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?

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18 thoughts on “The Needles and the Damage Done

  1. I know you can’t help but what-if but please stop torturing yourself. You did the very best you could, Susiebook. YOU DID THE VERY BEST YOU COULD. It’s all any of us can EVER do as parents and you did not have what you needed to do differently. Yes, the going will be harder than it should be for Cricket but maybe just maybe this will mean that he will get other adults in his life who will make his way easier than it would be if his parents stay together. Maybe there will be another adult who is more attuned to him and what makes him wonderful and will teach his mom (or both his moms) to appreciate his gifts instead of try to fight them. Stranger things have happened. I have friends who have divorced and while it hasn’t been easy they also have opened themselves up in ways that it made them BETTER parents. And the ones who were tightly controlling sometimes realized they were tightly controlling because they were miserable and visiting it unintentionally on their kids. Divorce and happiness let them loosen up partly because they’re happier and partly because with shared custody, you HAVE to loosen up because there’s so much you can’t control.

    I am sorry that you feel so helpless around this, which must make your guilt and grief worse. I wish there was something I could do/say to make your way easier. I am in your corner though and I am rooting for all of you and especially for Cricket.

  2. I wish you could get him back too. I’ve always wished that, but now more than ever. And I’m sorry if you feel I’ve punched you in the face, that’s not the intention.
    Could you even ask?

    • If I did ask, it would cause them to take a big step backward, and mean less contact—which I understand, they’re having a hard enough time right now without people asking to take their son away.

  3. I am so, so sorry. But what Dawn said — you did the best you could.

    Perhaps, when he’s just a little bit older, y’all can offer “respite care” for the occasional weekend? As a single mom with health problems, maybe Ruth would welcome that support?

    That might not be practical (either logistically or diplomatically), but even if it’s not, if y’all can be there for him as much as you can, be a constant (not in the sense of all the time, but in the sense of reliable) presence for him, I could see that it might a) be a wonderful support for Cricket as he gets older and b) maybe help you feel less like you’re stuck sitting idly by while his life sucks?

    • When we were first talking about this, I asked the Mister: Do we need to move to the Emerald City? (Instead of back to Stumptown, when we make our move.) We very much want to be there for him as much as is permitted.

  4. I’m so sorry about what you all are going through. My hope is that R&N will see you guys as an essential part of Cricket’s life and facilitate visits after the dust settles.

  5. I don’t know what to say about the rest of it, but I say knit for him. He needs love. He needs comfort. He knows and clearly adores you, and a little extra warmth in a hard time wouldn’t hurt.

    I come at this from a different perspective, of course, since I’ve been dealing in the foster care world with kids who’ve already come into crisis and now have to come through it. And so Cricket’s life may suck, but everyone’s life sucks sometimes. Does Ruth have people in her life who will help it suck less, or do you get the sense that their friends were all Nora’s? Honestly, I think the state-subsidized daycare/preschools the kids in my care have gone to are at least as good as a lot of the targeting-the-middle class ones my coworkers use, though maybe the toys are not as nice. In some cases, they’ve gotten some extra benefits from grants and so on because kids who are in poverty need that. Sometimes being in need can mean that you actually get your needs met, y’know? I’m still hoping for good things for Cricket, but of course you’re grieving.

    My old mentor always used to tell me that “time only flows in one direction” but I’m not good at looking at things that way, without judging myself. I’m much better at extending that kind of generosity and understanding to my kids’ moms. You did the best you could with what you had/knew/believed at the time. It sounds like mostly Ruth and Nora did too, and it’s just that their dysfunction overwhelmed them. Maybe when the pressures are different, their dynamics with Cricket will be different. But yeah, things are going to be hard and they’re going to hurt for him and that sucks so much. I’m so sorry.

    • Thanks for what you said before about having seen similar custody arrangements work out—I very much want to believe in theirs, it seems so positive.

      They both have their own friends; if anything, Ruth’s network is more extensive than Nora’s, although Nora is in close touch with her family and Ruth is mostly out of touch with hers.

      I started the sweater.

  6. You didn’t do anything wrong and I also wish you could stop torturing yourself over this very sad turn of events. I think you should knit for him, and I am hoping that maybe this situation will somehow provide more opportunities for you to be involved in his life. There’s no way to predict the future and it’s pointless to speculate. No matter what, Cricket will always have you.

  7. I think knitting for your son so he has something warm and cozy to wrap up in would be a welcome gift.

    I also, because you have mentioned your faith, might be out of line bu am typing anyways the suggestion of praying for him and his future and your relationship and his with his mothers, fathers and siblings as you knit.

  8. Susie,

    Maybe I can offer you some words of comfort. My situation is very much like Cricket’s- I was placed for adoption and my sister was kept 2 years later. That has been a struggle, yes. My adoptive parents are divorced- which was also a struggle. They divorced when I was a pre-teen.

    But I’m fine. I’m happy, and more “adjusted” and ”successful” than both my adoptive and biological siblings.

    It didn’t ruin my life- actually, I believe that I am a tough cookie because of some of the trials I’ve endured.

    I’m OK,Susie. I’ve thrived! And little Cricket will too. I know it seems very sad- and it is. My firstfather expressed some feelings of resentment when he found out that my parents were divorcing; something to the lines of “well, if I had known they were gonna split up…I’d have kept you. I could have given you better”.

    Maybe it’s true, maybes it’s not. He’s very different from you and Mr. Book. But it’s all besides the point!

    All of my aunts and uncles are still together, none of their kids were adopted, and I’m still the one who does “the best”- university, grades, lasting friendships, fiscal responsibility, healthy romantic relationships, etc.

    I see all of these great things in Cricket’s future.

    I’m glad you’re knitting the sweater 🙂 He’ll love it.

  9. Oh, Susie…I wish I had some sage advice for you, but I’m useless there. If you re-read just about everything that’s already been said, that’s all I would have been able to come up with.

    I know it’s hard, and I can’t imagine how helpless you must feel about it all, but I wonder if the best thing you can do now – for your own sanity more than anything else – is offer whatever support you can and wait for the dust to settle. You can come up with a million what if’s, but you won’t really *know* anything until you see how it all shakes out.

    I’m glad to hear I’ve inspired you to pick up the needles again, and I love that you’re making him a sweater. xo

  10. Sometimes, even often, that’s a change everyone (kid included) finds so hard at the beginning but so much better longer term–& in the willingness to make that change, good new things can happen. I hope that’s the case here.

  11. Everything will be ok. They have resources and Cricket will have access to those resources, even if Ruth and Nora are not together. It does not automatically mean drug use. And also keep in mind that there are many people who have been through terrible things and come through just fine while there are others who grew up in stable, two parent families and turned to drugs anyway. Drug abuse is not so cut and dried that you can predict who will do it.

    And if it helps, I personally know three divorced couples who are successfully “living together” and it is working out. One is a lesbian couple who bought a duplex and then added a connecting door between the two homes. Another is a heterosexual couple who divided the house. She has her space, he has his and the children roam freely between. And the third is a heterosexual couple who have continued living in the same apartment building. They each have one of the 4 apartments in the building. In all cases, it is not optimal, but it is workable and has been for at least a few years. So it can happen if both people are committed to doing it and being civil.

      • You actually did mention drug use which I believe is what Gretchen was speaking to: “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.”

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