H Words

I think that Joey has started to look more like his brother. My genes have clearly lost out on just about every front, which I find myself not minding—both boys have bigger eyes, like mine, and Cricket especially makes the same expressions I do (according to Ruth, and from what I’ve seen)—but they’re both within spitting distance of that tall fellow I like so much. I thought that Joey looked more like me, but then I saw a whole mess of baby pictures of my husband, and there were some in which he could easily have passed for his younger son. I may end up the odd woman out in a family of tall, charming blond fellows. There are worse fates.

Speaking of which, Joey has started expressing his anger by slapping me in the face. It’s a strange thing—one issue we are perpetually working on together is helping him to use words to express what he wants or is feeling. So he will scrabble at the foot of our bed and then scream with rage: I say, “You seem frustrated! Is there a word you can use to tell me what you want?” and he will say “Helb! (help)” “Oh, you want help up?” and I help him up. He has a lot of words, but he’s easily frustrated, and when he is frustrated, they go right out the window. (By contrast, if he’s feeling cheerful, he will run to the edge of the bed and say “Helb! Up!”) My brother has always had this same incredibly short fuse—easily frustrated and unable to tolerate frustration—so it’s important, I think, that we try to help Joey learn to manage it. I’m still figuring how. Right now, that mostly means time-in for persistently dangerous bad behavior (throwing blocks at people’s heads, that sort of thing): I hold him and talk to him and for a little while he fights to get loose and go back to whatever he was doing; after a minute, he relaxes and generally seems to enjoy being held; and after a couple of minutes, he’s free to do as he likes (he usually stays in my lap awhile). When he hits me, I first hold his hands, give a serious “No, we do not hit” sort of talk—and when he hits me again, which he invariably does, I tell him that he can’t sit with me if he’s going to hurt me, and I set him on the floor—at which point he starts screaming as though he’s the one who’s just been slapped. It is not a perfect system, for sure.

It might not sound like it yet, but I am overall really enjoying the toddlerness of this boy; he’s getting smarter by the day, and there’s scarcely a trace of baby left in him. We got a toddler leash because he wants to run into traffic and not to hold our hands—now he likes to wrap it around himself at home, and we’ve started calling it his fancy. “Oh, Snerks, you look so fancy!” He will let you know when he needs his diaper changed, usually (“Helb! Poop!”), and he’s more and more interested in soccerish games with us in the yard. His fine motor is pretty lousy, unfortunately (one area where my genes totally dominate! I was in special P.E.), and he gets frustrated trying to work at improving it, but there’s time yet. His physical enthusiasm combines with that “fine” motor to keep me on my toes preventing him breaking his neck, but we’re doing pretty well so far, and a pool fence is coming soon (not that he is ever, EVER alone outside). One of Joey’s favorite words is hug, and he will frequently demand one—“Ugga!”—this is one of my favorite new things. It actually came out of that same pool as the paragraph above, trying to help him deal with frustration; he was finding a toy very annoying, and when he would sit next to it and scream, I would say, “Sweetie, if you want, you can come here for a hug—maybe you’ll feel better.” After a dozen or so times, he started spontaneously coming over for a hug when he was getting mad, and the word has really caught on.

Open Adoption Roundtable #35

We brought something back with us from Missouri; I’ve been affectionately referring to it as the “death flu.” I haven’t been this sick in a long time, but we’re getting better now—I’m still barking like a seal and sleeping sitting up, but otherwise just tired. And just in time, too: there is a new Open Adoption Roundtable!

The Open Adoption Roundtable is a series of occasional writing prompts about open adoption. It’s designed to showcase of the diversity of thought and experience in the open adoption community. You don’t need to be listed at Open Adoption Bloggers to participate or even be in a traditional open adoption. If you’re thinking about openness in adoption, you have a place at the table. The prompts are meant to be starting points–please feel free to adapt or expand on them. 

Write a response at your blog–linking back here so your readers can browse other participating blogs–and share your post in the comments here. Using a previously published post is fine; I’d appreciate it if you’d add a link back to the roundtable. If you don’t blog, you can always leave your thoughts directly in the comments.

We’ve written about siblings in open adoptions twice before. Now we’re going to look in the other generational direction: grandparents. While the legal processes of placing and adopting focus on the triad of first parents-child-adoptive parents, the reality is that adoption involves extended family, too. So this time we’re offering up a nice, broad prompt to reflect on the influence of, relationships with, and experiences of grandparents in our open adoptions (whichever grandparents you choose).

Write about grandparents in open adoption.

Yesterday, I broke the news to my mother that Ruth and Cricket are planning to visit, and that they have timed the visit so as to avoid her. (My parents, who have wanted this for the last couple of decades, are finally taking a trip to Greece together in late April/early May.) I explained that my hope is that next year, assuming we have a visit next year, I will be able to talk Ruth into having a meal with my parents before we take off to an undisclosed location for the visit proper; I was apologetic about the whole weird thing.

“So she really, seriously just doesn’t plan to let me see him ever?”

“I—yeah, I think that’s right. I’m sorry. But I have this plan for next year?”

My mother was angry, but not particularly worked up or surprised; Ruth has said this to her before, in a card she sent to my mom around Cricket’s first birthday. My mom had hoped that things might change, since she wrote back very politely and has sent timely and tasteful birthday gifts each year, but I don’t think that anything has changed for Ruth.

There’s no question but that my mom is a problematic figure: she opposed the adoption, she made a couple of cracks about kidnapping Cricket in the early days, and she abused me as a kid. At the same time, I’ve been able to watch her with Joey, and while she isn’t perfect (she is seemingly unable to receive feedback from him, and doesn’t tend to listen to what he’s trying to communicate), she’s very warm and loving and clearly delighted by him. They don’t spend much time alone, but while we do things differently than she did, she is respectful of our parenting decisions and invested in Joey’s happiness. In our conversation, my mom said that if Ruth saw her with Cricket, she might change her mind—and that could well be true. Certainly that is a hope behind my meal plan. But I’m far from sure.

As for the other birth grandparents, my husband’s father has been dead for almost six years, and his mother pretends that Cricket is dead. It’s hard to know what exactly her relationship to Cricket would otherwise be—but I don’t think Ruth is interested in maintaining those kinds of connections, based on her total lack of interest in my completely awesome, stable, and available sister, Kate. (This is a real mistake, I think; maybe “birth aunt” doesn’t sound important, but if there is any way at all to get Kate involved in your life or your kid’s, you take it. She’s one of those people.) I want to write more about Cricket and my husband’s family, but that’s a separate post that I’ve been picking at for something like a month now.

Watching Joey really has helped me to understand at a gut level that more people loving your kid is a blessing, whatever else it brings. Watching Joey bolt toward the door at the end of a work day shouting “Oma, Oma, Oma!” with his arms outstretched toward my mom? That is amazing. It seems unlikely that Cricket could have that even with support from his moms, but I wish that he could get a little closer.

Never So Dark

I have been fortunate; nothing has been as bad as I expected. One thing I did not expect, and it has been pretty bad—it turns out that hauling a Toot and quite a bit of luggage across the country can really do a number on you when you’re six months pregnant, and I am sore like you wouldn’t believe—but Joey has been flexible and charming, and the Dowager Book has been very sweet to and engaged with him. Thank goodness.

It’s really amazing how well they’ve gotten on, considering; we left our home at 4:30 a.m. and arrived here at 8 p.m.(there’s a time change in there, okay, but I think you really earn those couple of hours when the day has been spent at three airports and on three planes), Joey had no sleep expect for a really unfortunately timed ten-minute nap, and yet he was willing to warm to his grandma almost immediately. He is already calling her “Ama,” which works perfectly to complement my mother’s title of Oma (a German choice). We won’t be here much longer—it’s looking like Joey will leave with me Tuesday morning, instead of with his dad the following day—but we have a chance to show the boy Branson, Missouri. What could be better?

I’m mostly the invisible baby handler, but I don’t mind. As the Dowager Book and I have never really gotten on, it’s almost a relief to be able to just do my part and be ignored. She is never outright rude to me, and I’ll take it. It has been a bit weird to watch her fall for Joey and bear in mind that she pretends that Cricket is dead, but there’s no doing anything about that. I have been able to see some pictures of the Mister as a child, and the resemblance to Cricket is uncanny (the Snerks looks much more like me). I’m hoping to post some side-by-side comparison shots once I get back to civilization.