“I don’t like you anymore, and I don’t want you to be my mom anymore either!”
A foot then stomps, a heavy sigh is audibly exhaled, and an angry little boy walks away from me.
It’s a scenario that has been played out before this moment and will be again—in my house and, I’m sure, yours, too.
Someone once asked me that. And, for me, the short answer is no. It stings me just as it would a biological parent or a stepparent or any other caregiver who has poured his or her heart and soul into a child. It doesn’t hurt any more or any less because our children came to us through adoption.
Of course, I don’t have a firsthand source of comparison. All three of my sons were adopted; so I can’t readily evaluate the differences between how things feel for biological parents versus adoptive. But I don’t think it’s such a stretch to say there really aren’t any. How could there be? In fact, think of all the people in your world who mean the world to you. To how many of them are you actually biologically related? If you’re like most people, the answer is some but most assuredly not all. The love you have for a friend who shares no genetic connection to you is often just as rich as the love you feel for a biological sibling—and sometimes, depending on your circumstances, even moreso. Love is not defined or limited by biology.
But the fact that the question gets posed in the first place is what causes me concern–because at the root of it is the still-lingering societal belief that the bond between an adoptive parent and his or her child is somehow tenuous, not nearly anywhere as secure as that between a biological parent and child–as if all a child has to do is somehow, in a fit of anger and frustration, say some variation of “I don’t want you to be my parent anymore,” and—poof!—all the legal if not emotional ties that bind you are somehow gone.
Which is, of course, nonsense.
Most parents understand that the utterances of frustrated children, while needing to be addressed, are not adequate reflections of how they truly feel; and at the root of most hurtful comments is actually the need for affirmation, the quest for the promise of unconditional love.
So, when we set limits and one of my sweet sons is angry and says something cutting, my first thoughts have nothing to do with adoption, with how our family came to be, or with the idea that he may be wishing he were with his biological family simply because he happens to have a biological family. After the initial sting, what I think is “I’m doing my job.”
Occasionally (or maybe sometimes more often than not) my children and I are going to butt heads, and we all certainly have the capacity to say things we regret. But I know anchoring us through any storm on the horizon is love–the love a mother has for a son, the love a son has for his mother.
And that, to me, sounds just like any other family—no difference at all.