“I hate you! You’re not my real mom!” If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard that over the last 33 years of parenting a houseful of children, well, I could at least have a nice dinner out. Maybe take a vacation.
How about these? “My real mom would not make me do chores/eat my vegetables/go to bed on time…”
Color me not moved. I can’t remember the time when the first child hurled hate my way, but I do remember it stung. My husband, Greg, reminded me that I was “safe,” that they could take out their angsty emotions on me and I would still love them, still be there for them. It’s true.
It’s not really about me. I can understand that. Adoption always involves loss and children often are not yet able to process all of the complexities, so they lash out. Sometimes, it was my adopted children accusing me of not being their “real mom” and replacing me with their fantasy mother who would make all their wishes come true. But sometimes hearing “You’re not my real mom!” is just normal, you know? Because our non-adopted children did it too.
By the time I got to kid #10 or #12 telling me they hated me for making them do chores (the most frequent reason), I would sometimes be a grownup and reply politely that I loved them and to please go do their chores. And sometimes I would be an adolescent, roll my eyes and say “Is that all you’ve got?” After all – I’ve been in politics for 20 years and my kids have nothing – and I mean nothing – on the trolls that taught me new words as they expressed their thoughts on my political views.
It’s not only my kids who question “realness,” either. “Which kids are your ‘real’ children?” Well, kind sir, they all are. (My answer for the last 30 years.) Sometimes, adults who should know better continue to push the issue. “No, you know what I mean – your REAL ones.” I say, “Yes, I know what you mean and they all are.”
So what about birth moms, foster moms and step moms? Yep. They’re real moms too. It doesn’t require biology to be a “real mom.” It takes love and time and service. It takes trying over and over and over again. It takes patience and forgiveness and repentance and help, both Divine and earthly. It’s hard. It’s messy. It’s infinitely frustrating. And, it’s so worth it.
There’s a quote from the Velveteen Rabbit about what it takes to be real that fits moms so well. It’s a bit long, so bear with me.“
“‘What is REAL?’ asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. ‘Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?’
‘Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’
‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.
‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.‘
‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up?’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’
‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily or have sharp edges, or have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.’”Velveteen Rabbit
So here’s to all the REAL moms, with REAL kids. I see you. I feel you. I love you. And I honor you in all your messy wonderful realness. On the days when the you-know-what gets really real, go take a nap or eat some chocolate and remember – it gets better.