My first baby turned 10 today. Ten. Perhaps it’s the double digits, or as we have taken to calling it here, The Decade Celebration, but I have been wandering around the house shaking my head that I have now been parenting for a decade.

There is something significant about ten years of doing anything, let alone parenting, that has given me pause; its a marker at which I can take a long breath and look backward at my mothering in all its beauty and gore (tell me you know what I mean). I have had some great moments and I have had some spectacular missteps, but if I could be gentle with myself I would reflect more on what I have learned. And the learning curve, as with any parent, was steep.

My Top Ten items are the things I would go back and whisper-shout in my own ear as I held my daughter for the first time, so that I would benefit from the knowledge gleaned over my first decade of parenting. Oh for time travel.

Here is what I know about Adoptive Parenting (and just parenting in general honestly) ten years later.

10. Love. Spoil. Smooch. Dote. Adore. Rejoice. {Rinse and Repeat}

She is your child and you are her Mama. Relish every moment.

9. Make the hard choices early.

Specifically for Transracial Families, don’t wait to make the tough choices for your family. If you need to move to a more diverse community, do it now. If you need to move in order to find a more diverse school for your child, do it now. If you need to find a diverse place to worship so your children will have role models of faith, do it now. If you as a Mama need to broaden and diversify your friendship network do it now, it will serve both you and your child later.

8. Talk early. Talk often.

Adoption conversations should happen with ease and with all family members within your home whenever they want to talk. As the Mama, initiate conversations regularly with her so she’ll know it’s a safe and appropriate conversation that she can have with you, no matter what.

Don’t forget to give your biological kids room to learn and grow regarding adoption too!

7. You are the bridge builder – you are the parent.

If there are hiccups or rough patches between you and your child, put your big girl panties on and work it out. You are the parent – work to smooth things out.

6. Bless, love, honor, and celebrate your daughter for who she is.

She is not you. She has her own story, a narrative that began before you, and one she has to carry her whole life. Love that story. Honor that story, no matter what.

This includes telling her the hard complex things about her story and helping her process through them. Never, ever keep the difficult things about her story from her.

5. Find the resources she needs and hook her up.

Does she want role models that look like her? Find them for her in dance classes, art instructors, science nerds, and moms. Does she want to see herself reflected more in television, movies, and books? Ask, resource and figure it out. Does she want an adoptee mentor group? Find one and work it into your family’s schedule. Work, resource others, and figure it out.

The best advice I ever received was from a Jamaican friend at church. She said, “If you can’t find what your daughter needs nearby, get in your car, and drive. Its that important.”

4. Don’t be stupid. Get help.

There are so many who have traveled the road you are now on. You don’t have to figure it all out on your own. Join an adoption support group. Get to know other adoptive moms and families who get it. You’ll need them all for this journey.

3. Always get the jump on others.

Advocate, advocate, advocate. Volunteer and initiate conversations about positive adoption talk with her teachers, in her classroom, with her dance instructors, Sunday school teachers, and other moms who are often around your child. Don’t let them make your child uncomfortable first – have the conversation before that could happen.

2. Chill out about adoptive parenting.

Don’t only live in your head. Rest. Read. Give yourself a break. You are doing your best. Just relax, PLEASE.

1. Love. Spoil. Smooch. Dote. Adore. Rejoice. {Rinse and Repeat}

She is your child and you are her Mama. Relish every moment.