It's complicated. They struggle to figure out how to define our relationships. They have bonded with us and they love us and, despite the occasional setback, they trust us- but it's not like they've forgotten about their biological mother and father. They somehow have to fit both sets of parents into their definition of 'family,' and it's tough. Then, every time they seem to have it figured out, they develop a little more and mature a little more, and it's like they have to figure it out all over again.
This process involves a lot of testing on their part, and I feel like it's my job to hold steady, not to over react, and to validate their feelings without invalidating my own. The hard part is, every time they question my role in their lives- it breaks my friggin' heart. It's so ridiculous because I know what they're doing and I know WHY they're doing it. I KNOW that when Mister writes on a school report that he looks like "S" because she's his 'real mom' and I'm not and he "loves his mommy", it doesn't mean he doesn't love me or value me. In fact, it's not really about me at all- it's about HIM working out HIS feelings and HIS confusion and HIS understanding of biology and family, and he needs a safe place to do that if he's going to have a healthy sense of self and if we're going to have a healthy relationship. I KNOW.
But it still felt like a slap in the face when I read it at open house tonight. And it took every ounce of strength I had in me not to go out to the car and cry.
Because if she's his "real mom," what am I?
When other people say it, I just get pissed off, but when my kids say it my gut twists. I thought it would get easier with time- it hasn't. I'd like to blame it on pregnancy hormones- but that's got nothing to do with it.
So I can't overreact. I don't want to make him feel guilty, or confuse him even more.
Still, my feelings matter.
I believe in treating my kids well and I believe in teaching them to treat me well. I think that our children will treat us like crap about 90% of the time because they're learning how to treat people, and they're practicing on us. It's part of growing up. So I believe in forgiving them, and even trying not to get angry or upset in the first place- but I believe in teaching them what is acceptable and what is not, because I think that however we let them treat us is how they're going to treat others.
So even though Mister's report wasn't about me, tomorrow I'm going to talk to him about the words "real mom." Tomorrow, when I've had time and space to relax and think about it rationally, I'm going to tell him that it hurts my feelings when he says I'm not his real mom. I won't even bring up the school report, and truth be told he probably won't remember it- but I'm going to tell him that I love him and he is my real son, and I'm going to explain to him that She is real, too. I will remind him, again, that the difference between us is that she is his biological mom.
I'm going to do it because I don't think I have to, or should, hide my feelings from children completely. AND I'm going to do it, because while I don't want to make light of their feelings for their biological mother or her importance, I also don't want them to define our mother-child relationship in their head as 'inferior' in some way. I don't want them to think that they are less real to me than the baby in my belly. They deserve a "real mom" in their lives today, every day- tucking them in at night and going to their open house at school.
So I will defend our relationship over and over again. I will prove to them how important they are, over and over again. And when they compare me or question me or push me away even in the slightest, I will bite my tongue. And after they've gone to bed I'll cry.
Because that's just who I am.