“You’re the best mommy in the whole world,” Molley said several times a week. “I don’t want any other mommies. Just you.”
I can recite that line in my sleep. Molley has been lovingly delivering it to me for almost a year.
If she ended it after the first sentence, I might have believed it was simply the sentiment of a 3-year-old who thinks her mommy is just that amazing, but the second sentence always gave it away.
“I don’t want any other mommies. Just you.”
That part? It was never for me. It was for herself. Reassurance. Reinforcement that she wasn’t going to have yet another mommy.
I always knew. But I didn’t push. I always listened. I told her she was an amazing daughter and that I loved being her mommy and that I always would be her mommy. Sometimes I’d mention that her other mommy was pretty incredible–that she brought her into this world.
Molley would agree. But she always noted that she didn’t want another mommy.
And then one night, over spring rolls at our favorite Vietnamese restaurant, she finally felt ready to say it.
My son Mattix started the conversation–a pleasant surprise because he’s my internalizer.
“Mommy?” he asked. “Did my mom in Vietnam look like me?”
We’d been talking about Vietnam and the language he would have spoken if he’d remained there. The question was one he knew the answer to because it wasn’t a new topic, but I was glad to hear him asking so openly versus just listening to me talk.
After a bit of discussion, Molley delivered the stab to my mommy heart. It was the question I knew would come from both of my kids, the one I knew I would need to answer “one day”. It was only natural. And yet it came from her so much earlier than I expected it.
It shouldn’t have been surprising, I suppose. It came from my Molley. My girl who potty trained herself at one, who asked for a pierced belly button at 18 months and who has the vocabulary of a child twice her age. Of course she thinks about the loss the and the implications well before I’d expect.
“Mom,” she said. “Why didn’t my mommy in Ethiopia keep me?”
Every part of my heart began to ache. My eyes threatened to well up. Maybe it was the first time she wondered it. Maybe it was the hundredth. She’s the most expressive child I’ve ever met, so I believe it was the first that she put it together completely.
“I’m so glad you asked that,” I said. “It’s a great question.”
I ever so briefly ran through the things I always knew to consider when answering such a question.
It’s simple in theory to remain logical. You know what you should and should not say.
But when it comes from the mouth of the little girl whose life matters more than your own a million times over, it suddenly becomes so hard.
Don’t mention money or means to raise a family. If she ever hears you discussing financial strains, she might worry.
Don’t mention single parenting. You believe your marriage is forever, but what if it isn’t? If anything ever changes, she might worry.
Don’t mention health. If either of you gets really sick, she might worry.
Don’t fill in the holes with feel-good information you don’t know for sure to be true. You don’t ever want to break her trust, and you will if what you say turns out to be untrue.
“Well, honey, there are a few reasons moms aren’t able raise their babies,” I said. And then I gave her the information I had in the simplest terms I could in the most age-appropriate way I knew.
She absorbed it all.
She mulled it over.
She asked a few clarifying questions. Ed and I answered them.
“Okay,” she said. “Well, I love you.”
I told her I loved her too.
And then Mattix asked the same. As much as my heart began to ache all over again, I was so glad for our situation. It wasn’t the first time Molley’s openness and questions encouraged him. At a year old, she was completely fine with the fact that she grew in another mom’s tummy, while her big brother, 18 months older, wanted none of it. Only after months and months of talking about it did he come to feel the same comfort with that fact.
So at three, it wasn’t surprising that she first wondered why her mom couldn’t “keep her” while her five-year-old brother hadn’t given it a second thought.
Later that evening, when we were at home again, Molley hugged me. “I love you the most,” she said. “You’re my favorite mommy. You’re my best mommy. I don’t love any other mommies. Just you.”
“I love you, too,” I told her. “More than anything. I always will. And I’ll be your mommy forever. You’ll always be my daughter.”
“But you know what?” I asked. “You can love your other mom in Ethiopia, too. You can love her and it doesn’t change anything. You’ll always be my daughter and I’ll always be your mommy. But she’s your mom, too, and it’s okay to love her. You’ll always live here with us and I’ll always be here for you. But it will never hurt my feelings if you love her too, or just as much, or even more. And it will never change that you’re here with us and that I’m your mommy who will take care of you.”
“Thanks, Mom,” she said as she hugged me. “I love you both.”
“I love you, too,” I said.
“But you’re my best mommy,” she added.
Adoption talk is like throwing sand up into the sky. You know you’re throwing it. You know it’s going to fall down. You just don’t know exactly where. It might all land in clumps on the beach. Or it might scatter a bit. Some might sprinkle in your hair. A little might even get in your eyes.
But one thing's for sure: it goes up and it’s going to come down.
You’ll always throw it up in the sky and you’ll always do your best to prepare for the landing.
But it’s okay when it catches you off guard. As long as you remember that it’s your job to just brush it out of your eyes and recover quickly. Because your kids need you to comfort them when it lands in theirs.