Just Call Me Mommy Dearest

Sat. May 12, 2012 12:00 AM
by Waymon Hudson

In an increasingly diverse society made up of different family structures, the role of mother can come in many forms. Sometimes we have to look beyond the obvious as we celebrate Mother's Day.

That's why I wanted to share a little bit about my own family. I have been with my husband for 10 years. We've been through every stage of "relationship recognition" as views on same-sex families evolve and become more accepting. But beyond just our personal relationship, we've had to define what family itself means to us-- especially when we added our foster son as part of our family.

He is an amazing young man who came to our home after some hard times. He was raised his whole life by a gay couple in Florida, who were unable to adopt him because of the state's outright ban on gays adopting. His previous foster parents sued to try and overturn the ban, but lost. During the long and very public battle, they moved out of state with the multiple foster kids they had to be closer to their family for support. Florida told them that if he did not come back before he turned 18, he would lose important healthcare and college benefits. So the state ripped him from the only family he had ever known and moved him back to Florida.

My husband's law school happened to represent our soon-to-be-foster son in family court, so his lawyer contacted us with the idea of fostering. It was a whirlwind of a meeting. Within a few days, we met and decided to bring him into our home-- we were instant parents to a 16 year-old high school student. He often laughingly teased me that giving birth to a 180 lbs teenager had obviously destroyed my figure, the first of many signs that I was quickly falling into the "mother" role to him.

Our family bonded immediately- we survived trying to keep him studying for his SATs. I taught him to drive and went with him to get his license. We took pictures of him for prom like any proud parents would do. And after one night of watching old, campy movies he took to calling me "Mommy Dearest" because of my obsession with cleanliness-- and perhaps the fact that I drew on Joan Crawford eyebrows during a commercial break to make him laugh.

Although he is now grown-up, he is still in our lives. We long ago dropped the "foster" label and just call him our son-- just like he calls us his folks.

And through it all, I still get cards addressed to "Mommy Dearest."

Some people may not think of our family as "traditional"-- we have no legal ties to one another, through blood or even adoption. But in every way that counts, we are a family. And we are far from alone. A growing number of families simply don't fit the traditional "Leave it to Beaver" family model. Foster and adoptive parents, grandparents, single parents, same-sex couples, and a multitude of other family make-ups may not be the first thing you think of in those Hallmark card Mother's Day moments, but we are just as much a family. We are part of each other's lives and remain devoted to one another-- and that makes for one heck of a "Mommy Dearest" Day.