Thursday, March 19, 2009

The "Mom" issue

Kayla has called me by my first name ever since she moved in. It was kind of bothering me last summer so we had the conversation that went something like "I will never replace your real mom but if you want to call me Mom you can do so. If you feel more comfortable calling me Kristi then that's alright too." I felt relief after having said it and let go of it for a while.

In therapy tonight, she got confronted on not calling me "mom" and she kept saying "I will never call her mom." When the therapist asked her why, she said "I can't." The therapist said her homework was to call me mom...she said she wouldn't do it so it was changed to come up with some kind of nickname that wasn't as formal as my name. Right before time was over, Kayla said "I can't call anyone that's not my birthmom my mom." When the therapist asked her what she thought of me as she said "my guardian." We talked some about how it hurt me that she doesn't think of us as a family but it was right before the end so we couldn't really get into it. I'm sure we will get more into it next time. Kayla has very black and white views about her life and how it should be and is very stubborn about things and what she believes about certain things. She also has a fantasy about the perfect family (which is not me, the single mom, by the way). Part of me doesn't want to force the issue because her calling me anything would be just because she had to and not real but on the other hand delving into this issue brings up some important issues like how she views adoption and she and I as a family. It's very painful to hear the daughter that you want to raise and give a home to tell you she thinks of you only as a "guardian. "I don't know if that means she thinks of me as the person who is just going to take care of her until she graduates high school and then she's out of here. More will be revealed, I guess. In the meantime, she knows she hurt my feelings because she is scrubbing the bathtub. Scrubbing the bathtub?! That has never happened the entire time she has lived here.


Tracey said...

That's so hard. S has called me mom since the day she moved in and in some ways I wish she didn't, especially after she told me that she's always called everyone mom (babysitters, neighbors, etc.) It's so interesting how that word is so loaded with meaning for some kids like Kayla, while for kids like S it pretty much means anyone who hands you a sandwich. They both need to find a middle ground, and they will. It's just that when they accept us as their families, it means they're saying goodbye to their past. I can't even imagine how hard that must be.

All you can do is keep plodding along and working hard. Can you settle on some sort of compromise between "mom" and your name? I don't know what that might be though. Maybe "K" or even "ma" or something? I don't know. It really is a thankless job, isn't it? But you're making a difference in her life, even though sometimes it feels like an exercise in futility. And you're getting your tub cleaned in the meantime! ;-)

Hang in there!

Sally's World said...

it is hard, i've never been in this position, but my godchildren call me mum, as do some of my kids friends...i do love it, i think the word has different meanings for different children, i agree with Tracey,a compromise...

Maggie said...

Ouch. For Slugger it was entirely different -- the word "mom" for him had very little meaning. When he first started calling me that (the day after I met him) it was pretty meaningless. But it grew into something meaningful. He still calls his birthmom "mom," though and I think that's the way it should be.

I think the idea of a compromise name is a good one. Something other than "mom" but still in the mother-genre.

Rather than making it her homework (which seems like a questionable idea at best to me), maybe the homework could be something geared toward teaching Kayla that she can love her mom (by birth) and still love you. There doesn't have to be a competition there.

Violet said...

My oldest (11) rarely calls me "Mom" -he generally goes with Violet. When I asked him why, he said, "I just like the name". He didn't say it, but I know, as well, that many of his friend don't know he's adopted, so he just looks cool calling his mom by her first name. I'm okay with it because he has hugely strong feelings (unresolved) about his bio-mom that he's working through. And, truthfully, I can't force him to call me anything, ever!

My 9 and 5 year olds call me "Mom" 99.9% of the time and only refer to me as "Violet" when my oldest has been ranting about me or to see what my reaction will be (answer: nothing.)

It's interesting to watch what happens when bio-family members are around, too.

StefB said...

Even my daughter adopted at 9.5 months took FOREVER to call me mom (or anything directly), although she knew and used many other names quite early on. Even now, at 2.5 years, she often changes what she calls me and is adamant about the new variation: sometimes mommy, sometimes mama, mom, ...

I think the word was loaded for her and is for many others with changes in caretakers. Mama was her foster mother.

I just waited (and it WAS painful). I know it's different, obviously, because you're dealing with a teenager not a baby. But maybe the underlying issues are a lot the same. I'm not an adoption therapist, but the "assignment" seems too forced to me. Maybe the term will come and maybe it won't, but try not to feel too bad that Kayla called you her "guardian." I teach teenagers and lets say their feelings and words don't always mesh. And that word may be her way to keep her feelings in check. I bet attachment is scary for her, like for my daughter (who still requires a lot of reassurance).

Stefanie, mom to Tiana