What's funny about adopting a child as a baby is you actually get a front row seat to the nurture vs. nature debate. What makes us who we are? How much of it is what is running through our veins and how much of it is what we see and learn from the world?
Isabella came to us when she was a few days shy of 8 months old. She remembers no other life. We are her parents. She knows she grew in another woman's belly, but she knows this like she knows her eyes are blue. There is no opinion attached to this fact. It's just part of her story. (Up until about a week ago, I think she thought everyone gets adopted at some point. She asked Gina, "Mommy, what was your name before you got adopted?")
Despite the fact that she has none of my blood running through her veins, I look at her and how she sees the world and I'm reminded of myself as a kid. She is curious and insightful. She is happy to entertain herself quietly, writing out letters or coloring or looking at books. Where Maddie is strong and athletic, Isabella is observant and intellectual, and would prefer someone else do the athletics, thank you very much.
But more than all of this, she is so CAREFUL. And this - this is where she and I seem like we must be biological mother and daughter. I'm not saying she never gets hurt - she is the clumsiest kid I've ever seen - but wherever there is clear danger, she is not interested. When we let them play in the street (with close supervision - don't worry, I'm not THAT terrible of a mother), Isabella will run to the side of the road when she sees a car two blocks away. "CAARRR!!!!!" she'll scream. Our street isn't heavily traveled, so about 70% of the time, that car is going to make a turn and not even come down our street. But she isn't taking any chances. A few weeks ago, Maddie rode her bike down a set of steps. This wasn't intentional, but Isabella just would never have let this happen to herself. She has a near blanket-refusal to ride her bike down hills. "TOO FAST!!" she will scream, terrified. There is a kid roller coaster at Disneyland that we rode, and seriously, it is the littlest roller coaster ever. She SCREAMED the whole time, clearly convinced her life was about to end.
Part of me revels in this about her. This is how I was when I was a kid. And guess what? I never broke a bone. I didn't drink until college. I never skipped school. I never lied to my mom. I was always aware of danger, and I never put myself within reach of it. I was every mom's dream, and I'm not just saying that.
On the flip side, I feel like I missed out on a part of development by never having a rebellious phase. I was never daring. I'm still not. And I don't love this about me. And I don't want Isabella to be afraid. (I am very much not worried about this with Maddie. In fact, I wish Maddie were afraid of anything at all. She's not.) I want her to be careful, yes, but I don't want her to be so timid she misses out on all of the cool stuff life has to offer her.
We went tubing this weekend with another family. We all wanted to go down the hill together, which means four tubes (each parent with a kid on his or her lap) attached speeding down the hill. Isabella was not interested at all. She knew this multiplied the chances of someone getting hurt, and she was having none of it. She didn't try to stop anyone from doing it, but she was not going be a party to these shenanigans. Everybody kept trying to convince her to do it, that it would be fine, and the people behind us in line were not happy that we were taking so long. I finally said, "No. She doesn't want to do it. It's okay. I'll go down with her." Why were all of the adults trying to peer pressure my kid into doing something she didn't want to do?!
Finally, after a few more times of going with just one adult, she said she wanted to try it all together. So we did. Almost immediately, two of the tubes got separated from the other two, and they hit the bottom of the hill first. She was in one of those tubes. When the second set of tubes landed, we hit the first set, and she got hit in the face by someone's shoulder. She wailed. I felt so bad for her - she insisted she didn't want to do it and she finally agreed and she gets hurt. Classic Isabella.
But here's where the story changes. She asked to do it again. She asked if we could all go down the hill together again. And that time, she didn't get hurt, and she had fun. I was unashamedly beaming with pride.
"You were scared and you did it anyway!" I told her at the bottom of the hill. "That's fantastic!" Her chapped cheeks spread into a huge smile.
I just hope this doesn't give her any jumping-out-of-airplanes ideas.