Today is a very special day in the Willard House. On this day two and half years ago, Chris and I entered a courtroom and took the stand for the first time in our lives. But we were very happy to go to court that day. It was just one of many steps in the process of finalizing the adoption of our girls. And on December 28, 2017, the transfer of custody was official. Chris and I were officially granted custody of our three, beautiful girls.
BW (then 5), MW (then 3), and SW (then 17 months), had come home with us seven months earlier. And from the beginning, the girls called us Mommy and Daddy. That’s how they knew us. They knew we were their parents. They knew we loved them. But the state of Missouri had a few more steps along the way before we would officially be recognized as mommy and daddy.
Our first Christmas as the Willard Family of Five.
That week was already a special time for us. It was our first Christmas with the girls and all of us, including my parents and sister, were thrilled to spend this first Christmas together. And even though we had told all family members to limit the number of gifts to three per girls, some family members could not resist showering them with more presents! (I won’t name names…)
I’ll never forget the girls’ faces when they came down the steps on that first Christmas and saw the 3 gifts each that Santa had left for them. BW had asked for a watch last minute from Santa. You know, a very particular watch that had to be in stock in a store near us – ahem, I mean Santa – two days before Christmas. But believe me, I was going to find that watch no matter what I had to do. I didn’t want BW to already question if Santa was real. And lucky for BW (and me), the watch was in stock just a few minutes away. Phew!
BW opened her watch. MW opened her watch because Santa had to bring them the same gifts. And SW opened up her three presents and very quickly went back to bed. We’re pretty sure SW was awake for a total of six hours that first Christmas! She was so young and so overwhelmed by everything!
But after all the presents were opened and two glasses of wine spilled on the floor, the girls went to bed. And I began to think about the day and what it meant to be the girls’ mom. I was so struck by how much wonder and pure joy the girls experienced. And I was overwhelmed with the magnitude of being parents to our three, beautiful girls. How we quickly said yes to the girls, how we quickly had to prepare our house to be home for a family of five, and how quickly the love for our girls grew in our hearts.
Our first day in court.
Three days later, we were in court. My parents, sister, our three girls, and Chris and I all headed to the courthouse to continue the process of adopting the girls. And let me tell you, it seemed to take forever! The original judge couldn’t make it that day. Another judge was on the way. It was late in the day. We were hoping that we would have the hearing on that day. And we had three kids under the age of five with us. In a courthouse. Trying to keep them entertained for what seemed like hours!
Finally, the judge arrived. We entered the courtroom. The hearing began. And all went well. After Chris and I had given testimony, I heard the judge ask BW if she wanted to take the stand.
What?! Oh goodness. Can this possibly end well? Is BW really allowed to be called to the stand? How do I stop this?!
I then heard BW say yes and up to the stand she went. She placed her hand on the Bible. She stated the oath. And then she sat down.
“Do you like living with Mommy and Daddy?” the judge asked BW.
Y’all. I held my breath. What would BW say? Would she say that she wanted us to be her family? Would she be serious or say something silly? Did she like living with us? ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Well, we were about to find out…⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
“Yes,” BW said.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
“Does your Mommy and Daddy love you?” asked the judge.
“Yes,” BW answered.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
The judge then let BW step down. Phew!
I let out my breath. And I probably had a tear stream down my face. Hearing BW answer in this way, after being with us for only seven months, just about made my heart explode.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
To this day, my heart just about explodes every day. Love makes a family. And love made the Willard Family of Five a family. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
This life ain’t easy. There are days that are more challenging than I think I can handle. Sometimes I wonder if I’m strong enough for everything that life throws at us.
The one thing that I do know is that this life is full of love. And that’s what I remind myself every day.⠀⠀
Chris and I adopted our three, beautiful daughters (BW, MW and SW) on September 6, 2018. We learn each day how to navigate life as white parents to three black girls. You can read our adoption story here.