There are six text messages waiting on my phone. I clear them without reading the congratulatory messages. I don’t feel capable yet of celebrating my newfound motherhood, and we ran away to the woods to avoid all the merriness. Unfortunately, my phone still works in the mountains.
I have always been conflicted about Hallmark Holidays – I don’t like Valentine’s Day either – and the idea of celebrating Mother’s Day fills me with dread. As a mother, I feel like my joy stems from the every day adventures and exploration inherent in child-ness. Sometimes, after an especially captivating adventure out to eat or exploring a bookstore together, I think to myself, This is what heaven would be like. Giggling together, the four of us are captivated by everything life has to offer. I don’t need a day to celebrate this wonder of motherhood – I celebrate it every day. The richness of motherhood is inherent in the (grueling, hard) tasks of daily life. I know a seven- and eight-year-old are unable to truly appreciate the daily tasks, and it feels like Mother’s Day is an exercise in self-promotion.
Wikipedia says, “Mother's Day is a modern celebration honoring one's own mother, as well as motherhood, maternal bonds, and the influence of mothers in society.” I fear that pointing to myself as their mother will remind them to mourn their biological mother.
This week in school, Little Princess was prompted to make a card for someone who takes care of her. LP made a card for her birth mother, listing the many ways Mommy R takes care of her. In this card, LP reiterated the many things that we do to keep her safe and healthy. It was a wish list of all the things that she wishes her Mommy could do.
This week in school, Little Princess was also prompted to make a card for Mother’s Day. LP made a card for us, her moms. She told us everything she loves about us, including our silliness and kindness. She’s so glad she gets to live with us, she wrote.
Translation: She’s so glad she gets to have us as her moms. She also wishes she could have her biological mom take care of her.
Sometimes the girls dream about everyone living in one home. Crammed in this imaginary house lives their biological family and adopted family, uncles rooming with grandmothers, moms living with Mommy. But, most importantly, everyone is there to take care of them. They are filled with love in this imaginary place.
It’s our job as foster/adoptive parents to fill their lives with the love, stability, and kindness they crave. They need to know that I won’t yell back, I’ll always be on their side, and I work to keep them safe. That is the only way we can answer the questions they cannot ask.
There are so many questions. Some of the questions are spoken aloud and followed with amazing emotional honesty. (Dreamer will say: It’s really hard for me to trust you. But I love you.) Even more questions are never spoken, and we must answer them anyway, with our loving words and actions.
No, there is nothing you can do to make us love you less. (No, not even that.) Yes, when we say forever, we mean forever. Yes, your Mommy and Daddy love you. Yes, you can do that and I will still love you and be here tomorrow. Okay, now I’m disappointed, but I’m not angry, and I love you so much. I’m so sorry your Mommy and Daddy aren’t here, love bug, but I’m here. I’m here. I’m here and I love you. You’re my baby and I love you.
It’s weird to tell a seven-year-old that she’s your baby. As I cradle her in my arms, I sing a calming lullaby. Her screaming has reduced to annoyed shrieks as she examines her chipping manicure. I just spent thirty minutes being kicked, hit, and yelled at by a child who is about to blame me for all her problems. (Leave me alone, forever! she yelled before she slammed the door in my face.) She doesn’t know better, and – of course – it’s the role of a parent to do all these things gracefully and not ask for acknowledgement by the emotionally traumatized child.
I am afraid that Mother’s Day is asking for that acknowledgement. I am afraid that Mother’s Day is asking my kids to ignore Mommy R or focus on the loss of Mommy R. I know she loved the Dreamer and Little Princess because they radiate love. They are obviously the byproduct of love and nurturing. I haven’t figured out how to balance that gratefulness and profound sadness at her lost motherhood (and my children’s loss) with the extreme happiness of motherhood and cherished memories.
I honor you, Mommy R. Mommy To My Children, you were our children’s first mother. You have given me such a gift of these two loving, curious, and amazing children. As our children celebrate gaining us, they mourn losing you. Even if you come back into our lives, they will always mourn the biological family they had to surrender. Our lives are forever intertwined with you, and I hope one day we can celebrate Mother’s Day together and honor all of our mother-ness.
I am not yet capable of celebrating Mother’s Day. Monday, the day after the holiday, I answer my texts. Thank you. How are you? I write, hoping that they won’t ask about my Mother’s Day. And, they don’t. I am loved and listened to, and one day I hope my children can feel this way too.