Thursday, December 23, 2010

Velveteen Mama

OK, so this isn't exactly a blog about a children's book (though you'll find one does play an important part), but it seems to fit in too well not to include it here.

From my "other" blog, The First Day of The Rest of Our Lives:

The Velveteen Mama  

Today, I read a blog entry from one of my favorite bloggers.  It's about a recent discussion she had with her daughter on what makes a mother or brother "real".

This is a topic all adoptive parents deal with as they raise their children.  Who IS the real Mom, Dad, sibling, grandparents, etc?  The message that "birth = real" comes in loud and clear from every societal contact children have.  Schools still do the "Family Tree" exercise where you identify family members and place them on branches showing the "begats" from one generation to another (and, incase you aren't aware, there's a different "connection" for adopted children vs. birth).  Children's books still reinforce the "traditional" (though I challenge the use of THAT word anymore!) family of married Mom & Dad with 2.2 kids and a station wagon.  And, movies talk of "evil" step-parents who can't possibly love the child as much as their "real" parents.

I've had this conversation many times with Janan.  Though we (thankfully) haven't gotten to the, "I HATE you & wish I lived with my REAL mother!" teen angst conversation that is probably still forthcoming, we have had the "I wonder what my real Mom is like." or "You're not my real Mom, but I still want to call you Mom, okay?"

Every time this topic comes up I feel as if someone simultaneously stabs me in the heart and kicks me in the gut.  She doesn't mean it in that way (yet) any more than the co-worker who, just after Janan came home, said, "Wow!  If she's this crazy about this baby, imagine how she'll be when she has her own!"  

But, what came to me today after reading this amazing blog post is that adoptive parents are much like the Velveteen Rabbit.  And, we should ALL take to heart the words of the Skin Horse when he told the Velveteen Rabbit, "Real isn't how you are made.  It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real." 

So, I don't need a magic fairy to come and make me the "real" Mama.  But, I envision a day when "real" family is defined by what truly matters - love.  Another quote from the book sums it up perfectly,

"Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."