I walk down, groggy from a nap that did nothing to wash away the bone-deep exhaustion I am feeling. I hear the giggles quiet down, the TV is turned off and a hush descends on the home. I wince trying to ignore the effect I have on my children.
We array ourselves around the kitchen island. The three children on chairs and I standing next to Ammu. I sip my coffee as I watch them sip their beverage. I must have seemed lost in thought for Pattu asks me what I am thinking about. I am truthful. I say, “I wish it were 2035 and all of you kids are adults or at least capable of doing things by yourself. Then it will be just Appa and I and we will be free!”
My eyes light up as I describe how the twins will have perhaps be done with college and how Laddu will be in one. “You will all have your circle and things you enjoy doing with other people,” I finish.
I am perplexed when I see Ammu sob. “I don’t want to go anywhere! I want to be with you… forever!” Laddu as if sensing a potentially poignant moment joins her sister and sobs right along. Pattu not wanting to miss out ends up tearing up a little.
I gather my brood hushing, wiping tears and sobbing a bit myself. I try and explain that moving away from home does not mean I will not be mommy anymore. I try and explain in limited words between sobs that freedom from responsibility does not mean freedom from worrying. “You will be fifty and I will be in my eighties and I will still ask if you peed before going to bed, if you ate your veggies,” I try and joke. Pattu seems to take that as a signal to run off and play. Laddu wipes her snot and tears on me and joins her sister. Ammu and I hold each other and rock for a long while. I tell her she can pick a college near home. She could go to college from home. She could settle down near Amma but… she doesn’t have to.
I tell her stories about my growing up years. About how I fantasized flying away from home. I tell her about how I imagined staying in a hostel, about flying on an airplane far, far away. I tell her that all I wanted to do was to be independent, to start my own life.
She is now quiet. We hold each other and eventually, she wipes her face, gives me a squishy hug and walks away.
I am shaken. Shaken enough to wonder what brought on the deluge of tears. It hits me that I craved independence only because I was secure in the knowledge that Amma and Appa had my back. I flew away knowing I could go home anytime. That knowledge came from being born to them, the bond strengthened by actions over time.
I read about trauma in adoption. I read about abandonment and trust issues. Yet, I have never connected it with my children. As my children react to what I think is an offhand statement, it reminds me that words have power. What I mean may not always be perceived in the same way. It reminds me to pause before a speech, to weigh what I say. To bolster words with actions. To hug more, kiss more, to say the I love you(s) often and loudly.
In time, they too may fantasize about conquering the big, bad, world knowing Amma and Appa have their backs. Always.