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A Real Mother

(by Linda Thorburn)

“You're not my real mother!”

I take a deep breath in and hold it for a second. It is hard being a teen; it is harder, I think, when you are adopted. Marissa and I have had a strained relationship for a long time, and while she has contact with her “real mother,” I'm the one who has tried to raise her for the last 12 years.

When Marissa and her sister Mary first came to me, we bonded over silly things. It was holiday season, so we spent a lot of time baking cookies and giving them away. It would turn out to be our annual tradition, giving the cookies to community groups, shelters, or the church we attended. I would rock out to Mannheim Steamroller in the kitchen, and the kids would coerce me into playing at least once the Alvin and the Chipmunks Hula Hoop song. We would laugh and talk, about big issues like “Why isn’t my mom raising me?” and about less significant matters like “Why can’t I wear my [sleeveless] princess costume to school in the middle of winter?” It was one of the few times when all three of us could be together, making a huge mess and just having fun.

As Marissa got older, I suspected that she would outgrow this phase, that it would not bring her the same pleasure or would be “embarrassing,” as so many things are to a teenager. I continued the tradition with Mary, and as Marissa pulled away a bit, I let her go. It hurt, but I knew she was growing up and finding herself, so I had to let it happen.

Marissa moved out unexpectedly last year at the age of 17, packing her stuff to move in with her boyfriend. She was angry, so she painted me as an awful person, saying things she would come to regret and leaving a void in our lives. I could have had the police bring her home, but I wanted her to be happy; even though I did not approve, at least I knew she was safe. I encouraged her to return, reminding her that I loved her, despite how she felt about me.

She called sporadically, and initially her conversation was all negative toward me, reiterating how “not real” I was. Again, I would take a deep breath and hold it. Coming to terms with the fact that you were raised by someone who did not give birth to you was even tougher than I imagined. I shouldered the rage and what felt like hatred for the sake of her sister and maintaining a good relationship. I listened, probably better than I had in years, and slowly the anger started to melt away from our conversations.

The holidays rolled around, and per our tradition, we were baking cookies to take to church for coffee hour. I received a text from Marissa: “What kind of cookies did you make this year? Can I have your recipe for peanut butter pie?” Okay, maybe she really didn’t hate me; maybe it was all teenage angst and conflicting emotions coming to a head. I texted back that we were making sugar cookies, peanut butter cookies for Pop Pop, and oatmeal raisin for Grandma. I emailed the peanut butter pie recipe. A few hours later, she sent me another text thanking me for the recipe, saying that she was going to make the pie for her boyfriend and his family. While I was sad that she would not be with us for the holidays, I did know that at least one part of our relationship was carrying over into her new definition of herself.


Linda Thorburn is a training specialist and mom to three from Albany, New York.

Peanut Butter Pie

8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature (you can use low-fat to save some calories)

1/2 c. creamy peanut butter

1/2 c. confectioners' sugar

16 oz. frozen whipped topping, thawed

9-in. graham cracker crust (make it yourself or pre-made)

optional: chocolate syrup

Mix cream cheese, confectioners' sugar, and peanut butter together until smooth.

Fold in whipped topping.

Spoon mixture into graham cracker crust.

Freeze for 2 - 3 hours, and serve frozen.

Drizzle with chocolate syrup if desired.


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