On Birthdays

February 8, 2011

Most of the time, here on the blog, I pretend that I have a somewhat normal family, that the issues we face day to day are the issues we all face, that I’m just your run-of-the-mill mama trying to hold it together, and it’s true, to an extent.

It is also true that in the hospital room where my daughter was born, her birth mother had a psychotic break so severe that six social workers came rushing in, a nurse wheeled the infant out of the room to safety, and my husband vomited from the stress.   It is also true that my four-year-old’s PTSD that has caused him, on many occasions, to rip chunks of my hair from my head and draw blood from my arms with his teeth.  It is is also true that when my oldest* child was born, I was 10 years old, and that by the time he reached that same age, he had already committed his first Class B felony.

These are just some of the ways that my family may be different than most, and they rarely make for good blog material, given that many of my children’s truths are simply too tragic for public consumption.  However, there is also this:  though there are many things that set us apart, I love my children in the universal way that all good mothers do, and that love can underlie an infinite number of blog posts.

This is all by way of saying that today is my oldest* child’s eighteenth birthday, and that emotions are running high.  For much of our society, eighteen is a landmark milestone, marking the (in my opinion, arbitrary) legal transition into adulthood that strikes fear in the heart of parents and glee in the spirits of teenagers.  The wrinkle in our house is that turning eighteen in foster care bestows upon you a decision that no adolescent should be expected to make: at eighteen, a child can choose to walk out of foster care and into whatever he or she wants — a dysfunctional birth home, a shelter, a life of crime that initially entices but eventually destroys.  It is a different break for independence than a typical child could make — it is the choice to say “You may no longer parent me” in a way that no birth child, whether four or forty-four, would ever be able to say.

Around the time that my big boy was born, I went on a school field trip about which I remember nothing but sitting in a large room with an outdoorsy, nature-loving-type group leader ripping up pieces of paper and encouraging us to do the same.  I don’t remember the order or script of the exercise, but the point was that when you lead a full life, you spend your days ripping out pieces of your heart to give to other people, and, if you’re lucky, receiving pieces back from your loved ones.

One of my favorite things ever said here on the blog was a quote shared by mama Kristina Thelen in her customer profile, from a book I’ve never read by a man of whom I’ve never heard.  “The decision to have a child is momentous because it is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”

As my boy hits this tremendous milestone, I celebrate with him, and think of all of the regrets I have:  that I wasn’t there to teach him to ride a bike, to take him to the dentist, to keep him safe.  And then I think of my misshapen paper collage of a heart walking around outside of my body, I take a deep breath, and, with every bit of hope and faith I can muster, I go out to buy cake.

Happy birthday, my darling boy.

-Meryl at the Goose

*Actually, my “oldest” child is no longer my oldest, though I have become accustomed to calling him that in the blogosphere.  We’ve had some new additions lately, about whom I’ll share soon, but today is all about the birthday boy.


5 Responses to “On Birthdays”

  1. Pentimento Says:

    Beautiful post. Many blessings to him and all of you on his birthday.

  2. carole rubin Says:

    You and your husband are truly amazing people! I commend you for what you are doing for these young people. I hope they appreciate it! Keep up the good work! Keep these writings coming! I love them! You express yourself so well!
    Happy Birthday to your 18 yr. old!
    I’m proud to know you!

  3. carole rubin Says:

    Mom gave a presentation to my Merkaz class tonite.
    She was absolutely amazing!

  4. Meryl,

    When you meet Saint Peter at the pearly gates or whoever is there and they ask you to talk about your life you will simply say…..I have loved deeply.

    You know what love it more deeply than anyone I know. I feel blessed to know you and your amazing family.


  5. janet jastroch Says:

    Dear Meryl,
    Today you touched my heart. I can only say a prayer for you and your beautiful children, and hope that your son makes the decision to accept your love and the life you offer him. As parents, sometimes all we can do is stand by and watch and say that silent prayer. Much love, Janet

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