It was, pretty much, like any other Sunday morning. Part of my job as Lay Pastor for Children's Formation at my church is teaching Godly Play each week, and it's a little ridiculous how much I look forward to hanging out with these kiddos. Our church is experiencing a surge of growth in the kids-and-young-families department just currently, growing from just a couple teenagers and one lonely baby four years ago to now - 15+ children running around our parish hall on any given Sunday. It's fun for me to know them all, to track their growth and notice their haircuts and skinned knees and be there to feel proud for them when they finally get over their separation anxiety, start preschool, get contacts or any of the other many milestones that are very very important to people under the age of 10.
This was Mother's Day Sunday, so attendance was a little low. My guess is that several of our urban families did something special for their resident mothers and skipped the usual bustle of Sunday morning for something calmer. We're not a church that does a lot for Mother's Day, a secular holiday after all. In large part this is because of the diversity of our place. There are lots of families here that don't fit the "traditional" model: only dads, older couples without children, and plenty of women who either by circumstance or choice are not mothers. We love Our Mother Mary very, very much - her shrine was lit up with candles - but there wasn't much talk of Mother's Day itself. I don't think the homily by our single male deacon even brought it up.
Nonetheless, the kids that came had Mother's Day on the mind. I was in the older class, 6-9 year olds, and my small group of four kiddos had a lot to say about the day. Well, actually, three of them did. C., who is the daughter of a single mom and very attached, was full of stories about the secrets and surprises she had planned for her beloved mama that day. A. and L., siblings whose mother was the other teacher in the room, were very excited about going somewhere special for lunch after church, in honor of the day.
Godly Play is a very carefully structured curriculum with three main parts: Lesson, Response, and Feast. Lesson is where we experience a story, Response is an opportunity for each child to use art materials, or story materials on their own to respond to the lesson, and Feast is when we have a snack together and socialize.
Our Mother's Day Feast (grapes and animal crackers) was full of Mother's Day talk. Everyone had something to say, except for one child. O. is a special kid, for a number of reasons: he's smart and bookish, he says startlingly funny things, he's an only child, and he's adopted. His is an international transracial adoption, and his dad is a single parent. I've come to both love and dread the twinkle he gets in his eye right before asking a question that he's pretty sure I won't like. A couple weeks ago it was "What's a virgin?" When things get silly during a Lesson or Response time, there's a 65-70% chance O. is involved.
So it was different to see him silent during feast. And then I realized: of course he is. If I thought Mother's Day was hard for me, I can't imagine how it must be for him. Here is everyone, chattering away about the super special stuff they are doing with their moms today, and there is my sweet little friend with absolutely nothing to contribute. I'm not sure what if anything he knows about his first mother, but I know he was too little when he came home to remember her now. I felt a wave of sympathy for him, a feeling much too mushy to reveal to a nine-year old boy.
"Hey kiddo," I said softly and he looked up at me. "Not everybody gets to know their mom, huh?" It wasn't very smooth. I've since come up with lots of other things I could have said. What I meant was I see you. I see that today is different for you. The other children were still talking away, and for a moment it was just me and O. I think he understood. He nodded and the corner of his mouth quirked up a little bit.
"Hey," he said, with a hint of that familiar gleam in his eye. "When are you getting your kid, your baby?" I had told him about our adoption, a few weeks ago.
"I don't know," I replied, as the other children started to pay attention. "It could be a long time, or it could be soon."
"You're adopting right?"
"Yup!" I smiled. I still smile when I get to answer that question in the affirmative.
"Is it going to be a boy or a girl?" and off we went. The subject changed, we all spend the rest of feast talking about my pending adoption, and baby names. The kids offered suggestions, and were a little in awe when I revealed that our girl-name is both an important word from the Bible and a character from X-men. "Does your husband know?!?" O. asked in disbelief. I assure him that it was Andrew's idea.
I can't give O. a mom, nor do I think he must have one. His dad is amazing, and the family they make together is beautiful. But I can support his family by being someone who truly loves and respects the way it was built. So much so that I'm going to build my family that way, too. For a moment in that room it felt like we shared a secret connection. Everyone else was talking about their moms - but really they were talking about their families, and those families were all the same kind, a good kind, but not quite like the family I'm building and not like O's. O. wanted to talk about adoption, about our kind of family, and we share the belief (he has the actual experience) that family isn't about moms and dads and biology as much as it is about love.
And that made my day.