I have never been so thoroughly pursued by a man in all my life as I have been by my four year old son. I am telling you, this child proposes marriage - not daily - but hourly. And those are on his weaker days! Sometimes the professions of love and desperate proposals come incessantly. When he kisses me goodnight, it is with both of his sweet, almost-always-sticky brown hands pressed on each side of my face (a romantic proclamation of my beauty is usually involved at this point) and then he kisses me in a frenzy of uncontrolled emotion. With these bodacious lips.
It is the most adorable and unnecessary display of passion I've ever been the recipient of. And it happens all. day. long. Quite simply, the boy is in love. But, there is something peculiar about the urgency and intensity of his affections for me. It has taken me some time to put my finger on why exactly that is. He seems almost desperate in his expressions of love, to the point that he seems almost exasperated by it.
"I'm gonna marry you so much!" and "I'm just lovin' you, UGH I'm just lovin' you so MUCH." He picks flowers for me every time we step foot outside - one bunch of dandelions "for now" and the other handful "for our wedding tomorrow, or yesterday." I have never met a four year old boy so preoccupied with getting married. So, I decided to get to the bottom of his romantic shenanigans.
After several long discussions, I think I have come to a place of understanding. He is afraid.
Jay was about 24 hours old when I first met him in the hospital. His first mom, the lovely Miss N., and I had been in contact over the phone during the weeks leading up to his birth. Tom and I developed a fast connection with her, and because we had already had a previous adoption fall through, we knew that the child she was carrying may not end up being part of our family. And while common sense, previous experience, and all of our loved ones told us to be cautious, we loved her. We weren't thinking about "protecting ourselves" or "not getting too attached." Our relationship with her was developing not because we hoped to parent her child, but because she is adorable and not loving her would be impossible. We made a promise to her that we would be there to help and support her in any way she needed, regardless of the decision she ended up making. She invited us to come to the birth and seemed firm in her decision to place Jay with us when he was born. Still, we reminded her that giving birth is an unimaginable game-changer, and we wanted her to have plenty of room to feel free to change her mind if she felt at any point that she wanted to pursue parenting opposed to placing him with us. We tried to be supportive and encouraging throughout the emotion. To be completely honest, as much as we loved Jay from the first moment we laid eyes on him, we were pulling for her to parent. We really believed she could do it.
For her own personal reasons - reasons that are hers to tell, not mine - she allowed us to be his parents. It was a gift, a great responsibility and an honor, of course. But it was also a tragedy.
For a baby and his mother to be separated from one another is always an utter tragedy. The grief that Tom and I experienced on their behalf was minuscule in comparison to what they endured. This is true for both of our children who came to us through adoption. And while it looks so different for them both, every single day I see the primal wound that this separation has inflicted upon my babies. And their first mamas.
Since realizing this, Jay's romantic advances, while precious, have become just like every other aspect of adoption. There is a bitter-sweetness underlying every kiss, a complex fear of being apart from me that drives every impassioned sentiment, a child's desperate attempt to guarantee that he will never lose another mama drives every marriage proposal.
Both of my boys are perfect, but they are both hurting in their own way. They both long for the security that comes from a mother's love. People often downplay the pain that adoptees endure, assuming that a child who was adopted in infancy "never knows the difference." These same people will watch nature documentaries and marvel that a sea turtle can travel all over the ocean and make its way back to it's home. (I don't actually know if sea turtles do that, but you get my drift.) If an animal has a primal instinct to find it's way home, how much more does a human child have that same pull?
And I may not know much about sea turtles, but I do know this... my boys, in some sense, will always be longing for home. And people say that they are "lucky to have us." But, when my nine year old son wakes up with his heart pounding in his chest because he dreamed of meeting his beautiful birthmom for the very first time, lucky isn't how I'd describe him.
Whether they can understand all the nuances at this point or not, they will always know that in our home, they have the right to feel sad about their adoption. And they have the right to feel happy about it too, and angry, and confused, and relieved and all the things. Even... unlucky.
My prayer is that as they grow and mature, and really begin to feel the weight and implications of their adoption stories, that they will forgive us for all the ways that we could not meet their needs, for every shortcoming and every imperfection. My prayer is that our flaws will only make them long for another home, and eternal home, where our perfect Father waits to hold them and love them and meet every need they ever had.