Two Mothers

I stare at the photo, breath caught in my lungs.

It’s my daughter in 20 years staring back at me.

Same beautiful eyes and wide smile.

Same long and lean body; so different from my own.

The light and laughter there makes me want to reach out and pull her from the photo.

I dream that night of meeting her.

We smile and reach out for each other; familiar despite having never met.

I wake up still feeling her slender back under my hands.

It is the little things that make me wince; that dig a well of grief in the middle of my joy at finding her.

The way she describes drinking olive juice from a jar and the look in my daughter’s eyes when I tell her, the only one in our family who eats olives.

The way she loves so many of the same things my daughters do.  Banana muffins, horses, music and nature.

The way she tenderly recounts sewing in little waistbands and what my children…or hers…or ours…were like as babies and toddlers.

I am unprepared for this grief.

This abrupt encounter with so much gain…and so much loss.

I am unsure how to hold my joy in my hands…while looking down and realizing it all came at her expense.

How do I justify all I have when I know the tables could have so easily been turned.

It is beautiful,

and shattering.

I look at them differently as they smile into my eyes,

seek out my affection,

come running to me with their latest drawings, stories and ideas.

I know as they bring me their caterpillars and create ant homes and worm habitats that she would be so much more delighted than I am right now.

I think of her finding a huge caterpillar in her garden, or her stories of helping turtles safely cross the road.

I wish she were here to enjoy their dirty faces grinning cheekily at me.

I tread unsteadily on the fence line of guilt and gratitude,

haunted by what she might do and say were she here.

All her words have been laden with grace and dignity and humility.

I have her permission to love without guilt, yet that in itself speaks a thousand words and almost makes it more difficult.

I feel like a heroine and a traitor.

I wonder at the world.

The world that separates mother and child,

that pulls unsuspecting teens into spirals of addiction and compromise with no warning of all they have to lose.

The world that offers so much pain and loss and heartache to one,

while another trips almost effortlessly through and lands in so much joy and blessing.

I reach out for more of her, knowing that as I learn her favourite colours, TV shows, hobbies, fears, regrets and joys…I am putting together the pieces of my children.

I scroll through her photos, feeling the weight of loss as I see family and friends that were meant to be part of my children’s lives…but aren’t.

It’s not that there’s a hole…it’s just that I know this was meant to be theirs.

We schedule chat sessions and eventually, our first meeting.

She’s even taller than I imagined and so graceful as she slides into the seat across from me, dressed in a pretty aqua top…my daughter’s favourite colour.

We stumble awkwardly yet enjoyably through a dinner conversation…most of which I cannot remember later for the butterflies in my stomach.

My husband bridges the gap between us…two mothers…and I’m grateful for his casual conversation.

I leave with anticlimactic memories and a picture of the two of us, arms slung around each other, smiling side by side.

I know it’ll be an important image for my daughters as they grow into this relationship…the picture of what was and what is simultaneously, tethering them to reality.

We fall into patterns of texting and chatting online, slowly letting in a new normal.

I casually laugh about a conversation we had, a photo she sent or a story she shared.

My daughters get used to it; their two mothers being acquaintances and then slowly…friends.

I love the way I think of her randomly, or can send off a text whenever I want.

I love the way I can share those special moments with her and know that she’ll care…because she’s a mother.

I love the way I can see more and more clearly the similarities between mother and daughters, and the shy adoration I see in their eyes when I notice them and comment.

I love the letters that get sent off in the mail with lovingly braided bracelets tucked inside.

I love the forging of our lives.

Loving my daughters’ birth mother is loving them.

They reflect so much of what I say and project about her onto themselves.

She is and always will be a part of them…and therefore a part of us.

I both love and hurt watching them reach out in fragile innocence for the affirmation she offers.

It is humbling to watch them flower beneath her tender care in ways that I can’t provide.

I see clearly the holes I cannot fill, and I’m grateful she is there and willing to fill those.

I imagine she feels the same, and once again this is one thing we share.

Two mothers.

I know so many people don’t have this story.

They don’t have this happy ending.

But I’m so grateful for this woman we call Mom.

Her integrity, humility, determination and beauty has added depth and colour to our adoption story that we never could have imagined.

Two mothers.

-AF

“A child born to another woman calls me mom.  The depth of the tragedy and the magnitude of the privilege are not lost on me.”

-Jody Landers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 Great At-Home Date Nights for Busy Parents

Taking time to care for your marriage in the middle of raising kids can feel exhausting!  I’m so grateful I had a friend early on who introduced me to At-Home Date Nights.

If you’re like me, as much as you’d like to get out of the house some days, the last thing you want to do is hire a babysitter to keep your kids while the two of you go out.

Well guess what?

You don’t have to!

Pick one night of the week as your date night, let the kids know they will need to go to bed or at least their rooms a tad earlier (I recommend before 9pm) and the two of you should have at least an hour or two together to do something fun, relax or just be.

This has been so much fun for my husband and I, and it’s now by far our favourite way to spend time together.

While there are hundreds of ideas on Pinterest, here are my easy 10 to get you started!

Fort Fiesta – Couch cushions, blankets, pillows, wooden planks, the table…whatever you can find to create a cozy little hideaway big enough for the two of you to fit inside.  Add some twinkly lights, snacks and music and you’ve got the perfect environment for a cozy and relaxing date.

blanket fort

Games Night – Pick your favourite board game, card game or even electronic game and bring out your competitive streak.  If you want to raise the stakes each of you choose what you want as a prize if you win!

Board-Games

Art Adventures – Pull out the classical music, coloured pencils and sketch books for a classy evening.  If you’re the artsy type this may result in some real, actual art!  If you’re like me, you’ll borrow one of your kid’s colouring books and try to stay inside the lines.  Regardless, it’s an easy, relaxing way to sit side by side and chat while you keep your hands busy.  This is my husband’s favourite way to listen to me if I have spaghetti brain and need to untangle a few noodles 🙂

paints

Cooking – Try out a new recipe or just pull out your favourite cookie recipe.  It’ll be more fun than you think to create a yummy treat together.  Tip: If neither of you likes the kitchen pick something simple and quick.

couple cooking together

Dinner for 2 – Feed the kids earlier and occupy them with a movie or something so you can spend some time preparing your feast.  Grilling some red meat usually gets men excited and you can always pull out some fancy dishes and wine glasses to make even the simplest meal feel special.  Kraft Dinner by candlelight tastes so much better!

dinner for 2.jpg

Apps & Movie – Grab a recent release or old favourite the two of you would enjoy watching together and pick up some tasty appetizers at your favourite restaurant or the grocery store.  Our favourites are flatbreads, spinach dip and boneless bites.  Mmmm.

apps

Campfire Cuddles- I am so looking forward to summer time again.  Many summer nights at our house have been spent roasting hot dogs around the campfire with the kids and then as it gets dark out we tuck them into bed and creep back outdoors to sit and enjoy the fire.  Stars, crackling wood, smoky scented air and a blanket or two make the best conversation atmosphere…or to just sit and enjoy being together in the quiet.

campfire pic

Dream & Imagine – For this date, grab a notebook and a couple pens and start a bucket list of your dreams, goals and crazy never-going-to-happen ideas.  You’ll make 3 lists.  His, Hers and Ours.  Now start shooting questions at each other.  Where would you like to travel?  What are your career aspirations?  Where do you want to see our family in 10 years from now?  Don’t stick to realistic expectations.  Feel free to laugh, cut loose and fall in love with the person you married all over again 🙂

bucketlist

Book Club – If you’re both readers look no further!  Tonight all you need to do is each grab a book, flop down on the couch and get reading.  Sometimes as parents all we want to do is to be in the same place, doing the same thing, in the quiet!  If you want to add some conversation to this night, each of you read a chapter and then swap books and do the same.  After you’ve each read one chapter of the other person’s book, talk about what you learned, the questions you have and what your take on the book is!

books

Closet Clean Out – It is Spring, after all!  If your closet is needing a thorough sorting, set a date for the two of you to go at it together…and have some fun!  Bring some snacks, music and a bunch of garbage bags to toss your old and tired wardrobe into.  Don’t forget to ask your spouse’s opinion on what items should be donated, tossed and kept.  You might be surprised what you learn about your spouse’s style and preferences!

closet clothes

Have fun!

~AF