Ella Asks

Has Nora completely left the building? Is she in Cricket’s life at all anymore? And if she isn’t, is that Ruth’s doing?

Ruth hasn’t talked to me about the details of their arrangement in some time, and I know that things have changed somewhat as both women settle into new relationships and living arrangements. I know that the original plan was for Nora to come by and put Cricket to bed every night, and that this fell apart almost immediately. Nora moved out, and Ruth and Cricket are still in the house—so far as I know, no move has been made to sell the house, and official divorce proceedings have not started. Neither woman is, I think, in a hurry to marry a new partner, so legal divorce isn’t a high priority. From what I can tell, Cricket usually spends one weekend day with Nora, and sometimes (I think) the whole weekend. She had dropped out much more for awhile, but now I see a picture that she has taken of him with her phone pop up on Facebook a couple of times a month. (These are the only pictures I see of Cricket, and I’m grateful for them.) I know that he’s spent some time with Nora’s new partner, too, and I realize that I may need to come up with blog names for both Ruth and Nora’s current partners.

When Nora was gone, it wasn’t Ruth’s doing. It’s hard to figure out how much to talk about their relationship here, being as I’m an outsider and I have some extremely intimate details that aren’t any of my business. I can say that Nora wanted to go, and I don’t know whether she ever really wanted to parent, but she does clearly care for her son. I know that one parent is often more excited about adopting (or having kids by whatever means) than the other, and Nora was willing but clearly not the one driving the process. Eventually—and in some ways it seems remarkable that it took three years—she decided that she wanted a different life for herself than the one in which she woke up every morning. For awhile, she took a pretty thorough break from Cricket and Ruth; now she’s maintaining more of a relationship with each of them, although it’s nothing like what she had before. I haven’t talked to her since last July, so all of this is secondhand. She doesn’t talk to us outside of visits, and never really has.

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Cage Match: Purim vs. Halloween

A couple of the comments on that last post reminded me of something I read, gosh, it must be about three years ago: almost all adoptions are transcultural adoptions. Cricket’s certainly falls into that category; he went from an Irish/British/German-American home of practicing Catholics to a (currently) single-parent home of a practicing Jewish mother. Cricket is being raised vegetarian, and while I am vegetarian myself, the Mister and the boys are not. (Okay, Kit is at the moment, being as he’s only drinking breastmilk [and the breastmilk of a vegetarian, no less], but I’m sure that a year from now he won’t be any longer.) Cricket is growing up in the north, and Joey and Kit are growing up (at least for the next few years) in Southern California. But there are also less clearly defined cultural differences—I’d describe our house as more kid friendly, although of course that’s just my point of view. But we have a much higher tolerance for noise and chaos, and a greater appreciation of silliness. Ruth has a more organized life for Cricket, with more travel and a very carefully planned diet.

Ruth (disclaimer: as far as I understand from our past conversations and the decisions she makes) sees herself as needing to protect her culture. She doesn’t want Cricket to think that Christmas is awesome because they are Jewish, and she understands Jewish holidays as being less exciting for children than Christian or secular ones. She doesn’t want her child pressured into conforming to cultural gender norms, and licensed characters goob her out. And fair enough, sez I, to all of these things. I have some of the same concerns, although I choose to handle them differently. The problem for me is that Ruth doesn’t see our (Book) culture as having any value for Cricket—and if it holds any interest for him, that’s a bad thing, as it may serve to draw him away from her culture. This isn’t something that we talked about before the adoption, because the idea of a transcultural adoption (or, frankly, the idea that I had or was anything that might matter to Cricket) wasn’t something I was aware of. I did ask specifically about sending Christmas gifts, and got permission spelled out in our agreement. But the only other time that the cultural difference came up is when Ruth told me (eight months pregnant) that I would probably have to talk to Cricket at some point about being a Jew with Nazi ancestors (mine).

The whole mess is slightly more complicated now, because Cricket is interested in his brothers and the things that they like—what their lives are like. Last Christmas, in addition to a gift, I sent a pound of dates because Joey was completely nuts about them, and I thought it unlikely that they’d be able to get good dates where they are. I included a note explaining that these are dates, and Joey loves them, and I thought you’d like to try them, Cricket. I never heard whether he had one or not, or liked one, or anything like that. We don’t hear back about things that we send. And that was more discouraging for me than was probably reasonable. Too, these boys will be doing and liking more and more things that Cricket is supposed to stay away from: Joey is crazy about Blue’s Clues; we’re going to Disneyland again this fall, and I expect Joey to lose his mind with joy; some of their favorite foods are sure to be meat-related. I feel as though I should be allowed to say these things, but I’m not sure that I am. And the ways that I reach out keep getting worn down; I certainly won’t send anything like the dates again, and Skype hasn’t happened in . . . shoot, I’m not sure. We Skyped in March, maybe? Or maybe the last one was February. I sent a sweater that I knitted, but if I don’t see any sign that he has worn it this fall or winter, I won’t send another in future. And when Joey and Kit are old enough to reach out themselves, while I certainly won’t refuse to help them, I don’t look forward to trying to get across how unlikely they are to hear back.

Happy Merry

Since we don’t know much about Cricket’s tastes, and since we’re also having to appeal to his mom, I’ve got a sort of checklist I use when picking out a gift for him.

1. Ruth’s Rules for Presents: Nothing with Christian elements, nothing concerned with Christmas, no toys of violence, no licensed characters
2. Does it make noise? Giving really noisy gifts seems like bad parenting karma. There’s a toy guitar that I badly want to give him (It’s shaped like a dog! I believe that he likes both dogs and guitars!), but it is an electronic, noise-making toy.
3. Does it require the involvement of another person? Last year we got Cricket an aquadoodle—a gift I was quite proud of, since all the toddlers I know are mad about them—and I am pretty sure that it was never taken out of the box (I asked a couple of times over the course of a few months, and as of this spring, it was still in its original packaging). Ruth would have to fill the stylus with water in order for Cricket to draw with it, and that is not a great thing to count on.
4. Is it aimed specifically at boys? Cricket loves cars and trucks, and has tons, but it’s clear that his mom prefers toys that aren’t Boy Toys.

So I come up with five or six possibilities, I run them by my husband, and we spend some time eliminating choices until we’re down to one. This year, we’ve gotten him a toy vet clinic that looks like a pretty good time. Certainly Joey covets one. Of course, I feel a little weird about getting them the same thing—if I pick something great, surely I should consider letting Joey (and eventually Kit) in on the greatness. But is that creepy? I hope not. But then again, so far I have resisted the urge to get copies of the things we send north for Joey.

Chugging Along

I have a few crumbs of adoption news. After two or so months of silence, Mr. Book wrote Cricket a card in late June; I sent him a card for the 4th of July. We picked out and bought his birthday and Christmas gifts, which will sit quietly in the closet until it’s time to wrap them. In the meantime, Ruth has been complaining about Cricket on Facebook; he is interested in guns and in death, and she disapproves strongly and publicly. That part’s not so good.

But things down here are good. Oh, sure, we have periods of so tired we want to scream—Joey just got both top canine teeth at once, which left him puffy-cheeked and frazzled—but overall, we have two sweet-natured little boys and time to enjoy them. Kit wants to be put down sometimes to investigate the world on his own, which Joey absolutely never did; if you set baby Joey down, he would howl. But Kit wants to be set down sometimes, and will then cheerily wiggle toward the edge of the bed or try to roll under the futon. He’s huge (95th percentile for both height and weight) and smiley. He certainly gets less time with me just staring adoringly at him and more time tucked into my arms while I work on something else than Joey ever did, but I still have time to look intensely at him and get weepy with a kind of baffled gratitude that is a distinctly parental feeling.