Mother’s Day came and went recently, and neither of my boys have their mom in their life. One has not seen his mom since he was two. The other lost his mom nearly two years ago. It is a day that can invoke so many feelings in a person based upon their relationship with their mom, or the lack thereof.
I drove to Maine and took my mother out for lunch the day before Mother’s Day, just as I will with my father this coming weekend. Mom and I made a pact long ago to dispense with exchanging gifts any longer. We send cards, and place phone calls, and when time allows see one another in person. I developed a belief several years ago that nothing material you can give to an older person means more to them than the time you spend with them as I visited my grandmothers in the years before their deaths. One grandmother passed away ten years ago next month, and the other just a year ago now. I miss them both terribly.
Father’s Day is coming this Sunday. I’m not looking for breakfast in bed, or a new tie, or one of those elementary school clay ashtrays with enough cigarette holding places for 700 smokers to come to my home at one time. I don’t want cards from the kids, or ‘excellent behavior’ or a new drill….or anything like that. I want to spend the day with them and enjoy them and find a million new reasons to be grateful that I have the chance to be called ‘Daddy’ by such wonderful little men.
My adopted son has been asking many questions about his mom recently. I’ve been able to tell him some information, such as when her birthday is, how old she is, and what her first name is. I know more, though we have no contact with her. We have no baby pictures of him, unfortunately, and this fact has always made me sad whereas we likely never will, due to his infancy foster placement that went very awry and was terminated on very short notice. Whereas he went into foster care at three months of age, he also carries no photos of his biological family.
When my son asks questions about his mother, I answer him honestly in terms of not knowing where she is, or how to reach her. He of course is curious about her. He of course wishes to know where, and who, he comes from. She and her life are not part of my story, nor of ‘our’ story as a father and son, but she is part of ‘his’ story, and always will be.
Some adoptive parents (one in particular that I know) have a great fear of adoptive children finding their biological family….it’s a fear of ‘losing them’ to their biological parent(s). They feel threatened by the idea of it. I don’t share this fear. I only fear that finding them will perhaps hurt him….and not give him the answers he might be looking for….or perhaps will…and they will be answers he isn’t prepared to handle. My own sister, before her death, found her biological siblings, and learned the reason why she was placed for adoption. I think in ways it did her more harm than good to know the truth.
I suppose one day when he’s older my son might choose to find his biological family. In our technologically advanced society, it won’t be that difficult.
My other child, the nephew I am raising, has been talking a lot about his mother recently, and having grown up with her I have many stories to share…..and he has his own memories as well. He has stories, some real, some embellished, that he’s been sharing lately. It’s helping him through the grieving process right now and accepting her loss.
In being supportive and compassionate and talking to him about his mom, and the loss of her, I have to bear in mind that this is, in a different way, a similar loss for my adopted son. With all the attention and love I am pouring into the child whose mother has died, I can’t overlook what this could be raising for the other child who hasn’t seen his mom since he was two. No matter how much time and care I give to one child, the other child is bound to be affected by hearing all the ‘mom’ stories being relayed now.
My other child has no such stories. He cannot tell you what his mom looks like, nor what her favorite color is. He can’t talk about walking to the store with her and picking raspberries from a bush and eating them, nor relate trips to the park and playground with her and how much fun he had. I have never been able to tell him to close his eyes and picture her in his mind when he’s missing her at night, and telling him to hold her there in his mind and keep her with him while he goes to sleep.
I have a love/hate relationship with the internet. I find all the phishing and identity theft and scamming completely sickening and wonder why people can put so much effort into making the world more difficult for others….rather than doing something with their computer savvy to make it better? I just don’t get it, and don’t think I ever will. But when I find a two minute video online that allows me to fix (myself) a minor plumbing issue without calling anyone or spending a cent….I worship at the altar of the almighty WWW.COMToday I did some digging, on the internet, and was able to locate a picture of his mom. It’s not terribly focused or fancy…she’s sitting in a chair with her feet up, smiling at the camera. It took some effort to locate it, as she’s not active on social media (that I can find), but once I found this photo, the only one I could, I only had to look at her eyes to know I’d found the right person. They are the same as my son’s eyes. The likeness is unmistakable.
I decided to give my son a gift for Father’s Day, a little early, instead of anticipating anything from him. I printed off the picture and put it in a frame for him. I will give it to him later on when he’s home from school, and tell him that the woman in the picture is his mom. I suppose it will raise several questions for him about where I found it and if there are any others and why can’t we call her….I know the can of worms I’m potentially opening with this. I know that it could give him some pangs of missing her and feeling sad that she’s not a part of his life.
More than anything, I hope that it gives him some comfort to at least look at her picture and see her face, smiling, and see the woman who gave him life. At some point he may learn things about her that upset or sadden him, but at least for now he has something very real to hold onto, her photo, and look at and let his seven year old mind conjure up whatever stories and whatever life he wishes to ascribe to her.
It’s not my job, as an adoptive parent, to ever try to lessen the importance of where he comes from. It’s my job to focus on where he goes. That’s the promise I made, and the job I accepted….the hardest and most rewarding job I will ever have. I hope that in giving him this gift I am steering him in a positive direction in coming to terms with his ‘story’ when he learns it all eventually. I hope that if and when he does go looking for more answers, or even for his mom, he will realize that he has my full support in doing so, and I won’t try to stand in his way, and that he will recall this piece of the puzzle and where he got it, and know that I’ll be there for him to help him find the rest…and love him through whatever he finds.
I’m not giving this gift to my son to hurt or confuse him. I’m giving it to him to show him (as I try to all year round) the depth of my love for him…that being his father means more to me than I can ever express, and that I want him to have the happiest life he possibly can, and to find all the answers to life’s questions, to his questions, and especially one of the biggest questions of all….who his mom is.
I give him this gift because no matter what he chooses to do with it…to put it on his bureau or on the fireplace mantle or tuck it under his pillow at night or toss it into a drawer and never look at it again….I want him to have his answers, age appropriately….and that having something of his mother with him in no way lessens or ‘threatens’ our relationship whatsoever. She’s his mom….for better or for worse….whether she’s a part of his life or not. Nothing I ever say or do will change that.
She brought him into this world…..I will help guide him through it. I will give him this gift with a full heart and hope it means something very special to him. Then I’ll hug him, and tell him I love him, and how happy I am that I get to be his dad, and know how much he thinks about her, especially right now, I wanted him to have something of her….I wanted him to have this gift…a picture of his mom.
Being his dad is the gift I gave to myself.