I watched The Karate Kid this summer. By myself. I was in a hotel and it came on TV and I thought, what the heck, let’s watch this. So I did.
For anyone growing up with that movie, watching it as an adult is no less thrilling than the first time seeing it. Remembering scenes or character mannerisms that struck me when I was 7, strike me now 30 years later. The way Daniel bangs the apartment building wall after he gets jumped, “I hate it here, Ma! I hate it here! Why can’t we just move home?!” Or the way Ali mauls Daniel with her locks of hair as she grabs his neck after his tournament victory. Or the way Daniel’s mom was always so…happy.
I remember watching her as a kid, knowing I knew nothing about single mothers of boys, but being fascinated with her. There was something about her I admired. Her strength. I understood it even as a child. I don’t know why. I knew no single moms at 7. The only moms I knew were ones who were married. The single moms were always gone, I guess working or something. So I never really had any kind of relationship with a single mom until I was out of college. But before that, even as a small child, when I’d see them in film or on TV, they fascinated me. Lily Tomlin in 9-5? I was mesmerized with her. And it wasn’t the divorced moms. It wasn’t the moms co-parenting. It was the single moms who were completely single. No boyfriend, no ex laying around somewhere. Single. On their own. With no help from a man. Why did I find these women strong? I don’t know. But I did.
I watched The Karate Kid again last night. But this time not alone. This time with my 8 year old son, about the age I was when I first saw the movie. And as I remembered my 6 and 3 year old brothers kicking each other in the backyard and signing up for Tae Kwon Do class after they saw the movie, I sat there and watched my boy do the same last night. Fully engrossed, exclaiming that yes! he’d like me to sign him up for Karate class.
And I cried as now the strength I so admired in Ms. LaRusso I find I must exhibit now in my real life. I am more like her than I ever imagined. Moving across the country with just my son. No mention of Dad anywhere. I remember being puzzled why she was so happy – she was poor and on her own, but somehow she was happy. And that happiness struck me as a child. It stayed with me. And it strikes me now. I admire her strength and the happy hope she carried. I want that. I want that sunny outlook on life. That never-gonna-get-me-down attitude. It was beautiful. I noticed it then. I notice it now.
I wonder if my fascination with single moms in the movies was an omen for my own life. I never imagined in a million years I’d be a single mom. It is quite the opposite of what I imagined for my life. I knew I wanted to get married, but I never daydreamed of kids. Ever. Like ever. Like I’m not exaggerating. I never imagined me pregnant or holding a toddler or driving kids to baseball practice. That thought never entered my mind. Not once. I daydreamed of getting married and having a husband and growing old together, but never in my 30 years before I actually got pregnant did I ever even have a flashing image of having children. Only marriage. And I never contemplated divorce. I knew I’d never get divorced. I was gonna marry for life and I was gonna marry a Christian, and if I was lucky enough to find a Godly man who loved me, that was that – my life was set. Happiness achieved. And now here I am, having been married, newly divorced, and with a child. I am a single mom.
How did I get here?
I often think God gives us the children we never expected to have to teach us growth. I meet so many macho dads that despite their trying, never gain a son. Instead they have five princesses to take care of. I see girly moms sigh as their two boys have it out for the third time that afternoon and look wistfully at their neighbor’s daughter coloring quietly. I see adults who want babies so bad never get them and kids who never want them get pregnant out of wedlock. Why does God give us exactly the opposite of what we want? I don’t know. Part of me thinks it’s cruelty, but the other part knows He’s good. And that He has His reasons.
“We were adopted as sons…”
Whenever I would read that verse, I would always get a real wholesome, hearty feeling. Adoption. That sounded so theologically great, and when applied to adoption by humans here on earth, I would think of how much I would understand God’s love in a new and different light if I ever adopted. If I ever adopted and got to hold and caress a child, tenderly gazing into their eyes, thinking how much I loved them and how much they must love me.
Well, I have adopted, and to be true, there is no sweet gazing. Though my daughter has no issues locking eyes with me, something most adoptees wrestle with, it’s more of a “Who are you and can I really trust you” than a cooing “Ahhh, mommy daddy, I love you, you saved me” kind of thing.
When I compare my relationship to our daughter, I find that I really have learned nothing about the overwhelming fluffy feelings of love God has for us as His spiritually adopted children. But what I have learned is the difference between a pure blood relationship and one that is forced.
Our biological son had no problem trusting his father nor me. The moment he came into this world, we his parents were there. There was no Drew in the world without mommy and daddy in the world. Drew’s world has only included his father and me. There is no world that exists to Drew that does not include his father and me, his parents.
Enter Julie. Her world started with no acknowledgement on either party’s part of each other’s existence. When we did finally meet 10 months later, we were strangers. Us more of a stranger to her, as we had at least seen pictures, knew her name, and had the mental capacity to understand even what was going on. But her world was rocked. New people, new language, new smells, new environment, and what was this…love? What is that? Holding and caring and tending to needs and wants? This new way of doing things was foreign to her. And foreign was and is not welcome.
So today as I was pondering the spiritual ramifications of this verse in light of the fact that I have now indeed adopted a child, and what does that mean, I realized I really just understand what it means to be a stranger. And an enemy. Through the screaming fits, and the temper tantrums, and the not listening and sheer disobedience, coupled with a definite language barrier, I have at many times been at odds with my daughter. I have not felt one with her, or that she is part of me, nor that she came through me. She didn’t. She isn’t. But I’m trying, because that’s what adoption is. And when I compare my relationship with her to the no-issues relationship with my son, I see the stark difference between what a pure Garden of Eden relationship God intended with us is, and now what we have due to that one initial sin that continues to trickle down every heartbeat. How much easier life would be if sin hadn’t separated us. If when we entered the world, we knew God. If we trusted Him without a thought. If there was no locking eyes in distrust and apprehension. What a much more beautiful world it would be. And here I understand God’s goodness through His ultimate intention of goodness, and what we have traded it in for, and what we continually trade it in for – fighting, not trusting, not knowing. Not knowing and believing that He is good and worthy and knows. He knows what I need like I know what my daughter needs. But she doesn’t believe me. Doesn’t believe that I am good and that I love her and that I want the best for her. So we are at war, and it’s hard to be at war with your daughter.