Sunday, May 10, 2015

Classic Jon's Blog: Mother's Day When You Have No Mother

Five years ago, I wrote this blog article about D'Angelo, his first post-TPR Mother's Day, and why we tend to keep to ourselves on this day. I thought I'd re-post it today for Mother's Day 2015:


Mark and I exercised a lapse in judgement a few years ago this weekend when we decided to go to church with our boy. The parental rights had recently been terminated between D'Angelo and his birth parents. He was still our foster child and we were gradually working towards adopting him. It didn't occur to either of us that we should avoid church on Mother's Day weekend. In retrospect, that should have been a big "Duh".

The kids were all called to the front of the sanctuary for the weekly "time with the children" moment. The children messager started out by reading a sappy Mother's Day story for kids and relaying fond memories of her life with her mother. She then asked each of the kids to share their Mother's Day plans for that day. It wasn't until she asked a shell-shocked D'Angelo to start off the discussion that she remembered what was going on in his life. To be honest, if I were in her shoes, I don't know how I would've reacted if I had realized that I'd asked a freshly TPR'ed kid about what special things he was going to do with his mom. What happened was the woman panicked a bit. She began to babble and awkwardly shifted the discussion to past Mother's Day experiences, which didn't help. D' just shut down. She could tell. We could tell. Everyone in the room could tell. It was very sad and uncomfortable. Mark ended up leaving in the middle of church service with D' so that he could privately grieve.

Later that day, Mark and I decided that we would stay away from church every Mother's Day weekend from that day forward. It is unrealistic to ask our church family to refrain from acknowledging the role that motherhood has played in their lives, but it's also not fair to D'Angelo to force him to celebrate something that still reminds him of loss and grief.

Adoption can be a marvelous thing. It creates families for those who have none. But most adoptive parents intuitively realize that our gain comes from others' loss. We couldn't adopt our boys without them first losing their birth parents. We can never erase their past connection to their birth families, nor should we want to. D' will always wonder about his birth parents. Are they safe? Are they alive? Do they think about him? What would life be like if he had stayed with them?

Mark and I have often told D' that we cannot (and will not) ever replace his birth parents. They will always be with him, in one form or another. We are his parents, but so are they. He want him to be able to talk about them, to remember them, and to keep them alive in his memories. We will not force him to make them into his dirty secret.

Anyway, we decided three years ago that we will create our own Mother's Day ritual. We sleep in. We call the grandmothers. We go to IHOP for brunch. We see a movie. And we invite D' to share stories of his mom if and when the moment strikes him. And those moments will come at his beckoning and on his terms. And that's a good thing.

2015 POST-NOTE: Much has changed since this piece was originally written (not to mention this 2011 re-post).

D'Angelo was reunited with both of his birth parents in early 2011. He has had multiple visits with his birth dad and has spoken to his birth mother a few times on the phone. We all keep connected via Facebook. He knows much more about his birth family and his early childhood. He also has a much more nuanced understanding of why he came to live in our home and why he was not able to return to his birth family.

Meanwhile, church is not an issue anymore. D' has grown into quite the skeptic, something that can be simultaneously refreshing, annoying, and concerning all at the same time. He chooses to stay home from church and we have opted to honor this choice.

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