My mother was silent all the way through dinner. I was out with her, my stepfather and sister when I broke the news – right in the middle of the restaurant.
“Joe and I have decided to adopt,” I said matter of factly. It was 2008 and Joe and I had been married for three years.
When I told them the news, I naively expected everyone to be happy.
But I immediately knew I had made a mistake.
I later found out that my mother was upset that she wouldn’t have biological grandkids. I discovered that blood ties meant a lot to her -she doesn’t have a particular reason why. “I never thought about it before,” she said, “that’s the way I was raised.”
But my mother loves kids. She’s a natural teacher and mother. And once she met them she formed an immediate bond.
A few years later, in 2011, I had some more news to share, so this time I did it differently.
Joe and I had decided to move with our kids (now 8 and 5, both adopted) from the suburbs to Detroit.
My mother is like many other suburban baby boomers. Memories of the 1967 rebellion scare her and she doesn’t think much of Detroit.
So, I did something equally as stupid as the first time – I kept putting it off.
When I finally did tell her, she was unhappy with both our move and that I waited so long to tell her.
Mother-daughter relationships can be complicated and these are just two examples of how my mother and I have clashed during my 33 years.
To both her credit and mine, after they happened we spent a lot of time talking about how to make it better the next time; how we’re different and alike; and how we got to this point.
This is hard work. We’re not very good at communicating. I’m very quiet and I tend to see problems as issues that I need to solve by myself and I spend a lot of time trying to evaluate my own expectations.
But, my mother wants more openness between us. So, I’m trying.
My mother hasn’t always accepted my choices, but I haven’t been very accepting of hers either. My parents were divorced when I was a teenager, and for 10 years, I just knew that I was the right person to choose her new partner. When she married someone that I hadn’t picked, I was angry and disappointed.
My mother and I continue to figure out how to accept each other, which is both challenging and rewarding.
And now, I have my own daughter – and we couldn’t be more different. I’m starting a new journey with her, different from my mother’s and mine.
I hope it will be just as rewarding.