For twenty plus years, Mother’s Day has been bittersweet for me. It’s lovely to remember Mom, but because she’s gone it’s also a lonely holiday. I help celebrate my wonderful step-mom and friends who are moms. But my mom I celebrate privately, internally.

Of course now I see this is small potatoes compared to what my daughter faces at this holiday. Her mother is alive, probably living within 20 miles of our house. The birth mom does not try to contact or see her, does not respond to or acknowledge cards, photos, drawings she makes and sends. We know almost nothing about how her mom is living, and the truth is knowing more might be even worse.

Our county social worker always felt she represented a proxy connection to the mother, so even when the mom was not in contact, she kept alive the idea that she sees the mom, can tell the mom things. I never agreed with this, since if it were me I’d be infuriated mom would see a social worker but not me. I didn’t get a say at that time, but that social worker has transitioned off our case now that we’re in the adoption track. Things are more in our court.

I’ve decided on strict honesty, at the appropriate level. “We have an address for your mom but don’t know if she gets the mail–we can send it to her. I hope she’ll get it. I bet she’d love it. I know she’d be so proud of you, seeing how big, strong, smart, pretty you’re growing.” Not very satisfying, but it’s as true as I can make it.

The kindergarten teacher offered to adjust his lessons this week to be “Parent’s Day,” which was kind. But our daughter’s in a bind. She has a mom. She knows and remembers her mom. Every other kid would be making mother’s day cards for “Parent’s Day.” So I decided to let her choose, telling her that she can make a card for her mother if she wants to, but she doesn’t have to. She can make a card for an aunt, grandma, anyone she likes. She can skip it. Of course she wants to make her mother a card.

What she really wants, or part of what she really wants, is something none of us can give her.

But there are continuing good signs that she’s settling into her two-dad life. Even during this challenging week, she’s doing great. She told Jay that “this is the best family I’ve ever been in.” She won a t-shirt and sweatshirt for selling raffle tickets for the carnival. This week Jay miraculously learned a trick of intervening before she goes off in a meltdown. He’s been so skillful helping her navigate her upsets, it’s magically wonderful. They’ve been brainstorming what might help when she’s worried or upset–a kid in her class has a plastic pea he chews on when things get upsetting, something like that. What’s my dad always say? “Things are looking up!”

So here’s to a peaceful, thoughtful mother’s day, celebrating what we can, mourning the rest. In this week’s worksheets our daughter has a Mother’s Day card which says “thank you for” and has a blank. I suggested she write “giving me your beautiful brown eyes and hair.” From myself I’d add, thank you for giving us two beautiful children.

Happy Mother’s Day.