As adoptive parents sometimes when we see a glimmer of progress it is often combined with a feeling of sadness. It is an odd feeling to be sad when you should be happy.
The reason for this is often the signs of progress are things which other children never have to face, things which never even cross their minds as being an issue, yet can be absolutely massive steps forward for our children.
This could be something as simple as reacting in a shy way to a stranger where they would normally go up and give them a huge hug. Giving people hugs is adorable, but not when it’s because they have no clue who that person is and want to ingratiate themselves on them to try to increase their safety. The irony being that it’s not only inappropriate, it’s unsafe. To celebrate the fact my son sometimes hides behind my leg when he’s in a situation he’s not sure of makes me sad. Not because I don’t want him to do it, but because it shouldn’t cross my mind that it is out of the ordinary for him.
This year, Mother’s Day has been a bit interesting, and the result of it has given me the same happy-sad feeling. It’s the first one that we’ve had where we were forced to acknowledge it because the school was holding an event. I’ll write about that once the event has happened later in the week (it’s been delayed due to the adverse weather we had recently delaying deliveries to the school). Ultimately we had to challenge the school, which opened up a dialogue about how to handle Mother’s Day.
We don’t want to hide from it, instead we want to use it as a platform to increase our children’s understanding of their life story. They are secure in their home enough for us to do that, and for this I am thankful. So, the inevitable Mother’s Day card making occurred at school, and they asked us who he could make one for. Our response was that they should ask him who he wanted to make one for, in the knowledge we would be speaking to him at home about it.
So, we did. I spoke to our son about his birth parents, about who they are, what their names are, a bit about the origin of his name (the few details we know). As part of that discussion we told him he could make a Mother’s Day card for anyone he wanted.
He picked me.
He told me he decided to make one for me because when they were talking about Mother’s Day at school he was thinking of me. This was mostly because I was the one who would be attending the Mother’s Day event because my work is more flexible than my husband’s.
On the card there was a set phrase “I love you because…” and then the children got to choose what to write.
The phrase my son wrote was:
“You keep me safe.”
It was heart-wrenchingly sad to think that was his first thought about what love was. He’s not wrong of course and that is massive progress, but children shouldn’t have to think that. A child’s default position should be one of feeling safe, for them to notice when they’re feeling unsafe, not the other way around.
He feels safe with us. A feeling that he didn’t have when he was little. A feeling he decided was the most important thing to him about our relationship now.
Thinking that our discussion with the school might have lead them to suggest him writing that I asked him whose idea it had been. He said it was his and nothing to do with his teacher.
My reply was “Oh, that’s good, that means I’m doing my job properly then”.
And he said “Yes Dad, it does.”
Photo by: unsplash-logoAnna Kolosyuk