Maybe years of failed adoption attempts have jaded me. I never attached much meaning to whether or not my future children would be genetically related to me or not. I just wanted the opportunity to be someone’s mommy, and to share that with my husband.
In fact, I used to get a bit too invested in the lives of other people’s children. I was one of those people I now cringe about–dishing out unsolicited parenting advice, often heavily peppered with judgment. My poor sister-in-law was the first to experience this when my niece was born nine years ago. In preparation for my graduate thesis, I researched parenting magazines. Despite not having first-hand experience parenting, I was well-read enough to have formed opinions on many common parenting topics.
This did not make me a well-rounded child care provider though. In fact, I generally let children walk all over me as they reveled in the attention and silliness of an adult. My niece’s friends asked me to play with them, and I didn’t know how to say no. I prided myself on the popularity I held with kids. I considered this proof that I was “good with children” and therefore destined to become a mother, one way or another.
I began to personally invest in the idea of parenting, which culminated in our fostering experience. For all intents and purposes, on a daily basis, I WAS our little foster daughter’s mommy. Except that when it came time to make big decisions–like whether she would stay with us or not–it was abundantly clear that I actually had no say in the matter.
It must have been this disillusionment that gradually led me to scale back the level to which I was playful with other people’s children. I stayed put in adult conversations, turning down invitations to play. I asserted myself as a person to be listened to and respected, not treated as a peer. Perhaps subconsciously, I was distancing myself from the world of children. I was wary of whether or not I’d ever truly get to embrace this life with a child of my own.
When by the grace of God (and thanks to the modern marvel that is embryo adoption/donation) I became pregnant, I assumed that I would go back to my old, playful self around kids. I have not.
Some friends of ours had a baby several months ago. While my husband jumps at the chance whenever we get together to hold him, talk to him, and play with him, I simply stay at a distance and smile. Perhaps reaching out to squeeze a little hand or foot.
Had I been playful with other people’s children all those years as a way to “get my fill?” And now that I had my own baby coming, I no longer desired to have that need met elsewhere? Or had I been burned by not knowing moderation; getting too invested emotionally in other people’s children? And thereby learning that no good comes from getting close to them?
If someone were to see me now, without knowing how I used to be with kids, they might conclude that I’m not a “kid person.” But that would be an unfair assessment. There is so much more that goes into how I am around other people’s children than what is “on the surface.” For starters, I had to teach myself the phrase “other people’s children” when I was working through my grief over losing our foster daughter. Again and again, I had to remind myself that I was not her actual mother.
Hopefully once our baby joins us on the outside, I can develop a healthy attitude towards how I relate to kids that are not my own. Maybe I’ll be able to love them like I used to, without the worry of being heartbroken. Since I’ll have my own child, no matter what.
I hope so.