“Are you the Mommy?” He was just two years old, and already he understood “Mommy” to be as much about function as biological fact.
I hesitated, then smiled. “Yes, Christopher. I'm the Mommy. Would you like to come and see where I live, and stay with us for a while?”
With a confidence that took my breath away, the little boy slipped his hand into mine and we set off toward the McDonald’s Playland. I was the Mommy who was going to play with him, at least for now.
That was five years ago. Two years ago, my husband and I adopted Christopher and his little sister, Sarah. I love them fiercely, more than I thought it possible to love another human being. Frankly, I think I got the better end of the "love deal," since on most days they are infinitely easier to love than I am.
The other day in an adoption forum, the question came up, “Is it possible to love an adopted child unconditionally?” Now, most people put a comparative spin on this particular question (i.e., “Is it possible to love an adopted child as much as one that is biologically related?”).
However, since I’ve never given birth and can’t address that question with relevant first-hand experience, my first instinct is not to compare it to biological parenthood. I have spoken to many people who have both adopted and biological progeny, and believe the core parent-child bond feels the same no matter how a child enters your family. Some people believe this quite passionately. I find that inspiring.
I just don’t come at this question from the same direction. To me, the word “unconditionally” has a magnanimity that I’m not entirely sure I possess. I mean, couples pledge “unconditional love” on their wedding day ... and fifty percent of them wind up in divorce court. Parenthood would seem to require a higher standard, because there are higher stakes. And so, I promise my kids something that doesn’t sound quite so flowery, but fits the bill just as well, and perhaps even better. Not “unconditional” love, but “every day” love.
- Every day … I promise to start the day by putting your needs above my own.
- Every day … I promise to give you the security and affection you need to overcome the past and set your sights on the future.
- Every day … I promise to be there – good, bad, or indifferent – even when no one else in the world is on your side.
- Every day … I promise you will be in my thoughts as I go to sleep, in my prayers when I arise, and in my heart everywhere I go.
- Every day … I promise to love you with every fiber of my being, just as I promised to love your father.
- Every day … that I don’t feel up to the challenge, I promise to call in reinforcements knowing that there is always One who loves us all … unconditionally.
It’s a real-world choice, made in real-world time. God in His infinite perfection can truly pledge “unconditional” love. Me, there are days when I aspire to “adequate.”
I know my own limitations. The best I can do is one day at a time. God knows just how pitifully flawed and frail I am, how far from perfection I fall in my capacity to love. My children do not have the perfect mother ... but they do have a Heavenly Father who always fills the gap.
And so, they call me “Mommy.” I tickle them, and we fall in a heap of hugs and giggles. It’s not perfection, but it is real-life love.