Friday, March 16, 2007

Thought I'd be the coolest mom.... (think again)

I'm back in the land of the living after a prolonged trip to flu-land, and back to whatever normal is.

Recently I had a parent teacher conference with one of the twin's teachers (we have a worrisome case of sudden-onset grade slippage). The teacher was telling me that we needed to work on writing skills, adding details, etc. I said that I was a writer and so understood the importance of concrete examples in writing. One thing led to another, and the teacher suggested that I come in to class and give a talk about writing. I said I'd love to, and joked about how embarassed the girls would be. We laughed at the amazing ease and exquisite joy of humiliating teenagers.

When I got home I mentioned that the English teacher wanted me to visit the class. I got mutinous looks. I asked perceptively, "So you don't want me to come to class?"
"No," they mumbled, eyes looking everywhere but at me.
"Why not?" I asked.
They shrug and mumble, "I don't know...."
"Will you be embarassed?"
No answer.
"Is it because you'll get too much attention?"
They nod.
"Like what?"
Reluctantly Sara answers, "Everyone will say, How come you don't look like your mom?"
Rose and Sara, born by another woman of another race in another country, don't look like me. I don't think about it much. But, of course, they do. They're teenagers, and teenagers, at the best of times and often for no reason at all, feel weird and different. All their friends know they're adopted, but among strangers and acquaintances they can pass for "normal" people who come from parents who look like them, whose biological mother didn't give them up. So for me-- with my pale skin and curly brown hair so different from their medium brown skin and shining straight black hair -- to come to school is to make them feel like freaks that are fundamentally different from all of their classmates. I understand.
So I nodded and told them I understood and that I wouldn't come to class.

And I do understand. But what surprises me is how sad it made me. For years now they haven't wanted me to participate in any school events. I thought it was because they just didn't want their dorky mom around. But really it's because I look different from them and that raises embarassing questions and they don't want to deal with it. I remember not wanting people to see my mother pick me up after school in our embarassingly ancient car when I was their age. I get that having an embarassingly different mom could be a teeny bit worse than that....

I always thought I'd be the coolest mom. Among our friends who have adopted, I was always one of the mothers most at ease with talking to the kids about the facts of their birth, with the idea of another mother. I told them from the start that they have two mothers. Admirable, forward thinking me. But I guess the difference is that I was setting the terms, defining things for all of us. Now they're growing up and they're setting the terms. and I have to let them. That's my job.

But, apparently, I don't have to like it. Yesterday I dropped them off for drama club. Rose and Sara hopped double quick out of the car and I watched them disappear into the auditorium as other mothers walked in with their kids, the kids who looked like them, to bring refreshments, help with set design, whatever. I longed to join them and I took my foot off the brake and let them go.

Maybe someday they'll understand that we're all freaks, we're all wounded, we're all grief struck. And embracing that can give us compassion, love, oneness with all our fellow travellers. And maybe someday I really will be the coolest mom and it won't matter to me at all.

1 comment:

claire said...

Hugs, because I know how that must hurt. And you probably are the coolest mom, because I don't think having mother (or parental) cooties has anything to do with being cool. I am universally acknowledged as THE coolest mom, and yet we can't go to the grocery store where her friend's boyfriend bags because he might see her. It's not even necessarily with me. It's more out of the realm of expectations. Not knowing the social conventions.

So I think there are maybe two things happening here. You might be way cool to them in their hearts, but publically it's not even a question of being cool. Cool doesn't matter. Doesn't even enter into the debate. You have an additional factor in the adopted thing, but even with an extremely asbestos kid like Emma, there are these weird social boundaries I do NOT get. And they seem to be very defined. Which I also don't get.

Lots of stuff going on here.