Too Real

“I think he will probably cry, when he leaves his real mummy.”

I catch my breath.

It’s a normal, slightly rushed day.  I’ve done the school run to pick up the 5yo and we’re on our way to drop some groceries off at the house of a friend who’s been ill.  We’ve been talking about “little brother” the two year old we’ve been linked with, and who we hope will be home with us some time after Easter.  Then the 5yo comes out with that show-stopper.

The phrase “real mummy” is a hum-dinger in adoption terms, usually part of a casual question which tends to cut a mummy-by-adoption off at the knees… “so, where’s his real mummy?”  You can read numerous hot – and accurate  – defences that point out that the person caring for, loving, laughing, living with the child is the ‘real’ mummy.  All true.  But some time ago I read a beautiful article by an adoptive mum (which I’ve since lost – if you know the one I mean, please direct me!) who pointed out that every time she told her adopted daughter that her birth mum wasn’t her real mum, she was in essence telling her adopted daughter that her grief wasn’t real, that her feelings for her birth family weren’t real…. No, the article argued, she has two real mums.

That’s the way I see it, too.  Yes, I caught my breath, but mostly because we’d never talked about mumming in terms of ‘real’ or not, because I wasn’t sure where this was heading, because I knew he actually meant 2yo’s foster carer, and because I was breath-stealingly proud of the 5yo for demonstrating such empathy.

“I think he will probably cry, when he leaves his real mummy.”

“Yes, I think you’re right, love.”

“But it’s okay, because then he’ll have his REAL real mummy, and that will make him feel better.”

This time I didn’t catch my breath.  I caught a sob.  “Am I his REAL real mummy?”

“Oh, yes, Mummy.”

“I love you.”

“I wuv you too, Mummy.”

Yes, both my sons will have two real mummies.  But if, in my son’s eyes, I’m his REAL real mummy, and that makes everything in his world alright, then I’m more than okay with that.