When Mills first came home, I was extra sensitive about how people perceived our family. Immediately upon walking into a store or restaurant, I would scan the eyes of every patron trying to determine their reaction. Eventually, I realized that they were staring mostly because I was a random woman hovering and glaring at them. Creepy.
I never wanted anyone to give us more/less attention because we are a transracial family and had a hard time adjusting early on. But over the years, I feel like I have become exactly opposite of that. I think most adoptive families would agree after some amount of time, you actually forget your child is adopted. In the most literal sense. For instance, it never fails to surprise me when others giggle as I reflect on how Mills looks so much more like me than Matt. Sometimes when he reaches for my hand, I am shocked to see that our skin doesn't match.
I am not a hover-er or a panic-er when we are in public. I have my bag of crazy in terms of mothering, but I’ve always given Mills space and freedom to move and explore. (But, if you expose my child to one single television show apart from my “approved list”, I will have a mental breakdown. Don’t you know that one episode of Sponge Bob Square Pants could change the trajectory of my child's life?? See? Crazy.)
Today was one of the first beautiful days since winter happened. And because winter “happens” to me in the worst of ways, we have been cooped up, in our pajamas, losing our mind for months. In celebration of Spring and warmth and not-winter, I kept Mills home and we went to the zoo. There is a playground he likes with tunnels and bridges and spots only tiny people can go, so I can’t see him as clearly as other playgrounds we visit.
Recently inspired (guilted) to put my phone away and just experience the moment, I watched as his little striped shirt came in and out of visibility. His war-cry can been heard even amongst a bazillion kids because, he.is.so.loud, so I could hear him constantly.
Suddenly, I realized I hadn’t seen him in an unusual amount of time so I left my spot and waded through six hundred toddlers. When I didn’t find him, I went back to my seat knowing that he’d surface sooner or later with demands of fruit snacks and milk. (so gross)
Several more minutes passed and I still hadn’t seen him. At this point, my brain kicked into over drive and made up for every relaxed moment I’ve had as a mom. This was really happening and I had no idea what to do. Blood rushed to my face and I couldn’t hear anything. Frantically, I started yelling his name and running. I don’t know where I ran, I just felt like I needed to be moving quickly.
The next few moments were the scariest of motherhood so far. As adrenaline surged, I had the thought that someone could have taken my son and left the zoo. I darted into a café a few hundred feet from the playground and several people started pointing to the front saying “there! He’s over there!” Apparently the “I can’t find my child and I’m about to lose it” look is a universal one.
My little man was quietly standing with a walkie-talkie-clad zoo worker. “He's just fine. I was about to put out a call for you,” she said with the kindest blue eyes. As I threw myself towards him, I thanked her and focused on not vomiting. "Where was he? Where WAS he?" I held my baby and started shaking all over.An elderly woman appeared in front of my face and said angrily, “You lost him. He didn’t have parents around so I had to make sure he was safe. SHE took care of him." She pointed to the zoo worker.
And in that moment, I remembered that we are different. Also, I almost punched some one's Mee-Maw. I am certain this lady had the best of intentions, but she took my child off of a playground because she didn’t see any adults who shared his skin color.
I am feeling so many things as I write this, but mostly, I’m sad. I’m sad that Mills won’t live a life where family seems simple and uncomplicated. I am sad that someone can make a judgement about us by the way that we look. I am sad that even when we forget we aren’t like everyone else, the world remembers.
So, even though my heart has forgotten I didn’t physically carry my son, my mind is heavy today. What will his tomorrows look like? Birthday parties, sports, MIDDLE SCHOOL??? Will he understand that his presence in our family is a literal miracle? Can he grasp that he was not “unwanted”, but doubly loved by his birth mother and me?
These are the hard moments in adoption. When I don’t have the answers and I am engulfed in fear. So, I have to put it aside. I have to ask God to remind me one hundred times a day that He has always known Mills was ours, and He will care for us in all of our tomorrows.
I am currently researching children’s “leashes”. When I find one that says “birth to age seventeen”, I’m ordering it. So, don’t judge me when you see my son tethered to me for the next fourteen years. I can’t help it.