It’s not easy being Dawn

Dawn learned to crawl at 7 months. I am not exaggerating. She had been trying for a while, with various scoots and lurches. But then she observed the trot of my brother’s Pomeranian (a fluffball of very little brain) and something clicked. Again, I am not exaggerating. The poor dog had to learn to move faster to stay away from Dawn’s eager fingers.

Dawn & Evie, December 2008

Dawn has loved dogs from that day.

When she was a toddler, I used to take her to visit a friend’s dog, a beautiful retriever-shepherd mix with yellow fur, about once a week. We would also dog-sit a friendly golden retriever on occasion. It wasn’t until we moved to Skokie that we seriously considered getting our own dog, and we ended up with two, thanks to my aunt. They were absolutely the apple of Dawn’s eye. Sadly, one passed away last summer, but we had already given in to her pleas for another dog … not to mention the guinea pigs and chickens …

July 2020

Dawn’s love of animals is a refuge for her in her storm-tossed inner world. She is emotional about pretty much everything, even while complaining that her life “needs more drama.” And did I mention that she is still genuinely mourning the lack of real magic in the world? The smallest, simplest moment can unleash overwhelming emotion, and we are talking negative emotion. Sooner or later, she will say something that clues me in: whatever this appears to be about, it’s actually about abandonment.

For example, there was the recent dad-and-kids bike ride. Dawn did not want to go. She argued, pouted, cried, and shouted until she finally took off on her bike by herself. Ron shrugged and left with the twins. Twenty minutes later, I was holding a sobbing, thrashing twelve-year-old who was desperate to cross the highway on her own to find them. They had abandoned her, she kept saying. Even though she had thrown an hour-long fit and had left going who-knows-where and …

Yeah. Intense hardly begins to cover it.

Until learning about it from Joyce Pavao, I didn’t know that it’s very typical for adopted kids to have anxiety issues centered on loss and abandonment. It’s also typical for them to be packrats. Both are true for Dawn, whereas only the latter is true for all three of our kids. I credit the involvement of Danelle in her children’s lives for mitigating the former. And I give Danelle and her mother so much credit for always treating Dawn like their own. They have gone out of their way to make sure Dawn knows they love her, especially when it comes to presents – even on the twins’ birthday!

Dawn often feels “in between,” even though she’s the oldest child. She is literally in between child and teen – and she talks a lot about being a “tween.” She is the not-twin and the not-adult in the house, doing the hard work of figuring out who she is. To navigate these years, I would really love to have the insights that her birthmom might be able to share.

As it is, I am so grateful to have Danelle’s support in negotiating the choppy preteen waters. She has stepped up to being a mentor to Dawn, connecting with her over a mutual love of games and reading (they are both into fantasy books) and always offering an ear when Dawn most needs to be heard.

Published by Danelle Henden & Stephanie Lundeen

Danelle: I am an HR professional with a keen interest in psychology and in adoption activiwsm. I work with a nonprofit that supports adoption, On Your Feet Foundation. Stephanie: I am a writer and editor with a background in education (I have taught English as a Second Language, college writing, and college literature courses).

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