It’s Mother’s Day. And, frankly, I wish it weren’t. Partly because my Mum is dead and I wish she weren’t. And partly because I feel nothing resembling appreciated on this day set aside for appreciating mothers. It’s unfortunate timing, is all. Maybe tomorrow things will be better. Undoubtedly things will be better another day. But today, they suck. The emotions of kids don’t sync up with holidays. And right now, not only do my kids not appreciate me, they don’t like me very much at all. I won’t go into the details of why, mostly because they aren’t very interesting. It’s nothing that every parent doesn’t go through with their kids. But as with so many things related to parenting older adopted children, it’s different. I’m going to say that again for effect, maybe I’ll bold it: it’s different.
The myriad ways parenting our kids is different is a post unto itself, probably a book unto itself, but for today, this whole Mother’s Day thing is a particular kind of different.
I happened upon this lovely post today and there were parts that hit home and hit hard. But after I read it, I burst into tears because, once again, our experience isn’t represented since we didn’t adopt our kids as babies. Because, yup, as you may have heard, it’s different. I know I’m not the only adoptive mom of older kids who is hurting today. And if you’re one of us moms, this is for you.
I know you.
You adopted older kids because you wanted to have a family. Maybe the age of the kids wasn’t the top of your list of important things. Maybe you wanted to help where you were most needed. Maybe you just didn’t want to deal with diapers. Whatever your reasons, you had love to share. I know you. There is more love inside you than most people can even imagine. And I know sometimes, that love isn’t enough to help your child who has had a lifetime of hurt. Sometimes that love gets buried under the day to day exhaustion of parenting kids like ours. Sometimes that love gets rejected and spat on or just plain ignored. Sometimes, no matter how big your reasons for adopting and your reasons for hanging in there every damn day no matter how hard it gets are, you want to say, “Where the hell is my Mother’s Day?! Don’t I deserve love too?” But you just think it, you don’t say it.
Because you worry that it will look like you don’t really love your kids. You worry that other people will have their every negative thought about our kids confirmed. You worry that maybe if you say it out loud, it will be evidence that you’re not cut out for this, which is your worst fear, trumped only by it being your kids’ worst fear. You worry that, although they are legally yours now, that they could be taken away from you. I know. But every once in a while, you can’t hold it in anymore and you do say it.
Sometimes you say it to the wrong people. Sometimes you’re at the end of your rope and you blurt out “I hate my kids! I know you’re not supposed to say that but I really hate them right now!” Of course, like any parent, you don’t mean it. Well, okay, in that moment, you mean it, but you don’t really mean it. Sometimes it hurts so much that you just can’t keep it in and you let a sentence of that hurt and that need out. And the person you said it to looks at you with pity, saddened deeply by what a horrible person you have revealed yourself to be. Or at least that’s what you imagine they are doing. And you know you shouldn’t have said it.
But sometimes, we find each other. Thank sweet baby Jesus on a stolen sleigh, we find each other. And the importance of connecting with someone who knows what you’re going through and knows that it’s different overwhelms you with relief. You talk over each other, desperate to be heard and to take in everything they say at the same time. You say things you know no one else would understand. You nod your head in agreement so much you think your head might fall off. You’re understood. You’re not alone. It’s going to be okay.
Most days, the support of a friend or family member is vital. Make no mistake, I appreciate beyond words all the wonderful people who make up my village as we do our damndest to raise these children. But some days, you need the reflection of another adoptive parent of older kids held up to you so you can see that, despite looking like a crazy person who could really use a good night’s sleep and maybe a glass of wine or eight, you’re okay. Because as much as any parent can relate to you most days, no matter how hard their kid’s day was, they haven’t looked into the eyes of their child and seen that hurt, a hurt way deeper than any child should ever know. And they haven’t had that hurt balled up and thrown at them, knocking the wind out of them like we have. And they haven’t picked themselves up off the floor yet again and peeled back the armour closing around their heart and forced themselves to look that kid in the eye and say, “I love you. I’m your mom forever. You can keep pushing me away but I’m not going anywhere. I know that’s what you’re scared of, even if you don’t.” Because that’s what’s at the bottom of all this and you know it, no matter how hard it is to see in that moment. I know.
You may not have been appreciated the way you deserved to be on Mother’s Day and I can’t make up for that but I can tell you that I’m here too so you’re not alone. I know you, even if we’ve never met. I know you’re doing a great job, even if some days you aren’t. I know you’re okay, even when you don’t feel like you are. I know you love your kids with a fierceness that most people can’t understand, including your kids. I know some days it’s enough that you have so much love to give, and that, even if you can’t give it to your kids directly, they’ll still get it. Because I know you and love is what you’re all about.
I know your family has so many good days, so many days of just being a family. And I know the days that aren’t good are often due to this idea of a healthy family still being new to your kids, no matter how many years in you are. It doesn’t feel healthy to them, it feels like you’re trying to kill them and they respond to you accordingly. I know how hard that place is to parent from. But I know that you are strong and you are building a family that will take your fierce love out into the world and kick some serious ass with it. I know it.
You might not have heard it from your kids, but I want you to hear it from me. Happy Mother’s Day. Even if this one wasn’t. We can do this.