Let me state the obvious, we don't look alike. My son has been home from Haiti for just over two years now, and we've overcome some pretty major obstacles in those two short years. But just when I feel that one thing is tackled, a new one seems to appear. One thing I didn't consider, is that although wounds are being healed at home, they can be reopened when out in the real world. This imperfect world, full of brutally curious and sometimes intentionally hurtful people. Entering a non biological mom role comes with preparing oneself for the cruelty and curiosity. I had already prepared my staple answer to the ever daunting, unintentionally hurtful question "Where's his real mom?". But when I overheard a classmate ask my son "Where is your real mom?", I didn't realize my staple response wouldn't be enough for a first grader. Before my son had a chance to respond, I felt the need to protect him and jumped into the conversation.
"I am his real mom. His biological mom is in Haiti."
What happened next was truly gut wrenching to witness.
"Why is she in Haiti, while you are here?"
The brutal questions seemed to flow out with a dose of bullying tucked in the mix.
"Why did she give you away? Was it because you were a bad kid and she didn't want you? Is it because you get in so much trouble?"
If an adult had asked these questions, I can assure you my response would have been immediate and far less kid friendly than I would like to admit. But these were first graders, and the shock of the brutality struck me off guard. Yes, I was able to keep my mouth shut, and avoid speaking out of turn; which is a shock for all those who know me and my quick mouth. But, before I could fully process exactly what had just happened, I heard my son speak up.
"My bio mom is in Haiti and I'm here because there wasn't enough food and water for us all. She loves enough to make sure I'm taken care of." He grabbed my hand and held it up with his, "this is my real mom."
Yep, that had just happened. The tears welled up and my heart went from anger to mush. And for the first time in this journey of being an adoptive mom, I felt pride in knowing that I'm not completely failing at this mom thing. This short time at a school lunch visit, brought new clarity on a couple things.
1- Talking about biological mom can be healing for a foster, adopted, or step child. My son has memories of his biological mom, and I listen intently when he talks about her. I ask questions to learn more. Our children are affected by being away from their biological parent, it's vital that they feel okay with having memories. A child should never feel that their heritage is embarrassing, shameful, or a secret. However, it is our duty as a parent, to help our children seek out and cling to the good memories of their biological parents. Trust me, that can be hard to to do. It can be hard to find any positive. But when all else fails, remind them that their biological mom loved them enough to give them life, and that is blessing enough to expand on and assure our children that they are worthy of love.
2- Speaking well of biological mom doesn't make me any less of his real mom. This isn't a competition. We aren't in the mom role to win some cool points by degrading another mother, no matter how imperfect or messed up they may be. I mean really, who of us are perfect and not messed up somehow anyway? By building my son's biological mom up, it showed him that we both play a part in assuring he grows to be happy, healthy, and whole. Every time he brings up his biological mom, I remind him that I'm thankful for her. And I am truly thankful. I remind him that God puts families together. I tell him how honored I am that she entrusted me to raise such an amazing young man.
3- My son is just as proud to have me as his mom, as I am to have him as my son. No matter how many tantrums have been endured, or how many times he's spewed words out of pain. Hearing my son defend the truth, was such a rewarding moment. Knowing that he has the confidence to speak up, rather than cower in the brutal attacks of an unknowing child, gives me peace in knowing that true healing is taking place.
I had underestimated my son, and he showed his bravery that day. He showed me that words don't have to hurt. He showed me that we cling to and speak truth, no matter how many situations bring opportunity for lies to cause pain. He showed me that he knows, without a doubt, that I am his "real" mom and he is my "real" son. And he knows where I am, right beside him in this journey.