She Didn’t Give Up on Me

“She never once gave up – my mom is my hero!”

I lay on the floor, furiously kicking my legs and screaming until my throat felt raw – all because my foster mother had asked me to put my toys away. “I hate you,” I shrieked. I was six years old and didn’t understand why I felt so angry all the time.

I’d been living in foster care since I was two. My real mom couldn’t give my five sisters and me the care we needed. Since we didn’t have a dad or anyone else to care for us, we were put in different foster homes. I felt lonely and confused. I didn’t know how to tell people that I hurt inside. Throwing a tantrum was the only way I knew to express my feelings. Because I acted up, eventually my current foster mom sent me back to the adoption agency, just as the mom before had. I thought I was the most unlovable girl in the world.

Then I met Kate McCann. I was seven by that time and living with my third foster family when she came to visit. When my foster mother told me that Kate was single and wanted to adopt a child, I didn’t think she’d choose me. I couldn’t imagine anyone would want me to live with them forever. That day, Kate took me to a pumpkin farm. We had fun, but I didn’t think I’d see her again. A few days later, a social worker came to the house to say that Kate wanted to adopt me. Then she asked me if I’d mind living with one parent instead of two. “All I want is someone who loves me,” I said.

Kate visited the next day. She explained that it would take a year for the adoption to be finalized, but I could move in with her soon. I was excited but afraid, too. Kate and I were total strangers. I wondered if she’d change her mind once she got to know me. Kate sensed my fear. “I know you’ve been hurt,” she said, hugging me. “I know you’re scared. But I promise I’ll never send you away. We’re a family now.” To my surprise, her eyes filled with tears. Suddenly I realized that she was as lonely as I was! “Okay…Mom,” I said.

The following week I met my new grandparents, aunt, uncle, and cousins. It felt funny – but good – to be with strangers who hugged me as though they already loved me. When I moved in with Mom, I had my own room for the first time. It had wallpaper and a matching bedspread, an antique dresser, and a big closet. I had only a few clothes I’d brought with me in a brown paper bag. “Don’t worry,” Mom said. “I’ll buy you lots of pretty new things.” I went to sleep that night feeling safe. I prayed I wouldn’t have to leave.

Mom did lots of nice things for me. She took me to church. She let me have pets and gave me horseback riding and piano lessons. Everyday, she told me she loved me. But love wasn’t enough to heal the hurt inside me. I kept waiting for her to change her mind. I thought, “If I act bad enough, she’ll leave me like the others.” So I tried to hurt her before she could hurt me. I picked fights over little things and threw tantrums when I didn’t get my way.. I slammed doors. If Mom tried to stop me, I’d hit her. But she never lost patience. She’d hug me and say she loved me anyway. When I got mad, she made me jump on a trampoline.

Because I was failing in school when I came to live with her, Mom was very strict about my homework. One day when I was watching TV, she came in and turned it off. “You can watch it after you finish your homework,” she said. I blew up. I picked up my books and threw them across the room. “I hate you and I don’t want to live here anymore!” I screamed. I waited for her to tell me to start packing. When she didn’t, I asked, “Aren’t you going to send me back?” “I don’t like the way you’re behaving,” She said, “but I’ll never send you back. We’re a family, and families don’t give up on each other.” Then it hit me. This mom was different; she wasn’t going to get rid of me. She really did love me. And I realized I loved her, too. I cried and hugged her.

In I985, when Mom formally adopted me, our whole family celebrated at a restaurant. It felt good belonging to someone. But I was still scared. Could a mom really love me forever? My tantrums didn’t disappear immediately, but as months passed, they happened less often.

Today I’m I6. I have a 3.4 grade point average, a horse named Dagger’s Point, four cats, a dog, six doves and a bullfrog that lives in our backyard pond. And I have a dream; I want to be a veterinarian. Mom and I like to do things together, like shopping and horseback riding. We smile when people say how much we look alike. They don’t believe she’s not my real mom. I’m happier now than I ever imagined I could be.

When I’m older, I’d like to get married and have kids, but if that doesn’t work out, I’ll adopt like Mom did. I’ll pick a scared and lonely kid and then never, ever give up on her. I’m so glad Mom didn ‘t give up on me.

Source: Gregory Keck, Coalition 2007 Conference Workshop Handout. By Kimberly Anne Brand, as told to Sharon Whitley. Excerpted from Woman’s World magazine. Reprinted by permission of Sharon Whitley

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