Sticks and Stones-Words that HURT Adoptive Parents
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I remember like it was yesterday….the day my son shattered my heart into a million pieces using THOSE words. THOSE words that every adoptive mother hopes she never hears but deep down knows she probably will at some point. I remember the pain I felt, how my mind was spinning with how to respond, how I thought about if I had ever hurt my mom like that, and then finally I thought about what my son must have been thinking to use THOSE words.
I wish I could live with my REAL mom!
Our day was like any normal Sunday. My son playing video games, my two year old daughter was determined to help me fold clothes and the baby was laughing and giggling as he explored every inch of the living room like it was a new adventure. All of the smiles of that normal Sunday disappeared so quickly when I asked my son to pause his video game and put away his laundry. The meltdown that occurred after a simple request lead to the most emotionally charged day for not only me, but my son as well. As he stood on the landing of our stairs and screamed, “I wish I could live with my real mom!” a million things went through my head in the few seconds that followed. I didn’t speak…what could I possibly say without lashing out at my six year old.
HOW!?!? could you want to live with a woman you only met twice as an infant HOW!?!? a woman who used drugs so much she didn’t even realize you were growing in her belly until the day your were born in a bathtub HOW!?!? a woman who abandoned you to suffer the withdrawals alone and never even showed up to court HOW!?!? a woman I had so much anger towards, but who also gave you life and made me a mom.
Within seconds, he went to his room, put his clothes away, and went back to his video game like nothing had happened as I was still standing in the kitchen is utter shock. Wait what!?
I went to the laundry room to
switch laundry cry like I have never cried before. When my wife asked what happened, I just said, “Why does he have to be so mean and always lash out at me? I know he loves me but he uses words like knives.” I immediately thought about why I would lash out at only my mom and not my dad. Why I would say horrible things I regretted…the simple reason was because I could. I knew that no matter what I said to get out my frustrations and work through how I was feeling about so many things, my mom would still love me. She would always be there.
As moms we laugh and joke about how teenagers say they hate their parents and they always think the grass is greener on the other side. We say its just a phase of working through growing up and wanting to be independent, but when you are an adoptive parent it hurts so much more due to our own insecurities as adoptive parents.
After having a conversation with my son about why he said THOSE words “my real mom,” I learned he was just like any other angry kiddo that wishes he could live with Grandma or says my friends mom doesn’t make him do chores. He was upset and lashed out in a way that he knew he could. He didn’t understand the magnitude of THOSE words.
After my cry, I went back upstairs and just hugged him and still said nothing. He hugged me back, apologized and said he never wants to leave our home because he has the best moms ever but he wanted to know if he could see his birth mom.
We worked with a family therapist to help us explore the complex emotions, challenging questions, and ultimately the anger our son felt because he felt abandoned by his birth mom. More than anything, he just wanted to know where she was and if she was safe. He didn’t want to know why she left…he knew that answer. He didn’t want to know what she looked like…we have one picture. My amazing son wanted to know if she was safe. It hit me like a ton of bricks…I was so wrong about what THOSE words meant. He wasn’t angry at her or me, he was scared for his birth mom. After doing some research, we learned she was in jail. We decided with the therapist that he needed to know the truth. His response surprised us all. “Oh, OK. That’s good. She has a place to sleep and food to eat. She’s safe. Can we play a game now?” Wait what!?
That’s all he needed. He needed to know she is safe somewhere. To this day, he has never said THOSE words again. He talks more openly about how he is feeling about not knowing his birth family but he is OK…more than OK. He feels safe to talk about and ask numerous questions about his life-our life because he can.
What I learned is that words do HURT, but we have to look past the hurt and understand the HURT BEHIND THE WORDS. Sometimes the best thing we can do is say nothing at all and give our love.