Sweet Sixteen: Mothering The Daughter I Wasn’t Expecting

When I was baptized, a woman came forward and prophesied over me, which, if you didn’t grow up in a Pentecostal church, can be a tad overwhelming.  Referring to a biblical promise I hadn’t read, she said that God was going to restore to me all that the locusts had eaten.  I had no idea what she meant, so I just stood there and smiled.  She also told me that I was going write a book and become the mother to many.  I knew what that meant, but couldn’t imagine that she was right.  I just kept smiling.

Twelve years later, I’ve still not written a book.  And I’ve become the mother to four children.  There’s Zach, whose story I describe here.  There’s Ezra, who doesn’t understand why I’ve not written a story about his birth.  There’s Cutie Pie, for whom I was a temporary guardian.  And there is Nafisa, who has lived with us for two-and-half-years.

I didn’t know Nafisa when she was born.  I didn’t meet her until she was four, and I didn’t really know her until her mother died when she was thirteen.  That’s when she started spending the night.  And then a few nights.  And then I bought her a comforter.  After a few months, Jeff and I decided we’d like it if she lived with us all the time.

I don’t know that four kids is what my prophet meant by many, but my heart is full with children.

Nafisa turns sixteen this weekend.  My daughter Sarah would have turned sixteen this year as well.  Nafisa lost a mother and I lost a daughter; I can’t help but see our relationship as God’s attempt to restore what the locusts destroyed.

In some ways, it has been more of a stretch to raise a daughter than I had anticipated.  I was the kind of girl who took her Barbie house apart to see how the elevator worked.  My father prided himself on buying us gifts that fit our personalities and interests.  Brenda got perfume atomizers and I got chemistry sets.  When Nafisa met Brenda she couldn’t believe we were raised in the same family.  How did she end up with the sister who buys organic, free-trade, non-GMO, non-Cheeto food and who hates to shop and who doesn’t watch American Idol?

My friend Liz recently told me that it was a revelation when her French stepmother taught her how to take care of herself – how to wash her skin, style her hair, and wear her clothes.  Oh right, I thought.  I’m supposed to be doing that for Nafisa.  I’ve never been one to have intimate mother-daughter conversation, though, and talking about those aspects of self-care has been a stretch.  When you add in that I know even less about caring for Nafisa’s African-descent skin and hair than I do about my own European-descent skin and hair, there is a lot of room for awkwardness.

Still, you can’t be a good mother in general.  You have to be a good mother in particular – to your particular child. So I’ve been giving tampon lessons, and learning about natural hair, and finding the right salon, and paying for products – lots of products.  Before this week I hadn’t spent – in total – more than an hour in jewelry stores.  But my daughter is not me.  And she is turning sixteen, and she likes pretty, shiny things.  So I went to Tiffany’s and bought my first little blue box.

I have no idea if Sarah would have been more like me or more like Nafisa.  And I couldn’t care less.  I spent the entire day today making sure her birthday party would convey that we see her, we know her, and we love her, her in particular.  I’m sitting here on the couch now, waiting for her and her friends to fall asleep and reflecting on what we see and know about her.  What could I possibly have done to deserve such a wonderful daughter?  Nothing, of course.  Sometimes God just makes your fields beautiful after the locusts have laid them bare.  For which I am grateful. So very grateful.

  • Serena

    So lovely, Tara. I’m grateful with you, God is good. I was thinking how weird it is that I’ve never met one of your kids after all our time together, but then I remembered that you haven’t met one of mine! One day we’ll fix that. You’re still a huge influence on my parenting.

    • Tara Edelschick

      Yes, we should definitely fix that, Serena. Miss you!

  • Annette Bannister

    ah, so beautiful. thank you for sharing.

  • Elisa

    A lovely tribute to Nafisa and motherhood.

  • karen yearwood

    I quote a passage from the book of Ruth, “May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the God of heaven”.

  • Loretta Saint-Louis

    Beautiful. I appreciate what you said about being a good mother to your particular child. God bless you in this adventure of love.

  • Dawoun

    What a beautiful reflection of God’s glory! Thank you for sharing, Tara!

  • Y. A. Warren

    So beautiful and so true!

  • http://www.facebook.com/brenda.allingham Brenda Allingham

    Thank you! I’m raising the son I wasn’t expecting. I’m learning about who God made him and learning about myself too….like how I rebel against the perfect Father and yet He loves me, accepts me, forgives me. I am grateful too. Thank you for this beautiful article.

    • http://www.facebook.com/tara.edelschick Tara Edelschick

      Yes. In some ways, none of our children were what we were expecting. And learning to love them exposes so much about who we are.