Over at Moms of Hue today my post, “The best parenting strategy ever” will appear. In it I discuss how I have been the most enlightened parent ever, over and over again, and how perfect I am. Or at least how I appeared to have believed that over the last millenium of my parenting. Well, OK so it’s only been five years, but a lot of wisdom can be amassed in five years right?
Take Sammy for example. He’s an expert already in many things including but not limited to; ice cream truck locating, bike riding, skateboarding, Michael Jackson moves, potty talk, under the table little brother kicking, “air plane paper” launching, light saber swinging, vegetable consumption avoidance maneuvers, fishing pole casting in the living room, and how not to sleep in his own bed. Oh, and writing his name, and writing the letters I L U next to the letters M O M at just the moment I am about to explode, or shortly after I make chocolate pudding and am about to rinse the bowl…
I am wondering if somehow he might need my permission to not be so good at having more than one mom. I am talking about Sam’s integration of his birth story and birth family into his life. I am talking about Sam’s lack of expertise in knowing how to tell me that enough is really enough, and it is time for me to let him have one mom for a bit. It is hard to skateboard, eat ice cream and fish off the back of the couch at the same time. That is what I feel like some of his behavior is telling me anyway, and that is not an easy place to be, for either of us.
Backing up: Mother’s Day 2010. We called Sam’s first mom (his idea) to leave a message for her. She didn’t call back. He acted out. I worried that I set him up for a loss of horrible magnitude again (he called and said I love you, and the mother who gave him up once, gives him up again metaphorically). I worried that I set her up (was it too much for her to hear his voice? Did she need to let go more than I was letting her? Was she OK?). I had my own anger and frustration and grief come up again; Why can’t I just be the mom for once? And, where the hell does Marcel fit into all of this? How are his needs being met, or swept under the rug? What could I have done differently in the prepping? Like what if I had said; Yes we can call her, but let’s think of all the possibilities here. A)She could be very busy these days. B)Like me, should could have misplaced her phone! C)She could call us back right away, or in a few weeks. D) She could love to get our message, and not need to call us back. And so on…
Flash forward: the therapists office. I see a family therapist for a few session over a few weeks every six months or so for a tune up. It’s just me, for now, but since we focus almost exclusively on parenting/family matters I call her that. It makes me feel like I am less of a whack job, and an even more perfect parent that way. In the middle of the story, I stop and ask her; “Is it possible that Sam really needs me to stop pushing his first mom into our lives so much?”
Talk about an ah-ha that bucks in the face of everything I thought I knew about best adoptive parent practice! What I realized talking to her, is that Sam is so othered all the time. He is Black and I am white. He does not have a dad or two live with him moms, or another parent where everyone else he knows does. He is adopted, and although there are several other adoptees at his school, the fact is, that it is not the norm, and when he enters kindergarten in the fall, the ratio of adopted kids to biological kids will probably be pretty low.
But what I am getting at is something even larger- when I really started talking about HIM and ME and the world he is inhabiting, I wondered if he may need a break from being asked to hold onto so much all the time. Have I done such a diligent job normalizing his birth family experience, that I have overlooked the normalcy of his day to day family experience too? Could some of his acting out, and anger and over all disconnect at times be related to the fact that the kid just wants me to be his mom, his only mom for a while? In the same way his brother does? Am I pushing the “open adoption” agenda too hard at times? When is it OK to leave well enough alone, and let him initiate the next conversation, the next request?
Post script I have been working on this post for over a week. During this time three things have happened that I can’t separate out for data analysis purposes: a) Instead of going to school 5 days a week, he has been going to school two days a week as I am off for the summer. b) One of those five days, his brother does go to school, so Sam and I can have an entire Mommy-Sammy day once a week for the summer. C) I have been very consciously shifting my own thinking, and allowing myself fully into my roll as his only mom. This may sound weird, and it definitely begs another post, but for today I’ll leave it there. Result? Sam has been one chill dude of late. OK so he’s sleeping more, and playing more too (the real answer huh?) but the change is BIG. Our ease is palpable.