Earlier this week, our kid said to his father, my husband: "Hi, nice Daddy!"
Thankfully "Daddy" patiently ignored him.
"Hey, nice Daddy!" he said a little too loudly
"I know what you are doing, OK?" I said.
I had just vetoed a kooky idea of his involving ice cream before dinner.
"No one talks to you" he said with a finger wave in front of my face. "No one," he added with a satisfied smirk.
I don't like finger waving and smirking is redundant as far as I am concerned. As annoying as it can be, it is typical behavior exhibited by a multitude of children trying to get what they want by marginalizing one of their parents.
Sometimes, though, it isn't typical. We adopted our son over four years ago, but he moved in as a foster child a year before that. He immediately called my husband Mommy.
I was an articulated: "Ba." Our mailman was called "Mommy" more than two years before I was.
Of course I asked if he would call me Mommy. As did my husband, for two reasons: to support me and because he wanted to be called "Daddy." Still no matter how many times we asked he would not call me "Mommy."
I was gratified by the stories of other mothers who would tell me about how "daddies rule and mommies drool." I have heard on more than one occasion that no matter how much mothers do, daddies are the real deal. But, I knew this was different for our son. I stopped asking him to because it seemed more important to him not to call me mommy than it was for me to hear it. I wondered if it had something to do with 'mothers.' I was his third.
The reality was our son had a harder time bonding with me. This didn't interfere with how I bonded with him, though. His first morning with us, it hit me. I'm someone's mother. I have an awesome responsibility. Not awesome like totally cool, but as it was originally intended: reverent, fearful wonder. As the tears flowed, I pictured throwing myself in front of the proverbial bullet, car or bear.
I reminded myself of a story from our adoption classes. One of the trainers shared that every year for 12 years, one of her adopted daughters signed her birthday card to her the same way: Happy Birthday, Mrs. Clifford.
I had a couple people tell me to not let him get away with it. I wondered, what is he getting away with, exactly? Processing a troubled life at 2 years old? A few others said he was doing it to bother me. No sh*t.
Our son has asthma. He used to have frighteningly, terrifyingly horrible asthma. Three years ago he had a massive attack in the middle of the night. He was banging his head and clawing at his throat. My husband went into denial mode, convinced it wasn't that bad. I took charge. I called an ambulance. My husband and I sat on the front steps, frantic, with our child who was gasping for air.
The next morning, the three of us woke up squished together in a hospital bed. My son turned to me. He put both hands on either side of my face and said: Mommy.
I had finally proved my mettle.
I have had more than one person say to me: I could never adopt. I just know I couldn't love a child who wasn't mine.
Sadly, some people put limits on their capacity to love. Thank goodness that isn't true of our son.