In the adoption world, it’s not cool for a parent to think that her kids should be grateful. When strangers come up and coo about how lucky your kids are to have you as their mom, you’re supposed to say, “Oh no, I’M the lucky one.” This is a conversation that takes place when adopted kids are really little, typically sitting in the grocery cart in the check-out line, looking so obviously adopted and cute beyond words. It’s then that the lady in the next line who’s been eyeing you up and down the cereal aisle lets loose with what she’s thinking. First, it’s “where are they from?’ and then it’s “they’re so lucky to have you.”
At that point, when the kids still fit in the grocery cart, an adoptive mom is grateful beyond all possible words. In that moment, it’s true that the gratitude flows from her to them. The adopted children made her a mother or made her more of a mother or fulfilled something, stilled a yearning, made her worthwhile.
When they are little, there’s no question that expecting them to feel gratitude for being adopted is crazy. They didn’t asked to be orphaned nor did they choose to be adopted. For my kids, being adopted also meant leaving their country and their culture. They lost a lot that could never be recovered.
But the equation figures differently now that they’re grown. And never did I feel that more than on Mother’s Day. On that day and in conversations at other times, I’ve felt a deep shift in our relationship. Where sometimes I’ve felt their blame, their anger, and their deep unanswerable longing for their original parents – a ‘hunger of memory’ that an adoptive parent cannot satisfy no matter what she does – on Mother’s Day, I felt their gratitude. And I should. I earned it. They should be grateful. Raising them was really hard.
It makes me happy that we have gotten to the point where we can be grateful to each other.
It changes everything and changes nothing.