I didn’t bring babies home with me, when we moved back to our yellow house this weekend.
I brought children, all grown up children, or so they think. I brought children almost tweenagers, children who are independent and fiesty. I brought home siblings, as true a family as any, with all the protective bickering that comes with it. I brought home individuals with preferences and opinions and ideas.
They all get up on their own now, taking turns “in the kids’ bathroom”, using their little hygiene baskets to brush their own teeth and dress themselves and brush their hair and put on deodorant (for those whom it applies). They take their showers on their own, too, now, and don’t even need us to rinse their hair out. They hang up their towels when they are finished, and they put their clothes in the hamper, and they do their laundry on their laundry day.
It’s not the same as when I left here with nine children, half of them preschoolers, and none of them could do anything for themselves.
We have come a long way.
But they are normal, too. There are sword fights with the toothbrushes when they think I am not looking, and a mystery as to who squirted the giant blob of toothpaste onto Mary’s basket, and the issue of how combs and brushes got switched around if everyone was really staying in their beds last night.
But we are trying.
Even Kyrie does her own toothbrush and tooth paste now – and chapstick, which is her favorite – and brushes her hair and gets herself dressed.
But not as often as she gets herself undressed.
Modest is hottest, baby!
My Mother’s Day present this year is coming home, is two armfuls of little ones big enough to care more and more for themselves but still young enough to take turns cuddling.
Nathan and his father moved our storage unit home today, with some help from our friends the Beans. No one else was able to come, and I worried for those guys. Every time I tried to help, I started hacking and couldn’t breathe. I am no longer contagious, but my cough is nasty and painful. I should be over it soon, as the rest of the family got over it in about five days. I spent the day, then, chasing Kyrie to get her clothes back on, or directing where things should go as they were brought into the house, or putting away this or that as I was able. We got it as Sabbath ready as we could, now with the children’s rooms unpacked and kitchen unpacked.
Monday will be books. So many books. Our shelves are up and ready, but tomorrow is the Sabbath and we are grateful for the rest. Nothing will be unpacked or moved around tomorrow. We will make do, and we will rest, and we will play together without the work left waiting for us on Monday morning.
I only have one brief dead-mom crybaby meltdown, and it was quick and private and didn’t drown me. That feels good. It’s not so different than the experience of Alex and Anber, who lived here before but barely remember it, and now come back with the other children who have never lived here at all but visited twice between renters, and now all of us separated from our families but being one together, here, in this home that is ours – all of us adopted and sealed and starting out fresh.
Except for the ghosts, like my mom.
Or their moms.
How do you say Happy Mother’s Day to a mom who lost custody of her children? To a mom whose young son just passed away? To a grown daughter whose mom was lost in a blur on a day just like today? How do you say it to yourself, when you babies were lost in the pains of blood, and someone else’s child smiles before you, except that child is as yours as any other?
What is this miracle, motherhood, and how do I soak in every moment so as not to miss a minute of it?
It’s dirty hands and faces as much as fancy dresses. It’s picnic plates dropped upside down in the grass as much as it is china table settings. It’s boxes left waiting to be unpacked because a game of Ring-Around-the-Rosie was more important. It’s pushing aside the feeding tube equipment because your toddler finally asks for applesauce, and the high five when your autistic son gets it right, and the rare hug from your boy who really misses his other mom – every single day. It’s the gut-wrenching sucker punch when your daughter remembers things you did for her as things she imagines her other mom did for her, or the heart-talking with a daughter who doesn’t remember her other mom at all and so assumes she never has to deal with that ever.
But they do. We do. It’s their story, this tale woven from the threads of foster care into a tapestry of adoption. It’s their story, and our story, and also their parents’ story. It was the story of the other parents, the “others” who really were first, but then it became our story, and will be their story again someday.
Except it’s not their story or our story: it’s the children’s story.
It’s complicated, that Mother’s Day experience. Complicated for all of us.
We could pretend it’s just about us right now, and maybe even get away with it, but we know the story is bigger than that, bigger than us, bigger than now.
So we record handprints of love in finger paints, and we arrange structured visits for hugs, and we all take pictures of our smiles like every other family does during the stressful time of any holiday.
Because we are human, together, and trying, together, most all of us.
We are better than we were yesterday, and tomorrow will be better yet.
But we are mothers, all of us, whether because of biological children, or adopted children, or baby dolls we carry in our arms.
It’s a lot to ponder, in the eternal perspective of it all, but not to be lost in the sacred mundane… one more dishwasher to empty, one more diaper to change, one more bath to give.
Because that’s where the mothering happens: in the tender moments, in the smiles across the room, in the bubbles around little faces, moments where I feel myself acting out tender memories of my own mother as it plays out with my own children, knitting us together through time.
Motherhood, that’s what that is.