She laughed, jumped up, threw her arms enthusiastically around my neck and exclaimed, “you’re the best mommy for me!” As soon as the words were out, her little body tensed up. And then she pulled back and looked at me and I saw it…the look of regret in her eyes. That day, I had taken the kids to the Bethlehem Walk, which was incredible and to gymnastics, where I stayed and watched them the whole time. The night before, I had planned a Minute to Win In themed Family Fun Night. Because of those things, she was feeling thankful and full of love for me and had expressed what she felt. But the words hung in the air and she was wishing she could take them back. “best mommy”
You see, I have not always been her mommy. She had another mommy before me, one who loved her and cared for her. She was 4 the first time I held her, but had been 4 six months before that when her first mommy had last held her. Her memories of her first mommy are fading and with that, comes the guilt.
As soon as I saw the look on her face when she pulled back from me, I cheerfully said, “Yes, I am one of the best mommies for you. God chose me to be your mommy now after your other best mommy.” I felt her body relax and a look of relief crossed her face. Then she threw her arms around me again and squeezed tight.
The truth about adoption is that it is complicated and it is full of loss and it is not easy. The truth about being an adoptive mom is that there is no room for my pride in the equation. If I want to try to compete to be the “best mommy”, it is a competition that only my kids will lose. They need to know that I want them to talk about their other mommy. They need to know that I accept her because they are part of her. They need to know that loving her (even if I’ve never met her) is automatic because of my love for them.
The truth for me is that in some circumstances, this is easier than in others. I don’t want to reveal details about how each of our kids came to need a family, but I will say that 3 of our kids came to us through the foster care system initially and children do not usually end up in that system without cause, so it is more difficult for me to be gracious and take my pride out of the equation in those cases than it is in the case of our internationally adopted children.
Another important truth is that even our Granola Girl who came to us at one day old has intense feelings of loss when it comes to her birth mom. If I allow myself to be prideful (wanting to assert myself to her as being her only “real” mom), I will minimize her very real feelings and de-value my precious daughter. But at times, it is hard for me. I need to continually remind myself that they need validation and permission to feel whatever they feel.
Whatever your true struggle has been this week: a cluttered house, yelling at your kids, battling your weight, harbouring resentment towards a sister-in-law, taking out your frustrations on your husband, feeling guilt over the unfinished lists, refusal to forgive, distance in your relationship with God, feeling inadequate, feeding your kids cereal for supper, having unmet expectations, wishing for something you can’t have, not teaching your kids, skipping church, cutting someone off in traffic, being choked by anger, ignoring your responsibilities, wearing dirty socks because there’s no clean laundry… join in the