My older two kids (adopted through foster care 4 years ago) are starting to reach the age where they no longer come home with school made crafts for me on Mother’s Day. It’s one of those little bittersweet milestones that I never realized would sting until it happened. Sunrise sunset, and all those things. At least I’ve still got macaroni necklaces from kid number 3 to look forward to.
I was thinking back on the school crafts I’ve been given over the years, and one particular memory popped into my mind. My son was 5, and in preschool at the time. We hadn’t adopted him yet, we were just the foster parents at that time.
James came home from school the Friday before Mother’s Day grinning from ear to ear. Not really understanding the whole Sunday holiday thing, he walked in the door and instantly presented the gift he had made for me in school that day. A Pansy potted in a styrofoam drinking cup which he had wrapped in construction paper and colored himself.
“I made this for you Erin!” The pride was literally oozing out of him. He called me Erin back then, except he actually pronounced it Eh-win.
He pulled another almost identical flower ever so carefully out of a box in his backpack. “And this one’s for my mom at our next visit!”
My heart swelled. I made a mental note to thank his teacher for not forgetting his birth mom. And for not forgetting me either.
Often with foster care it felt like only one of us got to be the mom at a time. I don’t think either one of us treated the other that way, that just seemed to be the way of the things. On some days, like court days, she was the mom, and I was just some random lady who had to sit on the bench outside. On other days, like sick days, I was the mom, and I made the kids soup and cuddled them on the couch while she had to anxiously wait for updates from me.
There were many instances over my time as a foster parent where people reminded me in a condescending voice that I was not the mother. Excuse me doctor, can I have a copy of his immunizations for school? No, the mother has to request them. Is it okay if we go on vacation to the beach this summer? You’ll have to ask if their mother minds. I think it might be time for a haircut. Don’t forget to clear it with their mother first.
I don’t doubt that people made comments to her that left her feeling the same way. I imagine that some acted like she wasn’t always completely the mother either, because she didn’t have custody. Of course I don’t know that for certain since I’m not her, but I would assume that on more than one occasion she was made to feel the same way I did.
Partial. Incomplete. Not the real mom.
Seeing my son’s happiness over his two flowers was a good reminder to me, that no matter what perception the outside world might give, we were and are both 100% his mothers.
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