Yah sure, doing homework with my son makes me want to stab myself in the eye with a pencil, and I am an ugly monster when my son wakes me at night for some lame-ass reason like “I miss daddy,” when daddy is asleep next to me. But what really gnaws at me about parenting is wondering what issues my son will have with me when he is grown. What will he see that betrays the mistakes I’ve made as an all too human parent?
Surely, when he is a man, our son will say to his significant other, “Uhhgg. I have to go visit my parents. I really don’t want to deal with them because (fill in the blank). They are such (blankety blank blanks).” And on and on that rant will go. Perhaps he will have a good point. Perhaps he will just be a spoiled brat complaining about nothing. Either way, I know it is coming.
Recently, I had the chance to preview such insight–one that shot straight to the core of what I want to do perfectly. You see, our son is adopted and, while doing everything perfectly as a parent is impossible, navigating a child’s understanding of what it means to be adopted is doubly challenging.
Our son has known that he is adopted since he was able to understand the words of his birth story. It’s a sweet story about how we found each other as a family. We tell him how we looked for him everywhere–in the forests, in the sea, in the sky, even in my tummy–but could not find him, until one day his birth mother realized that our baby was in her tummy. She knew this with all her heart and she was right. She helped us find him and we are all so grateful.
Our son loves this story, and his questions about adoption have been fairly easy to field. That is, until an innocuous conversation about genetics and blood relations came up with another child. Out of the blue, my son began screaming “I am not part of this family. We are not related. You are not my mother. I want my birth mother. She is my family. Where’s my mother?” This emotional tirade only ended because he ran crying from the house and disappeared. After I chased him down and grabbed him with an unwanted hug, I held is eyes, still unsure of what to do in this precarious situation. I am well aware that I tend to mess things up with too many words and complex explanations.
Looking into the same eyes I have known since my son was born, the answer swung from my mouth without a thought from my mind. “I am your mother and I could not have birthed a child more my own. I love you with all my heart, always and forever.”
As he sat in my lap listening to this statement, a smile cracked on his face. I could tell he was trying hard not to let it show, but it was there and I was confused. After that he dramatically, yet half-heartedly, continued on in the same vein, repeating through a fake cry “I am not part of this family.” Then this incident fizzled out entirely and I never heard anything more about it.
For days I puzzled over this whole situation. At first I had been shocked, scared and totally focused on properly handling his newfound realization. But it also felt as though I was being played by some really bad acting. It was as if he had been waiting for a connecting moment from which to launch his test freak out just to see how I would react; like he needed to vent a question in the form of a rant to get an answer in the form of love.
Whatever works, little buddy. Ask all the questions you want in whatever way you want. We will still be here with our loving arms outstretched to you. Your mom and your dad. Your real ones.