Charles called me “mommy” for the first time just five days after he moved in. Just five months prior, June of last year, I’d signed up for parenting classes at the Angel Guardian agency in Brooklyn, amassing 30 hours in training on what it means to bring a child who is not biologically yours into your life. My son was placed in foster care soon after he was born May 16, 1999. Charles landed in my life because his foster mother, at age 63, felt she would not have the energy to raise him.
For years, I have long felt consumed by an overwhelming desire to do something for children in need. I have given thousands of dollars to child advocacy groups and joined board of a foster agency. While the idea of actually giving birth held little or no appeal for me, children stayed stubbornly on my middle-aged mind.
Then last year, just before my 40-plus birthday, it hit me. I didn’t necessarily want to have a baby—I wanted to be a mother. As a hard-driven TV journalist who devoted her free time as an officer of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), I never struck anyone who knew me maternal. In fact, my decision to adopt shocked even my closest friends who confessed that I earned the nickname “ice queen” among my peers.
But when my birthday approached, I decided that I didn’t want the second half of my life to look like the first half. I set out to find a way to bring a child into my life.
I first got to know my son Charles just six weeks after I became certified to be a foster/adoptive parent. I opened his picture via e-mail exactly one week after the Sept. 11th attacks. I was captivated by his huge, expressive eyes and megawatt smile. He has a head full of thick, curly hair that has been braided in cornrows since he was a little baby.
When I first met him at the agency, his small, slender frame was clad in black denim jeans and matching jacket, his tiny head partially obscured by a black, wool Sean Jean hat. I was anxious and giddy at the same time—as if on a first date: I thought, “Will he like me? Will we hit it off?”
Charles, just being Charles, answered all the questions running through my mind without saying a word. We took to each other right away, spending two hours at our first meeting playing with toys and exchanging hugs and high-fives as he completed each game’s activity.
Today, as I look forward to my first Mother’s Day, I love my life more than ever. I have always been proud of my career highlights, like winning an Emmy Award and meeting famous people in the world. But none of it compares to my son’s smile and hugs. And bath rituals. And bedtime stories. And watching him learn to dress and undress himself. Ahead lie potty training, report cards and braces.
Years from now, when my contemporaries are bouncing their grandchildren on their knee, or living in quiet retirement, I’ll be helping Charles select a tuxedo for his prom or buying him his first car. I wouldn’t trade that future for anything else in the world.
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