He preferred Ben from the very beginning. I know that children adopted as toddlers often bond with one parent first and then, over time, bridge to the other. And I read a statistic that something like eighty percent of those kids choose the dad. I have theories on that. Traditionally, dads are more fun than moms. They engage in unpredictable play (tickling, tackling, chasing, etc.) whereas moms, generally, are more orderly in their approach. Also, these kids who have been orphaned or abandoned have usually been cared for by their mother or some other female caregiver. I loved mom, mom left, don't trust moms. And when I think of the situation in these terms, my heart opens to Mihiretu.
But. When I emerge from the bedroom in the morning and he, after an hour or two of dad time, greets me with an outstretched tongue and a chorus of "Mama, poo poo," it's a little hard to take the long view. When Mihiretu throws himself on the floor in grief after Ben's departure for work and I put a hand on his back that is slapped away with a scowl, my heart, propped open by my own will, feels a little bruised.
In any other relationship, if I was consistently getting that kind of feedback, I'd find someone else to love. This whole coming back for more again and again after getting met with anger and disdain, I stopped doing that by the time I was twenty-one. If he was a boyfriend, he would have been dumped months ago, and I would have started working an Al-Anon program.
But he's my kid. And, in my rational moments, I know that if I can keep a steady hand and keep approaching him with kindness, eventually, little by little, he'll let me in. If I can prove to him that I'm not leaving, that Ben's not leaving, all this behavior, or most of it, will fall away. And the only way to do that is with time.
So for now, when Mihiretu's doling it out, I'm taking it. And imagining better days.