Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Other Mommy, and Why It's Important to Love Her

Oh my gosh, I can't express how much
I love this kid!  Is he the cutest, or what?!
It’s 4 a.m. and I just spent a half an hour helping my sweet son go back to sleep.  These are tiring, yet precious moments.  There is something about 4 a.m. that brings clarity of mind as I sit there with his little hand in mine as he drifts back off to a peaceful, dreamy state.  These last few months have been emotionally draining for me, for reasons I won’t go into except to say I’ve been sorting through a lifetime of struggles that have, for one reason or another, come to the surface lately.  It’s as if I’ve been shooting wiper fluid onto the windshield of my life and clearing all the dirt and bugs and haze away, and am able to see more clearly.  I wish it was that easy, but the good thing is that it is definitely making it easier to drive.  I had a conversation with D (my son) in the car a couple of months ago.  We have always been very open about his adoption, but he is only three years old, and it’s not like it comes up in conversation all the time.  He doesn’t understand the concept at this age, and frankly, we are busy living life and it just isn’t a topic that comes into everyday life, as we go to the park and have dinner and read books.  So months pass, and I started to realize that I didn’t want to have a big sit down discussion with him one day to say “hey, you’re adopted”.  My goal has always been that he just knows.  I want him, when he’s older, to be able to say “I’ve always known I was adopted”.  I don’t want there to be a moment he found out, as if it was a deep dark secret we were keeping from him. Children think secrets mean something is wrong, and more specifically, wrong with them, and I never wanted him to feel that there was anything wrong with the way he came to us.  I am learning that this is easier said than done.

Think about it.  How many times, and at what age, did you sit your child down and discuss conception and their birth with them?  And is it something you worked in to their everyday lives?  Probably not.  Anyway, one morning, a few months ago, I started to think that I needed to make more of an effort to slip it casually into conversations, so it just becomes knowledge.  I have done this before, but that’s easy when they are two.  When they are almost four and able to have conversations and ask tons of questions but not yet fully comprehend concepts, it becomes more difficult because they can hear you and understand your words, but not the meanings.  Which can just lead to confusion, not clarity.  So, this particular morning, we were driving and somehow babies and whatnot came up in the conversation and I said something to him about when he was born and how he was with his other mommy.  I thought it was innocent enough.  But I saw his face fall through the rear view mirror, and I heard the fear and concern in his voice when he said “aaawww.  But I don’t want to be with another mommy!”  And I realized this is going to be harder than I thought.  It was a heartbreaking moment.  It didn’t occur to me that the word “mommy” to D had a wide range of meanings.  It is the person he lives with.  The person he spends all day with, playing and going to the zoo and bathing and tucking him in at night.  In his little mind, he was afraid of having to go do all those things with someone else that he didn’t know.  I quickly reassured him that he wasn’t going anywhere else with anyone else, and that I was his mommy and he would stay with me.  But throughout the day, his concern was vocalized several times.  “But I don’t want to go with another mommy!"  It would just come out randomly.  And I would hug him and say, “honey, you aren’t going anywhere.  You are staying with mommy and daddy.”  

Fast forward to a couple of days ago.  I had decided to leave it at that, and approach the subject later when he was more able to understand the idea.  We were talking about birth and how he was born (or “borned” as he says) in a hospital.  I was sticking to ideas he could understand.  “You were so tiny!  You were just a little, tiny baby and you were in the hospital.  Later, we got to bring you home and you were my tiny little baby.  You were so small and mommy fed you and held you.”  He has been fascinated with babies lately, and he will crawl into my arms and lay down and say “I want to be a baby again”, and we will pretend for a minute or two that he is so tiny and that I’m feeding him with a bottle.  And then I will tell him all the cool things he can do now that he couldn’t do as a baby, and he will laugh and add to the list, and then be happy with being three.  So, this particular day as we were discussing how small he had been and how he was born in the hospital, he said “when I was with my other mommy?”  I was blown away that not only did he remember an extremely short conversation, but that he had put it in its proper context.  And what was even more amazing, was that he wasn’t afraid.  He said it, I said “yes, when you were with your other mommy” and that was it.  He was satisfied, and we moved on with the day.  It was probably a more powerful moment for me than for him. 

The thing is, I want her to be a part of him.  I want him to know that there is room in my heart for her and that I am not afraid for him to love her.  She passed away before D was even a year old, so he will never get to meet her in this life.  But she is forever a part of him.  And she is forever a part of me.  She gave me a gift that I cannot repay, and there is love enough to go around.  One day I hope to meet her and I want to be able to show her an amazing man and reassure her that she made a good choice.  And I want D to have nothing but good feelings towards her.  So we will continue to, age appropriately, talk about his “other mommy” and the contribution she made to his life.  They may not always be easy conversations, but they will always be important.

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