By Michelle Talsma Everson, September 2021
We were sitting in the car on the way home from school and I shared with my son how I re-discovered a childhood Bible of mine that my dad gave me and I couldn’t wait to show him because my dad had really cool handwriting.
He replied, “I think I got my handwriting from my dad…” then we had this pause moment that comes with the reality of an NPE discovery that he did indeed likely inherit certain traits from his dad because the dad who raised me (his grandpa) didn’t pass any genetic traits down to him. (We found this out a little over six months ago – and it’s been a struggle for me to return to center.)
But then the empathy and grace came in: “He wasn’t your genetic daddy but he taught you lots of stuff and that counts too mama.”
Empathy for other people’s experiences is something I hope he is gaining from this experience he’s walking with me.
Since late March, no mama hasn’t been “okay” — not 100 percent. But I’m working on it each and every day and he sees that. Different people have reacted different to this experience — and we talk about how there’s no “good” or “bad” guy — just people doing the best we can to deal with something traumatic and new.
He sees me have good days and bad days. Of course, I shield him from most of my bad days, but he knows words like “mental health” and “therapy” and “gratitude journal” and he sees me struggle bus it but also sees me succeed. And I get the blessing of seeing him grow and learn and absorb and I am amazed at his self confidence and sense of self.
Truly this discovery left me shattered. The best way I can describe it is visually: in my head I picture myself standing in the middle of a house that a tornado or fire went through. Everything as I knew it burnt down and I’m left grasping for straws on how to re-build.
Luckily, I have an amazing team in my corner and I know some of them wish I could let it go. Count my blessings and move on. Stop caring what certain people think. Stop holding onto hope for certain things. And all I can ever do is thank them (so, so) much for their support through this and share that it’s one of those lived experiences that you can’t fully understand unless you’ve been there. (And I wish that none of them ever have to be here.)
That said, at 11 (almost 12!) and 35 (almost 36!), I hope out of this experience that we both learn empathy, because the world could use more of that these days.
I pray we both lean more into our faith, because that’s a beautiful foundation to have.
I hope my son remembers that his mom struggled, but she got up. (I’m getting up way slower than expected, but still getting up.) That said, I hope that I learn to have patience and grace for myself – and others – and he in turn sees that too.
I hope we continue to go to bed each night grateful for those in our corner. And I hope both of us continue to realize that we’re worth taking up space in this big world. (In truth, he already knows that, but I need reminding now and then.)
I want him to know that we do our best to leave things better than we found them, and that includes people and situations, too. I tell myself that I – and he in turn – have nothing to be ashamed of; I just discovered something that was already true; my origin story, as untraditional as it was, has no bearing on who I am as a person. (I will type that out a million times until I truly believe it.)
I hope we both walk through this experience and come out better for it on the other side — even on the tough days when that seems impossible. I have a good track record of overcoming some hard things; and I’m so grateful to have this medium human mirror in my life to hold me accountable for giving others – and myself – the grace we all need.