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Mother’s Day — A Tale Born of Loss

This post was originally posted on Medium and is generously provided with permission by the author.

I embrace my sons

Mother’s Day. Always a challenge because it’s not straight ahead.

Yes I am my kids’ adoptive mother; they’ve been with us since they were four and six, but I am only in this role born of their loss. I embrace my sons, but they have always been ambivalent in their attachment to us.

As with any mom who is missing a child, any child or adult who has lost their mom, or someone who never had a mom, for many, Mother’s Day re-opens wounds that never fully heal.

My son’s birth mother has to go through this every year. When I see the cards and ads and hype that start weeks in advance I hurt for her. I cannot even imagine.

As for myself, nearing Mother’s Day I brace myself for the usual tangled web of dysfunction and disappointment.

One year when the kids were younger, I fled to a nearby bed and breakfast because I knew my expectations would be shattered. (I was still buying into the notion of Mother’s Day, even though I didn’t become a mom in the usual way.)

The kids wouldn’t want to do anything for me or even think of it at all and my partner would be trying to figure out something at the last minute to appease me.

It was then I decided to make it my own damn Mother’s Day.

Gerbera Daisys
Photo Credit Margaret Kramer

At the guest house, I slept in a clean bed and enjoyed a beautiful breakfast prepared by the kindly hosts. I felt restored and vindicated, which diffused the disappointment.

I also learned time to myself was the best gift of all.

Another year I decided that if no one wanted to do anything to mark the occasion, I would volunteer with women who really were alone and could use some cheer. Thus started my tradition of volunteering at a local Mother’s Day brunch.

The attendees were mainly low income seniors, most without families. The event was held in a large banquet hall at a fancy hotel downtown.

Everything was beautifully arranged, with linens on the tables, real china plates, lovely food, name tags and corsages for all. The ladies would arrive early, some with walkers and wheelchairs, dressed in their finest, adorned with hats and costume jewelry. It was a wonderful event.

Over the years, I was able to recruit my family to accompany me a few times. My kids helped set the tables, escorted guests to their places, collected tickets for the raffle and engaged with the women, who enjoyed seeing children in their midst. It made us all feel good, and it made my Mother’s Day.

Another lesson for me, when you feel discouraged or down, try doing something for someone else.

This year, I wasn’t expecting much — but I’m okay with whatever does or doesn’t happen. I made peace with the day awhile ago. I wrote the boys’ birth-mom a note to let her know I was thinking of her and that her sons have grown to be wonderful young men. It’s a complicated story, but we remain in touch.

Later that morning, I got a text from my younger son, who is almost twenty-one.

Happy Mothers Day Mom. I Love You So Much. Let Me Know If You Want To Hang Out.

These are the sorts of texts I save.

I checked back with him. Now he lives with his best friend in their first apartment and works in a restaurant. He invited me over to see the new place, right off the highway up north. He is so proud and happy with how far he’s come.

It is a typical bachelor pad: Sponge Bob decor, old couches, beer bottles. Bad thrift store paintings of scantily clad women and a huge poster of Albert Einstein. An additional touch, a pool table in the living room. I loved that he has inherited my love of thrift store finds.

When I arrived, one of their friends was sleepily sitting on the sofa; she and my son had made breakfast and were hanging out after his roommate had gone to work. They both hugged me.

My son took me to the nearby grocery store and insisted on buying me flowers; bright orange Gerbera daisies, coffee and a Mother’s Day cupcake. He held my arm as if he were a suitor escorting me to prom.

We walked around the ball field and park together where he had conducted all his middle school hijinks. He told me things I hadn’t heard before, which was fortunate because if I knew that, at the time, I would have had multiple strokes.

We sat on a bench, sipping coffee, and he related that someone at his work confided in him that they wanted to adopt kids.

He shared his story with her and added that he never would have been the person he was today if we weren’t his parents.

I often have questioned how we did it — we were so often in crisis mode — but we all survived. I reminded him he is the one making his own life, and his resilience and positivity is to his credit.

When we hugged goodbye, he kissed me on the cheek. I whispered that I loved him the minute I saw him when he was just a little tow-headed boy in foster care. He replied “Love you so much Mom.” He is starting his next chapter in such a positive way; my heart was full.

Later in the afternoon, my partner drove to pick up our other son, two years older, from his place a few miles away. Our son rarely answers our texts, calls, pleas.

If he were less depressed I wouldn’t worry so much. He has had many struggles in his young adult life, often rejecting our help. He also endured earlier trauma than his brother and it has taken more of a toll on his psyche. We struggled to parent him as best we knew how, but it wasn’t always easy for any of us.

Feeling a little nervous, I waited at our house for the two of them to return. I haven’t seen him in a couple of months. I know he is in a bad state after a recent and harrowing break up. But he agreed to join us for dinner on Mother’s Day. A branch extended; there is a bud underneath the fragile exterior.

Finally, he walked through the door, arms out, “How we doing?” Something he says frequently, the way Joey on Friends used to say it.

He was smiling broadly. Same funny kid, like old days. I ran up and hugged him hard. “I love you so much” I said into his ear. Wearing all black, a hoodie covered his head. He was thin and smelled of unwashed clothes, his dog, smoke. He knows it. I didn’t care.

Together we put his laundry into the washer. We sat out on our porch and talked. All three of us. About jobs, school, housing, how smart and capable he is, his birth family, his time away from us during the toxic relationship, his struggles with ADHD.

He wants to get help for this now. He might revisit going to school or getting training/licensed in one of the trades. Possibly as an electrician. We don’t want to overdo it for fear of jinxing things, but we are quietly happy. He will be okay.

He took a very long shower at our urging. We supplied him towels, shampoo, soap, razors, whatever he needed to feel better. While he was cleaning up, I went to the nearby Goodwill.

I bought him socks, T-shirts, flip-flops, sweats, shorts, even chewing gum — he is thin and so it is hard to find pants in his size. He is particular, he prefers black denim skinny. No exceptions. I did find some that were just right — victory!

He was sincerely grateful for everything. We want to keep the door open so he knows we are a safe harbor even if the rest of the world beats him down. Even when he pushes us away, we will remain steady.

At a local pub, we had dinner — burgers and beer. We talked like old times. Listened to some classic rock music in the basement. We could joke around. His humor is still intact. He is so damn funny and intelligent. Like his brother, he too is resilient.

As they mature, I see they have kind and loving hearts despite all they’ve been through. I am so grateful to have them as part of my life, especially now.

Unlike some moms, whose attachment is secure with their children from day one, our connection has grown only over time.

In our family’s beginning, there was rejection, anger, and hurt lasting all the way through their turbulent adolescence. Early trauma had marked them — it wasn’t personal.

Years and years of trying to remain loving followed. Being open as parents when all had gone to hell. We were far from perfect. But we never gave up. None of us did.

I can feel the healing beginning. Finally, I had a real Mother’s Day.

© Margaret Kramer 2024


  • Margaret Kramer

    Writer, social worker, mom, caregiver, feminist and more. Bicoastal, grateful for family and friends, member of the Inner Peace Corps, thrift store junkie

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