He reported watching out the back window of the car as they drove away with him. His mom stood in the road waving until he rode out of view.
That was the last time my son saw his biological mom.
He was four years old.
This scene breaks my heart. Some of my other children tell their own heartbreaking experiences of the day they were taken from their parents.
Yes, I know. I have the documents from the court hearings detailing how after months of second chances, parental rights were terminated. I read the evidence: alcoholism and extreme neglect. But I still have to believe these parents had hearts. They didn’t want to lose their children. They just couldn’t seem to break the chains that bound them.
And I sometimes feel a twinge of guilt that I now call these children mine. After all, they belonged to someone else first. I’m like a squatter in my children’s hearts—hoping they’ll decide to let me stay.
They have. And I’m blessed for it.
But I think that we who are the “second mom” need to have an honest conversation about the first mom.
Even if she made horrible choices, we need to find ways to honor her. When we don’t, we communicate rejection to our children. They take on themselves the value we ascribe to her.
(It’s human nature to do so. Just think about how rejected you feel when someone criticizes a family member or close friend, or your favorite politician, pastor, or athletic team. It’s why we get into so many arguments—especially on social media. We fear our own identity is at stake.)
So what do we do with this other woman in our children’s lives?
I have three suggestions.
1. Have compassion and pray for her.
If you can’t muster up the compassion, pray for her anyway. I have a feeling that in time compassion will grow.
Forgive her for the damage she’s inflicted on your children—and for the upheaval she’s passed onto your family. Jesus died for her, too. If you’re like me, it didn’t take long as a mom to realize you’re no better than she is.
2. Speak kindly of her to your children.
At the same time speak truthfully. Don’t make suppositions (like I’ve done above). If your child asks questions about her and you don’t know the answer, just simply say, I don’t know.
Don’t paint her as a flawless person. That’s even more confusing to our children. After all, if a good woman doesn’t want them, then they must be really bad. Furthermore if you think she’s good, then you present yourself to your children as a bad judge of character—making it even harder for them to trust you.
Speak clearly, simply, and truthfully, but in a redemptive manner.
She made poor choices. That’s unfortunate. I’m so glad Jesus died for her just like He did for you and me.
3. Don’t take responsibility for her well-being.
I think this is especially hard for those who’ve adopted children as infants. In fact, with open adoption being the norm these days, I’ve had more than one mom talk to me about this struggle.
Guess what? It’s not your job to take care of her. I know as a Christian you want to reach out to others. And I know she’s entrusted you with her child so you feel responsible to make sure she’s happy. But in this case you have to let someone else take care of her. That’s the adoption agency’s job.
Your job is to take care of your child. Meeting his/her needs and bonding with them. That’s more than you have time and energy for as it is.
You know it wasn’t easy for me to deal with the fact that I wasn’t first in my children’s lives.
But at the same time it was such a relief to realize the reason my children didn’t attach to me in the ways I longed for was because they had known another mother first. This understanding allowed me release my expectation of how they related to me. In fact, it made a lot of things start making sense.
We have to come to terms with this other woman. We don’t have to invite her into our lives or our homes. But she has residency in our children’s hearts. And she’s not going away.
Lord give us grace to accept her as you have, love her with redemptive compassion, while faithfully serving our children as You’ve called us to do.
And help us, moms and children alike, heal our losses with the deep understanding of your unwavering love for us.
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