“You can’t tell me what to do. You’re not my mother!”
Sigh! Ouch! Hmmmm… I had expected to hear those words someday. I thought I had prepared myself. But my mind is blank. I’m searching my mind for words to say.
“But I’m the only mom you’ve ever known.”
…Inadequate words for a tense situation. How do I explain to my 13-year-old daughter that being a mom is more than simply giving birth?
I think back to the phone call I received asking me to be your adoptive mom and the subsequent nervous anticipation of your birth. I remember the crazy nine-hour drive to greet your arrival into the world only to arrive after your birth. I recall holding your tiny self in my arms for the first time and falling deeply, irrevocably in love. I remember the fearful excitement I felt the first time I changed your clothes before leaving the hospital. You were so small and precious…were you breakable? I remember taking you home for the first time well aware that your teenage birthparents could change their minds and take you away from us.
I think back on sleepless nights, rocking you in my arms and singing lullaby after lullaby until you finally drifted off to sleep. I remember watching your misery when you broke out in chicken pox, nights spent in the hospital when you had asthma, and watching the pediatric emergency dentist extract your loose baby teeth after your fall on the dry and hardened Southern California lawn. I think of the many times I suffered through “advice” from well-meaning aunts, uncles and grandparents about discipline; spanking, time-outs, consistency…all traditional methods for a nontraditional child.
I remember watching the same videos over and over. I hear the stories I read to you before bedtime and hear the songs I sang, night after night until you fell asleep. I smile at your silly antics; mud bathes, imaginary friends, belting a pillow to your backside for protection when you were learning to roller skate, the wonder in your eyes as you examined spiders and bird’s eggs and toads, your pouty face when you wanted to get your way.
I remember kicks and screams and tears and worrying if we would be accused of being child abusers or kidnappers as we carried you through the mall as you tantrumed. I remember questioning my parenting skills when nothing seemed to work.
I think back on the hours we spent in meetings with teachers, principals, educational psychologists, special education teachers, occupational therapists, psychiatrists, doctors and neurologists. Letters were written protesting inadequate school policies geared toward traditional learning styles that discriminated against different learning styles. I remember being angry and hurt for you because the “system” won, then trying to support your disappointment with the outcomes of these policies, finding ways to cheer you up and make you feel smart and special and loved.
Motherhood is the ache I feel when you suffer, the joy I feel over your accomplishments and successes, the day to day moments watching you grow and develop, the cookies baked, the foods served, the bathes given, the diapers changed. It is the warmth of snuggles, the tears shed, the worry deep within my heart if I am doing the right things and making the right decisions for you. Being a mom is all that and more. It is much, much more than growing you in my belly. I am your mom. I grew you in my heart.