The first words Bel ever spoke to us were these, “Do we have candy at our house?” Seeing that beautiful brown face enter the room for the first time, watching as she climbed onto the couch and snuggled close to me and then hearing those sweetly funny words escaping her mouth should have told us something. We were headed for trouble with this one!
Once the girls were home with us, we quickly moved from the honeymoon period to reality. I am thankful for that now. It wasn’t a week since moving the girls in that Bel began to show what was hidden in that little broken heart of hers. She would scream and throw temper tantrums if I tried to give her a bath, brush her hair or take her picture. Shopping for clothes was a nightmare. The girls arrived with almost nothing so I was thrilled to have a valid excuse to spoil them rotten while shopping for new clothes and toys. I never imagined the scenes Bel would create however.
One of the first times we shopped together, Rachel shyly and quietly would pick out clothing and ask if she might have this or that. Of course, I was beyond happy to get her whatever she wanted. Bel, on the other hand would lay on the floor screaming that I was trying to make her wear “ugly clothes.” My boys were little monsters but rarely in public places so I felt instantly like a failure with Bel. I had no idea how to handle a four year old girl that rejected me on every level. Fear began to creep into my heart. I had taken the classes, read the books, even taught some of the classes for DHS. How could I be so clueless?
Over the next fourteen years, I am ashamed to say that I found myself avoiding Bel on many levels. I was a good mother in that I provided all the things necessary for a decent life. I guarded my heart closely though. Time and time again, when I would reach out only to feel rejected, I would escape deeper into hiding hoping to protect my heart. I never blamed Bel. I knew I was the one failing her, she wasn’t failing me. We even sought counseling. Prayer at church. Fighting it out at home. Nothing seemed to help.
Right before Bel’s nineteenth birthday, she had a medical scare which landed her in the hospital for a week. The thought of losing my baby girl was more than overwhelming to me. It took my focus off of me and my pain and placed my eyes where they should have always been from the beginning, on Belen. The night we rushed her to the hospital, I sat in the backseat of the car, holding my daughter in my arms. I don’t know that I have ever wept the way I did that night. The only words I could say over and over were, “I love you, Bel!”
It’s an amazing thing what vulnerability can bring to a relationship. From that night on, as I opened my heart again, no longer worried about being rejected but focused on what was best for my daughter, each day has brought more than I could have hoped for. More than I deserve. I learned to be honest about my feelings but more importantly, I learned and am learning to listen. Bel has opened up about her fears from the past and her fears of the future and you know what? As we have opened ourselves up to one another, most of those fears have suddenly faded away. Light seems to do that to darkness….melt all the boogie men you just knew were laying in wait to get you someday.
Bel just turned twenty-five years old. She is one of my favorite people in this world and definitely my favorite Belen. She and I have so many things in common. She loves the poor and needy. She cares for others with her entire heart not just a piece of it. She is funny and witty and kind of weird. She is one of the most amazing and strange people I have ever known. She is just like her mother.
Rachel and Bel ~ 2008
and the story continues....