Last updated on Jun 10th, 2021 at 06:40 pm

She couldn’t unbreak them… so she helped to make them strong instead

A powerful story about adopting abused children, and the strength of the mother who embraced this challenge, even though it threatened to break her.

I couldn’t put this book down and am totally in awe of the strength of this mother, and her refusal to give up on trying to get through to her sons – even when professionals told her it was hopeless; even when she realised that she was never going to enjoy the cuddles and kisses of affectionate children, and that the tough parts of parenting would make up the majority of her memories of raising the two boys she rescued from a Mexican orphanage.

Xanti Bootcov is a South African world traveller, who married a man with a job that took them all over the world. In Mexico, she didn’t have a work visa so she volunteered at an orphanage and it was here that she met (and fell in love) with two small boys who would change her life forever.

When love doesn’t conquer all…

When Xanti and her husband adopted two six-year-old boys from a Mexican orphanage, they knew the boys had suffered untold abuse and neglect. But Xanti believed love would heal all wounds. She was wrong.

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‘No quiero una Mama.’ I don’t want a Mama. Miguel looked up at me with big brown six-year-old eyes. I held on to his little sleeves being very careful not to touch his skin, wishing I could hug him

“How do you teach your children to trust love when all they have known has been a betrayal of their innocence?”

This is a heart-rending journey into one family’s experience of adoption as two adopted boys struggle to become part of a caring family and a mother faces the fact that her love will forever be unrequited.

The story takes place over the many countries they have lived in including Mexico, England and Australia. It examines the trauma of parenting children who have been unwanted and uncared for and what it takes to be a family, no matter how broken and battered.

Every parent battles to raise their kids, but adoption brings its own challenges, and late adoption even more

Imagine not knowing what cruelties had been inflicted on your child before you met them.

“My heart has been shattered many times in confronting the unshakeable truth that my children are scared of kindness and do not trust love”

At the heart of this book is the impossible question: how do you love such children?

“Through our parenting of these precious boys, I have learned that it is possible to truly understand who we are and what we are capable of in the face of unrequited love. My boys have given me many gifts, the most enduring of which is that in trying to love them, I have learned how to love myself.”

But They Look So Happy is about love that refuses to give up even in the face of rejection and an ultimately hopeful tale of what happens when love does not conquer all

“Though I have not been able to ease their pain or teach my sons to trust, I have found a way to give them the tools to survive in their conflicted world. I wanted to unbreak them. I failed. So I helped make them strong instead” – Xanti

“This is a heroic memoir by a debut author who learns to value everything she gave – even in the face of rejection”

I was left wishing I could be a tenth of the mother Xanti is – and feeling ashamed for ever feeling burned out by the tantrums of one teen, when her parenting journey was so relentless, and ‘me time’ and ‘self-care’ were never an option for the 16 years she spent trying to make her family work, without falling apart.


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