Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Wrell Mom

Happy New Year!  2011!

And New Year's weekend, we had another "moment" in our family; specifically, my daughter, Meg, (age 9 and our first adoption) and me.  And no one even knew - except Meg and me.

A few days after Christmas, we headed north, because apparently Salt Lake just wasn't cold enough for us.  So we loaded up our 4 wheel drive sleigh (Suburban) and sled (trailer) with hats, coats, gloves, long underwear, and ski gear for 9 of us.  (That means: 18 gloves.  18 skis.  18 poles.  18 ski boots.  You get the idea.)

We had a great time.  Uninterrupted family time - just US.  Skiing, eating, playing games, drinking lots of hot cocoa, reading, and spending time with Grandpa and Grandma.  And just about every night we had a family movie night.  Popcorn, treats, and lots of pillows and blankets.  It was heaven.  I love watching a family friendly movie snuggled up with my favorite people.  My friendly family.

One night, the feature film was "Holes". I hadn't ever watched the movie in its entirety, but I read the book years ago when it first came out.  Even if I had watched the movie before, start to finish, I'm not sure I would have been prepared for what happened at the end of the show.  Because one of the final scenes will forever have a very different meaning and feeling for me.

The movie, in a nutshell, is centered around a group of young boys, who are sent separately to a labor camp - to dig holes - as punishment for different offenses. They start out not liking each other much, but thankfully, end up friends. One of the central characters is the youngest of all the boys, a beautiful brown skin little boy, who is taken away from his mother, and doesn't know what has become of her. He is so deeply hurt and afraid, he rarely speaks and is given the nickname Zero. "Because you know what's goin' on in that head of his? Nuthin'! Zero!"  At least that's how the mean man who is one of the leaders describes it.   But we learn quickly that Zero is a sweet, sensitive little boy who we, the audience, come to adore and desire to protect as the underdog.

At the end of the movie, Zero and his best friend, Caveman, expose the corruption of the labor camp and its wicked leaders.  The boys are heroes instantly - and get money, too.  With his newly acquired funds, Zero is able to find his mother and buy her a bus pass to come to him. Zero is all cleaned up and his anxious eyes light up the minute he sees her getting off the bus.  She is beautiful and poised and they run to each other in slow motion and hug for a long time. Long enough for me to look at Meg, who was sitting next to me on the couch.

She had big crocodile tears in her eyes.  And then it hit me: this is her dream at age 9; to have her beautiful birth mother, T, come off a bus in slow motion and scoop her up in her arms and live happily ever after.

I tried to hold her hand, but she pulled it away.  My heart sank, then my eyes welled up with tears, too.  But when Meg pulled her hand away, she looked up at me with obvious concern.  She didn't want to hold my hand right then, but she didn't want to hurt my feelings, either.  I mouthed the word, "Someday" to her.   She knows that "someday" she may get to meet T.  

Then Meg snuggled into me and said, "I'm fine, Mom."

I believe Meg is fine.  She knows she belongs in our family. She fills a place that is hers and no one elses.  She knows she is loved and adored more than words can express.  And I know she loves us.  But every day she is processing new emotions and feelings and realities of her adoption as she grows and matures. 

Now, during that scene, I admit that for just a moment, I wanted to "call Disney" - just someone there - and scream for one minute.  "When you make your multi-million dollar movies, why can't you be more sensitive to children who may wish for that dreamy reunion that's never going to happen?"  OK, maybe "never" is a strong word, but let's be honest: adoptee/birthparent reunions don't happen very often - and when they do, they aren't always positive, much less dreamy.

I also realized how many of these seemingly minor scenes in movies or books are not minor to children who are trying to process adoption.  And no matter how loving the placement is, it is still a rejection by the key person in their little life: mom.  Birth mom.  She had to "reject" before she could lovingly place.  And I think that at some level, every adopted child wonders about their birth mother.  They think about her.  If there aren't photos available, they imagine how beautiful she is. And wonder if she misses her baby. Or what her house looks like. They wonder if she likes to ride bikes.  Or maybe she's a really good water skier.  And she probably makes the best chocolate cake in the world. With an apron on.

Recently, Meg has asked more and more questions about her birthmother, T.  It seems to come up at bedtime, when we snuggle for a bit before she goes to sleep.  She has asked, "Mom, why am I adopted?" and "Mom, where do you think T works?" Or just yesterday after school, Meg was eating peaches and said, "Did my birth mom like peaches, too?"  Yes.  She loved them.  Just like Meg.  We are also more free in our discussion of T.  We talk a lot about her dry sense of humor.  We talk about the foods she cooked well - and the ones she didn't.   One of our Thanksgiving traditions is that each child chooses a side dish for the feast  - anything they want.  This year, Meg chose corn bread.  Because she knows how much her birthmother loved cornbread.  It made me smile.

So a few weeks ago, when Meg came home from school for Christmas break, she had her hand made gift - made in class - lovingly wrapped in construction paper.  And neatly printed on the tag, it said:
"To: T From: Meg.  I love you."  
I told Meg how thoughtful it is of her to want to give it to T.  I told her we'd mail it someday if we get an address for her birth mom. (hers is a closed adoption)    But for now, the package is tucked in the cupboard - and will be until Meg says otherwise.

A few days before Christmas, I found a note under my pillow that said: 

"dere my wrell mom
i love you so mouch too the mone. thenk you for beying my beste mom.
love meg"

"Dear My Real Mom,
I love you so much to the moon.  Thank you for being my best mom.

I cried just a little - in the good way.  Because Meg knows who her "wrell mom" is.  And it's me. But that doesn't take away from the thoughts and feelings she has for T.  It hurts my heart to think of her daydreaming now and then,  or laying in bed at night, ready for sleep, thinking about T.  It must feel pretty lonely at times for a 9 year old who is trying to understand something she can't quite understand.

Still, I am secure enough in my love for Meg and her love for me to 'let' her have those thoughts.  I don't control her thoughts, and don't want to, but I do want her to feel safe to think about it - then talk it over with me when she's ready.  Maybe she will have a dream-like reunion with T - "someday".  Maybe she won't.  But either way, she is my daughter and nothing will ever change that.  And nothing - nothing - will change my love for her.  Ever.  And I make sure she knows that - every single day.

So maybe I'll "call Disney" anyway - and thank them - because it was yet another teaching moment that happened right in the middle of every day living.  But I'll never watch that scene in "Holes" without thinking of Meg's tear-filled eyes.  I'll also think about her snuggling right up to me - her "wrell mom".  Yep, just me snuggling my wrell daughter. 

I'm one lucky mom.

**since this post earlier this week, I have had several people ask for the link to a post earlier this year that discussed Meg's initial questions about her adoption...so here it is:


  1. BEAUTIFUL!! I can't tell you how much I love this!

    Thank you for sharing the story!

  2. AMAZING!!! Isn't it so wonderful that everyday gets to be filled with little lessons like this!

  3. oh i love this.

    and i'm so glad i can blog stalk you now ;)

  4. Shelly I am so thankful for your post and I love it! you are so real in life just not a wrell mom and i love that about you! thanks for your post lot of love your and megs way!!!!

  5. Shelly, Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. I am sure as Raegen gets older we will have some of the same questions arise and I appreciate your insight. I just hope that I can handle the situation as beautifully as you have.

    Interestingly, it is a Disney movie that has helped Raegen at the young age of 2 answer some of the questions that she was thinking in her head but unable to express being so young. Her first favorite Disney movie wasn't Cinderella or Little Mermaid, but Tarzan. She even named her first baby doll Tarzan. Her favorite scene was and still is the scene where Kerchek won't accept Tarzan as his son and Tarzan asks Kala (his mom) "Why am I so different?" Then Kala shows him all of the things that are the same and then ends by putting Tarzan's hand on her heart and asking him, "What do you feel?" "Your heart" Tarzan replies. Then Kala places her hand on his heart and he says, "My heart" Then she tells him how they are the same. Raegen loves this scene so much that she still likes to act this out with me.

    I am grateful that "Tarzan" has been able to help answer some of her early questions. As she gets older I can only imagine they will become more complex as well as the way that they are handled on my end. So again, Thank you for sharing and thank you Shelly for always being such a great example to me.