Raising Someone Else’s Children
By Bernadette A. Moyer
“Did you ever think of adoption?” I asked
“I’m not going to raise a kid for 18 years and then have them at age 18 turn around and say, YOU ARE NOT MY MOTHER!” she said.
This was a conversation I had with a female friend who was having difficulty conceiving a child. It hit home in a big way. I had already raised twins that were not my biological children and almost as soon as the daughter became legal age she declared “you are not my mother!” This was the same daughter that years earlier and when her friends asked, “Is that your step-mom?” Her response then was “no that is my mom, the only mom I have ever known.” Her birth mother died not long after she was born and I started mothering them at just 87 days old.
Raising kids is a challenge. It is a tremendous commitment and a whole lot of work. And when they are babies and really little it is so much easier than any teenage daughter ever would be. I raised the twins with their natural father. We became involved the same year that his wife died. I too had been widowed. We had an instant connection. It has lasted and is coming up on 25 years now.
Early on friends said to me, “that really is asking a lot of you from him, to raise his kids.” I shrugged it off. The same way I shrugged off the child care director who on her own stated, “He fell into a rose garden when he met you.” I shrugged that comment off as well. I loved him and I loved his children. We took two heartbroken families and tried to mend them together to form one traditional family.
It was never easy. In the beginning it would be my then 11 year old daughter that would declare with conviction “I think I want it even more than you!” She was onboard and at that time it meant the world to me. My husband and the twin’s father did everything he could to make sure that we were one united family. I think he was more hurt and upset to have his daughter become so unappreciative and so unloving and unkind in her very hurtful declarations. I knew it wasn’t me. I had already done the work. I had already raised her. Her narrative needed to go along with the choices she was making in her life.
Another friend was raised by devoted parents a loving mother and father, his birth mother gave him up at age 16 and never looked back. In his early thirties he started having problems with alcohol, he was addicted and just before seeking treatment he went on a quest to find his “real mother.” Those were his words. All his life he wondered about her. Did she ever think of him? Wonder how he was doing?
He finally tracked her down and with much anticipation he met her. The meeting went well. They agreed to continue with a relationship. He tried, his mother never tried to see him again. Now he lives with what he calls “twice rejected” it happens. Not all efforts to reconnect last and grow. Some never take root.
My son gets upset when his twin sister calls me “Bernadette” it doesn’t bother me, that’s my name and I know that we don’t get to rewrite history, well maybe in our own minds. I didn’t mother and parent someone else’s children for any awards or special acknowledgements; I did it because I could. They were children in need of a mother; I was in a position to be their mother. I loved their father and by extension I loved his children too.
I remember a little girl who adored me. I have the pictures and her journal entries to prove it. I have my memories of taking her to all her pediatrician appointments and being there for all the first and last days of school. I sat in the counselor’s office when it was time to decide what kind of course for her education. Years later I sat in the different guidance counselor’s office fighting for her and why she shouldn’t have to take the same algebra class for the fourth time! We won that argument too!
We had our nails done together and I helped her pick her dress for prom and gave my advice on dating etc. For years we watched back-to-back episodes of the Gilmore Girls from my bed. We told the boys, her brother and my husband that it was “our time” and we enjoyed every moment and every single episode.
Years ago I wrote an article titled “Perfect Parents” it is about parents that died and went to heaven and ultimately became “perfect parents” because we don’t speak ill of the dead. I suspect that is how she looks at her “real” mother now.
Raising children is a huge challenge! Some days are great and far exceed any expectations and other days you know what wearing your heart outside your body feels like, in the end I wouldn’t change anything. Everything is an experience and a learning opportunity. You learn that you really can love someone else’s child as though they were your very own child.
At the end of my life I can say, I raised twins! I raised someone else’s children! And regardless of the outcome, I am so proud of the many efforts that both my husband and I afforded them. In our care and with our love and guidance they did well. They went from pre-mature twins with a variety of health issues to functioning young adults. Our work is done. They are soon to be 25 years old and we know that we gave it all we had to give and did our very best. What more could you expect from any parent?
Here it to all parents out there, the ones who actually do the work whether it is for a biological child or someone else’s child … it is noble and truly an act of love and often an adventure!
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