It was Mother’s Day yesterday. A day that I become more and more ambivalent about as time goes by. I didn’t particularly like the day before we adopted, and now it seems more and more strange to celebrate it. One of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott, summed up some of my feelings in her 2010 article in Salon.
So, it was a low-key day here. McRuger and Cadet sponsored a rose in my name at a local botanical garden. There were a few cards, and I got to sleep in a bit, but it was a pretty normal day for us. We went to the Farmer’s Market and picked up a flat and a half of organic strawberries. Most of the morning was spent turning that into jam. Cadet wanted to eat most of the strawberries, so he sat on the kitchen floor with a few of his toy animals and a huge bowl of strawberries. Pretty sure he was in toddler heaven!
In the afternoon, I texted MsJ to see if she was up for a chat…and she was. In the text, I told her that Cadet needed to speak to both of his moms on Mother’s Day. Apparently, she was on the bus when she got that text, and she teared up when she saw that I had said that.
We talked for a while, she had a “conversation” with Cadet about his toes and the color of the trees. Then, Cadet ran off for the “ma-cheee” that papa was making (mac and cheese). MsJ and I talked about a few things…her life, my life, and then she brought up adoption. I always pay extra attention when I hear MsJ talk about adoption, I want to know her honest feelings about it.
She told me that she was so thankful and blessed that we have kept our promises to her about keeping her in Cadet’s life. I told her that she’s part of our family now, and we wouldn’t want it any other way. She then went on to relate a story to me that is all too common (sadly) in the adoption world. Here’s the story, in her words, as best I can remember.
MsJ: I have a friend named Sarah (name changed) who placed her child for adoption about a year after Cadet was born. Those adoptive parents promised an open adoption with letters and pictures and visits. On the day that child turned one, Sarah got a letter saying that the adoptive parents had “fulfilled their obligation” to her, and there would be no more contact. Sarah was beyond crushed. She has asked me several times why I got so lucky to have contact. She wants to know how I chose you so well. She cries when she sees the pictures you text and the funny stories you share. Rain, why do adoptive parents do that?
Me: Excuse my language, but some adoptive parents are ignorant a**holes. (Pause to let MsJ start breathing again after laughing hysterically for a few moments).
MsJ: Don’t they know what this is like? Don’t they know how much this hurts? It’s like having a leg amputated. Sometimes things go wrong, and it’s best for someone that the leg to be removed. But that leg is still a part of you. You don’t stop loving the leg. It hurts like hell to let it go. I placed Cadet with you because it best for me and for him, but it’s a pain I can’t describe knowing he’s not with me anymore. Then I get a text from you with a picture of Cadet hugging Em or trying to balance a cheerio on his nose, and that pain stops just a little bit. I know he’s happy, safe, and loved like water.
Me: MsJ, you’re family to us. You’re loved too, just as Cadet is loved. We know that you knowing Cadet and him knowing you is what’s right for all of us. We’re not perfect, but having you be part of Cadet’s life is not negotiable.
MsJ: I just want you to know that even though there’s pain, having you keep your promises has made me trust people just a little more than I used to. I’m blessed that Cadet has such good parents.
Me: I can’t imagine the pain. Thank you for trusting me enough to share that. We are just as blessed to have you in our lives.
By this time, both MsJ and I were in tears and sniffling. She shared a little more good news from her life, talked about her other children, and then asked to talk to Cadet again. I put her on speaker phone, Cadet smiled and said “Ma-Chee, mmmmm” and then “Bye Bye Ma ******** (her name)”…and we all laughed and cried a bit more.
Then Cadet started to get fussy because I wasn’t giving him enough attention and he wanted me to read him a book. And we hung up the phone shortly after that.
MsJ is right, I don’t know the pain she’s been through. I honestly can’t imagine it. I get a bit preachy about honoring open adoptions. And, frankly, I think adoptive parents who close adoptions (without legitimate reasons) are, in fact, ignorant a**holes. I understand the desire of wanting to be the only mother, and remember letting the attachment to that title go. But, never did I once want to let go of the relationship we have have with MsJ.
Cadet has two moms. He always will have two moms. In the years to come, when we eventually die…he will still have two moms. Neither of us doesn’t deserve any less respect or love than the other. Pain (of uniquely different varieties) has brought us to adoption and this relationship. But, that doesn’t mean that the relationship has to be painful. Cadet is a joyful soul, and he has plenty of love to share. McRuger and I have plenty of love to share. MsJ loves Cadet. And I firmly believe that no one can have too much love…especially kids.
Before I hung up with MsJ, I shared with her a story from Cadet’s week. It’s a story that defines what kind of kid he’s becoming. It’s a story where I can see how much love Cadet has, and how MsJ’s love and our love are shining through him.
We were taking Cadet on a walk (he was riding his bike). The intention was to go to the park, but it was loud and full of people. So, we started to walk through the park, and get to our normal walking route on the other side. There were tons of kids playing, yelling, screaming, laughing. Cadet, almost immediately, fixed his attention on a girl across the park. She was about 10 or 11, alone, sitting on the ground, against a tree. Her hoodie was up, and her head was down. Everything about her screamed sadness and loneliness. With no prompting, Cadet rode his bike directly to her, ignoring the other kids. He stopped right in front of her. He sat quietly for a moment. And then he said “Hi” and waved his hand. She didn’t look up. He sat on his bike quietly for a moment, then waved again and said “Hi”…just a bit louder. She still didn’t look up. Cadet started to wave his frantically at her, saying “hi” over and over. It took a minute or so, but she finally looked up. Cadet stopped his frantic waving and gave her a huge smile. He said “Hi” one more time. She took a moment, and gave Cadet a smile and waved back. Cadet gave her another smile, said “bye” and rode off. The girl watched him go, and as she put her head again, she had a smile on her face.
I could be cynical and say that this was just part of Cadet’s autism showing through…and his need to say “hello” to people he meets. But, I don’t really think that. I think that Cadet saw someone in pain, and he wanted to do something about it. He didn’t have the words to say: “Hey, it’s going to be okay” or “How can I help”, so he used the tools in his toolbox: a big smile, a wave, and “hi”.
When I finished telling MsJ that story, she echoed the words in my heart….”That was the best Mother’s Day present I could have gotten”. I feel the same. Love is love. Sometimes love is big, grand gestures. Sometimes love is a wave and a smile. Sometimes love is talking to your child about toes and trees, on the phone from a thousand miles away. Sometimes love is hearing “Mama” again for the first time.
So, I may not be a huge fan of the holiday…but I’m a huge fan of love…and the people it brings together.