- The clean, stark line where a freshly painted wall meets the bright ceiling
- The satisfaction of getting the damn room painted before the end of the year just like you swore you would way back in January
- Looking back with a happy heart at a year in which our roots sank deeper in a new city
December 31, 2007
December 26, 2007
December 25, 2007
and moved into the neighborhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes,
the one-of-a-kind glory,
like Father, like Son.
Generous inside and out,
true from start to finish.
-John 1:14 (as translated in The Message)
To everyone, peace and joy--today and every day.
December 24, 2007
I am soaking up Christmas with a toddler who delights in the "pretty lights" and thinks every present is for him. It is said that you experience holidays in fresh ways as a parent, and that has been so wonderfully true for me. I am falling in love again with the pageantry of Christmas as he discovers it for the first time.
And perhaps it is the holiday season or the nearness of January*, but I have been indulging more and more in the delight of a possible second child. Thoughts of a fourth stocking hung and hair clips and siblings and ruffly Christmas dresses and a house made just that much more alive by the presence of another.
Of all the emotions of adopting, it is sometimes the joyful anticipation that I know least what to do with. I remember being surprised by how quickly I attached to Puppy--or rather the idea of Puppy--when we first met K and R. All my thoughts of a hypothetical child suddenly found a specific focal point. In the six weeks between first talking with K until Puppy came home, there were moments the anticipation was so much that I could scarcely breathe. I remember standing in the dark room that would be Puppy's one night a few days before K's due date feeling that my heart would burst from the not-knowing, from the possibility of becoming a parent being so impossibly close yet still not sure.
On a certain level, it frightened me. Because although the joy of building a family is one of the wonderful aspects of adoption, it is thrilling and scary all at once. Scary because I sensed how great the heartache could be if Puppy didn't become our Puppy. And scary because--although I still don't know what drives some over the edge of reason--I glimpsed what is underneath the entitled behavior we adoptive parents too often exhibit if our desire to adopt turns desperate.
When Ms B entered into our life and we into hers, I again felt that familiar thrill. But there were months to wait and the usual uncertainties and challenges of adopting to navigate. The excitement seemed neither helpful or sustainable. So into one of my many emotional compartments it went, boxed and wrapped and tied with bow, waiting for the day it would be appropriate to open.
As a girl I loved to play with the wrapped presents under the tree, sorting and shaking them and wondering what was inside. Lately I have been paying great attention to my pretty, unopened gift. Like a child sneaking a look under the wrapping paper, I have been peeking into the box, letting the thrill of possibility rush over me. Thinking about the possible day we welcome another little one into our family. And when I've dreamed for a moment, I shut the lid tight once again and set it aside, waiting to see if it will ever be opened for good.
* January was the completely self-imposed, semi-arbitrary earliest month I said I would start preparing to have a baby in the house again.
December 21, 2007
This is the state we live in and it is the state Ms B's baby will be born in, so these are the laws we have to work with. We feel that we shouldn't just blindly follow them, though. Legal is not always the same as ethical, and our hope is (obviously) to do things legally but go beyond the legal minimums. It was something we talked about before starting the process, and something we discussed with the agency during our homestudy. (Every time we start talking about our messed-up adoption laws, T says he's going to run for the state legislature. It amuses me.)
We're at the point now where we need to arrange legal counsel for the possible adoption. So we spent some time on the phone today interviewing lawyers. We always opened by asking about their usual procedures, to get a sense of where they were coming from. It pained me how quickly some touted the state's "great" adoption laws. They were so eager to assure us they could get that baby permanently in our arms as quickly as possible, so sure that would be our primary concern as the potential adoptive parents.
We told them some of our discomforts with the current laws and that we hoped to find someone who would help us to find creative ways to work around them. (Hm, "around" sounds like we're trying to evade the laws. It's more "beyond" them.) It was discouraging how most just tried to talk us out of our convictions. One guy straight up lied to us about the law.
We just finished a conference call with a lawyer who seems promising, though. He generally represents more first parents than adoptive parents and understood our perspective. He was animated when brainstorming options. He had some good points that we hadn't considered. He seemed excited about trying something new and potentially using it with other clients.
In all of this, I can help thinking that it shouldn't be so much work for us. Not adopting a child--obviously that's not a process that someone should breeze through on a lark. But the work of trying to do this in a way that respects us and Ms B and her daughter and the father. A way that tries to acknowledge the harder aspects of adoption. A way we can feel good about twenty years from now. Sometimes that feels like an uphill battle.
December 20, 2007
December 18, 2007
Last night he insisted we build a house for baby Jesus. Tiny infant Jesus soon had a Lego home with a modest castle next door for the Magi.
Later T and I were having a conversation in the kitchen and apparently not paying Puppy the attention he felt he deserved. There was a crash from the living room followed by Puppy running circles through the house yelling, "I smash Jesus! I smash Jesus!"
He was so proud.
I only wish I had a video to send to my parents-in-law, who remain convinced I am just this side of heathen.
December 14, 2007
I ordered this little series of pocket guide books a while back for Ms B. Several were on the agency's suggested reading list and I thought she might appreciate them. She doesn't do the internet (I know!), so I didn't think she would pick them up on her own. They arrived earlier this week. I've been flipping through them and they're really good.
You can read the descriptions of the four guides at the Open Adoption Insight website, but they're sort of expanded brochures on some of the major issues for first parents in domestic adoption:
- What is Open Adoption? -- Advocates for fully open adoption and emphasizes the importance of honesty, respect and flexibility. Touches on some of the philosophy behind child-centered open adoption.
- Being a Birthparent: Finding Our Place -- Discusses of some of the unique challenges birth parents face and the ways in which becoming a birth parent is a transformative experience (for better and worse).
- Birthparent Grief -- Acknowledges the huge loss that results from adoption and defines some aspects of the resultant grief. Resolution isn't described as "moving on," but rather as integrating the loss of a child into your life in a sustainable way.
- Your Rights and Responsibilities -- An overview of expectant parents' legal rights throughout the process, but also their responsibilities to themselves and their children (like honesty, being well-informed). Covers a whole range of issues and questions--all those things that so many first parents have said they wish they had known to consider.
I just wanted to let you all know about them as potential resources, if you hadn't heard of them already. (I'm probably the last one!) Nothing replaces in-person counseling but the written word is powerful in its own way. I am the sort of person whose epiphanies often come in the quiet of my room with a book on my lap. And I figure even if these are things Ms B has already talking through with her therapist and/or social worker, it can never hurt to have the information in another format.
December 11, 2007
This is such a tricky time, because there is no clear ethical road map. The right choices seem simpler to me in the beginning of the adoption process (find a trustworthy agency, be honest) and while waiting to match (don't stress, don't go advertising for babies). This post-match/pre-placement time is less obvious, partly because it is so unique to each individual situation. It's hard to make a comprehensive black-and-white list: do this, don't do that.
We made peace with well-mitigated pre-birth matching at the beginning of the process (although I think the ongoing debate over it is an important one). But in any case, right now I am in this budding relationship with Ms B and clearly no baby has been born. So I am faced with how to conduct myself in the situation I am in now, inside the system we have now. The larger ethical debates are always in the back of my mind, but the choices I'm making are terribly personal to our tentative little triad. It is the tension you always face when doing justice (and I do think how one adopts can be a means of working for justice)--how to connect your ideals to the real.
I have been grateful for this time, not only for the opportunity to get to know one another but for the chance to ask questions about her situation and her process thus far. In an ideal system adoptive parents could come to a placement confident that the placing parents had made their decision fully informed and free of pressure. But we don't yet have that system. And in domestic infant adoption as it now stands I don't think we can chalk all the ethical issues up to systemic failures. We have personal ethical choices to make about our own conduct throughout the process. I feel I owe it to my kids to make sure I did everything I knew to do to make sure their placements were as ethical as possible. When the agency's role in all this is over, I'll still have to answer for the actions I took and the things I said or didn't say. I don't want to look back and realize I did too little.
I've noticed a change in Ms B since we first met her, a certain freedom in her emotional connection to her daughter. More talking to her and about her, a stronger sense of being bonded to her. More feeling like a mother, I suppose. Maybe it's just this final stage of the pregnancy. But Ms B and her social worker have both said that meeting our family made a difference in her general peace of mind. It is as if having the pieces of an adoption plan in place allowed her to more fully give herself to the pregnancy and to motherhood. If adoption is something she tries on and ultimately discards in favor of parenting, then the trying on seems to have helped her toward that in a way. It is a good change, in my mind. Now is the beginning of Ms B's lifelong relationship with her daughter, whether or not that is filtered through an open adoption. And as the social worker commented, unless that bonding is present, it is hard to really consider the ramifications of choosing adoption.
Ms B and I have talked some about options, we've talked about parenting. We've talked about loss and regret. It is an odd place to be in, because I am not her therapist, I am not her social worker, I am not family or friend. I am not even someone who knows her all that well. I don't think my job--or anyone's job, for that matter--is to talk her in or out of anything. This is her process, not mine. I'm seeing one small piece of her life; only she knows the how all the pieces fit together. But I also don't think I can just take everything at face value. I owe it to her, to her daughter, to myself to prod a little. To make sure all the things I believe are important to say have been said. It's not my role, necessarily, but I feel it's my obligation.
She asks us questions, too. About our approach to open adoption and about transracial parenting. About how our family works and how she would fit into it. She wanted to spend time with us with Puppy. There have definitely been times I have felt like we're auditioning for something. And more power to her for that. Being entrusted with someone else's child should be the hardest job I ever interview for.
It is difficult, because the more we trade questions, the more I sense her trusting me. The trust that is essential in a healthy open adoption, but potentially coercive prior to placement. And so I stay back, trying to give her space. Always trying to keep the balance.
December 09, 2007
I held my first gold bar just over ten years ago. I was spending the summer in Ghana—a West African country where gold is inextricably connected to the history, traditions and economy—when our hosts arranged a tour of a local gold production plant.
Whatever mental image of gold I had up until that point—a polished wedding band, the flutter of thin gold leaf—was nothing like what confronted us at the refinery. Gold is no longer tapped from thick veins in a tunnel wall or panned from a stream, but chemically extracted from ore. Giant excavators scoop load after load of earth from open pit mines. We saw gaping holes where mountains once stood, crossed catwalks over enormous vats where pulverized rock was mixed with cyanide and acid with the goal of luring out the few dozen grams of gold hiding in each ton of ore. Trucks constantly moved earth; out of that maybe a couple gold bricks were produced each day, small enough to hold in two hands.
At the end of the tour, we were ushered inside to watch the final step in that process. A dingy powder (what now remained of the piles of earth) was poured into furnace. A worker carefully swept everything from the floor and tossed it in to make sure not even the smallest bit of the valuable dust had escaped. The fire burned until we could feel the skin of our cheeks begin to tighten. At the right moment, a stream of molten gold cascaded from the tipped pot into a waiting mold.
After the bar cooled and was pounded from the mold, I walked up to the white-clothed table where it lay, worth enough to pay for my college education and beyond. I picked it up. It was remarkably heavy for its size, over fifty pounds. Thousands of tons of ore had been reduced to one single shining brick.
Of all that I saw that day, the one thing which has lingered in my memory is the weight of the gold bar as I struggled to lift it, the roughness of its surface against my palms, the absolute solidity of it. Every time I slip the nothingness of a gold chain around my neck I cannot help but contrast it to the rawness and heft of that brick. But so much else from day has drifted away from my memory without me noticing.
So many of my memories are this way—one strong impression left, but the details lost. Even as I look back over the two brief years since my son was born there is much which has grown hazy. There are of course the big moments that remain: seeing him for the first time, his first smile, watching him crawl. Those are the gold nuggets of memory, easily plucked from the stream bed. But the everyday things are harder to pick out, lost among the business of everyday life. What made him laugh during that first hot summer? What did he sound like when he started to babble? What did I think about as I rocked him in the middle of the night? Everything felt so vivid, so important as it was happening during that first year—I thought I would remember forever. But already I don’t.
The small memories which do remain are those I was deliberate about picking out and saving, those captured in a photo or words. But they are so few. A handful of moments saved on a blog or written into a letter. A picture of something which at the time felt mundane, but now seems so worth recalling.
I have set my mind to be more disciplined about regular reflection on our life together as he grows. To do the gritty work of reflection in order to draw out the small yet worthy moments from the mundane details of our everyday life, the ones hidden like those few grams of gold in the pile of ore. To mine the mountain of our days to find what is precious, and to refine it into something solid and lasting to carry with me into the years to come. My own block of memories, raw and rough and golden.
December 07, 2007
December 06, 2007
Leave a comment here by the end of today (Thursday) to be entered. Easy peasy.
December 02, 2007
December 01, 2007
I honestly get all excited from the blog exchange. It has seemed to come so quickly this month, when did Friday get here anyways. I am wracking my last minute brain trying to think of something to write about with the silver and gold theme today. I had all sorts of ideas when I took on this task a few weeks ago. Today though the golden thing in my mind is all the beer that I saw last night. Nope, I didn't drink not one single drink. I was the driver like my usual task. I enjoy being the driver. I know that is a bit odd, but that is me. I like the setting, the loud music, the friendships that I have. I am not a drinker though, so being the designated driver sort of gets you off the hook.
I think of that golden almost free flowing golden beer from lat night and think that this is such a corny story, why is my mind stuck?? I think it has something to do with that I didn't get home until after 4 this morning and I was up driving a school bus at 6 yesterday.
I move on. I just got a gold pan last week. I have intentions to go gold panning in the near future. I doubt I actually find any, but there is supposed to be some gold in a few places of southern Pennsylvania where I live. I haven't done this yet though. I just have the supplies. How boring is that??
So, I move onto silver. You will hardly ever hear me utter the word silver though. I much prefer the color "Chrome" which is essentially silver. Chrome was one of my favorite colors long before that song. I was a truck driver though, so what truck driver doesn't like chrome. It is almost an essential for the job, if you don't like chrome. Don't drive a truck.
So, here it is...my very casual Production not Reproduction today. I guess that is okay though, I am very casual type girl and if you like it casual like this, you will probably enjoy my site. The Life of a School Bus Driver. Have a great day.
November 30, 2007
Anyway, the other day he was watching the slideshow that serves as our screensaver on the family computer. He was doing his usual thing of pointing out all the pictures featuring him. Then a photo came up of K reading to him and he asked me, "Is mine?"
A thousand conversations about objectification in adoption and the offense of "our birthmom" and the trickiness of claiming family briefly zipped through my mind. As well as the thought that maybe he was asking about the book she was holding. But I just gave him a sqeeze and answered, "Yes, she is yours." And the screen faded into the next picture.
November 29, 2007
I'm so glad to find out I was wrong.
The Daring Book for Girls by Andrea J. Buchanan and Miriam Peskowitz is a compendium of craft projects, games, and stories mixed with sports, history, and science for good measure. I would have loved this book as a kid. Picture a little girl in ponytails and glasses geeking out over the Greek and Latin root word chart, making a half-dozen sit-upons and poring over the stories of real-life princesses and spies. Age the girl twenty-odd years and you've got a pretty accurate image of me with this book this past month.
The brief sections are consistently engaging and the book encourages dipping here and there in repeated readings. Page after page took me straight back to my childhood. There were the friendship bracelets we churned out in junior high and the cootie catchers so popular amongst the fourth grade set. A suggested book list full of beloved titles (Island of the Blue Dolphins, anyone?). Lemonade stands and God's Eyes. Then there were all the things I wish I had known. How to make peach pit rings or a homemade flashlight. Five basic knots and the rules of darts. Variations on hopscotch I had no idea existed. And basketball tips that would have come in handy during my ill-fated year on the seventh grade team (season total: 2 points).
The book has the retro look so popular right now, but I think the content also taps into the nostalgia of parents like me who remember a mostly unscheduled, electronic-free childhood. It's a book inviting kids to explore, imagine and create. Admirably, it achieves that without seeming dated. Vintage content with modern sensibilities.
But what truly won me over was the fact that the authors place no confining expectations on the girls who will read it. They assume they will be equally interested in making the ultimate scooter as in learning to chain daisies. They talk about tools and hardware and basic finance without treating them as exotic topics for a girls' book. All the while celebrating friendship and the accomplishments of real women throughout history. It's honest empowerment instead of treacly Girl Power. In short, just what an egalitarian mom like me looks for.
I do think a lot of drama could have been avoided if the first book had just been marketed for kids, not only boys. But now there are two books instead of one, giving us twice as many creative activities and interesting trivia to peruse. In our house the twin books will sit in a pair on the shelf and I'll pull them both down when we're looking for some lazy summer fun.
Just don't ever tell the boys that I think our book is cooler.
Now for the give-away!
Thanks to Mother Talk and Harper Collins (the nifty sponsors of this review), I have an extra copy of The Daring Book for Girls to give away! Enter by leaving a comment on this post before Friday, December 7 telling us all what you would do with a copy of this book. I'll choose a winner in a random drawing.
November 28, 2007
It was partly in support of equal access to adoption for the unmarrieds: partnered couples who couldn't marry or chose not to marry, and single people. We wanted to support an agency which did not discriminate against potential adoptive parents for qualities which--we felt--had no bearing on their ability to parent. And in private domestic adoption, in which expectant parents most often choose the adoptive family for their child, we especially saw no reason to exclude unmarrieds from the pool of potential adoptive parents. After all, if someone felt strongly that their child should be parented by a married couple, there would be nothing preventing them from only considering married couples. And if someone connected with, for instance, a single person it should be their prerogative to choose them. We simply thought such decisions should be made by the placing parents, not pre-emptively by the agencies.
But there was another, perhaps more significant reason. We were concerned that presenting an unmarried expectant parent with only profiles of married couples sent an unspoken message that two-parent households are inherently better than one-parent households. It must be difficult to believe that parenting your child is a legitimate option if profile after profile is tacitly telling you that you're less worthy simply because you're single. We did not want to be party to that, especially knowing how many people were likely already hearing that message from their families or religious communities.
People have very different views of single parenting, marriage, etc. stemming from everything from religious beliefs to political positions to cultural mores. The danger is in trying to apply those views universally. I don't fault anyone for holding to a strict personal ethic in this arena. T and I ourselves are part of a faith tradition which frowns on sex outside of marriage. But we don't believe that those precepts should be forced on anyone else, and we definitely don't believe that people can "redeem themselves from sexual sin" by placing the resultant children for adoption. Sure, sometimes pregnancies are the result of mistakes. But there is no reason to compound mistake upon mistake with an unnecessary adoption. Or a rushed wedding, for that matter. People get so caught up in their moral agendas that they don't see the very real people in the middle of these situations. And that is how people get hurt.
I've known women who unexpectedly became pregnant and decided to embrace single parenthood. I've also known women who felt that single parenting was not right for them for a variety of reasons; a couple made adoption plans and others terminated their pregnancies. And I've known single women and men who have pursued parenthood through adoption. Those were all complex and intensely personal choices. They deserved to be able to make them free of pressure from those who didn't have to live with the consequences.
November 26, 2007
Eight random things, not necessarily about me:
- There was a woman at the grocery store today with two little girls, and all three wearing fuzzy pink slippers. They weren't even full slippers, just those half-foot kind that leave your heel exposed. It was pouring rain outside.
- K had to call off her plans to come visit in early January, due to some legal stuff. (She's okay.) It's always a bummer when things fall through, but there was an extra layer of disappointment. If the potential adoption happens, this would have been our last visit together with just the four of us (K, Puppy, T and me). I'm not sure why that feels important to me, but somehow it does.
- But! Tonight Puppy's first dad brought up the idea of flying up to visit during his winter school break. T has been good-naturedly poking him to come for months. R is one of those super-busy people balancing school and work and family. I think it's also been a slower process for him to have the good kind of entitlement, the one which convinces you that you have something of value to offer your kid. I hope this works out.
- You know how toddlers sort of cycle through a few months of eye-gouging annoyance followed by a few months of nearly unbearable cuteness? Right now Puppy is three feet of pure, effortless charm. We're in a good family groove right now. It's awesome. It's also been going on for over two months, so I'm sort of gearing up for the downswing.
- Puppy is into counting right now. Or at least he thinks he is. It usually goes something like this: "One, two, three! Four! Six! Eight, nine, ten! Sixteen! Two! ELEVEN!" At which point T and I are obliged to say, "This one counts to eleven." Because we are nerds.
- Karen from The Naked Ovary is blogging again! She's the type of writer who has me snorting with laughter one minute and weeping the next. Her daughter's referral information from China came while we were vacationing in Hawaii. I went out of my way to check her blog because I didn't want to miss seeing the pictures and joining in the celebration. See above re: nerd.
- That is one of my favorite things about online community or the blogosphere or whatever you want to call it. The way people come together in celebration or comfort for people they have never met. We have all been in those spots before and know how much it means to have others there with us.
- I'm a big hypocrite, because I like being tagged for these things but never tag anyone else.
November 25, 2007
She was picking up a pizza with her kids last weekend. They were waiting in the lobby when she heard them call out the name of another customer to pick up his order. The name happened to be the same as the dad of Ms B's child.
When the guy stepped up to pay for his pizza, she realized it wasn't just that he had the right name. He was also the right age. The right color. The right build. They were in the right neighborhood.
She's been diligently calling him for a couple of months, trying to engage him in the process. They've talked once or twice over the phone, but he didn't show up for the one appointment they scheduled. She watched him walk out of the restaurant and thought, "If that is him, I can't pass this up." So she stuck her head out the door and said, "Excuse me. Do you know a woman named [Ms B]?"
It turned out to be him, the father of Ms B's baby. The social worker introduced herself. They had a little chat right there in the parking lot while her kids waited inside. He was polite. He asked for her card and said he would call her.
It may turn out to be nothing; he may never call. But the social worker feels that now they've at least met she can be a little more direct in talking to him. Trying to communicate that even if he doesn't want to raise his daughter, he doesn't need to give up the chance to be part of her life.
The morning of her call to me, I had actually been thinking about him quite a bit. Wondering what was going on for him, how everything was going to play out. Thinking about how hard it would be to explain why--when faced with such similar circumstances--R chose to commit to his kid and this guy didn't. Making a mental list of information to grab now to set her up well if she ever wanted to find him.
Although my particular faith compels me to believe that God at times orchestrates events both large and small, I am not one who sees meaning in every coincidence. But part of me so wants to find a purpose in this chance meeting. To be able to look back and realize this was a turning point.
November 21, 2007
I look over to see two TSA screeners huddled together examining the x-ray of my little suitcase. "Do you see that?" one asks. "What is that dark void?"
He grabs my bag and motions me to a table. "We're going to need to take a look at this," he tells me, pulling on a glove.
He starts going through my things, heading straight for the suspicious void. It doesn't take him long to find it.
It is a hardback copy of Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban.
"Ah, Potter," he says quite seriously. "The only thing scarier is two Bibles on top of each other."
So to all you traveling to your turkeys by airplane, fly with confidence that the TSA is keeping us safe from the twin horrors of Harry Potter and those who double-pack Bibles.
November 19, 2007
But only after making sure February sits well within the store's window for returns.
I must have picked up that dress (so cute! so tiny!) and put it back down ten times before realizing IT'S JUST A PIECE OF CLOTHING. An Ethica SWAT team will not come banging down my door because I dared buy a dress for a girl who is not yet (and may never be) my daughter.
I have never regretted our decision to start our family via adoption. But it sure can make me crazy in the head sometimes.
November 16, 2007
I'm back home today, thinking about our outing with Ms B tomorrow (she's meeting Puppy for the first time) and what to feed the nine people coming for dinner (I was nuts to put those two things on the same day). Puppy is putting his wooden train cars into a teakettle.
Just wanted to pop in to say hello. I am nodding along with so many of you as I catch up on my blog reading.
November 12, 2007
Open records are about information. Open adoption and reunion are about ongoing contact. Having information doesn't automatically equal having contact.
Open records don't force anyone--first parents or adopted adults-- into unwanted relationships. And they certainly don't force potential adoptive parents into open adoptions. They just let adoptees know the identities of their birth parents. Knowing someone's name is not the same as having a relationship with that person. Just ask any adoptee or first parent who has searched only to have the door slammed in their face.
Conflating these issues whenever the subject of open records comes up is a favorite tactic of some major players in the adoption world:
Nationwide, one of the major foes of open records is the National Council for Adoption, which represents many religiously affiliated adoption agencies. Its president, Thomas Atwood, says any reconnection between an adopted adult and a birthparent should be by mutual consent — which is the policy in most states.
“I empathize with anybody who feels the need to know their biological parents’ identity,” Atwood said. “But I don’t think the law should enable them to force themselves on someone who has personal reasons for wanting confidentiality.” (source, emphasis added)
I actually agree with Mr. Atwood on one point: any relationships between adults should be by mutual consent. But open records don't preclude that. Trying to force someone into a relationship is called harassment, and there are already laws against that. Giving adopted adults access to information about their origins makes contact possible, but it doesn't make it mandatory. Mr. Atwood makes it sound like open record laws give adoptees a free pass to stalk their biological parents.
November 11, 2007
Which is why I was so glad to crack open the review copy of "I Love You More" with Puppy and discover a story celebrating how nice it can be for a parent and child to give and receive expressions of love.
The story begins with a little boy taking a walk with his mother. "'Mommy, just how much do you love me?'" he asks. She is quick with her answers...
I love you higher than the highest bird ever flew.At the end of the mom's declarations of love, her son whispers "'[K]now what mommy?...I love you more!'" And here is where the neat little gimmick comes in: you flip the book over and do it all again from the little boy's point of view.
I love you taller than the tallest tree ever grew.
Walking along a path one day, a mother turned to her son and asked, "So, just how much do you love me?" Ready for the question, the little boy took her hand and began...It is a sweet and creative book perfect for reading with your kiddo snuggled on your lap. Puppy enjoys the dual sides, what he calls the "Mommy side" and "baby side." And I enjoy showing him that the most meaningful expressions of love are reciprocal, not competitive.
I love you quieter than the quietest caterpillar ever creeped.
I love you further than the furthest frog ever leaped.
My only complaint is that the typeface was a bit distracting. But that is a tiny nitpick about a book which more often than not has Puppy saying when we reach the middle/end, "Read it 'gain, Mommy."
Listed for ages 9-12, but my guess is that should be moved down several years (Puppy enjoys it now at age two). The mother and son are both Caucasian.
(written by Laura Duksta, illustrated by Karen Keesler, Sourcebooks, Inc., 2007)
November 08, 2007
Rules: Once tagged, you must link to the person who tagged you. Then post the rules before your list, and list 8 random things about yourself. At the end of the post, you must tag and link to 8 other people, visit their sites, and leave a comment letting them know they’ve been tagged.
- I have a weird habit of holding my breath when I read. I don't notice I'm doing it, but it drove my mom nuts when I was little.
- Like Robin Sparkles, I have spent time wearing spandex and sequins in a mall. During my senior year of high school I was part of a little group of performers chosen to visit our town's sister city in Japan. We spent two weeks touring, staying with host families, and performing more times than I'd like to admit in a giant shopping mall. The opening act was a teen who sang country songs. We were a fresh-faced, all-American dance squad. The thought that pictures exist from those performances kind of horrifies me now.
- I make a mean chocolate chip cookie.
- I'm terrible at spending gift certificates. I get super excited about receiving them, then hang onto them for years. It really makes no sense.
- I dig long walks, but hate jogging.
- I've worn glasses since I was four years old. Apparently when I walked out of the ophthalmologist's office with them on for the first time, I stopped dead in my tracks and said, "Mommie! The trees have leaves!"
- I kind of dread talking on the telephone for reasons I can't explain (not because they're secret but because I don't really understand them myself). So I'm sucky at returning people's calls, even when I really want to talk to them.
- One summer I worked in the laundry room of a camp for a bit. Ever since then doing the laundry has been a peaceful, relaxing task for me. Which reminds me, I need to go move a load into the dryer.
November 06, 2007
For awhile I thought that was enough. I thought that the openness in our adoption negated his personal need for open records. If Puppy had his first parents in his life in the flesh, why would he need to see their names on a piece of paper? Open records would just give him access to information that he already had, and while I supported open records in principle I was grateful my little guy didn't need them. I thought it was ridiculous that the state sealed those records, but ultimately unimportant.
Then I started thinking about his life as an adult. And I thought about trying to nurture openness in his adoption. And I realized open records were actually very important.
At the most basic level, I believe Puppy has a civil right to the legal record of his birth. Adult Puppy should be able to contact the State of California and receive copies of both of his birth certificates--original and amended. The fact that he cannot is simple discrimination. He shouldn't have to rely on my fire-safe box or on K and R's willingness to share information with him. There is already quite a bit of informal privilege denied adopted persons. But this denial is codified into state law. And, as an adoptive parent, that pisses me off.
I also began to see how sealing records works against those of us advocating for open adoption. They are simply an outdated and unwarranted part of adoption. Closed records arose in most states within my parents' lifetime. (Closed records--available to no one--are distinguished from confidential records, which are available to involved parties but not the general public.) They were premised on the idea that adopted children needed to be protected from the wayward parents who conceived them and the stigma of illegitimacy. First parents needed to hide their shameful secret from prying eyes. Adoptive parents needed to be able to pretend they were a biological family. Sealing birth records provided a legal framework for all these purposes.
Maintaining closed records perpetuates those stigmas and, in doing so, works against open adoption. Closed records play into the fiction that there is something shameful in adoptees' pasts, something which needs to be hidden away for everyone's protection. They reinforce the idea that first parents should disappear into the shadows after relinquishment if they know what's best for them and their child. They suggest to adoptive parents that the only way to be their child's real parent is to see themselves as replacements for the biological parents. Those are baneful ideas in open adoption.
Keeping records closed perpetuates the myth that open adoption is a fringe movement, flirting with the potentially dangerous idea of not cutting adoptees off from their families of origin. Closed records and the system built around them are why so many people ask, "Isn't it confusing?" and "Doesn't it make you nervous?" when they hear about open adoption. Because they've picked up the notion that the only way adoption can really work is to erase one family completely and create another in its place, shrouded in secrecy and anonymity.
So I advocate for open records for two reasons: because adult adoptees are being denied their rights and because I care about open adoption. The openness in Puppy's adoption doesn't change the fact that the State of California still treats him as a second-class citizen. And there are far too many others--including Puppy's first mom, also an adoptee--who have neither the openness nor the access. That is wholly unfair.
Although I'm (clearly) not participating in NaBloPoMo, I am working my own little challenge: National Blog Commenting Month.
The best part of NaBloCoMo is that you get to make up your own rules. My personal challenge is to leave at least one comment each day somewhere that I normally wouldn't. So either on a new blog I've discovered or somewhere I've been lurking. I'm generally pretty shy about commenting and I'm hoping this force me to leave better, more frequent, and more substantive comments.
October 31, 2007
October 30, 2007
We were reading it last night before bed, flipping through the pages and having him identify different people. When we got to his first mom's page he got so excited. "K___! K___! K___!" he sang, pointing at her picture.
Something clicked for him during K's visit last month. He's still too young to truly understand family relationships--that Nana is Mommy's mommy and that sort of thing. But he gets that K is special because she is family. He welcomed her into his select inner circle over that weekend (perks include extra hugs, reading books in your lap, sharing favorite toys, and hearing your name repeated over and over).
I was glad to see it and to see her respond to him and know that it had happened on his timing. It made me think that maybe we're on the right track.
October 29, 2007
- Pulling a quilt up over a sleeping child, curved like an apostrophe in the corner of his bed
- The faint hint of a neighbor's wood stove in the air when you step outside
- A breeze pushing through the last dry leaves on a tree, a sound almost like that of soft rainfall
October 26, 2007
- I tried on
a few severalsix different outfits Wednesday morning.
- I picked up T from work to drive to our appointment and realized we inadvertently dressed in matching outfits. I seriously considered being late to the appointment so I could go home and change. I also considered dying on the spot of pre-emptive embarrassment.
- I wore the necklace.
- I spent most of the morning thinking about my appearance to avoid thinking about the fact that we were about meet someone who may become a permanent member of our family and how incredibly odd that is.
- Just before walking into the counselor's office, I heard Ms B's voice on the other side of the door. When I realized in a few steps we would meet I experienced a moment of pure panic.
The panic was short-lived and it was a pretty comfortable meeting. She described herself as a very private person, which is certainly something I can relate to. So I appreciated the extent to which she opened herself to us and I did my best to match it. I was impressed by the determination she has exhibited at various points in her life.
- She brought two friends with her, a married couple. They had read our profile materials, which include pretty much everything there is to know about us short of n@ked photos. (The materials are a combination of the home study, autobiographies, health histories, and reflections on our family life and approach to adoption.) They are so revealing that I can't read through them to myself in one sitting because I feel so exposed. It was terribly vulnerable to sit in a room of people who all knew more about me than most of my friends, yet know next to nothing about them. I think it is fair considering the situation, but--dude, I'm ok if I don't do that again for awhile.
- Even more so than the first time we did this with Puppy's first parents, T and I were aware that it was the two of us entering into her decision-making process. This may be part of her pulling together the pieces of an adoptive placement. Or we may be part of her trying on the idea of adoption and ultimately deciding it is not the best course for her. Either way, we have this sense that we have a certain role and it's very much just one piece of the larger whole. There is a huge body of experience and history which brought her to this place, and there is of course so much going on right now in her life that we are not privy to.
The reverse is also true: she is a piece of the larger whole of our adoption process and our evolving family history. I think I once conceived of adoption as this linear storyline in which T and I were the central characters and meeting an expectant mom like Ms B filled in the "meeting 'our' 'birthmom'" slot. But this time it feels more like the overlap of two circles in a Venn diagram, ours and hers.
- There wasn't any instant connection. I didn't walk in and think, "Oh, she's the one!" But c'mon, this is me we're talking about. If I ever say something like that no one will blame you if you notify the authorities that I appear to have been replaced by a pod person.
- She brought us some copies of pictures from her last ultrasound that she wanted us to have. There was 2-D ultrasound picture and some 3-D ones. I guess 3-D ultrasounds are pretty standard now? In the 2-D picture I thought the baby's nose was a foot, so obviously I rocked my response there. The 3-D ones are...creepy. (T on the way home: "Can we not put those on the refrigerator next to the food?") I think there is a reason babies grow where we can't see them. The baby did look all snuggly and relaxed, so I guess all is good on that front. It was very kind of her to share those with us.
- At one point I quoted myself verbatim from a blog post and completed my transformation into a living, breathing cliché.
- We went out to lunch afterward with Ms B and her friends. The friends monopolized the conversation, to the point of answering questions I asked B directly. I woke up the next day pretty frustrated about that. Not that they were there--Ms B had the right to invite along whatever support people she needed--but that B, T and I were facing this major decision that didn't directly involve them and hadn't been able to have decent conversation after we left the office.
- We exchanged phone numbers so we could continue to get to know one another. We hope to see her again sometime next month. The next agency-coordinated meeting with all three of us would be in January.
- The agency is working separately with the baby's dad. He has been reticent, not necessarily about the possible placement (or it wouldn't have gotten to this stage), but about openness and being much involved in the process or going to counseling. This is weighing heavily on my mind.
- There was some information we received on Wednesday that factored into our decision to move forward. I'm still working out what is appropriate to share.
- Ms B's daughter (that's right, I said daughter) is due February 8.
- If MaybeBaby joins the PNR clan, we'll be a transracial family.
October 23, 2007
I was 33 when we adopted DJ, and I thought I knew what a broken heart looked like, how it felt. I didn't know a damn thing. You know what a broken heart looks like? Like a sobbing teenager handing over a two-day-old infant she can't take care of to a couple she hopes can.T and I went out for dinner on Saturday to prepare for our meeting with Ms B tomorrow. Over Indian food we discussed adoption ethics writ small--not legislation or international treaties but the dozens of small choices we'll make this week and perhaps in the weeks ahead. We sorted through our priorities, reaffirmed our limits, brainstormed ways to communicate our values to Ms B and the agency case worker. I heard us slipping into the pattern of honest yet carefully chosen words we'll all be using on Wednesday.
Dan Savage, The Commitment
I read Dan Savage's The Kid this weekend, a little break from real life. (Because clearly the way to avoid being antsy about your own adoption process is to read about someone else's.) It is one of the most honest accounts of a domestic open adoption that I've read from an adoptive parent's perspective. Which meant I was cringing, laughing or on the verge of crying through most of it.
I once read an interview in which Savage said he and his partner were debating whether or not to adopt a second time. There were multiple reasons for their hesitancy, but one was not wanting to relive the experience of leaving the hospital with someone else's child. In his own words from The Kid, "No one warned us about the moment when you pick the baby up and walk out of the room, leaving the birth mom sobbing in her bed. We were unprepared for all the planning and check-writing and seminar-going to end in a moment of such blistering pain."
I read that section again and again before finally putting the book down. The details didn't match what happened when we picked up Puppy. It was a sidewalk, not a room; no one was sobbing outwardly. But none of that really matters. It doesn't change the fact that driving away from K with her/our baby in the back seat felt at that moment like one of the most terrible things I've done to another person. I've come across more than one parent who has considered not adopting again or going a different adoption route because the thought of being a witness to the physical relinquishment a second time is too troubling. I understand their position, and I respect them. It's because I respect them that I've struggled inwardly to understand why I am doing it again. How do I watch someone's heart break then willingly be party to it a second time?
T and I took some time last year to talk over all our different options, from foregoing siblings to pursuing a different type of adoption to saying health-be-damned and going for a bio kid. They are those crappy kinds of conversations in which there are no right answers. We went into our first adoption with some sense of the ethical trickiness, but none of how impossible it is to change the very nature of relinquishment. All the openness in the world doesn't mitigate the blistering pain, it just makes the adoptive parents witness to it. With adoption the way we did it there is no way to distance yourself. We were caught off guard by how it divides everything else into before and after.
Some people say they could never do what Savage did, what I did. They could never be the one to carry a child away from its mother. What it came down to for T and me was this: if our children are adopted, then that moment happened whether or not we were there. Whether we adopt from the state system or internationally or in a private adoption, that moment of blistering pain still happens. Maybe it's a kid being pulled into foster care, or a young parent dying of AIDS, or a father leaving a baby in a public place to be found, or a new mom leaving a hospital empty-handed. But someone's heart still broke. By virtue of adopting we are indirectly party to that; it is just a question of how many steps removed we will be.
It's more complicated, of course. This is just one tiny piece of what it means to do an infant adoption in the U.S. The reality is that there are ethical issues in all forms of adoption--they are just unique to each form. For us, working inside a culture we understand, in a system we have experienced first-hand, in the process we think allows us the most control made more sense than navigating something new and unknown. Ethically tricky, yes, but the trickiness we'd be best equipped to handle. Once we decided to adopt again, using a different form of adoption just to avoid that experience didn't seem right.
So tomorrow Ms B becomes a flesh-and-blood person to us (and us to her). It is one thing to prepare for a hypothetical situation with a hypothetical person. It is quite another to look into the face of a woman who is considering placing her child with you and have some sense of what awaits her if she does.
Whatever happens, tomorrow will be an interesting day.
October 20, 2007
That right is still denied or abridged in an overwhelming majority of states.
Here is why we should all care:
If you're as moved as I was, be sure to leave a reaction over at YouTube. The video is an entry in a national competition which has the potential to bring a lot of attention to this important issue.
October 18, 2007
In the blog world, civility often goes uncelebrated while biting rants garner attention. There is a place harsh writing, because sometimes it communicates in ways that softer words can't. Certain issues call for unvarnished honesty. But I'm happy to be able to pass this on to three bloggers (among many) who make the internet a more civil place--even when they're ranting.
Cloudscome @ Sandy Cove Trail
Cloudscome is my model for writing passionately about sensitive issues--from injustice to racism to adoption--without invective. There is a post she wrote about what it was like to begin visitation with her eldest son's father when her son was small (I can't find it or I would link to it). She wrote it without bitterness or resentment, but with complete honesty about how difficult it was for her. Whenever I am tempted to vent on-blog about a frustrating relationship or a perceived wrong, I think of that post.
Tammy @ You Just Never Know Where Hope Might Take Ya
This was the first post of Tammy's that I ever read. I knew right away that I wanted to hear more from her. She continues to impress me with her compassion. Her family is in a lopsided adoption, in which there is openness on her side but not on her kids' first parents' side. Despite how disappointing that has been for their family, she never plays the blame game.
Poor_Statue @ Not Mother
Poor_Statue didn't invent the front porch principle (blogs are like front porches--if you want to take a stand/get rude/rant then do it on your own porch, not your neighbor's), but she was the one who introduced it to me. And she stands by it, which I think is part of why her words carry so much weight with so many people.
October 17, 2007
My goal for this visit was integration: continuing to bring our worlds together by having K meet some of the folks who populate Puppy's daily life and giving them a chance to meet her. It was important to me that she see Puppy in his little social network, enjoy who he is amongst friends. There is something about seeing your child play and (usually) share with friends that gives parents warm fuzzies. Puppy's birthday party was a natural place for that to happen, with the adults mingling while kids ran underfoot. There was also an impromptu dinner invitation that resulted in a relaxed Saturday evening watching football with family friends. So I got more than I hoped for in that regard.
All in all, I think it was a successful visit.
Now for the navel-gazing: It exhausted me emotionally. I am terribly introverted, so having overnight visitors tends to drain me. There are also some specific things about my interactions with K which require a lot of emotional energy. One night when T and I had retreated to the privacy of our bedroom, I broke down in tears. I was feeling empty and tired of navigating all the different needs and wanting to just enjoy Puppy's birthday. I heard myself say, "Sometimes I just want to be [Puppy]'s only mom." I was so embarrassed to have said that, especially with K probably feeling the same thing a thousand times over in the next room. But it wasn't about wishing the adoption weren't open (I don't) or that Puppy weren't adopted (he wouldn't be Puppy) or even about feeling threatened in my role by K (I'm not). It was about wanting things to be simple when they're not.
If I were someone else, I would tell me not to be embarrassed. It was where my heart was at at the time, and I needed to deal with it so it wouldn't affect my actions toward K. But I need to figure out some way to honor those feelings and work through them in a way that doesn't leave me feeling so isolated. More than anything this weekend I wanted a peer I could call who would tell me, "I've felt that way, too. It's ok. You're doing fine." Or tell me to get over myself if that's what I needed. The point is I wanted to know there was someone who had been there before me. (T was wonderful and supportive and had some great insights, but he just isn't affected by our visits in the same way that I am. Which makes my sense of loneliness more acute.) I read stories of so many adoptive parents who express nothing but joy over their relationships with their children's first parents. They make me happy. They also make me wonder what is wrong that sometimes this is all incredibly draining for me?
I've been hesitating over this post, not wanting to look like a self-centered tool. I can't seem to wrangle the words to express what I am trying to say. But I want to put it out there so that if someone else has found herself there she can know that she isn't alone.
October 11, 2007
Part of the calm is knowing that we done this successfully once before. But it is also due to some recent progress in our relationship. I don't know how to be appropriately vague without making it meaningless, but some good things have happened recently. I am happy with where our relationship is right now and the direction it's headed. In the beginning T and I were operating with this idea that we, as the adoptive parents, shouldered all the responsibility for making the openness work. It didn't take long for us to realize that a healthy open adoption requires some sense of partnership between the two sets of parents, some initiative on both sides. (I think it's some of the difference between child-centered open adoption and other forms of open adoption.) That's not an easy adjustment to make mid-relationship, and obviously not one that can be done unilaterally. But it's been happening, partly organically and partly with some changes in how we approach certain things. And that feels really good.
It is strange to think that two years and six weeks ago we led completely separate lives, and now we're part of the same family.
I have so many things I've been wanting to sort through here--naming, my feelings as our meeting with Ms B approaches, holding together the good and bad in adoption. But they will have to wait. It's relaxed play day tomorrow, apple picking on Saturday, and birthday party on Sunday. My fingers are crossed for a good weekend.
October 10, 2007
- taking off his pajamas
- putting on his pajamas
- wearing a coat
- me carrying his coat
- me wearing my coat
- the very presence of a coat in the car
- eating breakfast
- eating dinner
- eating a cookie
- the fact that it was raining
- "Is your name [Puppy]?"
- going upstairs
- getting into the bath
- getting out of the bath
- going to bed
- having his diaper changed
- anyone leaving any room at any time
- wearing shoes that aren't orange
- being strapped into his car seat
- wearing shoes in the car
- reading any book but the truck book
- T watching a football game
- me changing my shirt
- the rabbits sleeping
October 09, 2007
I can understand being initially unsure about the term "first mom" as an adoptive mom, because I had that experience myself. New language sometimes forces us to see things from a slightly altered perspective; that is one of its benefits. I think it is good to engage in discussion about what makes us uncomfortable and why, and to honestly critique whether that discomfort stems from personal anxiety or legitimate disputes with a term. Those things are worth talking about so that we can all move forward.
There is one argument against "first mom" that I'm seeing more frequently that I find a little puzzling, though. It usually goes something like this:
Maybe "first mom" makes sense if a child is raised by her birth family for awhile before the adoption. But I was present at my daughter's birth; we took her home from the hospital. There has never been a time in her life that I've not been her mother. So "first mom" is fine for some families, but it doesn't apply in our case.I am acquaintances with a woman who lost a son a few years ago. Something unexpected happened late in her pregnancy, and she birthed him knowing he would not live very long. For the duration of his brief life outside the womb she and her husband held him and loved on him, tried to make sure he was safe and cared for. She never set foot outside of the hospital with him, never bathed him or buckled him into a car seat or sang him to sleep. But she considers herself a mother, one who no longer has her child with her. I don't know anyone who would contradict her.
K didn't leave the hospital with Puppy, either.* But she took care of him while she was pregnant and after he was born she made sure that he would be safe and loved. If my friend was a mother to her son, then surely K was a mother to Puppy. The fact that she eventually placed Puppy for adoption doesn't negate all she had done up to that point. Neither does the fact that her mothering of him overlapped with my own make hers any less real.
I think the key, for me, is that a person's story begins before they are born. So even for those of us who adopted our children as newborns, we have not been there for the entirety of their existence. If we can acknowledge that, then we should also be able to acknowledge the ones who were there and the mothering they provided.
* I hope no one thinks I'm comparing adoption to death. I meaning to say that the length of time one parents doesn't determine the legitimacy of the parenting.
October 03, 2007
- For awhile I thought couples went into an orphanage and more or less selected a child off of a shelf. I used to play adoption agency with my friends. We'd line up all my dolls in pretty dresses, then one of us would be the adoptive parent and the other one would be the orphanage director. We even drew up little adoption contracts.
- Because I knew all the words to the songs in "Annie," I felt I knew quite a bit about adoption. Clearly.
- I thought adoptive children should be pitied for not having a real family and adoptive parents should be pitied for not having kids of their own.
- I was glad I wasn't adopted.
- Movies and novels aren't the best sources of information about adoption.
- A person's history from before they're adopted matters as much as their story after. Being adopted doesn't hit a reset button on their life.
- There is still quite a bit of work left to be done to make adoption (both international and domestic) a more just system.
- Adoptive families can be just as awesome as "regular" families.
- "How did you manage to get a white baby?"
- "You did it the right way--you got a kid and didn't have to be pregnant."
- "It's almost like you're his real mom!"
- "If you really cared, you would have adopted a foster kid or gotten an orphan from some poor country."
- Trying to act ethically inside a broken system.
- Getting past cultural models of family, which don't really have a place for more fluid family structures like ours. Things made a lot more sense when I realized that we were a "non-traditional" family, despite our outward appearance.
- Convincing people that open adoption isn't confusing, dangerous, or an act of charity.
- Not knowing what Puppy is going to think about all this when he is grown.
- He has picked up some of our mannerisms. I had prepared myself to raise a child who was completely different than us. But he is like us in some ways and like his first family in other ways--and uniquely himself in still more ways.
- He was white. I mean, we knew Puppy was going to be white, but we were expecting to adopt transracially.
- He is starting to notice more about family structure than I thought he would at this age.
- He makes parenting a lot more fun than I ever expected it to be.
- You don't have to be directly involved in adoption to care about adoption reform. If you care about reproductive rights, parental rights, family preservation, civil rights, poverty, racial inequality, or global inequity then you should care about adoption reform.
- You can confront the darker stuff in adoption (loss, regret, need for reform, etc.) and still be optimistic about adoption as a whole.
- Closed adoptions are a fairly recent invention in American history. Open adoption isn't some crazy new fringe idea.
- All of us--adopted people, first parents, adoptive parents--represent a wide variety of backgrounds and circumstances. The stereotypes about us, both positive and negative, are pretty useless.
(via Jenna via Mary)
October 02, 2007
I thought about everything I've learned and pondered so far about identity, loss, relinquishment, the adoption industry, adoptive parenting, child development, etc. And I realized it all distills down to one thing for me: open adoption deals with reality. It's reality that Puppy has two distinct family trees. That other people can call him their son. That one of the most joyful times my life was one of the crappiest in his first parents'. That Puppy lost something when he was placed. Those things are real whether I want to confront them or not.
In defending the fact that adoptive families are as legitimate as non-adoptive families, sometimes people fall into pretending we're just like non-adoptive families. But we're not, and the process which formed us continues to influence our life together. I'd much rather deal with that reality than waste time tiptoeing around the truth with clichés and secrecy. Why would I ever pretend Puppy grew in my heart? Or that a legal process ends emotional ties? Or that first parents just move on? Open adoption confronts those kinds of things. Sometimes that's tough on me, but it's the openness that helps me deal with that.
So that's my new sound bite: open adoption deals with reality.
In other news, we're meeting with Ms B in three weeks. And K is coming into town to celebrate Puppy's birthday in two weeks. (He's going to be a two-year old!) Lots of adoption-y stuff going on in our house this month.
“Orange!” he chirps with a smile.
“Orange wasn’t a choice. Red or blue?”
The orange shoes: our family’s participation in the rampant Crocs trend. At some point during the summer, my son’s appreciation of them blossomed into a full-blown crush. No matter the weather, no matter the outfit, they are the only shoes he wants to wear.
On this particular morning, I make the choice for him, lacing on blue sneakers once he is trapped in his car seat. As soon as he comes home from daycare that evening, he makes a beeline to his true love. “Hi, orange shoes!” he coos. He’s thrilled to be reunited.
The next morning he issues a pre-emptive strike. Before I’ve even lifted him from the crib, he makes his wishes known.
“Orange!” he declares. “Shoes,” he carefully adds, making sure to close any possible loophole.
I appeal to the seasons. “Sweetie, the orange shoes are summer shoes. Summer is over. It is too cold to wear the orange shoes. Your feet will be cold.”
He considers that. “Socks,” he says firmly.
It’s not about the weather, of course. Autumn has only just begun, and he is right that socks with sandals (ack!) would keep him plenty warm. It’s about me—me and my vanity. In the summer sunshine the neon orange was cheerful and fun, the perfect finishing note to his brightly colored outfits. But with the sky turning grey and summer colors giving way to the drabness of fall, they’ve become a clear fashion liability. I worry what people will think of me. I want people to see my child in his affordable-yet-charming outfit and think I’m a good mom. A mom with taste and a touch of style. A mom whose child is always appropriately dressed. A mom who has her life (and her child) under control. A mom who doesn’t lose battles over a pair of shoes.
Before I became a parent, I said I would never quench my children’s creativity. I would encourage self-expression; I would never impose my own ideas. I would value them as individuals, not merely extensions of myself. I was also determined that they would always be impeccably dressed. I somehow never saw the obvious conflict headed my way.
I’m learning that becoming the parent I hope to be means not seeing every choice of his as a reflection on me. I want to be able to look at whatever weirdness and uniqueness and creativeness he comes up with in the coming years with an honest smile, saying, “That’s my son.” No matter what the rest of the world thinks. Letting him become whoever he wants to be means I must let go. And thanks to the inherent grace of parenting, I am allowed to start small. Tomorrow it may be going goth or bucking college to find himself. Today it’s just a tiny pair of mismatched orange shoes.
So on this day I tell him, “Of course you can wear the orange shoes.” We head off to the library for story time. It’s a windy, rainy day—coats have been pulled out of closets and sweaters donned. My son’s scuffed sandals get a few curious looks as we enter. I check my resolve.
At the end of the songs and stories, the children crowd around the librarian to have their hands stamped. I lose track of my son, his generic shirt and jeans blending in with all the rest. Then I think to look down. In an instant I find his cheerful orange feet working their way though the jumble of look-alike brown and blue shoes. I watch the orange shoes’ tiny dance of joy when his hand is stamped, see them turn to run back to me and jump into my arms. “That’s my son,” I think with a smile.
Maybe standing out isn’t such a bad thing after all.
*This post is my entry in the Write-Away Contest at Scribbit. The September 2008 theme is "Colors" and this memory seemed like just the right fit.*
October 01, 2007
This year, I'm having trouble finding anything orange. Is orange out because Halloween is near? Are we afraid to look like the Great Pumpkin? I understand that fear, but come on, I just want one somewhat orange piece!
So far I've found these:
The shawl-collar sweater in "sweet pollen".
The v-neck cardigan in "oxygen".
The twin set sweater in "rosemary green".
The wool v-neck in "regal teal".
A striped pleat skirt, not really orange.
September 26, 2007
"That's right," I said, a little surprised. "The woman's name is K___. That's a picture of her over there."
We've never talked adoption with any of our friend's kids, although we certainly have with their parents. Her mom is pregnant with their third child, so siblings and pregnancy have been a big topic of conversation lately in their house. My guess is that the little girl had been asking about our family and her mom had tried to explain why I hadn't been pregnant.
Earlier that same evening we had been playing with our two house rabbits and she had asked if the bunnies were girls. Upon hearing they were, she immediately wanted to know whether they could have babies.
"No," I replied. "They had an operation, so they can't have babies anymore."
"My dog had an operation, too. She can't have babies either," she told me. After a pause, she asked, "What does the operation do?"
"They take out their uterus. Without a uterus, animals can't have babies."
That answer seemed to satisfy her, and she turned to leave the room. Halfway across she turned back to me with a smile.
"My mom sure has a uterus!"