“‘I love you.’ Today, my 16-year-old son told me he loved me for the first time. I’ve been longing to hear those words since he came to live with us when he was our scared 7-year-old foster child. Today was a breakthrough. Today, I learned that even though he has yet to call me mom, he knows that I am his mother. Today, my son showed me my purpose. That by saying those three words, my purpose was to be his mother. I love you too son.
Nine years ago, I never expected to get the ‘call’ again. The call to take another foster child. After adopting five children already, and fostering dozens more, we had met the limit for the number of children that we could have in our house per our states foster care laws. We were not even licensed foster parents anymore. But, our former agency knew that our son would thrive in our house. In part because we had adopted his biological sister as an infant, and because we had never said no to a child in need, no matter the issues. After a family meeting with all our children, we decided that we would take him with the understanding that he may be reunited with his birth mother and his stay with us might only be for a short time.
When our son arrived a few days after the ‘call’ we knew immediately that we would have a long road ahead of us. He was not just scared, but he was also angry. Angry that he was taken away from not only his biological mother, but also his biological siblings. Even though his biological sister was with us, they were virtual strangers to one another as they had only seen each other a handful of times. It took several months of patience, therapy, and unconditional love for our son to finally start to trust us and realize that he was in a safe place. A place that he would begin to thrive in.
Although my son was thriving, he really became close to his adopted siblings and my husband. But his relationship with me, no matter how hard I tried, seemed to be strained.
He would be polite to me but wouldn’t call me mom or tell me he loved me even though I said it to him daily. After about two years of being with us, we got word from our local agency, that his parents’ rights would be terminated, and that we would be approved to adopt him. Once our son found out that he would be with us the rest of his life, he began to finally open up to me, and started to see me as his mother. We figured out that his resistance to get close to me, stemmed from the fact that he had been with his biological mother for the first half of his childhood, and his loyalty stayed with her until he knew that he would never go back to her.
Several years would go by before my son would tell me he loved me. The day my son finally did, was an ordinary day. I was driving him to basketball practice like I had done twice a week since basketball season started. As he was getting out of the car, I said my usual ‘I love you.’ Instead of his usual head shake in acknowledgement, he turned, looked at me, and with a smile said: ‘I love you too!’ I drove off with tears in my eyes, knowing that he knew from that moment on, I would always be his mother.
Although I have no doubt my son loves me, he still does not call me mom. He tells his friends, teachers etc. that I am his mother, but he does not say it to me. And I am okay with that. I’ve realized that him not calling me mom doesn’t change the fact that I am his mother and that we love each other regardless of how we became mother and son.”