This Mother's Love

My boys are in Knoxville tonight. That's six hours away from me. And that means my sweet husband is six hours away from where he belongs, which is right beside me here in the bed. It means my funny little boy is nowhere I can hug him tightly and say our nightly, "See you in the morning?" before he heads up to sleep. Bella is sound asleep, and my boys aren't here.

I miss them. Javi called me tonight to tell me goodnight and that he missed me. He told me all about the Vols game that he got to see from right inside Neyland Stadium. He told me about riding his bike around the campground, throwing out his first cast with his new pole in the campground's pond, spending time with his Uncle Jim, and his excitement to go to Gatlinberg tomorrow.

And then I tried to get off the phone because Bella was crying. He said, "Mama?" I answered him, "Yes, baby?" He then whispered, "I really do miss you. Can you come have a sleepover tonight in my bed?" It just broke my heart. Between my two children, this sweet and smart little boy is the one who needs me most, who craves my attention and affection, the one who would be devastated if something were to ever happen to me.

And God do I love him. His big brown eyes, his wide smile, his cackling laughter, the way he sucks his teeth and jerks his shoulders around when he's upset, how he is only 65 pounds but sounds like a herd of elephants when playing upstairs by himself, the crazysparkle in his eyes when he loses the battle against impulsivity, how he bursts through the door after he gets home from school, the celebratory dance he does when he brings home a good performance report, how he lingers against me after hugs, how he gives me 800 kisses a day, the hope in his eyes when asks to "sleep over" with me and Billy... and the list goes on.

I have gotten many emails and a comment about my earlier post in which I expressed my feelings of inadequacy and guilt surrounding the way I parent (and came to parent) this amazing little soul. I'd like to explain something on the chance that he does one day read my blog and care what his mama had to say:

I strongly believe that Javi will be a better person for having a mother who examines herself and her actions, who expresses her fears in hopes that by giving them a voice she can better work through them, and who isn't afraid to admit that she doesn't have it all together -- but that she loves her children so much she is willing and determined to keep trying.

My post wasn't about not loving my son. From the minute he was born, I have cherished the gift of him. I was in that delivery room and I was so scared, so overwhelmed, so overwrought with the enormity of parenting. Where most adoptive parents jump through ever-higher hoops and wait years for their children, my preparation period lasted exactly three weeks. One day I was a grad student in Boston partying all night with people I may or may not have known, and the next day I was preparing to bring home a baby... in a week.

Fortunately my baby decided to wait 10 days so I could attend his birth. I was the first pair of arms to hold him and the first skin he nestled against. I was his everything and I tried so hard to live up to that reality.

But here's the truth: There was another family for him. It was all lined up -- the paperwork was signed, the family was planning, and my child was being prayed for by another mother. Three weeks before their baby came home to them, I stepped in. My child's mother is my older sister. She kept her pregnancy secret and then swore she was doing a closed adoption and there was to be no discussion.

I never stopped to consider that other family, what they could provide, what love and excitement they had for their new addition, how long they prayed, what it would feel like for them to finally have their child ... and the potentially crushing disappointment of losing him. I was too young to understand that stopping the adoption meant taking a child from two mothers, not just one.

And now that he's mine -- and I'm older, more experienced, and more compassionate -- that third mother stays with me. My sister gave me a priceless gift when she put her son into my arms. She entrusted him to me and put her own hurt away until she could grieve in private. But who comforted that other mother? What did her heartbreak feel like, and could I have prevented it?

I especially think about her when my patience is low or when I feel that I am just not strong enough to parent a child with Javi's particular brand of impulsivity, inattention, and anxiety. Maybe she is a patient, gentle woman who wouldn't lose her temper. Maybe she would smile through her tears and whisper to him, "We'll get through this together" whereas I shut down and say "Go to your room!" Perhaps she'd cradle him, let him rest his head on her chest, and just be silent with him as the anxiety, frustration, inability to stay still course through him, whereas I tell him that's enough, sit over there, stop draping yourself over me.

I want to be the woman I imagine that third mother could've been. I want to be patient and gentle and kind. And on a night like tonight when my first born is six hours away from me yet needing his mama, I want to try even harder. I build my resolve to be the mother he deserves -- even when it feels like an insurmountable goal.

And that's what I want him to know when or if he ever decides to learn more about the woman and mother I am. My love for him is so huge, so powerful, that I would do anything to make his childhood an experience that creates a strong and enduring foundation for his adulthood. I want him to think back on these years and say: I was wanted. I was happy. I was loved.


  • Anonymous

    I really appreciate your honesty regarding your feelings on parenting Javi. My children are my biological children, and there are plenty of days that I have half-joked/half-seriously suggested giving them up for adoption, if only because I fear that I can't handle, or that I don't have, what it takes to raise them on my own. Parenting is this huge, enormous, overwhelming responsibility many days. Sometimes it has rewards, and some days it is nothing but struggle.

    I frequently compare myself to my mother, wishing that I had her patience when it came to dealing with my children. But I've come to realize over the years that even mom had her bad days. I think I compare myself to the best of her, as you are likely comparing yourself to the best of the other mother, and to a life you imagine that could have been "better" for Javi. The truth is that we're all imperfect, we'll all make mistakes in our parenting, and we just have to focus on doing and loving in the best ways that we can. I can only hope that my children will remember the best of me.

  • Issa

    I think this is a beautiful post. I wish I had more words, but I'm light on them lately.

    Just know, I think the world of the way you put this out there.

  • AuNaturaleBeauti

    Just by reading your post I can tell that you are a wonderful mother. If you did not love your son you would not even care to address these issues. Javi was defiantly blessed by god. He was blessed with a mother who loves, and cares for him.

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