We all get these stories stuck in our head. Sometimes they’re ones of our own making; sometimes they’re what others tell us, words we shape and store as truth. I’d thought I was improving when it came to challenging the stories I tell myself, but we all have blind spots. Places where the story is so deeply ingrained that it’s gospel.
But what if the story isn’t true?
I apologize in advance if this post comes off as vague…I know I’m usually much more blunt and to the point. There’s something important I want to discuss, but I need to balance that with my child’s right to keep his story private. If you can be a bit patient with me I think I can make it work, though.
T-man joined our family when he was ten months old. At the time we knew only the most basic details of his life up to that point…it wasn’t until the last few years that we learned more information about those first ten months, and a lot of it was a surprise.
Some of you might be thinking well, okay, so you didn’t know his full history. What difference does that make? He’s with you now.
You’re right in that learning T-man’s complete history (or what I think is a complete history) hasn’t changed the fact that we love him and he’s our son, but it has made me look harder at what I can’t possibly know about that time. What his day to day life was truly like, and how it would have affected his development. Those months are all about establishing a feeling of safety, security, and trust, but I really don’t know how he lived that part of his life.
Recently I was struggling with this uncertainty, and I was talking to a close friend about it when something she said stopped me in my tracks. I was mid sentence when she broke in with a question that blew my mind: “But is it true?”
Wait, what? Of course it’s true. Of course…it’s true…isn’t it?
Well, when it comes right down to it I guess I don’t really know if it’s true. I only know what I’ve been told, and there are reasons to doubt.
Maybe that one particular experience his birthmother keeps mentioning didn’t actually happen. Maybe it’s a hope she’d had for them, or part of her story about what her time with T-man was like. Maybe it’s a memory she’s created for herself. Or maybe some version of it is true. I’ll never really know.
Maybe I don’t really know what my child witnessed before coming to us. What sort of impressions, memories, or feelings had a chance to imbed themselves in his subconscious before he was even verbal. And that’s something I’ll never truly know.
I’d accepted and cultivated the story right up until the moment my friend asked me “is it true?” Suddenly I was struck with the blinding realization that even with the new information we’d learned from T-man’s birthmother, we would never know with certainty what her truth is. Which means by extension that I feel blind to my son’s truth as well.
That’s a hard pill for a recovering control freak to swallow.
So many things shape the stories we tell ourselves. Our preconceived notions, our (sometimes faulty) memories, our family dynamics and belief system. Then there are the stories passed on to us by others; stories we often take at face value, when they’re just as susceptible to influence as our own.
It seems we’d all be wise to question things a bit more.