Monday, 21 October 2013

A little more mine.

I remember the first time I saw him naked.  It was kind of a shock, honestly.  And mostly because I realized it was the first time I was seeing him naked.  I know that sounds strange, but there was a moment when I deeply understood that you know your own babies so intimately and I did not know Fort that way.  My three “birth” children were delivered into my hands at their tiniest, most vulnerable.  I changed their diapers and washed their naked bodies from the first day I met them.  I knew Fort for several days before I followed him into the bath.  And we did not know each other well enough for me to bath him, let alone touch his naked body. 

He had no modesty.  He was either not old enough to have any sense of what that meant or he was not taught it, here in this place where all the children were in an assembly line to get bathed and in pajamas, and in front of many “aunties”.  So he was not even aware of my watching him be naked.  I had seen him use the bathroom, but as I saw his slim black body turn shiny in the clean water, I loved him a little deeper.  The red dirt was everywhere on him, from the hours playing in the yard.  It had gotten onto his feet through the seams of his sneakers or the crocs they all had.  But you couldn’t see it on his dark skin until it touched the water and swirled away.  The grey shade that came over him from dryness turned slick and glossy and he sat in the nearly empty tub.  He sat there, a black boy in that white tub, with a pink bucket of water next to him.  He bathed all by himself, this little three year old who was one of the oldest in the bunch.  With efficiency, he splashed himself with water and used a sponge to wet his head.  Taking the white bar of soap between his hands, he scrubbed himself clean, including his hair which was cut close to the scalp.  There was no playing, no soothing warm water, not really any interaction at all.  If the kids did not bathe themselves quickly or properly, the aunties did it, and it was not done with any tender nurturing, but rather with the same attitude as scrubbing a potato.  Fort seemed rather happy to do it himself, and did not require any help, so I just watched. 

I saw for the first time the shape of his body.  I couldn't help but compare the differences from my skin and my shape, and the curves of my birth children.  His back seemed strong and muscular, tapering from strong shoulders into a trim little waist.  His bottom curved out in places ours didn't. I knew his hands and feet well, the wide frames of both giving him a sense of solidness.  I wondered about the places that didn't have answers, the scars and marks of his body that I wasn't there to witness. He had the firm pouch of a belly the way most toddlers do, and I was happy to see he was not emaciated in any way.  He may be hungry during the day, but he was getting nutrition.    An immunization scar marked his left upper arm .  I wonder why his immunization scarred him when my other children were left unmarked.  Was it the medicine or the needle, or was Fort’s skin just so different?

After rinsing off the suds, he clambered out of the tub to let the next child in.  He grabbed his towel and vigorously dried himself, rubbing his legs up and down.  The boys and girls were sent in one at a time, and then came back into the main room to dress for bed.  First the kids rubbed oil all over their skin, with a local olive oil that was very cheap and did the trick.  After the oil, their skin was beautiful and their little faces seemed aglow.  The children’s pajamas were stacked on the table by size.  The babies had already been bathed and put into their pajamas.   All clothing had been washed, line dried and then ironed, to kill any eggs that had been deposited by the Putzi fly while drying.  The children wore whatever pajamas were the proper size, and the 3 oldest boys – Fort, Jose, and James- loved their new matching pajamas.  They wore their two-piece princess pjs proudly.  They did not wear any underwear to bed, which was a habit that was difficult for Fort to change once he came home with us. 

I helped him once or twice with his bath at the orphanage, but as always I wanted to leave his routine as status quo as possible.  I had to get a ride back to my house when it was available, or take a motorcycle taxi home before it was dark.  Many times I was already gone by bathtime.  After we flew home to Ohio, I sat with him by the bath.  It was a different bath.  First, there was water IN the bath and he sat in it!  Sometimes the kids took baths together, with bubbles or toys. He learned how to blow bubbles in the water and soon put his head underwater just like his brother and sisters.  I sat and could remember washing the tiny bodies of my babies.  Holding them so their floppy heads stayed out of the water, and their little legs splashing us with little uncontrolled kicks.  I shushed them when they cried because they didn’t want to get wet or sometimes because they didn’t want to get dry.  That tender maternal feeling covered me, as I watched the calm on their faces from the warm water or the reflexive flinching when I tickled them while washing their feet and legs. 

And here was this boy.  This sweet boy whom I loved but who was still somewhat of a stranger to me.  And I sat by him in the  bath, and helped him when he didn’t need it.  I helped him wash his back, softly and slowly.  I poured water over the roundness of his belly so he could feel the delight of that sensation.  I made a big deal when he went underwater and came up with those wide shining surprised eyes.  I learned how the water drips off him in waves, as if it was a blanket moving down his face.  I held his arms out and used my hands to rub soap around his shoulders, under his armpit.  I learned the softness of his skin, the corners of his body.  I started to help him with the oil after the bath.  The oil made his body glow, his hair that was growing up in little twists soften and his skin slip under my touch. 

Every time I washed and oiled him, I felt a little closer, a little more maternal.  I was his mom, maybe the only one who ever washed him and cared for him like this.  I got to know his body, and he became a little more mine. 

Friday, 6 September 2013

Real Birthday

Last November, we celebrated Fort's 4th birthday, and first birthday celebration.  But truly, we don't know how old he is.
In the adoption process, a birthday is just a formality. Each child needs a birth certificate and therefore a birthdate. They estimate a child's age, and Fort's birthdate is the day he arrived at the orphanage. November 25. That is what his official document says. He turned 4 shortly after we got home to Ohio, and it seemed like a reasonable age. I wondered if he were older, but his life experience was so dramatically different, and he was so damn resourceful, that it was hard to compare him to any 3 or 4 year old I knew. We had the option of having a bone scan done, but it would only narrow down his age range to within 6 months and we were pretty positive we were in the ball park. Not to mention that after the multitudes of tests he had to endure during his very first weeks here, it just seemed unnecessary.
Not having or celebrating a birthday is a normal thing for an adopted child, but it was something that stunned me the first time I learned about it.  How odd, and what a sad little hole that will forever be in his life. Kids here learn their age and how to hold up "this many" fingers almost before they can talk. Their birthday is a constant marker- Facebook pages are full of the "I'm -- months old today!" announcements.  Parents follow the milestone markers obsessively to be sure "Baby" is developing as expected. And the more I think on it, the more I am aware of the importance The Birthday in our American lives. 
Now he is nearing turning five, and we are bizarrely close to having him here with us for a whole year. Under the Ohio rules, he is not eligible for kindergarten until next year unless we tested him in. I didn't even think about it last year. We were getting him acclimated to seat belts, tricycles, pizza. He began preschool after just a few months here- he was desperate to go, not understanding why the other kids could go and not him. He asked his teachers for homework, so that he could sit with the kids after school while they did theirs. He made his first friend outside of my circle of friends, learned about sharing and moving from one activity to another. He loves to be scheduled and rarely got in trouble. (They reported he wasn't listening when they told him 'no tackling with friends'. I mentioned he had never heard that word and when I told him 'no wrestling at school'- that was the end of it).  He loved his teachers, especially helpful since he takes any small correction from me, however gentle, as scathing criticism. 
What a year. How he has grown. Although he seemed to actively forget his native Luganda language, no matter how we tried to keep it up, his English is amazing. His math skills are impressive- he can learn something new so quickly and retain it. He is behind in many linguistic areas- still stumbling in the alphabet ("A B C D B F G...") and having little understanding that letters make sounds. But for ESL, I have no idea where his progress stands. He has caught on to many many idioms, making me laugh in my attempts to explain them. "Why de batteries run out?  Dey run out de door?  Dey having legs?".  Or with his characteristically huge grin he will say knowingly to me "mom!  I am 'hopping' in shower now, ok?  See hopping?"  
There has been so much physical growth this year- heck, this summer!  I don't know how many inches he has shot up, but his shoe size has grown almost 2 sizes, and he's gone from a 3T in clothes to nearly a 6. He had never tried a pedalled bike - I sat on the floor in the garage, moving his feet on the pedals to explain they went round & round. He spent all winter making circles in the garage on his tricycle, then a 2 wheeler with training wheels and by spring he was zipping up & down the sidewalk on his 2 wheeler with NO training wheels. He worked through blistered hands to master the monkey bars like his big sister, at first using pure strength to muscle his way from bar to bar until he connected the idea of momentum. And then he not only lost his 2 front teeth, but the new ones are barrelling down into his mouth, as if something had been restraining them all this time. 

So is he not yet 5?  Probably not.  But is he 6?  What happens if we make a careful choice as to what year to begin school, and he is 140 pounds and 6 feet tall in 6th grade?  Ah, these decisions of when to start school are so much more complicated by the fact that he is catching up in all areas.  And I see that growth, in every area of his quickly growing body and mind.  Because something has been holding him back, and now he is on fire.  Burning with curiosity, trying to figure out life and his place in this world.
So, in November, he will turn five.  And his face will light up at the candles on the cake like any child turning five.  And that will do for now.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

A year gone by

It is August 11, 2013.  One year ago today I got on the first of several planes on my way to Uganda, to meet Fortunate as his mother.  I was so nervous, excited and full of anxiety but not scared at all.  Not scared to journey to a third world country on the other side of the planet, by myself as a white woman.  Not scared to see the boy whom I had only met once before and felt in my heart should be my son, and to take him home with me forever.  Not scared to risk heart ache and hurt.  I don’t know why I wasn’t afraid of those things.  I had some deep sense of security, of doing the right thing, of making the only choice.

 I recently saw this quote by Mark Twain:

“Life is short, break the rules, forgive quickly, kiss slowly, love truly, laugh uncontrollably, and never regret anything that made you smile. Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

It resonates with me.  I have always felt this inside me, although not so eloquently phrased.  I am always seeking that next project, looking for things that make me satisfied and fulfilled.  I would rather do too much than not for fear I would regret it someday.   I constantly yearn for more.  I tend to exhaust myself, get emotional, and wonder why I cannot be everything I want to be at the same moment.  I have had to teach myself that I can do anything I want, but not necessarily at the same time.  And now, I have had to teach myself that I have reached my limit.  I cannot spin anymore plates in the air simultaneously.  They are dropping left and right.  I have to buckle down, focus on what is most important and love what I have and who I am. 

In practical terms, this means the very deep and heartbreaking knowledge that we cannot adopt another child.  It is kind of absurd that we would consider it, and I don’t know that we ever really thought we would.  But the possibility lay there, the way all roads lie open and enticing to you when you are young.  But knowing this and saying the words -that we cannot adopt another- is the brutal truth.  Brutal because I know deep down that any child would do better being with us than staying in an orphanage or in a foster home.  But I have had to acknowledge my limits, and realize what I need.  Taking in another child would not be good for me.  I have found the edges of my abilities.  I have been aged by this process, of taking in this abandoned boy and disrupting our easy family flow.  Our children have gained so much this year, but I have been worn down.  I know that I need to do things for myself outside of the kids.  I am not someone who finds herself completed by being a mother.  Being a mother is incredibly satisfying, but I need other things too.  I have put aside parts of myself to do this thing – this raising children thing- in the best way I know how.  And now I am burned out, and I need to find those things to help redefine who I am today. 

I was back in New York City this month, with all four kids.  There is nothing like going away to make you appreciate your own home and life.  I love my life, my strange little Midwestern suburban stay-at-home mom thing that is so entirely opposite of the glamorous life I remember having in Manhattan.  And being back there reminded me all too well of the tedium, the difficulty, the constant churning machine that is city living.  And here, even with four kids, it is so easy.  Even with all the continual demands of motherhood, life in Ohio is centered.  We have a life that I think is so important for the kids, and even for me.  I don’t regret leaving show business or New York for a minute.  I am so proud of all we have accomplished – these children we are still neck deep in raising.   This commitment we have made to the world to raise a son that almost was lost.  To have a house where loud is good, standing on the furniture is allowed, and  “go play outside” is a happy refrain.  I have satisfaction in knowing that what I have been doing is important and I was good at it.  And soon, as the kids all go back to school, I can begin to return to myself, to rediscover and renew.  To have the solitude I crave, which I so ironically avoided when I was younger. 

A year has gone by.  A chaotic, difficult, exhausting, humbling and deeply and profoundly changing year.  I feel the next chapter is on the horizon.  I can’t do everything at the same time, but I can do anything.  It is time for me to see what that will be.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Be the boy I know you are

And so I sit here on one side of the door with that 4 year old child acting full-on bratty and screaming on the other side. I am trying out what I have been afraid to do, which is to put Fort in his room as a time out. By himself. He is now understanding consequences and knows exactly what he is doing. And when I sit in the room with him, he is kicking me and trying to engage me verbally. Anything he can think of - from "you are mean" to "go away...shoo!" to "I hate you". It can be comical - when he says what he thinks will make me mad- "I'm going to pop my balloon" or "I'm not going to eat pizza any more". I can hear the little wheels in his mind whirring- so frustrated at not being able to get the response he wants from me. I am working so hard to remain neutral. I moved to the hallway, where he can open the door and see me, but can't try to pinch me or head-butt me. He is not locked in, so he opens the door and closes it. Locks it from his side. Then opens it - yells "shoo". And slams it shut. Kicks the door, louder, louder.  It rattles in my ear. It does get me. I am not neutral. I am furious and worried and just want him to melt down, cry it out, and be sorry. The kicking stops. He is so grumpy. Just yelling rude things. He says he is going to tell on me when daddy gets home.  He is going to tell Grandma.   As his physical behavior has mellowed out, his verbal behavior has gotten worse. He says "I hate you" and "I'm going to punch you in the face". 
His pre-school starts in 15 minutes. He has said he is not going. I don't want him to think he is in control - that he can chose when he goes and doesn't go. But am I really going to drag him there, kicking and screaming?  Would he disrupt the class all day?  Is he in no state to go to school and should I keep him home, or does that mean he has thrown a fit and gotten his way?  Not only that, but of course I am in charge of organizing a bake sale today for the elementary school. I have told them I would be there at 9.  Not an end of the world thing, but it's something I agreed to do and I don't want to leave them in the lurch. So although I know without a doubt that sitting on the floor outside his room is where I need to be, other responsibilities and self-doubt are lurking around the edges of my mind. 
It is quiet in there. I cannot tell if he is playing. I hear a rhythmic sound. Is he kicking his bed?  He is still mad. 
Then I hear it. The crying. Not the mad kind, but the sad kind. The "I'm alone in my room and I'm hurting" kind.   I open the door and he is lying on the rug, both hands to his face, and tears streaming down. I crawl in from the hall, lie down next to him and scoop him in my arms.  I don't ask him to say sorry yet, I just say "let's be done fighting", so he knows I'm there. I'm nice, warm mommy. Mommy who loves him and isn't yelling or telling him no or holding him back from the door or from kicking.  And he is sweet Fort again.   The one who just discovered that we all die and has been telling me "But I don't WANT you to die".  The boy who told me we needed to go back to his orphanage and teach them about hugs. The one who says sure! when I ask him to help me with anything.  The boy I know he is at his core, and the one I am trying so hard to teach him how to be all the time. It is exhausting like nothing I have ever done before. 

Monday, 29 April 2013

Song of myself

There I am.
I can recognize more of myself now.
That new person is still me, mostly me.
The spinning circles around my body have solidified into shapes I know, children I love.
I am held together by the cage of support, woven for me by my husband, in which I am completely free and also fortified, made stronger.
My heart is more fluid- can it be possible?- I ache for this world I have met, and I rejoice in my part in it.
My heart drips, and I struggle; I yell and am impatient. Thoughts of carefree days and running away are tangled into my ever deepening responsibility.
I look, and am lit on fire upon seeing the sparks of curiosity in my children. And I am smothered by the very arms I adore.

The hills and valleys of life are no easier for me for having chosen this path..
There are days my eyes can hone in and see in technicolor this beautiful and tragic world and it can pull me under or raise me up.
It is a strange comfort, learning to love who I am at this moment, after all of my stops and starts. Being proud of whom I have struggled to become.
I can look back on the road behind me and be content, neither wishing I were starting over, nor at the end of my journey
No longer in danger of sinking, I can take to shore those I have chosen to take care of.
And this is my way in the world.  And the strange and glorious and rich and sometimes overwhelming life is of my making.  I hold it in my hands, like an ember of fire that needs my breath to grow.
And I blow.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Caught off guard

The thing about raising any kid is just when you start to think you have settled into a routine, your child will flip it on its head. Nothing about being a parent is regular or dependable. The good thing is that it is definitely not boring!  Not that things here are routine in any way, but there is an element of stability that is slowly taking hold, and seeping into the core of our new family. And I feel much more able to predict what the day will hold. Ah, that is the word that has me in a pickle. Predict.  A predictable day. Just let it cross your mind, and your kids will smell it, laugh riotously, and take your plans and stuff them down their pants.
The other day, I was scrambling for a solution to a scheduling conflict.  Our first son was having some sinus/ ear problems and had to get an early morning CAT scan. I was able to drop off the girls at the elementary school early, and figured I would just take Fort with me, since I wouldn't be around to bring him to preschool nor could I guarantee that I would be back to pick him up at lunch. Then the hospital called the night before with some instructions, including the fact that siblings were not welcome, due to germ exposure, etc.  Luckily I have a girlfriend with twin girls that are Fort's age. The mom is a dear friend, and the girls take a music class with Fort, so they know each other well. She said I could drop Fort off in the am and she would bring him to school and also pick him up of I got stuck. I started to prepare Fort for the changes that were going to happen on the way to school. He said "I go to Her house? Wif no Ben and no Evie?"  "That's right Fort"  "Yessssssss!"  He was excited to go on his very first play date, without me, just like his sisters and brother get to do. Never mind that it was for 10 minutes before preschool.
I was relieved that he was so ready to go. Our appointment at the hospital went smoothly, and I knew I would be back in time to pick him up from preschool at noon. I called Lori, who said he was totally awesome that morning, just walking around to check out the house, but was talking and ready to go when it was time. I was worried he would have a hard time leaving. So I was thrilled that it all was so easy.
I got to school to pick him up, and as he came around the corner and saw me, his smiles changed from a shy excited one to a crestfallen look of disappointment. He came to me and put his head down on my shoulder. I immediately understood that he had been expecting Lori to pick him up. "Hey, buddy - did you think Lori was coming to get you?"  "Yeees- I don't want you!"  So I pulled him aside, kneeling down to talk quietly. I often will say out loud what I think he may be thinking, just in case he can't put the words to it. "Oh, you thought Lori was coming and you were excited. And now you are sad that it is just Mommy". Yup, that was it. He was able to say it, but didn't cheer up. He walked put to the car with me, and then it really began. He lay down on the floor of the car. I told him it was okay to be sad, and even mad, but we need to get in the seat and buckle up. I was working hard at staying calm and understanding, because I could see what a disappointment it was. When I told him he could get into his seat, or I would do it for him, he begrudgingly got into his seat and buckled. I praised him, because that was a pretty good step- being as upset as he was but still doing what I asked. We got home, and he didn't want to get out of the car. I picked him up - total dead weight- and brought him inside & sat him on the counter. When I went to take off his coat he started to struggle...and then he hit me. Sigh. That's a hard rule. You hit mom or dad, you go to your room. I knew a battle had begun.
It wound up being fairly easy- he did not hit again, nor did he go into any of his other frantic or out of control behaviors. But he was MAD. Mad to be in his room, mad that he was home, mad that he was not at Lori's. He had an expectation in his head and he had been disappointed. This little thing, that he misunderstood - that I clearly had not expressed well in my worries of the morning- had exploded. The other kids might have been disappointed too, but it would have been a few minutes, or a shrug, and then moving on. But Fort got stuck. He could not get over this. It was so upsetting to him. He finally lay down in his bed, and I told him I would be in the other room when he was ready to talk. I was not 2 steps out the door when he started calling "Mama! Mama! Mama!"  I went back in and he snuggled down, still sad, but needing me. I carried him to the couch, and he fell asleep. It had been an hour. About 1:30 he woke up, still a little groggy and withdrawn. He had swim lessons coming up at 2pm, and hadn't eaten yet. I was thinking we could make it if he was up for it.   I had a half a muffin from the morning with Ben, and set it in front of him in the kitchen to see if he wanted it. "Yuk". He shoved it across the table. Big sigh. Not acceptable behaviour.  I took the muffin away. He put his head down on the counter and started crying again. I gave him a few minutes, then I asked him if wanted the muffin (I suspected he really did). "If you can find your manners and say yes please, then you can have it". He sat looking at the counter for about 20 seconds. He made a decision, said yes please, ate the muffin, and it was over.
It was 2:30 and we had missed swimming.
But this is how he processed this disappointment. It took time, it was frustrating, but he had made a number of good choices along with the bad. He had buckled his seatbelt, refrained from hitting other than the first one, called to me when he needed me, and made the decision to have good manners so he could eat. I could not have anticipated this, but I realized how well I can read him now. His preschool teachers tried to cheer him up before he left with a sticker, and some fun news about the little chicks being born in their incubators, but they didn't understand that his letdowns are deeper and cannot be brushed aside. Has he never allowed himself to have expectations?  Does he have farther to fall?  Does he just get a plan in his head and it is tough to deviate from what he thinks will happen?  I can wonder, but I can't know. I know that he is learning, always learning. With each difficult and sometimes painful lesson, he is growing and changing the patterns of his psyche. He may have been sad, and reacted in a disproportionate way from his peers, but look!  From this he sees that some disappointments in life are small, that he can get over them,  and life marches on and he is just fine.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

When his rage overwhelms

Late at night in bed is always some of my favorite conversations with my husband. Something about the late hour and the quiet house allows us to say what is really on our minds, after the energy of the day has dissipated. Last night I was talking about Fort, about how much he has grown. Literally grown too - he has grown an inch and a half in 4 months since his November birthday. No telling how much he's grown if you include the first six weeks here, where he inhaled teenage boy amounts of food. 
And grown in every aspect. His temper tantrums still arise from time to time, but yesterday's freak out was the first in 3 weeks. He does so well most days that I think it's practically vital for him to get these emotions out once in a while. His little body must still contain so many inexplicabe feelings. This afternoon, he had tried to run out of the backyard gate, and was not happy with me when I brought him inside to go over the rules again. He tried to run off inside the house, presumably to cry or be angry on his own, usually a choice that we encourage. But he was fully dressed in his snow clothes- coat, hat, gloves, snow pants, boots- and had snow covering him from the snow angels he had made. When I wouldn't let him run through the house until he got out of his snow gear, he exploded...hating to be restrained when he wanted to run. I forced him out of his clothes, and it quickly became a control battle with his little hands holding on to his snow pants with all his might, refusing to take them off. As it became clear they were coming off no matter what, he began to kick and punch. I kicked off my boots and lugged him to his room, trying to protect my face from his scrambling hands and my body from his flailing legs. 
In his rage, he is like a little wildcat, striking out at anything and everything.  I hate doing it, but I restrain him, until I feel confident that when I let him go he will not attack me, bite me, or throw any toys at my head. Sometimes it is enough to enrage me, this battle of control that I MUST WIN. Or I am overwhelmed with guilt at how I have to manhandle him. Sometimes it is almost comical, him trying to express his anger by throwing anything, even his socks. There are times the good times, I can see what it is. I can see his little brain furious at me for being in control, for setting hard limits and for saying no to him. I understand his anger, and I know that he is working hard to contain those most primitive of impulses, to fight. And in moments when he is not screaming, I can say very calmly, "No biting mama.  No hitting mama. I am your mother and you need to listen to me". And then yesterday he said it. I knew one day he would say it. But it still shocked me. 
"You are not my mother!!!"  
And 20 thoughts simultaneously flew through my head. Is this just a gut reaction in anger?  Is he testing me?  Does he really think I'm not his mother or that he can un-adopt himself?  Does he even know that "mother" is another word for "mom"?  I was shocked, but not hurt. If being his mother means I tell him what to do, then he wanted no part of it. I didn't get into a "yes I am- no you're not" battle with him, I just let it go. He began calming down- first he got control of his body, but not his anger. He sat in a little ball, far away from me, his arms wrapped protectively around himself. He was no longer screaming but he had a deep frown on his face. He looked at me and said his usual " you no nice". I have chosen to respond little to his verbal anger. I just let it be, let him say what comes out. Usually some switch flips, and he looks up, bright and blinking, and says " I say sorry now". 
And once again I was thinking of my girlfriend, who was adopted as an infant, and how she never had an open dialogue with her mother her entire life. I hate the thought of that. Fort will have so many unanswerable questions, but I want him to always have the freedom and the confidence to ask. The questions cannot sit in his gut, swirling around, creating insecurity or low self esteem.  And so I started the conversation, so that he will hopefully come to me when things start to trouble him. 

I am your mother, Fort. I will always be your mother and you will always be my son. I will love you whether you are angry or happy with me, and I will never leave you. I may not love some of the things you do or the choices you make, but I will always love YOU. 
I don't know what parts he hears. But he hugged me so tight. He said I love you Mama. I think we will have this conversations many times in during the next few years. But I will say it as often as he needs to hear it. Loving him is the easy part.