Mother’s Day is just not that simple. Take it from my daughter who we adopted through the foster care system when she was four years old. I couldn’t wait to be part of the exclusive Mom’s club that had eluded me for so long. I never tried to have a child biologically so I don’t have the trauma that many adoptive Moms have gone through to get to the point of the adoption. But I did spend many years bouncing between, “Should I try to have a biological child?” and “I wonder if we can afford to do an international adoption?” And then one day, it just became clear what my path to motherhood would be. We decided to adopt through the foster care system. I couldn’t wait for my first real Mother’s Day. I have a great Mom; I had a wonderful childhood. On Mother’s Day, my parents always got their Moms a corsage and showered them with much love. This holiday has always been a big deal to my family. On the year that we finalized the adoption, there was so much anticipation; the love from my family and friends was amazing. I couldn’t wait to finally have my turn. We went to Church and then for lunch at a fancy hotel, all dressed up in our Mother’s Day finery….corsage and all. The celebration ended with a giant temper tantrum in the lobby of that fancy hotel. I guess four-year-olds don’t really understand the unwritten rule about not laying down on a hotel lobby floor in your good clothes and screaming at the top of your lungs in front of all those other Mothers and Grandmothers who are trying to enjoy their day. As a new mom, I was completely mortified. And for the next seven Mother’s Days, similar behavior ensued and escalated until finally three years ago, we had a complete and utter breakdown. It was complete with a forty-five minute heart-wrenching cry with my then twelve year old that left me in an exhausted heap of sadness as my heart broke for her. She was so full of anger, confusion and most of all sadness. She was twelve years old at the time and had already known three Mothers…her bio mom, her foster mom and me. Some things are just not fair….they just don’t make sense to a twelve year old, or a forty something year old for that matter. I’ve struggled; she’s struggled; those around us have given sage advice and shoulders to cry on. We continue to go to counseling to help make sense of it all or at least learn coping mechanisms to deal with such difficult feelings.
The year after the twelve-year-old Mother’s Day episode, we had a counseling session just before the dreaded day where I shared my trepidation and we talked about how to get through the day. Under the counselor’s advice, I decided to not make a big deal out of Mother’s Day as it is clearly a trigger for my girl. It was a wonderful day. We went to Church, ate lunch and came home to a totally normal Sunday afternoon working to refinish some bar stools. There weren’t any meltdowns that day. I know it was still a difficult day for my daughter, but it wasn’t unbearable for her for the first time in many years. I learned that day that Mother’s Day would never be traditional for me and that Mother’s Day is really about the kids as much as it is about the Moms. I will minimize it to make it easier for her and even though I’d love to have breakfast in bed and be showered with all the lovelies of the day, it’s just not that simple. I was hesitant about sharing this much, about being this transparent for the world. But I am sharing this story because my hope is that this might help someone else who struggles with the day. Some have lost their Moms. Some are estranged. Some never had a Mom and some wish they didn’t have “their” Mom. I think it’s important that we let each other off the hook. It’s ok to break tradition and forget about the corsages. And it’s ok to shout from the rooftops if you feel like celebrating. We have a story.
Mother’s Day is about celebrating motherhood, about celebrating the women who made us who we are.
So this year, I’m not celebrating me. I’m celebrating all of the women in her life who have played a role in making her into the strong and amazing woman she will grow up to be. To her birth mom who invested 9 months to create a beautiful baby who would become mine. To the overworked case worker who was placed in the difficult position of supporting her through the transition to foster care and her forever home. To her foster mom, MiMi, who loves her fiercely, who held her, changed her diapers, made her accountable. She taught her about the love and forgiveness of God and showed her what unconditional Mother’s love is all about. To the Nanas who have shared their wisdom and their love. They have taught her important things about integrity, hard work….and how to sew an apron, plant a garden, and make brownies. To the Aunts and Great Aunts who have wrapped her in their love and even though they don’t see her every day, they’ve taught her that you don’t have to be born to a family to belong to it. To the teachers who looked out for her when she struggled academically and who counseled with her on the days when they talked about their family tree. To the ones who taught her that there is a big world out there for which we are responsible. To the Sunday school teachers and the Church moms for giving her a safe place to learn about God and explore her spirituality. She’s still figuring that out, but aren’t we all. To my Mom, who has given me a wonderful example. And to all the other women who have lifted me up, preparing me and supporting me through this crazy thing called motherhood. I’m so blessed to be surrounded by a strong and diverse group of women who teach me every day. I pray my girl has that someday.
So as we prepare for Mothers Day, here’s to all the women, with or without the title of Mom, that make up the fabric of this beautiful child that I have the honor of raising. Everyone has a different “Mom” story and whatever yours is, I hope that you embrace it and take a few minutes to thank someone who has made a difference for you.