Life, as it tends to do, has been accelerating to warp speed over the past year. My child, as children tend to do, has decided not to remain a baby. I hate that. I mean, I love it, but I hate it. He has somehow managed to morph from a wobbly little toddler to a full-fledged boy child who is governed only by his thirst for adventure (and the occasional juice box. Never underestimate the power of the juicebox).
To say I’ve been scarce around these parts in an understatement. I realized the other day that I haven’t sat down to write in over a year. What the hell??? Something that was once so much a part of my daily routine just up and vanished. The thing is, though, that I kind of needed it to. See, there’s something you don’t know. Something I have only talked about with VERY close family members and friends. Something that shamed me, at least until I could work through it. Are you ready for it? The big reveal? The horrible secret I kept for a year? Here goes…..
I was a bad mother. Seriously. Terrible. Selfish. Any other negative word you can think of. I’m certain I’ve used those words to describe myself, which is VERY out of character for me. Ask anyone who knows me, and they’ll tell you that I tend to think I’m kind of awesome. But the early days of motherhood? Nope. Not even close to awesome. I flat out sucked as a mommy. Now, don’t get me wrong, I never did anything to jeopardize my child’s health or safety. It’s just that I spent the first six months trying to figure out who this little stranger was. I focused so much on his attachment to us that I totally forgot to think about my attachment to *him*. I felt like I couldn’t relate to him, that I didn’t understand him, and I spent a large portion of each day beating myself up about that. I went through the motions and engaged my favorite coping mechanism of “Fake It Till You Make It”, clinging to the hope that my tried and true strategy would pull me through. And it did (thank God). Quick aside: The whole “Mommy Wars” thing didn’t help, either. Ladies, let’s stop beating each other up, okay? I think we do enough of that to ourselves.
We brought Jack home in October of 2010; it took me until March of 2011 to feel like I was worthy of the gift of him. It took me until October of 2011 to feel like a decent mother. Somewhere around Christmas of last year I finally stopped examining my every parenting decision under a microscope. I learned to relax and cut myself some slack. And here’s the big one: I forced myself to recognize the difference between being an “Adoptive Mom” and just “Mom”. I had to shed the first identity (along with all her insecurities of not being enough) in order to embrace the second, truer one. As soon as I figured out how to do that, I found freedom. It was a profound moment for me, and I wonder if/when Jack will have the same one, although I hope he doesn’t. I never EVER want him think of himself as the Adopted Son. He’s just our son.
We were walking the dog the other day when we were stopped by an older couple who lives in our neighborhood. Oliver the Beagle and Jack are so unbearably cute that they never cease to attract attention, and that day was no different. After the initial small talk (“welcome to the neighborhood”, etc.), we were hit with it. “Is he yours?”. It wasn’t said with malice, just curiosity, but I was still a bit stung on Jack’s behalf. Yes, yes, yes he is mine. Who else’s would he be? He is my son. I tuck him in at night. I kiss his boo boos. I spent hours and hours and hours potty training him. I know how to do the voices in his favorite books. And like a flash of lighting, Adoptive Mom tried to rear her ugly head. I bitch slapped her back into submission, politely answered their question with a strained smile, and we walked on.
From the minute I met my precious little man, I’ve loved him. I’ve celebrated each of his milestones, and I’ve always, ALWAYS been proud of him and over-the-moon ecstatic to be his mother. My own parenting skills, though? Not so much with the trust there. It was truly the first time I’ve ever suffered a crisis of confidence, and it was a doozy. I lost myself for a little while. No, that’s not true. I had to rebuild myself from the remains of the person I was. I did it, though. I took a long hard look at who I was vs. who I wanted to be, and I made it happen. Today I can say that, while I’m not Mother of the Year, I’m a good mom. A solid mom. A loving, fun, (mostly) patient mom. And yes, I adopted my child, which technically makes me an Adoptive Mom, but I think I’ll just rip that label right off.