I don’t often remember my dreams. I don’t know why that is. I just don’t. But every so often a dream comes through that I do remember, and is so vivid, I truly do believe that it is trying to send me a message from somewhere.
I have dreams about my mother like that. Maybe once a year or every two years. Almost always the same….in the dreams, she somehow lived through her initial illness twenty years ago, but we’re fighting it again. Reliving the journey to her passing, somehow. I can still recall bits of these ultra vivid dreams as if they actually happened.
Sometimes the dreams are different. I don’t know why I have them. There’s a dream I can still recall of a house I never lived in, but I can see the house and it’s layout in my head as if it did exist, as if it was part of my experience. Even though it never was.
Two nights ago I had a dream like that. A dream of a conversation that never happened, but was so real that I will never shake it. Earlier that evening I ran into a friend who is a single mom. She has one daughter from a marriage and two adopted children that she adopted after the marriage was over. In the dream, she was asking me how to talk to her adopted children about their absent parent, how to help them understand their situation.
And just like that, in the dream, I answered her:
“First, you need to let them know that no matter what their background is, what happened to them from their biological parents, that you love them. You have to make sure that is so crystal clear in their heads that they know it as part of who they are. They can’t doubt it. That you are their parent and that you love them more than you could love anything else.
Second, you have to be sure to never, ever talk negatively about that absent biological parent. Even if you have super strong feelings about what they may or may not have done for your child. At the end of the day, they know that parent exists and if you talk negatively about that person, you’re talking negatively about a part of who they are. Ideally, some day, you’ll let that anger you may have go….but until that day, you have to keep it away from your children. That’s your burden, not theirs.
Third, you have to acknowledge whatever feelings they may have about that parent. They are real, and they’re allowed to have them. Those feelings have nothing to do with you, as hard as it is to realize that. Missing an absent parent, wanting to know more about that parent, this is a normal part of what an adopted or child with an absent parent goes through. They know there is a piece missing and they want to know who they are. You have to support their feelings and allow them to explore them. If you have history with the absent parent, this is a very hard one, but it is vitally important to the child having a healthy sense of self. They will mourn the parent that isn’t there, and you have to be there with all the love and support you can when they do. But if they want to go searching, if they want to reach out….if it is safe for them to do so….you have to let them.
Fourth and finally, you must always be truthful. Don’t lie. Take the questions as they come, don’t offer more information than they can handle at the age they are, but always be honest about who their biological parents are. But the second rule applies here too: be honest, but don’t be negative. If the parent is absent because they are in jail, or a drug addict, hold that information until the child is older. When they are younger, say something like that the absent parent just ‘wasn’t ready’ or ‘was so sick she couldn’t take care of you’ or something more general, but also not negative. If you have photos of the parent, show them to the child. They should always know who they are.”
I woke up from the dream with such a sense of peace. And then I realized….I am at peace. I’m done waiting for my son’s biological father to finally figure out that he’s this amazing kid’s parent. It doesn’t matter any more. I did everything I could for my boy to fill the gap. And I know that, as unfair as it is, some of that gap will never be filled, because he knows (because I have always been truthful with him) who his biological father is and that he has never been a part of his life. But I also know that I have done a great job despite the challenges.
My son is working, thriving, married and expecting his own child. He is a credit to me and my husband, who from the moment we met, took my son in as his own. We are his parents. We have helped him grow into the man he has become. And while I am sad that my son’s story doesn’t have the happy ending that I had always hoped it would, I am done with wishing for things that I cannot control. There is nothing I can do to lead that horse to water. Did I make mistakes? Yes. Of course I did. But none of them merit living as if your own son doesn’t exist. I’ve done all that I can do to make it right for my son. And I can finally, finally say that I am at peace with it.
I hope someday my son will be as well.