Today is Mother’s Day, as most of you should know. (Don’t worry if you forgot! There’s still time to call your mom.) My mom, Nancy Meyer, is hugely important to me and I thought this would be a great opportunity to sit down and ask her about her experiences raising me as a single adoptive mother. Without further ado, let’s get into it!
What was your life like before Brett came into it?
Nancy: Not as busy. It was strictly professional. I’m a single adoptive parent, so it kind of felt like I had fulfilled my professional life, and added on to my personal life.
What made you want to adopt?
Nancy: Well, as a single parent, there wasn’t another person. I can’t remember if I knew of other people who were single. We’re talking back in the late ‘80s, so that wasn’t really popular for single people to do. India was one country that was allowing it, so I went for it.
You were kind of a trailblazer in your community, in a way
Nancy: I always was, my whole life. (laughs) My parents could vouch for that too.
How did your life change after Brett entered the picture?
Nancy: I became more laid back, as far as work, I think. He just expanded my world. Meeting new people, doing new things. Spending money on him (laughs). I tried to talk him and his wife into being a parent, there’s very good things. He reminds me that I am the oldest one, because I waited so long. I was 38 when I adopted him.
Brett: You were 39.
Nancy: I was 39, I guess. Make it older. (laughs)
How did motherhood affect your career?
Nancy: I continued working full-time. At the time I adopted him and became a mother, I was a public health supervisor for Blue Earth county and had been in the same position, so everything at work was stable, and I could deal with the situation. My staff were very supportive of me adopting, so I decided it was time, I guess. Before I got too old! (laughs)
What sacrifices did you make for Brett?
Nancy: Not much. There were more positives than negatives. He was a good kid!
What was Brett like as a child?
Nancy: He was happy. People commented on his politeness. He was smiling. I remember one day I went to have lunch with him at school when he was in elementary school. The cafeteria ladies said to me, “Is he always this happy?” I said, “pretty much. Why?”, and they said, “He’s one of the few kids who will say, ‘thank you’, ‘yes’, and ‘please’, and he always has a smile.” Back in the day, that was Brett. (laughs)
Brett: That’s still true, for the most part. (laughs)
What is your favorite memory of Brett as a child?
Nancy: Oh, man…
Brett: We have a lot of good memories.
Nancy: Actually, they were all good memories when he was little. He was healthy, happy. He was very much a gear head. Whether it was grandpa’s riding lawn mower to his first bicycle, to his GoPed… He had a 4-wheeler. We went to car shows together when he was little. He knew more about cars than I ever have. Even when I traded vehicles the sales people would be talking to him because I don’t understand that kind of thing. He always had friends and I always had a lot of kids over to our house. Do you remember a certain happiness?
Brett: So my grandparents, her parents, my grandpa had passed away by the time I was in fifth grade, then grandma three years later. But I would say, as far as childhood memories, some of the best are actually with my grandparents and my mom, and we’d always be camping. My grandparents were huge campers. Fishing, always had the motor home with the trailer. We did that all the time, every weekend. It’s crazy, because I know a lot of people don’t have many memories with their grandparents, especially when they’ve been gone, you know, since I was a middle schooler. I think I do because it was the four of us, and it was every other weekend.
Nancy: They used to winter down in Florida, and so you and I went down there to Disney World three times.
Brett: The first time I don’t even remember because I was so young.
Nancy: Yeah, he was in a stroller. He liked the 3D movie. He was going like this (waves arms), and everybody was watching him being cute. We traveled a lot, which was good. We went over to Europe, to visit my godson. We went to Italy and Germany. We went to India.
Brett: A lot of good memories. Good memories now, but I wasn’t always the best. Caused a few problems, troubles in college, you know. We all learn from our mistakes, and become who we are.
Nancy: Well, I was kind of that way too, though (laughs), with my parents.
What was the worst thing Brett did as a child?
Brett: Honestly, there’s really nothing. I was a really good kid. I got a little bit out of mom’s wing when I was in college. I had a lot of fun and probably made some choices that could have been better choices, but growing up as a kid… I wasn’t perfect in school, I wasn’t an honor roll student.
Nancy: I never got called into the principal’s office with him like my parents did with me (laughs), so that's a good thing.
Brett: Believe it or not, I was always told that I talked too much and that I needed to listen more. It’s not because I didn’t want to listen. I just talked a lot.
Nancy: He inherited that from me. The first time Brett had an encounter with a cop, he didn’t even know about it because he was a baby. I don’t even think he was walking. I was getting ready to go to work and I had him in the high chair. He was eating oatmeal. The doorbell rang, and I went to look out and I saw a squad car. I open the door, and the cop’s like, “Hi, is everything okay here in this house?”, and I’m like, “Yes…?” He said, “Are you sure?”, and I said, “Yes”. And he said, “Well, someone called 911 from here.” I didn't tell him it was just me and my baby. Then he kind of looked over, and that was back before cell phones, and here the receiver was off the hook. I said, “Oh, well I think my son must have done that by accident.” He was about 10 months old, and I think he must have taken it and hit 9-1-1! (laughs) So I took that and put it in his baby book, “The time Brett called 911”.
What is it like being the mother of an adopted child?
Nancy: He was a distraction sometimes when we were out in public, because people were like, “Oh look, he’s so cute!”, and they always wanted to stop and ask questions. But it was positive. There was a neighborhood cop that drove us nuts because he kind of picked on you.
Brett: His wife was my third grade teacher, and she was nice, but he kind of had his own way. He always got after me because I had a GoPed. Have you heard of this? It’s basically like a scooter, a skateboard with a motor on the back, and you’re standing to ride it. It’s not street legal, and I was probably 12 or 13 when I got it, running around the streets. He viewed it as a safety thing, I shouldn’t be on the streets. You know, being in law enforcement, I think it kind of triggered him.
Nancy: May he rest in peace.
Brett: Yeah, he passed away when I was in freshman year of college.
Nancy: Heart attack.
Brett: He was a young guy, I think just stressed, and other things.
This was in Mankato? So, kind of a small town at the time?
Brett: Yeah, Mankato’s really grown.
Nancy: Mankato, North Mankato’s like 60,000 people.
Brett: It’s definitely not the norm to be a single parent and adopt, let alone adopt a child that is a different race from the norm. It was me and my friend Lucas, and another friend that I still keep in contact with. He’s actually a loan officer, here in the Twin Cities. Those two were adopted from South Korea, and we were probably the three ethnic people in Mankato, in our school, until maybe 6th or 7th grade. Token adoptees (laughs), but by no means were we segregated from people at all. I had a great childhood, growing up, middle school, high school. We were all, everyone, classes above us, classes below us, very close. I think that’s very unique and specific to Mankato. When we graduated, a lot of my class stayed, probably half stayed and many have come back.
What’s the hardest thing about raising a child?
Nancy: I’m not sure… I always worked full-time, and my job had meetings sometimes, and I’d take him along because people loved seeing him. I had very supportive parents, so they were there. Even though there was an hour’s difference, they would say, “Oh we’ll come babysit. We’ll come stay over”, that type of thing. My job was flexible, too, in some respects The thing that made it easy for me was I had really good daycare. He only had two daycare providers in his whole childhood. One was right on my way to work, and the other one was our neighbor. When he turned nine, because he didn’t have siblings to get into trouble with, he started coming home after school and he knew the rules of “Don’t answer the phone, don’t answer the door.” and that type of thing. He would stay until I got home from work at 5.
Brett: It’s probably not the normal picture. My buddy Lucas, who was adopted, we grew up within a block of each other. I think our specific situations are unique, because you hear of a lot of people who are adopted and they have this disconnect from their adoptive parents, and they want to know who their biological parents are, and all this. Both my friend and I feel that while it would be great to know who they are, that doesn’t change anything, that she’s my mother and she will always be my mother. It doesn’t matter who gave birth to me. Growing up in Mankato, yeah, it’s not the norm to see someone of color at that time, but I didn’t really see that. Having her parents so close and always being there it didn’t feel different.
Nancy: I forget that we don’t look alike, and that his skin color is different. A while back, a few years ago, he texted me a picture of somebody’s feet with his dog, Leo, and I said “Whose feet are those?”, and he texted me back and he said, “ Mom, last time I checked my feet are still brown.” And I thought, this just goes to show, color means nothing to mama.
What did you think Brett would end up doing for a living as an adult?
Nancy: Well, I forget how old he was, but he said he wanted to wear a suit and travel a lot. I bought him a few suits but I don’t think he wears them that much (laughs). With his present job he has been able to travel a lot, so that’s good. When he started college, he was kind of thinking pre-med, but that was short-lived. I told him, you don’t need to declare a major. With his personality and characteristics, I think being in business like he is, it’s a really good fit for him.
What was Brett’s favorite toy?
Nancy: It was his first little car, one that you pedaled. The door opened and it had a little trunk compartment. He started riding that in the house before he even walked, and my dad and him had a good time. My dad would be the mechanic, or the gas station guy filling up the car, stuff like that. That toy got more than its money’s worth.
Brett has always been interested in cars and other things with motors?
Nancy: Yeah, he tried different sports, but he wasn’t really athletic. He settled the last few years with downhill skiing.
Brett: I did that from six grade all the way until I was a senior in high school.
Nancy: Yeah, the sixth graders all had to go to Mount Kato, and he was one of them who got hooked on skiing. That’s not the best sport from a parent perspective, though, because you stand out in the freezing cold on a slab of snow and ice, and I’m busy talking, so I miss him coming down the hill, you know (laughs). Because it only lasts a few seconds and they’re down. And then he played saxophone in the band, and did a few trips out to New York with the band.
What was Brett like as a teenager?
Nancy: I think he was a typical teenager. He could not wait to drive. I actually let him start to drive before he had his permit (laughs). We’d do it on a Sunday morning. At that time I was working at South Central college, and so we’d go up to the parking lot, and he could practice parallel parking up there. Then I knew he had a nice blacktop road and I’d feel okay with him driving up there. I used to do Jail Health in Mankato, so I thought, well, if we do get pulled over, we’d still have some friends in the area (laughs). But no, I don’t think he did anything different than I probably did. I’m sure there’s some things that I don’t know about, but that’s the case with me and my parents too (laughs). We turned out okay!
What subjects did Brett excel at in high school?
Nancy: Recess! (laughs)
Brett: I was always in the advanced sciences, chem, physics, biology, I took anatomy. So when everyone was graduating with straight “A” honor roll, that’s because they took Home Ec, they took Shop class, they took Photography. Everyone was getting big credits with Photography. My friends and I were all taking the science classes, so that’s why leading into college, I thought that I was going to do pre-med. But that didn't end up the way it was initially planned. I’m very happy with what I’m doing today.
What do you most admire about Brett today?
Nancy: His independence. His advancements with his job.
What values do you feel you instilled in Brett?
Nancy: Probably the independence. His love of other people and socializing. Networking, I’ve always told him that networking is very important, no matter what you do in life. Get out there and meet friends, and there will be enemies too. Friends, I’ve had friends from grade school, friends from college. Friends from the neighborhood and past coworkers. I reach out and stay in contact with them, and I see him doing that too.
What did your own parents teach you that you passed along to Brett?
Nancy: My dad was a self-employed person, he had his own business, without an education. He was a hard worker and had to hire and fire people, just like I did. Finances… he instilled more of that in me than he did in Brett, I think. A lot of it is just how the times have changed. We laugh, because Brett is in the mortgage business and I’ve never had a mortgage in my life.
What is the most rewarding thing about motherhood?
Nancy: That I have someone to take care of me when I get old (laughs).
Brett: Straight to the nursing home! (laughs) No, as long as she doesn’t actually need that extra care, that will never happen. When my grandpa passed away, before he did he and my grandma were living with us. And then he passed away and my grandma was living with us. We had built a larger house to accommodate them. I am accustomed to having multiple generations in the house, so I just prefer it that way.
Nancy: It’s the Indian way.
Brett: Yeah. Me and my mom are unique. We take care of each other pretty well. Even though we have our arguments and disagreements. At the end of the day, besides having my wife and my dog, we’re really all we’ve got.
What do you think your life would be like today if you hadn’t adopted Brett?
Nancy: I don’t have a clue (laughs). I’d be more lonely, that’s for sure.
What would you say to other people considering adopting a child?
Nancy: I would say it’s the best thing. I have said repeatedly that if all people had to go through the adoption process in order to become a parent, the world would be better off. I have a three-inch notebook full of documents and everything. I mean, you have to save financially, spiritually, socially, your networks, you know, everything. You have to really plan it out. You know up front it’s not going to be cheap (laughs). There’s fees and stuff. It was a 20-month process for me. I’m not even sure India’s doing much adoption at this point. Well, right now hardly anybody is because of the pandemic, which is sad. I’ve heard there are some people going through the process but they’re not sure they’ll be able to finish it out. It’s very emotional, you know, up and down, but the end product is worth it!