In October of 2012, I got a text from my mom saying that she and my stepdad had taken in a tiny 2 year-old toddler named Alyssa. I was very confused. My parents were now foster parents? But they had just gotten all of their other kids to leave! They were finally alone and could relax! Now they wanted it all over again? The 3am nightmares? The diapers? The temper tantrums? THE DIAPERS? It was very surprising to me that they decided to start all over and take Alyssa under their wings, but they did, and it was the best thing to ever happen to our family.
Now 3 years old (she’ll be 4 in October, as she’s quick to remind you), Alyssa is my favorite human. She’s a never-tiring ball of energy with a sassy wit that gets her in trouble while simultaneously making my parents laugh. Her love of cooking, playing the piano, and helping my stepdad with his woodcarving projects makes her more well-rounded at the age of 3 than I am at 27. Loving her and being around her for the past two years has taught me so much. Here are a few things I’ve learned from my life’s tiny tutor:
1. The best things are unexpected.
None of us planned on Alyssa coming into our lives, it happened very unexpectedly. Sometimes, I wonder if my parents had had time to think about it, to weigh the pros and cons, to let the fear and doubts creep in, would they still have done it? I like to think that they would’ve, but what if they had been too scared or thought she would be better taken care of elsewhere? I’m so thankful every day for the fact that my parents decided to roll with the punches and take that leap of faith, that they decided to welcome the unexpected.
2. You never stop learning who your parents are.
One of my favorite things about this experience has been getting to see a whole new side of my mom and stepdad. Like I said earlier, they had already reached the long-awaited finish line of child rearing, yet were still willing to care for this little girl who needed them. Every time I see my stepdad letting her paint his toenails, every time I see my mom teaching her how to cook scrambled eggs, I gain a new level of respect for them. I am watching them be parents all over again and they’re teaching her, but I’m learning too.
3. Resilience comes naturally to us.
Alyssa came to us the day after her 2nd birthday and had already been through more than most of us can imagine. Still, even at 2, resilience came naturally to her. I met her for the first time on a trip home at Christmastime. I immediately fell in love with her and she was the happiest, funniest, spunkiest little girl I’d ever met. Had I not known, I would’ve never guessed that she had come from the situation she was in prior to living with us. She made me realize that we’re all capable of surviving nightmares and coming out on the other side stronger. It’s built into us.
4. There is no such thing as “too much” Monsters, Inc.
You think this is a joke, but it’s not. She watches it every morning with great fervor and dedication. I don’t hate it.
5. I want to adopt all of the babies.
If we hadn’t agreed to take Alyssa, she probably would’ve been put into the foster care system. After hearing so many horror stories about the system, the thought of her being sent from home to home (some of which can be very dangerous) makes me a little nauseous. Thinking of other kids out there who need homes and love makes me want to adopt all of them. Babies everywhere, please. In a perfect world, I would be Maggie from Angels in the Outfield and have a home full of rambunctious baby Joseph Gordon-Levitts who I would love with the fire of a thousand suns until Danny Glover came to whisk them away to a better life. Ah, the dream! Since I can’t be Maggie, I’ll have to make my peace with one day adopting just one or two tots and keeping them for myself. Although, Danny Glover can come visit them if he would like.
Next month, adoption papers will be signed and judges’ gavels will be slammed, officially making Alyssa my little sister. I can’t wait to watch her grow and keep learning from her and, hopefully, I’ll teach her something every now and then, too.