If you are a mom, do you remember the first time your child called you mom? For some, it was when your baby finally put the syllables together with their tiny mouth and a barely recognizable word was formed. For others, like me, it was different.Garrett was 6 years old when he first came to live with us. We hadn’t even thought about what the kids would call us. Because we thought the situation was temporary, we saw no reason for the boys to call us mom and dad. We were simply Erin and James. We always told Garrett he could call us whatever he wanted as long as it was respectful. In front of friends, sometimes it was easier for him to call us mom and dad so he didn’t have to explain anything, but at home we were still Erin and James. Because Tyler was very young (18 mos), he had a hard time understanding everything and he very quickly began to call me Mommy. I felt like I was betraying his birth mom, but I didn’t have it in my heart to tell him no. I was the only mommy he knew in that moment and it broke my heart to take that away from him.
James and I decided to make things less confusing, we would tell Ty we were Mommy Erin and Daddy James (which later got shortened to Daddy J…he always gets to be the cool one).
I thought we were being fair to their birth mom, but I could tell even when they called me Mommy Erin in front of her, it bothered her. As much as I didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes, the wellbeing of Tyler and Garrett was far more important so I let them decide.
One day, about 6 months after they came to live with us, Garrett asked me if he could call us Mom and Dad. This time he meant at home and not just in public. The fact that a child has to ask that question is heartbreaking enough so it brought tears to my eyes. I knew that he wanted to feel like a “normal” kid with a “normal” family so I told him whatever he felt comfortable with was fine.
It was a little strange at first to respond to Mom on a regular basis, but
when Mother’s Day rolled around it dawned on me that I was a mom! I got presents from the boys with their sweet little handprints and they wished me a Happy Mother’s Day, but still all I could think about was their birth mom.
I couldn’t fathom how she had gotten to this point. How did she get to a place where someone else got this privilege instead of her? I understood all of the aspects of addiction because I work in health care, but I still couldn’t grasp it because in front of me were two amazing and adorable boys who needed their Mom so deeply, and yet here I was. It was from that day on that I knew I was a mom, maybe not in the traditional sense, but I would be a mom for Garrett and Tyler as long as God felt it was necessary.