Back and Forth

“Mommy, are you Munchkin’s real mom?”

I paused, mid-pass with the iron. I don’t iron often, but I’ve been trying to remember to iron a bit more frequently. The boys’ dress shirts always prove the most challenging to de-wrinkle, though as they continue to grow, it feels a bit easier. More room to move the iron back and forth, back and forth.

I inhaled very slowly, exhaled slower still.

My husband looked up from across the room, but I didn’t catch his eye. I couldn’t.

“Well, Booey, I’m her birth mom, but the title “real mom” is one of those things that doesn’t really make sense. I mean, is Dee imaginary?”

Laughter met my question. Both boys giggled. The discussion devolved into the way my imaginary friend once knocked out my two front teeth (no, really). The weight of the moment passed as quickly as it exploded into the house.

I went back to ironing. Back and forth, back and forth.


My husband passed by, kissing me on the head.

It’s funny-not-funny how the hotly debated term “real mom” ended up spilling from the mouth of my two sons. Of all the kids ever with an understanding of adoption, ethical terminology, and the way we respect others, hearing it from my son made me understand the question at its core.

I’ve read post after post by offended person after offended person who has been asked the real mom question. But if my son, who has been trained in adoption language and rhetoric since birth, can ask the question without malice, without intent to hurt, then your next door neighbor doesn’t mean any harm when asking it either.

The situation might have felt stickier if he asked me in front of his sister, but he didn’t. I handled the question in my normal manner, reminding him of previous conversations and using proper terminology to drive home the point. I didn’t belabor the point and indulged the boys when they asked questions about my imaginary friend. (Of note: As I pushed my imaginary friend on the swing, it hit me in the face, knocking out my two front teeth. Seriously.)

I continued ironing as they laughed and talked, my mind wondering how many times I reacted negatively when “real mom” was thrown about before; back and forth, back and forth. That’s how this goes, really. Back and forth, this adoption journey. Sometimes we’re learning, sometimes we’re being taught. Sometimes we feel one way, other times another. It moves, it grows, it goes.

As we enter this newest phase of our journey, one in which I work to nurture a relationship directly with my daughter while my sons do the same, I find I’m learning more and more from the boys, from her. Where once I stood as the teacher, I now sit down and absorb every little bit they want to teach me.

Back and forth, back and forth.



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3 Replies to “Back and Forth”

  1. Good post! I generally try and see that people are not trying to be rude, just curious. The “real mom” thing doesn’t bother me too much, maybe because I have bio kids as well and haven’t gone through the pain of infertility?

  2. i haven’t gotten the “real mom” question from an adult yet. I have been asked by some of Charlie’s friends and classmates. My usual response is that Charlie has 2 real moms, me and his birth mother.

  3. People ask me about J&A’s “real mom” all the time. I want to say I’ve never been offended by it, but I’m sure in the early days with J I probably reacted—inside—more negatively to it than I would now. I’m pretty secure in my position in her life now, after six years, but then…it was all so new, and being a new mom is hard enough without wondering whether you’re “real” enough. For a long time every time I screwed up I wondered whether I would know better how to be a parent if I were their “real mom.” I wonder sometimes whether when people get offended by the term it’s because they’re feeling the same way.

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