexpected journey. Adopting an older child was beshert— my girl and I were meant to be together. It’s the best decision I’ve ever made.
Happy Mother’s Day from a happy mother.
Lauren Brownstein is a fundraising and philanthropy consultant living in the greater Washington, DC area. She is a passionate advocate for older child adoption. Connect with her at pitchconsulting.com.