A letter from adoptive mom, Irene Cox, to her daughter on Mother’s Day. Irene met her daughter Willow through Kidsave’s Summer Miracles program.

Dear Willow,

On Mother’s Day this year, I reflect on close to 4 years together as a family! We flew home from Colombia on Colombian Independence Day, 2 months before your 17th birthday. And what a ride it’s been ever since!

I’ve heard people say that a child’s personality, ideas, and goals are already formed by 17—that a teenager is already set in her ways, and an adult can’t really help shape who she becomes. I’ve heard from people who say that teenagers don’t really want a family—they’re wanting to strike out on their own. That it’s unfair to remove a teenager from her culture or that I should have adopted domestically. My reply can be extensive, but boils down to this: Look at our family! Look at the attachment, continued growth, and fulfillment in each of us!

I’ve heard people say that a person who has lived through so many hardships can’t ever really recover, and that working with a child’s trauma is just too hard. We both know how unfair that is. Kidsave kids don’t need a second chance—they need a first chance. And we know how people can thrive when given opportunities to explore, to be vulnerable, gentle, scared, to be proud and outspoken and brave. We see that important things are usually challenging. The best things in life tend to require a lot of effort…and have the most valuable outcomes. We’re in it for the long game: the rest of life.

As a single mom, I wasn’t the first kind of family you envisioned: one that would also include a Dad and brother. I think we’ve both come to discover that a family is a feeling between people, and a commitment to those people: to care for them, work with them, and be by each other’s side. And though I’ve never had a biological child for comparison, I cannot imagine anyone being more “my child” than you are.

You’ve taught me so much about resilience. Your motto could be, “Okay, so what should we do now?” There’s no agony over “Why me?” It’s all about: How do we move forward?

Every time I hear you laugh, you deliver to me the greatest joy I could ever experience. Thank you for that, and for simply being who you are: perfect.