Rule #4: If you leave, I’m going with you.

The first day as the Willard Family of Five was filled with many emotions. Chris, BW (then five years-old) and I were sitting on the back porch awaiting the arrival of MW (then two years-old) and SW (then 9 months-old). Even though that day was two years ago, I can still picture MW walking down the back steps of our house and SW being carried as all of her fat rolls were hanging out of her denim jumper. MW was wearing a pink and purple butterfly dress and had the two tiniest buns I had ever seen on the top of her head. It was love at first sight for all three of our girls.

But BW had a very different reaction. Love was the furthest thing from her mind. She had been separated from her two sisters for the better part of a month and apparently, was just fine with the separation. She instantly decided that either MW and SW were leaving or she was.

BW walked inside the house, found a duffle bag, and began packing her things. She packed a book, a toy, stuffed animal and her toothbrush. Chris followed her inside and walked around the house as she packed. He helped her pack and found a bag for himself and packed up his things. As he told her, “If you leave, I’m going with you. We’re all a family now. We’re staying together and we’re leaving together.” BW continued to pack.

Learning to respond with love.

Somehow, we convinced BW that life would be better with us than with a new family. It may have been because she felt love from Chris as he stayed by her side the entire time she packed up her things. Perhaps she decided that she didn’t really want to leave her new dog, Tucson. Maybe she determined that her life had been filled with enough transition and that she would give life as the Willard Family of Five a chance. Regardless of her reason, she decided to stay.

This was just the first of many encounters we would have that made us think on our feet and instantly have to know how to respond. Parenthood doesn’t come with much training, but usually parents have a few months to prepare. We had three weeks to prepare for our three girls. We had three weeks just to adjust to the fact that we were going to be parents. And now, we no longer had time to adjust. We had to know how to respond to BW packing her things to leave. All of a sudden, we had to know or at least adjust to everything our 5 year-old, 2 year-old and 9 month-old would throw at us.

MW, BW and Chris sitting outside on the first day we became the Willard Family of Five.

That evening, after putting the girls down for bed, I reflected on the day. I realized that I was falling more in love with Chris as he lovingly responded to BW. I was falling in love with the girls even as I questioned what Chris and I had gotten ourselves into. But even as I was falling more in love with everyone, exhaustion was setting in. I realized our transracial adoptive journey was going to be akin to an ultra marathon. And I wondered how all three girls were going to respond to us.

But I tried to keep everything in perspective. As I drifted off to sleep, I thought to myself: at least no one left the family today.

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