I really dread Mother's Day.
Why in the world would a "greeting card" holiday have such an effect on me? I suppose it's for the same reason I'm such a diligent DJ when I'm in the car with my son, Sammy. I anticipate and redact all "mom" songs. Truth is, I'd just rather not have him hear songs about people missing their moms, needing their moms, wanting their moms, or simply not having their moms.
Outside of the car, I have a more laissez-faire attitude, as we all live in a "Mom's world." Songs, ads, movies... it would simply be a losing battle to avoid all of the references. And I recognize how important it is for Sammy to understand that there are many different kinds of families and where he fits in the ecosystem.
Seven years ago Sammy joined our family through open adoption. I was right there in the delivery room -- it was the most incredible day of my life. Today, while Sammy has a relationship with his birth mom, but because she lives 3,000 miles away, their interactions are limited to occasional phone calls and emails.
Knowing their birthparents can be an important element for adopted children to understand who they are and where they came from. This demystification allows for greater development, though how each child handles and synthesizes this information is unique. Sammy has been amazing though out this process. But complicating matters for him, unlike many other children who are adopted, our family doesn't include a mom.
Last week Sammy's class assignment was to fill out a form with some innocuous questions: "What do you want to be when you grow up?", "What is your favorite color?", "What school subject do you like most?", "What do you worry about?"
"What do you worry about?" Not so innocuous. Sammy wrote he worries about how his birth mother is doing. He's very concerned about her, assuming she must not be doing too well if she wasn't able to take care of him. My son is extremely perceptive and has enormous empathy -- far greater than most kids his age.
This week his teacher called me to ask how I would like to handle Mother's Day at school. "I would love to cancel it!" was my first thought. But I don't want to be the Grinch -- the Dad that cancelled Mother's Day. So I just suggested that the teacher position the card-making frenzy as a "special woman in your life" card or Mother's Day. He can make a card for his birth mom if he likes or one his three grandmas.
Last night when I brought the idea up to Sammy at dinner -- these are conversations we have -- his first reaction was to make a card for me, "You're my dad and my mom!" I was touched of course, but I knew there was a lot more processing for Sammy to do and the holiday would not pass unnoticed for him.
Yes -- I am insecure about not being able to fully deliver for him. No matter what I do -- kiss his boo-boo, sing him a lullaby, make dinner, play catch, hold him when he is frightened -- I will never really be his mom.
I recently found myself "undercover," infiltrating the sacred Covenant of Moms. As a gay dad, I have a unique opportunity to visit their land. Unlike my straight dad peers, I am allowed in to their world. I can talk with moms, about their challenges, their hopes, their desires, their frustrations, their children, and of course their husbands.
But a visitor's pass is one thing -- a club membership is another. As one mom put it bluntly, "You can never be a mom." That stung.
Why can't I be a mom? What am I missing (besides the obvious, of course)? Maybe the answer is simple: a woman's perspective to share with my boy.
While we don't have a mom in our family, what we do have are the perspectives of the many women in our life who love him: his Grandma New Yorkie, Grandma Buci, Grandma Tanya, Aunt Zimi, not to mention the many wonderful women at his school, temple, my company, and neighborhood. Each of these women brings something special to Sammy's life -- something that I cannot offer.
The only thing he might be lacking is a dad who accepts Mother's Day for the beautiful day that it is -- a day to celebrate the women in our lives. I am working on it though! And I am so grateful for all that Sammy and I have. So to all of the amazing women out there, Happy Mother's Day!
PS: I can't wait for Father's Day. Now that's a whole different story!