"Here they come," my son's teachers said. It was "Parents' Day" at my little guy's preschool. In he came, looking a bit dazed, showing a respect for rules and order that is unusual in my experience of him. Then suddenly he spotted me and broke through, rushing past his classmates in a full-on, joyous run. "You came!" his smile seemed to shout before he burrowed into my cheek and planted a wet kiss.
And thus began the Olympic marathon of Hallmark-ian tears that is Mother's Day, a holiday I find immensely simple - and yet complicated, all at the same time.
Simple because my fierce love for my boys is just that: simple. The kind of truth that requires no deliberation, no hemming and hawing, no figuring. It just is.
And yet, it is also complicated. Complicated because, as the mother of children with pronounced physical, psychological and cognitive reactions to foods, I find that the joy I feel for all that they are is tinged by my sadness for all that we as a team must overcome, balance and cook our way through in order to help them achieve it.
Now don't get me wrong: I get how lucky I am. Every child comes with bumps in the road, trials to be overcome. I can't even imagine the hurt that mothers of severely food-allergic children - like so many in our community here on freedible - go through, always aware that every day at school their child is literally surrounded by toxins that could cause his or her death in minutes. Let alone the mothers who don't have any magic formula to lift a veil of silence, debilitating physical difficulties or worse still, who are called upon to survive losing their child altogether.
And yet, I find when the calendar rolls around to Mother's Day and I let myself reflect, my fierce love is complicated none-the-less. It is complicated by my sadness at the complicated brain-chemistry reactions they must overcome to achieve their "all." Chemical reactions caused by eating everyday, organic, "healthy" foods like spinach or tomatoes - foods that most mothers would love to see their kids eat.
For my older son, this is relatively straight-forward, requiring only that we maintain a delicate but fairly well-understood balance of low histamine foods and daily Claritin (god bless Claritin!) to keep the giggles flowing and the brilliant creativity shining. And to keep the cognitive and emotional failures, the chronic, acute stomach aches and grinding depression at bay. That's a trade-off that is well worth the vast bucket of fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, beans and meats it requires us to forgo.
For my younger son, it's a bit more complicated. He too requires dietary gymnastics to maintain an even keel - but even with this we are all too often behind the tornado that are his immunological reactions. Screaming, rashing, sobbing, emotionally helpless - fail to predict what food or airborne exposure might set him off and we are in for two to three days of sheer hell while his body fights it out: skin against digestive tract against brain chemistry against sound barrier.
This little child's immunology has complicated our lives so immensely - making travel and even a night out at a restaurant virtually impossible, requiring that every meal be a home-cooked meal to avoid cross-contamination by any but the 15 or so ingredients to which he's successfully been desensitized. Requiring compassion and patience and detailed observation from babysitters and preschool teachers alike.
At the same time, by these very reactions he has taught us so much about biology and brain chemistry -- lessons that have woven like a giant chess game between himself and his big brother, allowing me to move one step closer to understanding for one, leading to one step closer towards understanding for the other.
And yet, for all that the mental gymnastics of predicting his causes and effects complicates things, the immeasurable improbability of his existence in our lives turns up the volume on it all. I suppose it may not seem improbable at all to the outside world: mother and son with intolerance to a chemical (histamine) that is present in a ridiculous number of foods have a toddler son/brother who is intolerant to even more foods.
But my little one is adopted.
It is that thought right there that makes my internal wheels stop turning. That grinds my rational, law school-trained brain to a halt. Somewhere in the kernel of that thought is the "why" - the moment at which my intense "mama bear" love switches over to fierce determination. This child is not only mine, he was somehow chosen to be mine. It seems that he needed us as much as we needed him - emotionally, physically, biologically.
There is a mystery in that, one that compels me to figure it out, to find doctors who can find answers and to do what it takes to help him fulfill his own mission. To pull out the fancy cake pans, the immersion blender - anything I can think of to make those same 15 foods feel different for just one night.
Whenever the mystery of our reality crosses my mind, I hop to - almost as if with a panic for what might have been for him had he not found his way to this family, with this shockingly similar constellation of immunological reactions. Some days, it even almost seems like my little toddler feels this too.
This morning was one of those times, as he broke ranks to run with driven delight straight into my arms at the preschool, wrapping his arms so tightly around my neck that I almost had to loosen them to breathe. Holding tight to me not with the fear of separation but with the sheer, compelling passion of his own love.
Turning his little head away from me only long enough to declare to his young classmates, "this Kaido's Mommy. She my Mommy."