It was a question that surprised me, coming out of my confident and poised host daughter. She is all spunk and light, and one of the greatest people-readers I’ve ever met. And yet here she was, suddenly so much younger than her self-assured 16-year-old self.
“Why you want me?”
The tilt of her head a little more insistent, the pressed line of her half-smile a little harder, her arched eyebrow a little higher. Her whole body was poised for my answer.
I wanted to scoop her into my arms and never let her go. Oh, my dear one. Why? How could I not? You are in my very soul. I love you beyond the bounds of what I ever thought possible. Want you? No, I didn’t just want you. I needed you. My whole life I have been waiting to find you.
But I know why she asked the question. She wasn’t a nine-year-old, like I had hosted before. She wasn’t “cute and adorable” on a photo listing. She wasn’t adoptable. She was a teenager. And who in their right mind wants a teenager, especially one with prickly hurts that sometimes peek out of a strong and confident exterior?
It sure wasn’t me six months ago.
I found out about hosting last year, after hoping to adopt for four years but having no success. Perhaps during the wait, I could use my time wisely and show a sweet child the love of a family. And maybe this was a path that would lead to adoption after all—I was open to the possibility. I hosted a nine-year-old boy that summer, and loved him very much—more than I expected, actually. But while he was here, I discovered that I could not adopt him even if I desired it. And I found out something even more surprising: it didn’t matter. He was a special little boy, and my love for him just poured out easily.
But what of my plans? Sure, I still wanted to adopt, but I found myself seeing a world even bigger than adoption. Love doesn’t end just because a child isn’t adopted. Family isn’t defined by legal words on a piece of paper. We were designed to be relational, to be known intimately.
Every child feels that need to belong. Every child needs to know love. Every child needs to know that they are seen, that they matter, that they are not forgotten.
Goodness…isn’t that what we ALL want? I don’t think that there is ever an age when we stop needing that. And so my heart opened a little bit more and I realized that maybe my vision had been too narrow.
I think it’s easy to see that the little ones need arms to hug them, need someone to tuck them in at night, need someone to kiss their boo-boos. And they do. But at what age does that stop? At what age do they stop needing someone to care?
I think we quickly forget how much we needed our mamas when we were 15 or 16 and our hearts broke for the first time. Our memories fade on that time the tears flowed when the boy didn’t ask us to the dance, or when the girl laughed at our awkward attempt to tell her how we felt. And we forget how we fell into our mom’s arms, or just wanted our dad to put his arm around us and tell us that it’s not the end of the world. Our boo-boos were different, but oh, how we longed for someone to kiss them and take the pain away.
And these teens, their world of heartbreak isn’t a school dance or a flippant girl. Their problems are sometimes adult-sized. Their pain is often more than most adults could bear.
And yet, here they are, faces smiling with courage maybe their hearts don’t have. Daring to hope that maybe things will get better. Believing that it has to.
And they go into these interviews with New Horizons for Children, and they tell their stories, all the time believing that no one will want them. Probably the cute little kid will get picked, and they will be forgotten again. And still they go.
Still they go.
Still they speak.
They say, I’m still here. I’m still fighting. And I want to be seen.
Such bravery in the face of such hardship.
And I was moved by it. Me, who never would have looked twice at a teenager a few months ago, was captured by the bold hope on those faces. And there was one sweet, brave girl, with a hundred watt smile and a mischievous sparkle in her eyes. I saw her, and I did not want her to be forgotten.
I wasn’t going to host over Christmas. I was instead going to support others who were. And I certainly wasn’t looking for a teen.
But I couldn’t let her go. I was originally intending to advocate for her to others, but the more I talked about her, the more I knew I needed her. And so she came, and we became family.
She has changed me. Made me better. And I found that her age didn’t matter. She needed me as much as that nine-year-old did. Maybe more.
And I told her so. Why did I want you? That’s simple.
I want you because I love you.
Love doesn’t have an age cut off or a cuteness factor. There is One who loved me in my sin, when I was the most unlovable. How can I not love others that way?
But the thing is, it’s not hard. These teens, they want a mama’s love. They want a daddy’s affection. They want the same thing you do. They want to be known.
And when I look into my girl’s eyes, all the questions about whether I could do it or if I could be enough just melted away. I didn’t see a teenager all cocky and confident in front of me. I saw a girl, a young woman, hoping that maybe it was true. Hardly believing it could be.
“Why you want me?”
Because, my love, I saw you. I truly saw you. You are not forgotten.Veldorah Rice is a two-time host mom and volunteer with NHFC. She also teaches English and Communications to high school and college students. You can follow her blog here.