Wednesday, March 20, 2013


My sons don't call me Mom.  They never have.

The boys knew me first as Ms. Wilcox. The assistant principal. The lady they talked to when they got in trouble at school. Which was relatively often.

When they came to live with me, I told them they could call me mom or mommy or mother. Son #2 wrote a story in his second grade writers' notebook about how he was going to live with me and call me mamma. He spelled it that way. With two m's in the middle.

A dear friend does foster care, and her babies call her, Miss Deb, or Mama Deb. I suggested that my boys could call me Mama Carol. Nope.

Kids at school call me Ms. Carol or sometimes Dr. Carol.  I suggested my boys could use that moniker. Nope.

The football players call me Ms. Carol or sometimes Mom Carol. Nope.

My boys don't call me any of those things.

To them, I'm Ms. Wilcox.

When they talk about me to other people, they say "my mom." My mom says she can do a parent teacher conference at 3 on Thursday. She'll just take off work.  OR Sure, my mom would be happy to drive us to a field across town and sit there for three hours at noon in the middle of July while we scrimmageOr when Son #1 was in middle school, "My mom would be happy to bake a Tres Leches cake for our class food festival. She bakes them all the time." (Not!)

But the boys never call me "Mom" to my face. 

It's not that I haven't tried. That first summer I reminded them, more than once, actually probably about a million times, that they could call me Mom. Several different therapists have set that as a goal. Even football coaches have encouraged the boys to call me Mom.

My boys, especially the older one, respond, "Love you too," when I tell them I love them. My boys do give me hugs. They do send an occasional "love you" text (if they want money).

But our relationship is a curious and distant thing. I am their mom, but only kind of. I do all the things a regular mom does, or at least I think I do, but even now, after ten years, I'm still not exactly a real mom. When I write notes or cards to the boys, I never quite know how to sign them. Should I sign them, Love you, Mom? Or do I sign, Love you, Ms. Wilcox?

The therapist holds up her two index fingers. Moves them until they are side by side, touching.

"The normal parent/child relationship is like this, Carol."

She pulls her fingers away from each other, until half an inch separates them.

"The relationships of a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) are like this. They don't let people get that close to them. They are too afraid. It has nothing to do with you, or how you parent. It has to do with a life that happened long before you ever knew the boys."

A life where no one comforted them when they cried. Or fed them when they were hungry. Or cared for them when they were sick.

And even though I have been there for over 3000 days, and helped with thousands of pages of math homework, and washed a million uniforms, and answered billions of phone calls and text messages, I am still Ms. Wilcox.

I probably always will be.

And I have accepted that. And let it go.

But if I'm really honest, I wish that my boys would call me Mom. 


Chris said...

Carol, your posts are so honest. I really wish the boys would call you Mom, too. Maybe they just don't know how to start.

Katherine Sokolowski said...

How hard, Carol. I can't imagine what their life was like before you - and how it has shaped who they are today. I hope they do eventually get to the point that they can call you mom. How sweet that would be.

writekimwrite said...

I know in your mind you understand what the therapist says but in your heart you long to be called Mom. How wide you have opened your heart to your sons and that devotional love can not help but influence them in ways they may not even be aware of. In your case I truly believe Ms. Wilcox has become synonymous with Mom. I value your transparent reflections.

Michelle Haseltine said...

I'm speechless. This post is so full of love and angst and honest emotions!!! You've written about a fear of mine...not ever feeling like a "real mom". I'm currently in the process of adopting an older child from foster care. (I am still searching for said child after many months.) Thanks for your honesty and know you aren't alone.

Donna Smith said...

It would be nice to be called "mom", but as long as they know you are a mom to them and are there for them, who cares? Some people that are called "mom" don't get hugs!

Beverley Baird said...

Your posts always touch me deeply Carol. You are so honest - with your feelings, your challenges.
I had a stepdaughter who called me mom from the first time she met me. But ours was a rocky road and when i divorced her dad, we never really kept in touch. She had a very difficult life.
It is such a challenge to take on someone else's children.You are their Mom - even if they don;t say the word.

Tara @ A Teaching Life said...

Children take a long time to heal when the wound was early and deep. I'll say it again, Carol, your boys are lucky to have had you step into their lives - open heart and open minds. And they know it deep down, I am sure. Even so, that "little" word would mean so much, wouldn't it?

Nanc said...

My kids love to call me Nanc....usually with an explanation mark after it in exasperation. The boys view Ms. Wilcox as sign of respect and endearment. And I love that they call you mom in front of other people. xo

Linda B said...

First, I read the last one-good luck on the road trip if you go!

I don't know how it will all work out, Carol. Perhaps you're right-the naming will never happen, but I want to tell you that my brother (along with two younger ones) adopted a 14 year old, & they've gone through a lot together, and now that young man is grown, 40, with a wife & 4 kids, & he's a policeman (CSI expert). They have a good relationship & finally grown, he calls them Mom & Dad. I'm not sure he called them anything for many years.
I hear that it matters to you, but in there I feel that they think you are "mom", & someday will take the step.

Lori said...

I hope you get the title, you sure have the role down pat! said...

Love comes in all different forms and words. While "love you, mom" would make your heart melt like hot butter, it sounds to me like your boys know all your "love" buttons (driving, baking, caring for, doing homework) and push them all the time. You are the best of moms when you do all that .... and the rewards are, I am SURE, enourmous and beyond words.

Kay said...

I love reading about you and your boys. Even though they don't call you mom, I love the fact that that is how they describe you to others in their world. Those 3000 days of being there for them are amazing.

JenniferM said...

Your love for them is so evident in your writing. I just finished One For the Murphys and got my first real peek at foster care. It was heartbreaking and heartwarming all at the same time. Your boys are so lucky to have you in their lives, and I bet they call you "Mom" in their hearts, even if their mouths don't say it yet.

elsie said...

That is such a simple word and request but is so hard to say for those boys. Maybe someday it will happen. You have such strength.

Shannon Mashinchi said...

I totally know how you feel Carol. I am mom to two step-sons and, although my daughter calls my husband (her step-father) dad, they never call me mom...granted they still have a mom, but things were crazy in their early years.

Here's a bit of insight you might consider...when I was 14 I moved in with my dad and step-mom...I have never called her mom, not because I don't love her and think of her as my mother, but because "mom" had such negative connotations because of my bio-mom I couldn't give that same name to her. Mom would be a put down...just a thought! I have added you to my nightly blog list! :) (and you may have given me an idea for tonight!)

Carol said...

Thanks so much for all of your kind words and thoughts today. Please know that they are much, much, much appreciated. I loved, today, hearing all of the really different perspectives. I especially appreciated your perspective, Shannon, that was something I had never thought about. Michelle, if there is anything I can do to help make your journey easier, I'd be more than happy to help any way I could- by sharing my experiences, just listening, recommending helpful resources, etc. I read ONE FOR THE MURPHYS and loved it. I also loved TOUCH BLUE by Cynthia Lord. A dear friend recommended an adult novel, THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS, which I think is a must read for anyone with any interest in kids coming out of the foster care system.

Melanie Meehan said...

Carol, you write amazing, honest, open posts. I worked with children who were emotionally deprived for many years and we prayed for people like you to come into their lives. There is so much in a name, I know, but the love and acceptance and support that you have provided these boys is unbelievable. THank you for sharing such honest reflections.

Laura Lynn Benson said...


Praying that these heart song words are voiced to you...

Yes, this is you, Carol.