Picking at Why

So part of what’s going on is my inability to claim Cricket—I remember really early on, when Ruth corrected me, telling me to call Cricket “our son” rather than “your son,” thinking If he was our son, you wouldn’t treat me this way. I think of Cricket more as used to be one of my kids or could have been one of my kids than as fully one of my kids. Stupidly, I tend to imagine my relationship with him as an adult as entirely separate from my relationship with him now; I have these pathetic daydreams about Cricket showing up at our house unannounced as an older teen and just getting to talk to him and have him to dinner with us as a family, without the scrutiny of his mother. I want to get to a place where he feels like part of our family (and his moms’ families) and easy about expressing it, but decided quite awhile ago that nothing like that is possible in his childhood. It’s only now, given the opportunity to examine my thinking, that I’m looking at this stuff and remembering. Even getting ready for the visit last year, I wanted to try to make his time with us special and fun for him—but failed at that pretty dramatically and gave up on that as a lost cause. Having him feel like part of our family now started to feel impossible at some point. I still hold on to the hope that maybe, as an adult . . . but when I think about it, I realize how that unlikely that is unless I do better work now.

 

In our conversation, I said to Ruth that I don’t feel like I have anything valuable to give Cricket; I should send birthday presents, and I recognize that it would be damaging and lousy of me to vanish, but that I don’t really bring anything that he needs or wants to the situation. She has told me that he’s happy about the adoption and doesn’t seem to have any concerns—he’s got more moms than anyone I know, and I have the distinction of being the oddest and the farthest away. I think Cricket needs me more as a symbolic figure than anything else. Joey and Kit need me desperately, and are crazy about me, and the contrast couldn’t be more striking; having Joey made Cricket feel less like my son, because the experiences seemingly had nothing in common. I don’t have anything special to offer him. I wish that I did. Mr. Book is his only father, and Kit and Joey are his only siblings (and all three boys look remarkably alike, especially Cricket and Kit)—but I am just another mother, probably ranked #4 out of 4 at this point. I knit—none of his other mothers knit—but so far as I can tell, he hasn’t worn the sweater I sent. I don’t know whether to send another next fall. I’m a geek, and none of his other mothers are geeks, but that isn’t valued in their family. I am uncomfortable around him because of my own pain, and that’s lousy and certainly doesn’t make a good impression on him.

12 thoughts on “Picking at Why

  1. I know they’re your feelings, but I have to respectfully disagree. you have a LOT more to offer cricket, worlds more, simply by the inherent nature of your relationship. you will always be the woman who brought him into the world, who shares more with him in many ways than any of his other mothers. don’t diminish the critical significance of your relationship, just because you feel restrained in your ability to love him now. take advantage of the fact that he is still young and you still have time to be there for him. blunt enough? offered with love.

  2. You know, I think the best thing you can offer him is your friendly interest and attention. He’s still so little, so immature! My son, pretty much every toy I buy/make him is a dud — and those are *toys* (which is so frustrating). But, he loves it when I play games with him or make silly noises as I do things or read him books or sing him songs. Your geekiness is an awesome trait for a mom — share it with him in subjects he enjoys! Be his playmate, show him you’re interested in what he’s interested in, make him feel important. That’s all.

    For many years to come, I doubt Cricket will have much use for you as one of his “moms” — I don’t think that will come till he’s much, much older. For young children, most of the needs/wants/experiences of adults are just totally abstract and unfathomable. I was gobsmacked when my son turned one, because *for the first time in my life* (at age 36) I understood that my birthday was a significant day for my parents as well.

    I think the relationship you want with him as an older teen is totally attainable, for what it’s worth.

  3. I think it’s important not to compare yourself with his other moms for you all have different roles in his life. He’s not going to rank you and you’re doing yourself (and him) a disservice if rank yourself. You provide something very unique to him and he will benefit from having you in his life regardless of how many other parents he has. You are his only mom that brought him into this world, that can connect him to his biological family, that can tell him what it was like seeing him for the first time, etc. You are not competing with his other parents for they also provide something you do not provide him in the day to day acts of parenting. Imagine if they only valued the biological connection between parents and child and felt that their presence was secondary (or even #4) because they couldn’t provide what you could. All of that is still about the parents and not about the child. Also, as you say, you have a lot of differences from his adoptive family. If Cricket turns out to have any of those things in common with you, it will be really nice for him to be able to recognize those similarities.

    I don’t know what it’s like to place a child for adoption and ultimately regret that decision. It must be overwhelming in the magnitude of grief and I’m sure seeing him brings that out so much more. I wonder, though, if there is any work you can do to dampen the effects that has on your relationship with him now. I’ve personally found the practice of radical acceptance to be useful in dealing with big regrets, griefs, traumas, etc. It’s basically a way of accepting what has happened without judgment and finding ways to be present with life as it is. It might be worth looking into if that resonates with you at all or you think it could be helpful. It seems at this point your relationship with your son has 2 big barriers – your pain/grief/sadness and his adoptive moms being pretty obstructionist. You only have control over one of those things and you might find his a-moms being less obstructionist if you are more open emotionally to Cricket (not that their distance is your fault at all, but this is the only aspect of it that you can affect).

  4. I say this with compassion but the truth is that if you do not lay some kind of foundation for Cricket in the here and now, the daydreams you have about older Cricket will never come to fruition. Cricket is a thinking person, not a daydream. And even though having Joey diminished the reality of Cricket as a person for *you*, Cricket is here and now and he does not deserve your treatment of him.
    You talk of how you feel you are being ranked as Cricket’s least important mother however, what I really think is that in your mind, *you* have decided to rank Cricket as your least important son. And that is simply unfair to Cricket. You are attaching your adult feelings to a small boy and using as another way to distance yourself from him.
    This point in his development is honestly the easiest it is going to get for you. Give him a truck or a coloring book and spend two hours with him and you have laid a bit of a foundation.
    If you really feel that Cricket will somehow be more compliant and communicative as a teenager after years of you pushing him away, then I fear you do not know many teenagers in real life.
    I’m sorry, but I hope you will stop relying on a fantasy and start trying in the here and now.

  5. I hope you won’t sell yourself short, Susie. Your connection with Cricket may not be apparent now, but as others have said, you are the only mother who carried him in your body. Maybe at some point you could even share a couple of stories with him about your pregnancy–something brief and kid appropriate like, ‘oh, I remember feeling you move in my belly,’ or ‘I always wanted to eat X when I was pregnant with you.’ As a child (though not adopted) I found those kinds of comments from my mom fascinating, and they connected me to her and to a sense of personal continuity (though I did not articulate this at the time). In any case, I know this is very hard, but I hope you will be gentle with your jugements of yourself in this matter.

  6. I don’t think it is stupid to envision a relationship with Cricket as a teen or as an adult as entirely separate from your relationship with him right now. None of my kids who are now teens and young adults have any memory of establishing ‘relationships’ with geographically distant family members from when they were 4 or 5 years old.

    The relationships they have with important but far-away people in their lives have been built over time, and the only weight carried by what happened in the years before age 6 or so comes from what they were later told in the form of family stories –how they responded to their grandparents, how they played with their cousins, etc. They don’t actually remember any of the emotional connection they had during those visits, just the activities they shared (going to the zoo, etc.)– and even that may be largely due to seeing photos in the years since.

    My 8 year old son hasn’t seen his bio mother since he was 14 months old. I feel pretty confident that if I told him tomorrow his birthmother had been dying to see him all this time, he’d believe me and feel affectionately toward her and meet her with an open heart. Likewise, if I shared that she’d never expressed any interest in him, he’d believe that and rightly or wrongly be more hesitant in his approach. But either way, once he started visiting her, I would expect the relationship he had with her as a teen and as an adult to be built upon interactions he can actually remember.

    So I think you’re right to see the ‘now relationship’ and the ‘then relationship’ as distinct, and you have plenty of time to get your smiley face on when you are with him in the future. And in the meantime, make sure there are photos of you smiling with him/at him that he can view after the fact and that will give him the idea that you enjoy him. He won’t remember the fact that you didn’t quite do so at the time.

  7. I don’t know whether this would be an option for you, or exactly how your anxiety at visits work — but perhaps medication may take the edge off? It could be that perhaps your doctor could prescribe something that has minimal side effects (i.e. doesn’t make you tired or spaced out) but allows you to relax around him a bit more. I say this as someone who unashamedly takes Zoloft after a bout of PPD.

    Other than that, perhaps your unique qualities (like geekiness) are not valued in Cricket’s family — but imagine how that’s going to work out for him if he is a geek too. He’ll be surrounded by people (perhaps) who don’t value the things that he is, but having a firm foundation relationship-wise with you would possibly help him.

  8. Susie,
    I think the word “scrutiny” is extremely telling – I think you have not been allowed or offered a visit in which you have much of a chance to offer yourself to Cricket, as I have a feeling that the performance aspect (even Mr. Book, let alone Ruth and Nora) have prevented you from being yourself. If you have a chance to get more supportive and private visit parameters you might see how that goes, rather than raking yourself so low on the basis of what – 3 supervised, carefully controlled, short, scrutinized visits? And this is especially true given the very real possibility that Ruth and Nora might and did pull way back at signs of connection and love between Cricket and you/Mr. Book. Please be gentle and proactive with yourself and Cricket!

  9. Oh, Susie – you have SO much to offer him; you are NOT “just another one of his moms.”

    Your situation is, if not unique, certainly unusual in the sense that most couples who adopt are not same-sex, and so most adopted children start out with one biological mother and father and one adoptive mother and father. I think the fact of your unusual situation impacts your thinking about this – because there are so many other mothers (and no other father), you are unimportant (and MrBook is). Knowing you as I have gotten to over these few years, I think you are (subconsciously) undermining yourself. I think you let Ruth & Nora’s subtle displays of disapproval – because they are older and wiser and have it all together because they adopted and you placed, and of course I don’t believe all of this but isn’t that the stereotype? – wear you down into thinking that you are not good enough, and once you got to that place you couldn’t dig yourself out. (And of course it all came on the heels of placing Cricket, and you weren’t in a great place on the heels of that – who would be?)

    But listen: My children have a mother and a father, here, in their day-to-day lives. Does that make their first mother less important? (We don’t know their first father – and sometimes? I think that makes George more important than I am to them, because for all intents and purposes he is the only father in their lives.) I don’t think it does. She carried them. She has insight into who they are that I will probably never have because I don’t carry their genetic family history with me.

    You are that to Cricket – no matter how many “mothers” he ends up having through the course of his lifetime now that Ruth and Nora are no longer together, YOU are the one who carried him, YOU are the one who created him. You haven’t connected to him yet as an individual because you are holding yourself back, but you have a connection to him on a cellular level – literally – that he will never, ever have with anyone but you.

    Please don’t sell yourself short. xo

  10. Hang in, hang on. You put so much pressure on yourself. I wish I knew the smart thing to say; many good reminders in this comment thread. I just want to underscore that the connection you have to Cricket is entirely unique. It.just.is. xo

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