Closed Doors

I talked to my mother about her wondering whether “they will give him back” now that Ruth and Nora are splitting up. I tried to explain—“Not even if they set each other on fire would we get him back”—but she told me that if he wants to come live with us enough, and asks them enough, they will eventually send him when he’s a teenager or something. I want Cricket to be happy where he is; I don’t want him to be so miserable with his moms that he begs to leave them until they (maybe, possibly) decide to send him to live with us. But I can see why my mom doesn’t feel the same way.

My mother met Ruth and Nora briefly twice, when Cricket was coming up on six months old; when Cricket turned one, Ruth sent my mother a card telling her that while she was free to reach out if she wished, she would never see Cricket. (I haven’t read this card, but both women have talked to me about it.) So my mother has no picture of Cricket in his life as it exists—she sees him only as missing from her life and ours. She has sent him a book for his birthday every year, and while these are accepted (he showed us the most recent one over Skype), my mother never hears whether they were received. This isn’t unusual; nothing we send is ever acknowledged, not because it’s unwelcome, but because that’s just not something that Ruth does. (Nora made a comment once that indicated that Ruth [who handles all of their family correspondence] never sends thank-you notes or anything similar.) She sees a picture a few times a year, but since the only pictures I can show her are the ones Nora posts on Facebook (taken with her phone, candid, and almost never including either mom), she doesn’t ever get a clear picture of his full life with temple and daycare and family dinners. Heck, I don’t have too clear a picture myself, but I have a lot more to go on than my parents do.

Ruth has told me that they are tentatively planning to visit us at the end of April, when my parents will not coincidentally be in Greece; I know that if they can, they will visit us once a year here without ever so much as passing my parents in the doorway. If they can’t come when my parents are gone, they have said that they’d like to get a beach house or something similar and just meet us there. My mother has been staunchly opposed to the adoption from the start, and, being my mom, made some comments about driving up north and getting Cricket—one of these directly to Ruth. She is, no question, a walking, talking, challenging birth family situation. And I love her, and I wish that she could see her first grandson once in awhile.

In my dream scenario, Cricket will feel a part of both (all three?) families when he’s grown, and perhaps then he’ll get to meet the wealthy and slightly batty grandparents he never knew. My mother wrote in her only card to Ruth (which preceded the “no way, never, no how” card she got back) that she hoped that one day Cricket would be able to fly down and visit them—I had told her that it would never happen, more kindly I think than Ruth did, but she would truly love that. When I was twelve, I made a similar trip to see my grandmothers: I went to Disneyland, I saw Las Vegas, I went to the beach. Pretty exciting for a twelve-year-old living in South Carolina! I know that they’d do their damndest to show Cricket the time of his life (Disneyland, Legoland, many meals out), and my mother is a gracious hostess always. But when I put myself in Ruth’s shoes, I can’t imagine letting something like that happen. On the other hand, I know that it would only be possible after baby steps—like, say, coming for a visit when my mother is here and at least having tea together before we all beat feet for the coast. Not in this lifetime, probably.

All I Have to Do

I had a dream about Cricket the other night. It was a few years in the future—he was five or six—Ruth was in the hospital, and Nora was out of the picture. Ruth had asked us to look after Cricket while she was hospitalized, and the whole dream was just practical details and awfulness; we took him to visit his mom every day, but people who saw us assumed that he was ours. And even though we didn’t want to explain a dozen times every day, we had to, because he was right there, paying attention. I felt like a freak, and so stressed out, and I caught myself wondering why Ruth had sent him to us instead of to her best friend (and adoptive mother of four). We had to take him to the hospital every day, because his mom was sick and that’s scary and he needed to see her—but I dreaded having to run the gauntlet of well-meaning questions every damn day. At one point, Cricket started to cry, but in fact it was Joey, and I woke up.

This is maybe the least mysterious dream I have ever had. I worry about what the future holds for Cricket; I dread having any adoption-related conversations with him, and they are inevitable. And yet, as straightforward as it was, I still find it upsetting to remember or think about that dream. So I’m writing about it. Even in the dream, I was incredibly self-conscious about having Cricket and Joey attending to my explanations and evasions. Happily, the Possum was still too little to care.

I’ve started toying with the idea of emailing Ruth—not soon, because I’ve got years before this will come up (right?)—and saying “Listen, when Cricket starts asking when he was placed and you think he might want to ask me, I need a heads up ahead of time. I think we should talk together about what I might tell him, because I’m not comfortable just bluntly telling Cricket; I’d rather not talk about it until he’s an adult, but I know that isn’t fair to him. But it’s not an easy thing for an adopted kid to hear, I think, and I’d like to work it out with you ahead of time.” My strong preference would be to leave the answering of that question to Ruth, but I know that isn’t fair to Cricket. We’ll work something out.

Meghann Says

I’m keeping your brother in my thoughts.

I want to hear more about what you are reading. We’re home(pre)schooling as well (and we plan to homeschool once J & A are school aged) and I always like to hear about what other families are doing.

And I’ve been getting a girl vibe from you for a while now. My accuracy when I get a “vibe” is ridiculous; I’ve been wrong once in fifteen years. Heh.

Home/pre/schooling-wise, I’ve only read three books, and they have quite a bit in common: Basic Montessori: Learning Activities for Under-Fives, Teaching Montessori in the Home: The Pre-School Years, and Teach Me to Do It Myself: Montessori Activities for You and Your Child. I’d be interested to hear any recommendations, absolutely including non-Montessori stuff—that’s just a place I know I want to explore philosophically. I like the Montessori idea of letting the child dictate to a greater or lesser extent what s/he’ll learn (hereafter “he,” since I’ve got a Joey in mind); since I don’t have to worry about meeting any kind of official standards for learning, there’s no problem with letting Joey go as far as he can in one direction while ignoring another for as long as it suits him. I don’t want to homeschool once the kids are school-aged—six, to my way of thinking—because I want the kiddos exposed to a wide variety of people and ideas, much wider than I can manage myself even with outings and friends. I don’t have a clear list in mind of things I’d like the Snerks to learn before we send him to school; if he gets to kindergarten and can’t count or recite the alphabet, well, I hear kindergarten is an excellent place to learn those things. I’m concerned with figuring out how not to let my own preferences—for the practical stuff like cooking, gardening, and woodworking, as well as colors and books and sensorial stuff, and away from math or geography—steer what we do. I plan to give Joey choices, of course, but I select those choices in the first place. That’s certainly one reason for wanting to put him into school when he’s six.

I’m (perhaps obviously) not going to do genuine and hardcore Montessori—I’m still working up my tentative plan (right now I’m planning to start when Joey is two, but if he doesn’t seem ready, I’ll leave it until January 2013), but I’m pretty sure that I want to incorporate a different (additional) kind of “sensorial” activity: things from and similar to those on this list. Joey is a very physical kid, and I’ve already needed to start finding ways for him to express that beyond trying to climb into the fireplace or break the dvd player. I pulled out the ball pit that was supposed to be a 2012 Christmas present a few days ago because Joey’s just so full of go and so frustrated that we don’t go to the park twice a day. So far, it seems like he’s finding enjoyable and useful. It’s been kind of a rough week for him, exacerbated by a nap strike, and I’ll take all the help I can get.

My brother isn’t doing well; I’ll write about that separately and soon. We keep getting new bits of good and bad news, but not enough good news. My father is going out to see him in a couple of days, and I’m sending snickerdoodles with him, since my brother says he’s craving them.


My brother has both TTP and chronic kidney disease, it turns out; the TTP can be cleared up relatively quickly (probably: some people do die of it0, but for the other he will need long-term dialysis and eventually a transplant.

Ruth wants to Skype some time this week, which is a relief—I don’t know how things are going to change, now that their lives are changing, and it’s nice to see that at least right now, they want more contact than the contract stipulates they provide us/Cricket.

I’m halfway through this pregnancy. Nuts, huh? I haven’t only been posting about it seldom—I haven’t been thinking about it nearly as much as I did the last times, maybe because chasing Joey doesn’t leave me a lot of time to just put a hand on my stomach and think. But things are going well, and a friend read the tarot and told me that it’s a girl, and while I don’t believe in that sort of thing, I’m just running with that assumption. No official word yet.

While I’ve been working on Cricket’s sweater, Joey has occasionally played with my ball of yarn like a kitten, getting tangled up and looking awfully pleased with himself. It’s nice to have him involved.

Joey had a rough patch of several days—probably some combination of him having brain changes and the rest of us being upset about my brother and the troubles up north—but came out the other side his sunny self.

Joey pointed at some yellow flowers, and I went through our usual routine (“Those are flowers: What can you tell me about them?”) and he said “Flowya bayeah (flowers banana).” That’s right! Yellow like a banana! I was amazed. A lot of new words, a lot of eating of fruit.

I’m reading books about homeschooling in a Montessori-ish way; since we’re not going to put Joey in preschool, I think I’ll try to do some of that kind of thing here together. I’m getting pretty interested, and it’s nice to have a long time to think about what exactly my goals are and how to implement them.

I can feel the Possum moving like crazy, every day. It’s amazing.

Joey is completely crazy about Annie’s Buttery Rich Crackers: we had one box, we are out, and he is desperate for more. He will point to a box of graham crackers/saltines/lasagna noodles and ask for a cracker, then look at whatever you give him in disgust, point again, and give you a chance to pull a good cracker out of that box. I hope we can find more of them when we go grocery shopping this week. . . .

My father was out of town for most of last week, getting into town late Sunday night. When he and Joey were reunited yesterday morning, Joey clung to his granddad and screamed with joy.

Joey’s been eating like crazy and growing—his pants are too short, and his face is changing. I keep thinking that I’ve taken an odd picture of him but really, it’s just that I’m not used to the new look of him yet.

More and More

It’s officially a rough patch here: my brother is in the hospital with kidney failure. He’s twenty-two years old. I don’t know how much medical information is interesting from the outside, but his blood oxygen levels are bad, his kidney function is nil, and he is severely anemic; his blood pressure is very high. He’s been diagnosed with thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura, but that doesn’t seem to cover all of his problems. All of these things are being dealt with, and we’re figuring out which family members match his blood type and would be willing to donate a kidney (we have two, bless them), premature as I hope that is. My mother has flown out to be with him, but he’s otherwise alone in town right now—he lives in the same town as Kate, but she’s out of the country with friends.

The doctor thinks it very likely that he’ll recover, but things are pretty bad for him right now.

The Needles and the Damage Done

I hadn’t started a baby sweater since I gave Cricket up; finally, inspired by Meghann, I started another—a toddler sweater, really, big enough for Joey next fall. I got enough yarn to make two sweaters—teal and red, for two cotton sweaters for my Snerkleberry. One in size two and one in size four. This is such a weird time to hear about Ruth and Nora—while we’ve moved firmly into toddler time, with hitting and biting and that sort of stuff, Joey and I are mostly having a pretty idyllic time right now. We’re having the kind of times that get written about on different blogs than this: feeding apples to friendly horses and having picnics under trees as leaves fall all around us and laughing and playing and just generally enjoying each other. It’s part of why I was able to jump into knitting sweaters again, honestly. And now things are getting worse for Cricket in a huge and measurable way, and there’s essentially nothing I can do.

Should I knit him a sweater? I asked Mr. Book, and he said probably, that Cricket could probably do with a couple extra gifts this year. (His moms don’t knit or anything similar.) But knitting for Cricket is what got me to pack the needles up for three years. (Okay, I made some dishcloths and hats and similar—but no sweaters, no big projects.)

I didn’t expect Cricket to have his own pony and swim through heaps of gold like Scrooge McDuck; we didn’t even a little bit prioritize that kind of thing when we were looking at profiles, and we never expected that his life would be perfect. But my God, it is striking how hard it is to watch his life get worse than Joey’s. —I know that might not be fair to say, I get that, but of course that’s how it looks from here, and what we’re afraid of, and Mr. Book was talking last night about the odds that Cricket will use drugs as a teenager because it looks like things are falling apart. Because a couple of pretty big things really have fallen apart. I know that Cricket will be provided for, but both of my parents have already asked separately whether we can ask for him back, and it just makes me feel shittier about the position in which I have put myself and my firstborn—and my husband, and my other kids, and my parents. Both of them first apologized in case I was offended, and I couldn’t figure out how to say “I don’t feel offended; I feel as though you just punched me in the face as hard as you could. And it’s not like I don’t deserve it.” Of course children of divorced parents turn out okay; of course adopted persons turn out okay; of course kids who grow up without their biological siblings around turn out okay. But how many of these are going to stack up for Cricket? It seems like the math is less and less favorable for him. I’m working on imaging some kind of happy-times Brady Bunch outcome for him, but it’s hard to picture right this very minute. Ruth hasn’t worked for years, and she has some significant health problems: Will she need our help? If the plan for their extremely amicable arrangement doesn’t work out, will we still see Cricket?


I’ve really choked on blogging. And it’s for a reason that should have been obvious, but that in fact I had to wait to have a friend point out to me: I wasn’t sure whether I could say something, so I said nothing. I decided, with her help, that I should just go ahead and put it out there: Ruth and Nora were having relationship problems that led to them turning down that placement—to the degree that Nora was considering moving out of their house—but they were working on things, and the situation was much improved by the time I heard about it. Okay, I will blog that and move past my block, talk about the things that are happening now.

And now I’ve found out that Ruth and Nora are splitting up.

Ruth felt terrible telling me—she says that she feels that she has betrayed and let us down, and I guess it’s a good thing that I was the one having our end of the conversation, because Mr. Book says Yes, they did, they are. I don’t feel that way, myself; a terrible thing is happening, and the problems we’ve seen in their relationship over the past few years (and certainly some others we haven’t) have turned out to be ones they can’t solve and can’t live with. I feel bad for all three of them: Ruth, Nora, and Cricket. Ruth talked to me about their plans for coparenting, and they seem very nice but pretty unlikely; they want to get a duplex so they can be a family without being romantic partners. That seems like the sort of thing that works better in theory, or before the parents have new partners—but if they could make that work, that would be great. It just seems like a hard thing to create and maintain for the next fifteen years, give or take. They are not adopting again, either as a couple or singly.

My husband is angry; I’m just sad. I feel like the scales keep shifting for Cricket: now he won’t have parents who stay together, and he won’t grow up with siblings. Not that only children can’t be perfectly happy—I know a couple—but growing up apart from existing siblings seemed to me slightly less sad if he was also growing up with a brother or sister in the same home, with the same parents. Maybe he’ll have stepbrothers and –sisters. I worry about what will happen with Ruth, who is a stay-at-home parent. Surely she will need to work, and Cricket will end up in daycare full-time: probably a less expensive daycare than the one he currently enjoys, but who can say? Maybe Nora will voluntarily pay child support. In the meantime, Nora is moving out, and Cricket doesn’t yet know what’s going on—but his moms plan to show him Nora’s new place and explain that “Abba will sleep here sometimes.”