I have wondered, recently, whether Nora and I might have been friends. When I was growing up, I remember having conversations with my sisters about whether we would have been friends if we hadn’t been sisters—at least for me with each of them, I think that the answer was no, which always bothered me.
I think that the people we are now could be friends even outside of family, maybe: but when we were growing up, they were sociable and outgoing and successful in school, whereas I was moody, odd, and plagued by social anxiety. I hope that when the two of them had this conversation, it went better than it could with me. My mother has had this conversation with me, and I suspect that she must have done with my sisters, as well. So maybe this is just a conversation that happens in my family, but it does, and so I’ve been wondering: If it hadn’t been for everything that connects us, could Nora and I have been friends?
Probably not: I’m better at faking it, and understand now why one might, but I’m still not an extrovert; I suspect that no amount of therapy and self-improvement is ever goin
g to change that. But Nora is a kind of person I like, and would have quietly wished that I could be friends with if we’d been in high school or college together. She’s gentle and affectionate with Cricket, too, and interested in him. Seeing them together when they visited in September—it was very much like seeing a tired parent who was travelling alone with a four-year-old who was completely, head over heels with her kid. There’s nothing more winning than seeing how good someone can be to other people.
Back way back when, when I was pregnant and then when Cricket was a baby, I used to wish that I could be friends with Ruth especially, but with both of them. But even if we were all in high school together, it just wouldn’t have played out that way—and as adults, we are separated by socio-economic status as much as we are by our love for the boy we have in common. At the moment, that is somewhat disguised by our circumstances; living with my parents obscures our poverty. But I remember a conversation with Ruth quite some time ago in which she talked about the benefits of preschool and I talked about my plans to home preschool Joey. And the thing that no one said was that of course we could not afford to send our boys to preschool—I still believe in the benefits of home preschool if that’s the right choice for the family, and am cautiously planning that for Kit. But I’ve seen preschool programs that would be amazing opportunities for a kid, and that cost more than our entire income last year. Cricket can go to those schools; Kit can’t.
It’s hard to talk in any detail about adoption without talking about the money. When I planned to place Cricket, money was most of the reason why; certainly if I had won the lottery or gotten a good job I would never in a million billion years have placed my son. When Ruth included me in a mass email in which she asked people to support renewal of the adoption tax credit, I was horrified; if I had gotten from the government that exact sum, I would not have placed my son. And things would be tighter now with three boys—and God, how I wish that they were.
I know and consider friends a number of adoptive parents, and I don’t think there is anything wrong with being in a financial position to adopt. But adoption breaks us, the mothers and fathers, into two groups: those who place, and those who parent. And those of us in the first camp tend not to share a SES with those who raise the kids we bore. Of course there are any number of exceptions, and people who aren’t poor place, and people who aren’t well-off adoption; I would not for a minute dispute that. But looking at the big picture—and at my picture—well, it is maybe not the most shocking thing, that I’m a socialist.