March 31, 2010 by greenhouse04
Just last Monday I was sitting in the kids’ bedroom helping them get ready for bed. Another woman was also in the room, holding Jake while sitting on the floor. Jake crawled off her lap and ran over to me, saying “mom ma.”
This is a pretty typical thing for Jake to say; however on Monday night it left me with a strange feeling – a mixture of embarrassment, pleasure, and concern.
Why? The other woman in the room was Jake’s real mom.
While she is Jake’s mom, right now I am also his mom – his foster mom. This is a very unique, and at times frustrating, position to be in. We are Jake and Ellie’s primary authority – except we really are not. They are wards of the state, and I need permission to do something even as simple as cut Jake’s hair.
I can’t give the children medical care without a signed permission form from their parents. I have to record every milligram of medicine I give them. I have to be ready to answer their mom’s question, “why does Ellie have a bruise on her right shin?” and have the incident and bruise recorded. I have to work around their parents’ discipline techniques (or lack of discipline).
While our unique situation can be frustrating for me, I can’t imagine how confusing and difficult it is for Jake and Ellie! They have a mommy and daddy, but they live with completely different people! What’s more, these are people they didn’t even know before they moved here.
This confusion can seen by how the kids use the word “mommy.”
When Jake first came to us, he didn’t talk much – he mostly grunted. He also started saying “ma ma ma” to me right away. Now he usually calls me “Reesha,” which I definitely like better. Although, as seen last Monday, he will still come to me saying “mom ma.”
Ellie’s first foster mom told me that toward the end of Ellie’s time there, she was calling the foster mom “mommy.” She’s never called me this, except for one time when she was excited. She turned around and said without thinking “Mommy!” When she saw me, she stopped short and a look of confusion crossed her face, but she recovered quickly and went on.
Most of the time I hear the word “mommy” in conjunction with two other words, “I want.” A lot of times when Ellie is really sad or being disciplined, she’ll cry and say “I want Mommy!” Jake will also do this – he’ll be sitting in time out crying and saying “Mamma!”
Honestly, when they do this I get a strong feeling of frustration. I feel so inadequate and out of control. What do you say? “Sorry kid, but I’m what you’ve got right now. Mommy ain’t gonna come and get you out of this one.”
I just hug them and reassure them that Mommy loves them, and that they’ll see her in a few days. Once in a while I’ve told Ellie that I’ll be her mommy right now. This seems to calm her down.
While its frustrating for me and confusing for the kids, I can’t imagine what it’s like for their real mommy. What crossed her mind when she heard Jake call me “mom ma” last Monday? Does she worry that they prefer me over her? Is she afraid they’ll forget her? Of course they will never forget her, and their bond with her will always be strongest, but I’m sure she still worries.
But, as on Monday, I just smile and go on to the best of my ability. And sometimes I wonder what it would be like to hear a child say the word “mommy” to me, with only feelings of love, joy, and contentment accompanying it. For now, the word brings concern, frustration, and sometimes embarrassment, and I’m much happier when Jake wakes up in the morning saying “Reesha, Reesha, Reesha” in a sing-song voice.