Anyone else a cover-er? Raising a child with an absent parent that you feel the need to cover for and keep up on a pedestal?
My son has been with us for almost 5 years and his memory of what came before is fading. In many ways, this is a wonderful blessing. He’s starting to forget the bad, the dark, and the scary. For that, I’m so glad. But then there is the other side of it. The side that combines with the “big feelings” of loss and questioning that often accompany adoption. The side that brings him to moments when he says “I want to go live at my old house.”
It’s hard to hear things like that.
Especially since these statements don’t come in the heat of anger. They come around a calm and happy dinner table, or when we are playing outside and find a dandelion to make a wish on. To be honest, the first time I heard the words, it stung. Given his usual enthusiasm over his adoption and his very vocal demands that he stay with us forever, I was taken off guard. But, I put my bruised pride aside and asked him to tell me more. Which is how I came to find out that his memory was playing tricks on him. The good is becoming really good, and the bad a distant memory.
“I got to watch lots of TV and any movies at my old house.”
“I ate lots of candy.”
“I could go anywhere I wanted. I didn’t need an adult always watching me.”
At first I wanted to remind him…sure all of those things are true – but there were reasons you watched all that TV and the candy left you with a mouth full of cavities…
But no, I won’t be reminding him. I will tuck that pride in my pocket and tell him that I understand, because I do. I will tell him that its okay to miss his old house – that I’m glad he has special memories of his time there. And then, I will say a silent prayer of thanks for this memory trick. For my sweet angel slowly leaving behind pieces of a burdened past and how wonderful it is that the bad is what’s being dropped first.
It can be tricky to find the balance there, though. A mother’s instinct is to protect. To support the natural process of forgetting the bad and letting only the good remain. It leads me down a path of wanting to cover, but I’m not sure that’s quite right either.
It has been a long time since we’ve heard from or seen my son’s bio mom. He misses her deeply and I’m running out of feasible explanations. Each day is another day he does not see her, and each day he grows more mature and gains more understanding. For a while it was “She’s working on getting better. Maybe soon”, then “She’s moving and will let us know when she’s all set up.” And now…”I don’t know.”
He’s smart enough to know that if she wanted to see him, she could. But he’s not yet old enough to understand all that may be holding her back.
I don’t know why it’s so important to me to “cover” for her – to keep her on the pedestal. A couple of years ago, I ordered a gift on Amazon and let him believe that it was from her. It brought him so much joy it was almost worth the nagging feeling in the pit of my stomach. Of course, my covering doesn’t help those feelings of longing and wishes to go back.
That’s what we parents do though, isn’t it? Protect, nurture, support – guide our children towards happiness, even if occasionally at the expense of our own.
The jury is still out for me, though, on this whole ‘covering’ business. It may be at my own expense, but is it at his as well? I guess it boils down to not knowing what is better for my boy…being left to wonder if he is missing out on something great, or having all hope lost.