Today is Cricket’s birthday. I’m hopeful about the birthday gift we sent this year; when they visited, Nora (upon hearing that I am a board game nut) told me that Cricket likes board games too. Those of you with board game nuts in your lives might know what she let herself in for; I wanted to know what Cricket likes to play. Well, said Nora, they have Monopoly. And Sorry. I asked whether they had any board games for kids, and she said, “Like Candyland?” I asked whether Cricket likes cooperative board games, and she didn’t know what I was talking about. Oh ho!
There are actually some great board games for kids; my little two are getting The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel and Don’t Break the Ice from Santa. I sent Cricket two board games; one is a competitive game called Fish Stix and is a sort of dominos variation, and the other is a cooperative game called Race to the Treasure! Since my mom, when she heard this story, also had no idea what a cooperative board game is, let me tell you: in a cooperative board game, all players are working together against the game rather than against each other. “Oh,” said my mother upon hearing my explanation. “Like that island game.” Because she lives with a board game nut, and has graciously suffered through several game nights with me.
I think that I am like most parents in that I want to be able to give my kids the things that I wish I had had as a kid—and I am trying to temper that with my understanding of their actual wishes and needs. I have always loved board games, and I played many games of Candyland with my siblings as a kid (and cheated! I can’t believe they never figured out that I creased all of the face cards), and I loved Clue when I was a little older, and now I am just waiting to hear a boy express the most casual interest before busting out Hi-Ho Cherry-O. Joey has a board game play goal in his behavioral therapy (thus Don’t Break the Ice—he likes it, although he prefers a rousing game of Break the Ice!), and while Kit isn’t quite old enough or temperamentally ready for most kids’ games, he has cheerfully played a few short games of Sesame Street Memory with me.
And now it’s Cricket’s birthday, and it looks like the party Nora threw him was fabulous, and I am so glad to know him even a little bit. Happy birthday, little dude. I miss you.
Nora told me that she and Cricket would call on Birthmother’s Day, and then they didn’t. I had sort of been dreading the call—it’s nice to hear from Cricket, of course, but I don’t see Birthmother’s Day as a holiday that I’d like to celebrate, and it does feel like an “Of course you don’t get contact on Mother’s Day, that’s just crazy talk!” kind of maneuver. I don’t assume that’s Nora’s thinking, but I do think it’s a common adoption trend. But they didn’t call, and I wonder whether Ruth told Nora that I asked not to get a call on that day last year. The night of Mother’s Day, Nora sent me a text saying that she hoped I’d had a nice one; I wrote back the next day, thanking her, with a cute picture of Joey. As it happened, I was quite sick on Mother’s Day, so I sort of got to skip it.
And now, today, I’m missing Cricket. I don’t especially know what to do with that feeling right now. Nora told me that they might visit in June, and then that they probably won’t visit in June, and perhaps in October . . . ? I am trying not to get invested in their visit decisions, since I have no input into them and can really do nothing for now but wait.
Mister Book and I talked recently about whether we’d ever want to have another child; we have this talk every so often, and we mostly agree that it’s unlikely that we will. My IUD is good for another three years, and so we won’t make a real decision until then—but the thing that could possibly sway us would be Kit wanting a younger sibling. I do feel guilty about the fact that Kit doesn’t have a typical sibling, and that he would if we hadn’t placed Cricket; Kit has two brothers and can’t play with either one.
I sent Cricket a letter; I think I mentioned that here. On Saturday, I got some texts from Nora giving me his answers to my questions (he likes chicken tacos, and his favorite movies are Frozen and The Lorax) and explaining that he wanted to sing “Happy Birthday” to me. She explained to Cricket that it isn’t my birthday, but he still wanted to sign—so she sent me a video of him doing so.
This is great. I keep being surprised by how nice it can be to be in contact with Cricket now that he’s old enough to take an interest and now that Nora is willing to facilitate communication. I get to hear him tell me that he is a super hero who has every power and no weaknesses. I’m still wary of being too often in touch and exhausting Nora’s patience—but I sent a letter in November and one in February, and they both went over well. I’ll send another letter in a few months with new pictures of Kit and Joey printed inside.
As soon as we were connected, Cricket burst out: “What’s the funniest thing that Kit has done recently?” Apparently, over breakfast, he and Nora had gone over some things to talk about and some questions to ask—and thank God, because I am Jenny Socially Awkward. As it happened, the night before, Kit has been telling the world’s funniest toddler joke; since Mr. Book was on speaker phone, I was trying to get him to show off, so I asked him what color his (blue) pajamas were. He said “G[r]een!” and signed <green> and then started laughing hysterically when I said “No, they’re blue!” He stopped laughing, said and signed green, and then cracked up again—he did this over and over again, and it was adorable and hilarious. Occasionally he’d throw in a “yeyyow,” but mostly he just insisted that his pajamas were green.
I don’t know whether this is a universal, but I’ve noticed that at least for me, contact with Cricket makes me want to reach out more; we hadn’t had any contact for six weeks before the Skype call, and I was sort of halfway thinking of ways to get out of it. But after we talked, I wrote him a letter—with a shouty Kit suspecting that I wasn’t paying 100 percent of my attention to him, it was hard to talk much to Cricket. Mostly Cricket told me about a book he was reading and showed me pictures (Franny K. Stein, if you’re curious). He played a little with Kit; they pointed to their facial features together. Cricket wanted to give Kit a “challenge” (a math problem, I think) and was a little irritable when Nora pointed out that while Kit can count to 10 and read the numerals 0–10, he’s still a little dude and probably not able to do addition. Cricket asked me whether I drink coffee, and judged my answer weird (correctly; I have rules about coffee being permissible on some days and not others). I miss that kid.
In the letter that I wrote, I talked a little bit about Joey’s occupational therapy and about how many people with autism crave physical input—I included a picture of Joey in the squeeze machine at his OT gym. (I’ll put up a few OT pictures after this post, including that one. Email me if you need the password.) I said that Joey can’t do some of the things that most kids his age can, so therapists work with him to help him learn to do those things. I decided sort of abruptly that I didn’t want to leave explaining autism to Ruth and Nora, because while I trust that they wouldn’t say anything hateful or dismissive, they can’t explain it as well as I can. They don’t know Joey well enough, or autism well enough. And on previous Skype calls (Joey slept through this one), it has been apparent that Nora doesn’t understand where Joey is at. She is friendly, but she gives up when he doesn’t respond the way a typical kid probably would. So in writing to Cricket, I’m going to tell both of them more about Joey’s condition—and hopefully I can get across how great he is.
Mr. Book is going to be able to visit in April—for his birthday, and maybe Easter. This is a lifeline for both of us right now. We had hoped that he’d be able to visit next month, but then our rent went up, and that was no longer a possibility. Even in April, it’s hard to face losing a week’s pay—but we’ve just got to see each other, and the boys have got to see their Pop. My parents are buying Mr. Book’s plane ticket as a birthday gift, for which we are truly grateful.
I’m still having a hard brain time. This is the most boring non-news, but I don’t know how else to explain why I’m not writing much and why I am not getting done as much as I wish that I was. But I’m trucking along, drinking tea and changing diapers.
When we were first dating, I made Mr. Book a scarf—nothing special, just grey and green garter stitch with a fringe. That’s what he was using at the beginning of this winter, but last month it vanished. Since it is still bitingly cold in the Midwest, I’m knitting him a replacement (almost done!). In some ways it’s nice to have the chance; I had asked him to let me replace that scarf before, as I’m a better knitter now with, I think, slightly more interesting taste. But he wanted to keep the old one, being the sweet, sentimental one of us. Now he’s getting a scrap yarn scarf, nothing fancy, but ribbed and wool and almost long enough. I have as my rule of thumb that your scarf ought to be as long as you are tall, but he is awfully tall, and the scarf is about five feet long and I still have acres to go. But soon I’ll be done and I will send it to him, to keep near him.
We’re skyping with Cricket again this weekend; I sent him a Valentine that Kit made, although it probably hasn’t arrived yet. I’m going to write about this skype call, I think, because I feel like I’m letting too much just slip quietly away.
Cricket is gigantic. We Skyped a week ago, and he is going through an adorable phase and was also more interested in talking to us than he had been the time before—it was nice to see him and Nora. I also got a photo book from Nora and a thank-you note from Cricket for his birthday present; all in all, it’s been pretty good days in adoptionland.
I am less worried about Kit and autism than I have ever been. He’s talking and talking and talking and TALKING and making jokes with people and bossing us around and just generally on fire with sociability and communication. My parents enrolled him in a dance class as his Christmas present, and while he’s only been to one so far, I think he’s going to have a blast. His temperament is slow to warm up, so he spent most of his first class clinging to me and frowning at the dance instructor, by the end, he was clapping his hands and doing a little soft shoe and just generally enjoying himself. Of course there is always the possibility, but—he’s thriving.
Joey is really enjoying school, and seems pretty glad that his winter break is over; he is in a period of not making much progress right now, and while I know that that’s just going to happen sometimes, it makes me worry more about him. I’ve been taking more care to get some time alone with him—he is so not pushy that it is easy for Kit to just take over my attention. I keep pulling Joey back in, but he is so unwilling to compete that he’ll just slip away again. So yesterday morning, when Kit was busy charming his grandparents, I cuddled with Joey and talked to him, and he seemed as happy as can be.
Cricket’s birthday is this weekend; he received a gift and a card from us on Wednesday (I sent a Ninja Turtle that he begged Nora to buy him during his visit here), and I will be continuing my batty ritual of jumping into the pool on the day itself. Some people make cakes or release balloons; I get very cold and wet.
We last Skyped a few weeks ago—Nora is faithfully keeping our appointments every six weeks—and Cricket was completely not into it. He ended up just wandering away after frowning and choosing not to talk. Nora stayed on the call, chatting with me and with Kit. She told me that they had just finished reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe together, and I asked whether I might send a book: Over Sea, under Stone, which has all of the adventure without C.S Lewis’s misogyny. Nora and I exchanged a couple of Facebook messages over the next few days, and she said that she wishes that Cricket was more interested right now—that he likes the idea of having brothers, but isn’t into the reality of it so much. But when the book arrived, he was excited, and he asked Nora to start reading it to him right away.
My favorite thing about this last Skype call is that it felt like the first time that Nora wasn’t trying to hide big parts of her everyday life; I have known about her girlfriend (from Ruth) for over a year, but this was the first time that Lily was visible; too, usually Nora will say (e.g.) “We might go to the beach this afternoon,” but this time, it was “Cricket and Lily and I might go to the beach this afternoon.” Nora also just bought a house, and I admired it, and she promptly sent me her new address. It felt comfortable to talk to her, and she reassured me that all kids have a hard time starting preschool, and that it would be okay. (Turns out, the joke’s on us: Joey has had a fabulous time at school from Day One, and hasn’t seemed to miss me at all. I guess he was ready!) I feel like we’re at a good place right now, just as Cricket is less interested in the adoption than he has been since he was a baby. But as I told to Nora, the silver lining for me is that I can see that he’s comfortable expressing that disinterest—I’d like to think that he will always feel comfortable sharing what he’s feeling, even when it’s not what I wish he was feeling.
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.