"If you believe you can, you probably can. If you believe you won’t, you most assuredly won’t. Belief is the ignition switch that gets you off the launching pad.â€ – Denis Waitley
Many mothers I have met have assumed they would be welcomed by their child. Other mothers expect to be rejected. Still others aren’t sure what to expect but they do share one thing in common. They all want to be able to love their child and have their child love them back. And when we are not, when we are pushed away, rejected, we are often left with a feeling of "why should I bother?". Our children rejecting us, for whatever reason, can be very triggering back to the days when we were rejected and abandoned by our family and our children’s father. It is often hard to separate out the old rejection from the new. And we reject back, we project, we get all mixed up in this crazy dance that is often rooted in unrealistic, unspoken, expectations.
Many of us, myself included, fight the urge to throw in the towel and flip the bird to our self centered children who we sacrificed everything for and have ached for years to find. Some of us do and still others, like me, hold on. Do the ones who hold on find a way to manage what we get or do we change our expectations? Do we mature beyond that abandoned teenage girl and realize that our child’s rejection of us is not really rejection of US but the pain adoption has caused them? Do we realize that we are the physical manifestation of a pain they may not be able handle?
I personally don’t believe I can ever expect my daughter to view me, treat me, value me as a mother. In her emotional world I am nothing like that to her. I do however hope (expect?) that over time we can develop a relationship that is something between friend and mother and it might even be more valuable and special than what I would have had with her if I was viewed as her mother. I already know that she shares things with me that she does not share with her adoptive mother. I feel honored.
But, I have done this, and been able to do this because I was able to manage my expectations.
Let me explain by using a very recent example from my life.
Fresh off the heels of a very amicable divorce, I have spent a great deal of time pondering relationships, my role in them, my expectations, my thoughts on love and respect, courtship, friendship and more. I have spent countless hours in therapy with a very skilled professional discussing what brought me to my marriage to my ex husband and what took me out of it. As a result, I have gained some very valuable insight into myself and what makes me tick and what makes my relationships work (or not). I am clearly still a work in progress but what I see developing from the negatives is an amazing wonderful picture of a pretty cool woman and wonderful mother.
Several months ago I met and began crushing on an amazing man. Academically brilliant, highly educated, well traveled and well spoken, I was hooked rather easily. I find intelligence to be incredibly attractive. To move this gent higher up on a pedestal, he also possessed an incredible emotional IQ. He had been through a number of challenges in his own life and, like me, had spent many hours in therapy due to PTSD.
I fell and I fell rather hard. I could have devoured him whole. Every phone call, email, personal interaction was like an IV line of a mind altering drug to me. I couldn’t get enough of him. Lust? Not so much. Not in the usual sense. It wasn’t really on a physical or sexual level (though the potential was there for me). It was something. I don’t know what it was but it was. But I had to have it. He made me laugh. He challenged me. He debated me. He validated me. He respected my pain and my trauma. He was skilled in repartee. We had fun.
I must be clear and share a balanced view. It is important to the point of my story. There were also things about this friend that I was a bit uncertain about. Things I did not understand. Stories that did not quite make sense to me that made me a bit nervous. Decisions I may not have agreed with but hey, it was not my life. I have always felt that truly loving someone meant loving what you dislike about them and not what you like. The good stuff is easy to love. Its the not so nice stuff that poses challenges. I made note of the things that gave me pause and mentally filed them for future reference.
They did not slow the Crush Train. They were merely extra baggage in the caboose. I have my own. His seemed to match mine. I was okay with it.
Months passed and during this time frame we decided to be friends and not lovers or partners or whatever the younger crowd would call us these days.
At first, this really disturbed me. It actually left me in tears. He was romantically involved with someone else. He was sharing that with me and I was doing my best to be mature about it. Alone, not seen by him, I was stomping my feet like an angry teenage girl. I was seeing things in a very black and white manner. Either I got all of him or I got none of him. At that point I could have walked away from him and gotten nothing or I could have re-evaluated my own expectations and walked away with something – perhaps even something more valuable.
And so I did.
Did I care he was off having sex with some woman? Nope. Sex is sex. While I find physical relations and the typical "O" quite pleasing, I find orgasms of the soul even more appealing.
What I cared about was that he might be sharing all that wonderful stuff in his head and heart with someone else and there might be less for me. Worse yet, there might be none for me. He might never call me or email me again.
I thought more and realized that I wasn’t feeling like I had lost a lover or the potential for a relationship, I felt like I had lost my best friend. Still more thought and I realized that I was actually getting a better deal than the women he will date. He considers me one of his closest friends. Love, sex, flings, dating – they can be very fleeting and are rife with a host of issues that friendship is not. Once I thought about it this way, I felt wonderful. I am not losing a friend. I always had one and without the noise of the standard relationship issues, I may actually get more of him than I ever imagined. Be still my heart!
How the HELL does this story relate at all to adoption or reunion?
For me, it illustrates my point that it is all how we look at things.
If we want only what we want, and we don’t get it, then we often lose what we might have gotten. And what we might have gotten might be even better than what we wanted to begin with.
I couldn’t be my daughters mother in the traditional sense.
I was not deemed worthy or capable of raising her.
I lost a great deal. I suffered a permanent wound to my heart and soul.
So did she.
I can push to feed that fantasy of mine to be the mother I was not allowed to be. She can push back and tell me she has a mother, one who did not abandon her as a helpless infant. We can both walk away mad and hurt and try to prove who hurts more and deeper and harder.
Or we can re-evaluate.
There might be something bigger and better ahead of us.
Life is what we make of it.
I don’t want to be stuck in what I lost. I know that all too well.
I want to focus on what I might gain. I want to continue developing from the negatives.
Whether or not my daughter ever chooses to embrace me, I still have this life of mine to lead and I want it to be as positive and successful as I can personally make it.
P.S. I mean really, what is a relationship? Who defines that? Is it fixed? Can it change with time? Do we all approach life with someone else’s view of what we should be and how our relationships should be? Is every couple identical? Every marriage? Every mother daughter relationship? Someone else decided for me, and I listened, what kind of mother I could or should be. I am not about to let them have that power again. Clearly I have more to say on this topic but that will be another post.
Bottom line, again, our lives are what we make of them – not what others tell us they should be. Don’t listen to the church, to the agency, to the preconceived notions of what should be. Listen to your soul. It might very well be orgasmic.