Dear Jenny – Happy Mother’s Day. No, really, I mean it. Happy Mother’s Day. I’m guessing this Sunday you’re going to get some cards celebrating how wonderful and great you are as a mom (and if you don’t, it’s only because your husband dropped the ball – not because your children don’t think you’re worth it), however I decided to write you this letter because let’s face it, you think you know the truth about your mothering.
And what you think is that you’re not very good at it.
I’ve laid awake with you at night recalling all the mistakes you’ve made, praying back all the mean words you’ve uttered, and just plain wishing it was easier or you were better made to handle this group of kids. Or any kids for that matter. I know how many times you’ve thought If only I could have the chance to do it all over again, I would do it better. I promise.
And maybe you would do it better. You’ve learned a lot about yourself and parenting and you are a different mother now then you were 15 years ago, right? But that doesn’t really matter, because I know you and sometimes you still don’t think you’re quite good enough.
So here’s a mother’s day letter from your biggest critic. Can you just take a minute you see yourself through my heart?
Let’s start with Emily. Your oldest. Hands down your most difficult. She makes you so angry and your anger is one of the things you like least about yourself. How is it that her actions can make you regress 25 years and fire you up to the point of explosion? You spend a lot of time wishing you had been wiser and more educated about how she needed to be parented. Although you can acknowledge that you are a better mom for her now, we both know that you think it’s not enough. And she loves your mistakes! So she repeats them herself or brings them up in a fight so that you can be reminded of your failures. Sometimes being with her is like looking in a mirror at your worst self. Painful. But why, when she invites every kid she passes in the hall at school to church, do you not see yourself in that? Or when she’s a great friend? How about when other adults tell you what a lovely babysitter she is? Do you realize that the conversations you have about sex, love, Jesus, drugs, friends and all else in this world are deeper and more thoughtful than what most parents have with their children? That’s you. Don’t underestimate how much you are teaching her in these moments. She’s 15 and pretending to not listen, but she is. And she loves you for all that time you spend speaking into her and listening to the nonstop drone of teenage life.
Then there’s Faye. The stakes are way too high with her. I know that. The decisions and medical intervention all these doctors expect from you are hard. And I know you feel like you’re barely getting it right. Ever. Especially this year. You’ve made some mistakes. I’ll acknowledge that if you need to hear it. But come on Jenny, you’re doing the best you can. Now I need you to stop drowning under the weight of her medical care and take a few minutes to look at the amazing, strong, loving, joyful daughter that she has become. You played a role in that. All the times you’ve walked her to the surgery room doors with a smile on your face and the words I know you can do this have made her strong. When she says her life sucks you say Well today sucks for sure, but let’s talk about all the beauty in your life. That has made her positive. Those are gifts beyond measure that you are passing along to her. You’re forming an amazing woman Jenny. From now on you need to let the past go and just watch her blossom into something that you can’t even fathom at this point.
Which brings me to Mesfin. He’s so amazing. Yes, his first year you were a mess. You both had trouble attaching and yes, you were sometimes insensitive to his trauma. But you’ve learned a lot and been able to speak into the lives of other adoptive parents. And Mesfin doesn’t remember most of that year anyway. That’s God’s gift to you. Sometimes you feel that he’s so unteachable and stubborn so you can’t influence his life at all. It’s not true. It’s not through words that he learns. He watches you. And let me tell you something…..you handle your mistakes with grace. Yep, you blow up, are impatient, and occasionally drop an f-bomb, but you always say I’m sorry. Modeling those few powerful words are a gift beyond measure. In addition, he will be a remarkable spouse because he watches you and Jon all the time. He copies you in simple ways of thoughtfulness by asking Jon how his day was when he gets home and offering to help you both with chores around the house. He copies the best of you because it is of more frequency than the worst.
Number four came out the visual carbon copy of Jon, but Will’s personality is all you. Oh my goodness are you two hilarious! However you are always on edge for the train wreck you think is coming. Yes, it took your forever to learn when to shut up. Yes, you were a bad listener in your youth. Oh yes, you got over excited around your friends and maybe overdrank a day (or two) in your life. Yep, a bad boyfriend here and there. So what Jenny? You learned lessons. You grew. He will have to do it all too. You can not stop it and just because he inherited his impulsivity from you, doesn’t make it your journey. It just is. Continue to try and teach him what you know about life from your lessons and then leave it up to him. Focus on what else you passed down. Remember the first Christmas that you no longer believed in Santa? Your heart hurt because you realized that not every kid got presents. You cried. It changed your life, that knowledge that pain was out in the world. Will does the same thing. He’s the most unbearable when a foster kid lives with us because, let’s face it, sharing is hard. But he cries the most when they go home because he is worried about them. And last week when he said Mom, let’s adopt again. My bottom bunk is empty. How beautiful was that? Although I wouldn’t suggest another kid Jenny, look at how you’ve opened his eyes to seeing others in need.
And finally, Iris. She’s like the cheater child. So easy to please and loves you so much. Even when you let her down she forgives instantly. Unlike you who can’t seem to forgive herself for any mistakes. Stop looking for adoption issues. She’s attached to you perfectly. Every child is in your life to teach you something about yourself and this one is here to remind you that Jesus keeps filling your house with children so remember that He obviously thinks you’re doing something right!
Happy mother’s day Jenny! I really want you to know that you’ve got this. You’re doing a great job. Stop being your own worst critic. Let’s celebrate the beautiful, funny, lovely, unique, messy mother that you are. Live in the moment because there are only 10 years left until you have an empty nest. Well, unless you do decide to fill that bottom bunk.