Noah sits tall in his booster seat, and I catch a glimpse of his messy curls in the rearview mirror. My eyes are on the road ahead, so he can talk to me and tell me things, but not see my facial expression. It’s a safe place to test out hard questions.
Last week’s booster-seat confessional was an open discussion between my seven year old son and me. He began matter-of-factly. “So, you’re not my real mom....”
I knew the day would come when those words were spoken. But I imagined it would be during a moment of anger or disappointment, not on a quiet afternoon drive. It stung, and that surprised me. But the sting was more for him than for me. He was unraveling another piece of his adoption story, or perhaps revisiting a truth that had been shared and re-shared with him over and over again.
“What do you mean, Noah?” I asked as non-hysterically as possible.
I couldn’t correct him. He was right. She is his real, biological mother. What Noah needed in that moment was reassurance that his first mother is important. That she matters. And that while I may not have been first, I would be forever. “Yes, Noah, you grew inside Mommy ___. She is your first mother. Then you lived with Grammy. She was your foster mother. And then you came home to Daddy and me. We are your dad and mom. And now you are here."
We stopped at a red light. I adjusted the mirror and looked back at him. He was deep in thought, chewing on the collar of his t-shirt. He didn’t look up. “You all had a job,” he said.
“We are all very lucky to be mothers to you.”
“Maybe I’ll see her one day. When I’m old. Like 20.”
“Maybe, son. I hope you will.”
“I have lots of mothers,” he continued. “And what about Mika?” He looked over at his sister and snatched the board book out of her hands. She wailed, I warned, and he tossed the book back to her.
“You know Michaela’s story,” I said.
“Becky is Mika’s real mom and you are her mom now,” he said. “But I had Grammy. So I have more moms than Mika!”
Leave it to a seven-year-old boy to find an opportunity for one-up-manship in any adoption conversation. I let him have his victory. I’m just grateful he let me in on it.
Sarah Reid is the Regional Services Team Lead at AFABC, and the mother of two children through adoption.