Yeah, I guess I’m gonna go ahead and talk about my experience of the visit. I am the awkwardest, but, I mean, heck. Shoot. My kid came to visit.
Cricket is amazingly huge and chatty and funny, and bossy in a going-to-be-five kind of way. The hands down best thing about the visit was seeing how much better he’s doing than he was on the last visit; Nora is warm and attentive and patient, and Cricket is clearly thriving in her custody. He is also, like, the onliest child who ever onlied, which is mostly cute: On the long car ride to the beach, Kit [rear facing] kept cheerfully putting his feet on Cricket [forward facing]. Kit has figured out, see, that this is a great way to get [grumpy] attention from other people. Cricket would say “Stoooop! Dad [Nora], make him stop!” And Nora would explain that babies just do that kind of thing—and then Kit would put his foot on Cricket’s shoulder again and shout “Staw!” Because apparently it is the custom to shout stop when feet are applied to shoulders, and Kit is a drooly cultural anthropologist. Cricket still has no idea of how to deal with smaller kids, but Nora’s guidance meant that he was always gentle and careful, even when the other two were being toddler levels of unreasonable or baffling.
I was thrilled to learn that Cricket likes comic books—I, too, like comic books—and took him and Nora to the friendly local comics shop. It turns out that Nora has mostly [apparently unknowingly] been getting him DC comics, so I bought him a kid-friendly Marvel comic; I’ve always been a Marvel fan, myself.
I wasn’t alone with Cricket at any point, but never expected to be, and so wasn’t disappointed. This visit felt very much like probation; Nora wouldn’t tell us what airport they were flying into or what city they were staying in, and we met only in public places. But it went pretty well, I think, and Nora certainly expressed to me that they had had a good time and hope to stay longer on the next visit. And my parents and I clearly enjoyed Cricket without obviously pining for him or acting possessive or anything, which is the sort of attention I like to see paid to Joey and Kit, so maybe Nora enjoys having it directed at Cricket. I don’t think Cricket cared much about me one way or the other (although he was clearly interested in his brothers), but then, at the very end of the visit, he asked Nora to take a picture of the two of us together. I liked that a whole lot.
My parents saw Cricket once, when he was five and a half months old; my mother snatched him up and passed him around, and then made a joke about kidnapping him. My mother’s sense of humor is not my favorite thing about her—as it turns out, Ruth doesn’t appreciate it either. She subsequently wrote my mother a letter citing the joke and letting her know that she would never see Cricket again. My parents have been permitted to send a birthday gift each year, and they do, but that’s the extent of their contact.
But this year, I decided to ask Ruth and/or Nora whether they would be willing to have dinner with my parents on the visit—anywhere you like, they will pay, and they will be on their best behavior. Nora was willing to give it a shot, and my parents were thrilled. And then, the morning of the visit, my mother pulled Cricket aside and started talking quietly to him. I couldn’t hear her, but even assuming the most harmless chat (which it probably was), I started shaking my head at her so hard that it looked like I was having some kind of fit, my expression a clear message: WHAT THE HECK ARE YOU DOING? I sent my dad a text from the road, saying that listen, I know this is weird and probably condescending and I’m sorry, but it would be really good if at dinner there could be no teasing or joking and no talking to Cricket where Nora can’t hear. My mother was hurt by my silent, frantic criticism of the morning, but she and my dad talked, and they ended up on the same page.
When my dad talked to me about his position, he said: “I pretend that I’m on the sex offender registry. Like, here are my hands! I will keep them in view at all times! And I know that I’m not a sex offender, but—” he shrugged. “We haven’t seen him in years, and we just want to eat him up, but we know that we can’t. But hopefully he’ll know that we care about him, and when he’s older, if he wants—we’re here.”
At dinner, my parents were interested and friendly and wholly appropriate; they thought that Cricket was lovely and hilarious. Nora told them that they could ask Cricket to call them whatever they liked, and so they are using the same terms they do with Joy and Kit: Oma and Granddad. Nora texted me later that night to say that my parents had been very nice, and that Cricket had enjoyed himself—and that they’ll try to come for a longer visit next time.
And then my mom spent her night just crying and crying. My dad told me genuinely but without any real hope that they would love to invite Cricket to our family vacation next summer. he expressed a hope that maybe next visit they might be able to give him a hug. This adoption stuff is awfully rough sometimes.