Monday, June 18, 2012

Other Mothers

Only one day later, and I find I have something else to say. Well, to share really, this time on the topic of relationships between adoptive family and birth family.

T has a relative with whom he was placed when he was a little boy. He was removed from her home, and the history there is complicated and I am not going to share anything about it because it's not mine to share. Nevertheless, from the beginning, it was easy to see that T both loved and respected her, and that his happiest memories were of the good times he spent with her. As I have written before, his ability to attach to me and to others owes everything to her warmth.

Gradually, I came to know her. We took him, and sometimes his brother, for family occasions with her and her kids. Both parties were reserved at first. Eventually, we got close, in the way that people do - you show up, you mark the passage of life together, and that makes you family.

When T started to fall prey to addiction, I told her honestly what was going on. I wanted T to be surrounded as much as possible by a consistent message from the people to whom he was most attached. She was great. We shared many late night text message exchanges using maternal shorthand to shore each other up. She talked about her worries and regrets and I talked about mine. We agreed to urge him to treatment and we both did our part like halves of a whole. She is his other Other Mother.

We check in regularly, so I wrote to her today to let her know that he's not at home, that he's staying in her vicinity, and that he's not doing well. She said exactly what a mother would: we can pray for him, and we can love him, but we can't help him until he wants to help himself.

She also said what any mother who has had to set limits with an addicted child needs to hear: Don't you worry, he'll come when he's ready and know that you have done all you could for now.

And then she said what a foster adoptive parent might only hope for: I hope you will still be part of our family because that's what I consider you and that's what I want.

Amen to that and bless her for saying it.

I wanted to write about this, because I  know that when we decided to be foster/adoptive parents, we found little advice about how to approach birth family relationships. I imagined such relationships would be fraught. I don't have any advice to give, but I can say that what I thought would be terribly complex and awkward turned out to be deep and sustaining. I am tremendously grateful for her. Being united in our love for him and our expectations of him has been a great gift. I remember the day over a year ago when he first realized that she and I were as one, like a two-headed Mom Machine extended over the distance between us, and he felt the web tighten around him and realized he could not play one family off the other. He was enmeshed, but in the same way that a baby wrapped in a warm blanket might be.

I know there are so many situations where birth family and foster/adoptive family are not able to come together, where one party or the other can't or won't extend themselves to build a bridge or where the opportunity to have any relationship at all just isn't there. It's just sheer luck that we experienced otherwise. Sometimes it takes more than one mother to mother our kids, and I love T's other Other Mother.


1 comment:

motherissues said...

I'm so glad to hear he has love and firm boundaries from both his moms. I am still reading here and appreciate your voice so much.

 
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