Here and Gone Again

Mr. Book’s visit was super great. He brought germs with him, and we all got incredibly, disgustingly sick after he was gone, but it was great while he was here.

We took the kids to Disneyland: me, Mr. Book, and my parents. It was a pretty great time—the kids enjoyed the storybook rides and the churros very much, and my parents took charge of them for a few hours so that I could wander around with only my husband. Aside from that big event, we mostly just hung around with the boys during the day and hung out with each other in the evenings; the boys were immediately thrilled to see their dad, no warming up needed, which I was happy to see; it makes me think that we’re doing an okay job of keeping the three of them connected even at a distance.

It’s hard to write about his visit because I’m so sad that he’s gone. After a few weeks apart, we all settle into a new normal—but when he’s just left, it’s like an open wound. I miss that dude an awful lot.

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Visit Details

Nora and I have worked out a plan for the visit; I think it’s a good one. It doesn’t involve me being alone with Cricket at any point, because there’s just no way in the world they’d let that happen. But!

Friday after supper, we’ll meet Nora and Cricket at a neighborhood park. I don’t imagine we’ll spend long together—we’re meeting at 6:30, and these two are usually in bed by 7:30—but it’s a chance to meet on neutral ground and get the measure of each other. Saturday morning, we’re going to the beach; we’ll have lunch there and come back. After an hour or so to let everybody shower and change, Kit and Joey will stay here at the house with the grands and hopefully nap. I will take Nora and Cricket downtown, and we can check out the wading fountain and toy store and suchlike, maybe get frozen yogurt. After that, we’ll part again for a bit, and then Nora, Cricket, the boys, my parents, and I will all go out for pizza at a family-friendly and totally delicious local place. And then Nora and Cricket will leave town Sunday morning.

I’m hopeful. It was my idea to take the two of them to the village without Joey or Kit—I know that while they’re around, I’m going to be focused on them. My parents understand that they need to be careful, and I may end up giving my mom a warning even so: Please, please don’t make any “jokes” or “tease” anyone.

Two weeks from tomorrow. I can’t quite believe it.

Grandchild

The grandparental visit is going really well so far. Last night they came over to our apartment with pizza so that they could spend dinner fussing over the baby; I made homemade Twix for dessert. It seems like everything I bake these days is liked better by other people than by me—hope I’m not losing my sweet tooth. I’m awfully tired (can’t sleep even when the baby sleeps, for some reason), but Joey’s Grandad and Oma are very in love with him, so I can just sort of trail along behind with a faint smile on my face. My dad is an avid amateur photographer, and I think there will be some pictures taken tomorrow.

We all went out to dinner for New Year’s Eve, and Joey was a little trooper; in a loud restaurant for almost three hours, he barely fussed, and only toward the end. He was mostly all smiles and attention, and he charmed the staff—we had a lot of employees visit the table, as well as the restaurant’s owner. The food was fantastic, probably the best meal I’ve ever had out (and my first time trying Peruvian food!), and I had a strong and irrational wish to share it with Joey. For every meal on Friday, he woke up just as our food arrived and wanted to nurse; he has seemed interested in our food for more than a week now, which is too bad for him! It’ll be months and months yet before I get to feed the little sprout anything but breastmilk. He’s so frustrated by his limitations at this point: his greatest desire seems to be to sit up on his own; his second greatest, to run. On the other hand, we got his first proto-laugh on Thursday. He’s pretty ticklish, and while I was washing his feet in the bath, starting playing his current favorite game—he sticks his foot out, I tickle it, and he jerks it back before giving it back to me. He was smiling and smiling, and then he made a kind of “Ah! Ah!” dry, chuckling sound.

Saturday we went to the science and industry museum, and I ended up being a bit gloomy. I’ve been looking forward for awhile to Cricket being old enough to enjoy things like the aquarium or the children’s museum—or the science museum. There were any number of toddlers there with their parents, and while it was great to have Joey with us, of course, he is infinitely more interested in nursing than in dinosaurs. I guess this leads me to an adoption etiquette question: Is it rude to suggest that we do something that costs money? We can pay for ourselves, of course, but I worry that it would be weird, or sound as though we are asking to be taken out. And heck, maybe they genuinely prefer sitting in our apartment all afternoon, although that’s difficult to believe!

<3 Zutano

It’s my last day in California, and I’ve spent the whole trip feeling isolated and sad. This has led to me not answering emails, commenting on other peoples’ blogs, or generally acting like a decent and social person, so if I have neglected you, I apologize. There’s really no good reason for me to be feeling/behaving this way, either; California has been very nice, and it’s been great to see my folks. There have been a number of good things that have happened, as well, which I’ll try to write about over the next day or two. But today I’ll just talk briefly about going downtown with my mother.

 

My mom and I went to get something to drink at a coffeehouse and then wandered around for a bit and window shopped—it’s just lovely here, 90 degrees and not a cloud in the sky, so all you need is an excuse to go walking around outside. We ended up going first into a toy store, where we looked at every gosh-darned thing in the place and my mom reminisced about what my siblings and I liked best when we were kids. We each ended up buying a birthday card suitable for a little boy—mine is for Cricket next year (we have one for this year already, purchased last year), and I wanted to ask whether hers is, too, but couldn’t think of a way for that to not be awkward if it isn’t.

 

Later we ended up in a store specializing in clothes for little kids—my mom mentioned that she had stopped in earlier, when we thought the little bird was a girl, and that she had found some cute dresses. She wanted to look at the boys’ clothes this time, especially at the baptismal outfits, since my current plan is to have him baptized in the gown I wore and she thinks that somewhat unsuitable (I should say that a male cousin of mine was also baptized in this gown; it’s hardly covered in little roses or what have you). She at first thought I should use the outfit my brother was baptized in, but it is much too small (he was six and a half pounds at birth, more than three pounds smaller than Cricket) and also not at all warm; the little bird is most likely going to be baptized in the Pacific Northwest in January, so the outfit worn by a Los Angeles baby in June is really not going to fit the bill. Plus I think it is kind of ugly, but that’s almost entirely beside the point. Anyhow, at the shop she kept pulling out and admiring these stiff little onesie-like suits with peter pan collars that I thought semi-awful and, again, really inadequate for January weather outside of Southern California. We looked at all the other boy clothes in the store, and I realized with faint horror that our tastes in baby clothes are diametrically opposed, and that I will probably hate whatever she gives the little lad—she loves tiny collared things, starched one-piece outfits with masculine embroidery, and sweater vests. Me . . . well, you’ll all see what I like soon enough, but perhaps it’s enough for now to say that I have a pile of Threadless onesies and tiny t-shirts, and that I have not bought a single thing with a collar. The things I’ve picked tend to be soft and flexible rather than being textured like fancy napkins. My mother will be horrified.

BGP

A couple of you asked about why Ruth and Nora have blocked my parents on Facebook, so it seems like an auspicious time to write about the adoptive parents and the birth grandparents.

I love my parents all the way up and down, and I really enjoy my relationship with them—they are funny, generous, clever people, and it makes me sad to realize that I won’t see them again this year. They are also a bit nuts, especially my mom: I know, nearly everyone says that about their parents, but I think I’ve got a pretty good case. There was some abuse in my childhood, which is one reason why I placed Cricket; my mom is not that person anymore, but I don’t know whether she could tap back into that scary place if she had to live with children again. We’ve had worse times and better times together over the decades, and my pregnancy with Cricket was definitely one of the low points. My mother said some pretty awful things, and the ones which involved threatening to kidnap Cricket I passed on to Ruth and Nora. I was trying to do the right thing, and I don’t know whether I guessed right—I do not now worry that she will get in the car and go try to steal that toddler child, but I was definitely not sure about that earlier on. She also made a “joke” about kidnapping him the one time she met Ruth and Nora (to Ruth and Nora), the day before my wedding. This was around the same time that she told me that the first of her daughters to have a baby “and keep it!” would get a whole bunch of presents for the child from the eager grandparents. She definitely got less stable and more mean when I was pregnant and then when Cricket was tiny, and Ruth and Nora definitely picked up from me that I was hurt and freaked out by her.

Since then, she has mellowed out a great deal. She asked very early on whether she could send him a birthday card, and I dutifully passed her request along. Ruth eventually sent her a letter with a return address, and while I have not read that letter,  my parents characterize it as a pretty clear “you should feel free to invest in him, but know that you will never get anything back—he will not visit, he will not write, you will not see him.” My mother sent a polite reply, then a birthday card and a book for Cricket. She never heard back—it’s been seven months now—and while that’s not unusual (Ruth is really not very good at letting you know that yes, she did receive that whatever, thank you!), my mom has gotten the message. I feel bad for her. Ruth is the kind of person who cuts people out of her life, even family, if they can’t maintain appropriate boundaries or consistently be good people; that’s not a bad policy, but it’s not what I’m like, and it would never allow a person to keep up a relationship with my mom. She is just going to say hateful things to you sometimes, not in a fight, just in a conversation.

I guess at the heart of it, I think that my mom is a good person and Ruth doesn’t. And I can see why she wouldn’t; Ruth saw my mom grab Cricket and start handing him to people, she heard my mom threaten to take him, ha! ha!, and I think she holds a grudge on my behalf for some of the things my mother has said about the adoption. I think everybody’s parents let them down sometimes—I have some really gory examples to share, but I don’t know how qualitatively different my experience is from anyone else’s. (I should add here, maybe, that my husband does think that they have done some extraordinarily bad things as parents; he thinks more about those things than I do, I suspect.) I did have to talk to a therapist for quite some time about the fact that I don’t have to be a mother like my mother, although Lord knows I will make my own terrible mistakes. I love my mother, and I want her to love my sons.

The Mothering Kind

So yesterday I had individual therapy, which I am coming to realize means a weepy day for me. It’ll probably take me a couple of days to unpack everything that my therapist said, but I’m going to start with one revelation that especially caught me off-guard: “When I first met you,” she said [not at therapy, I should mention, but at a birthmother social event], “I thought that you seemed very motherly, very earth mother.” This is very much at odds with my self-concept; it’s like being told that I have a very “werewolf” energy. Um, really? So I get home, and I say to Mr. Book, “Gee, she said I seem motherly, isn’t that ridiculous” and get a “Not at all, I’ve thought that for years” in response.

I did feel a little silly trying to explain to my therapist that I really don’t think that I am motherly while at the same time knitting a baby towel for a friend’s child, and when she asked me what qualities mothers have that I lack, I was less than cogent. I ended up lamely explaining that there’s some intangible quality that Dawn has and Heather has and Alyssa has and Ruth has and many other women have, but that I do not have. It’s somewhere between warmth and confidence, I think. My mother claims that moms are also magically able to load the dishwasher better than anyone else, but I haven’t been able to get independent verification on that one.

Artemis and my therapist both think that my mom was a big reason that I placed (so Artemis, I guess you can go ahead and hang out your shingle! ;)). I really didn’t want give someone else a childhood like mine. My therapist points out that it’s not like crappy parenthood comes through on a gene; I am not my mother, and having had a pretty gross childhood doesn’t automatically make me unfit to parent. The thing is, my mom is the way she is in part because she had a traumatic childhood. My therapist would retort that she went on to not have any counseling or read self-help books or be introspective in any productive, long-term way, so it’s not a parallel situation. I’m still thinking about this. I do want to be a different person before I have a child—but then, I am already a different person than I was before the adoption. Still, though, I feel like since I chose adoption for Cricket, I really need to be sure that I’m all fixed up before I have a child of my own.

When I was growing up, I was absolutely certain that I didn’t want kids; I grew up in a fundamentalist Protestant family, and relatives started asking me at fourteen when I was going to get married and have kids. I thought that their lives and politics were awful, and I knew that I didn’t want to be like them in any way, no siree. When I had been dating Mr. Book for a couple of years, I started to think, I want your kids. I liked him so much, and I thought he’d be a great dad, and I wanted to see what tiny, smart-alecky versions of us might look like. And then when I found out I was pregnant, I was elated. I’m going to be a mom! And scared, of course, but I did have that first day all to myself of knowing that I was going to have a baby and being happy about it. And then, in the process of talking myself into adoption, I had to underline every reason why I wasn’t fit to parent. The trouble is, that list has stayed with me past its usefulness. I suppose that’s something my therapist wants to help me dismantle.

Home Movies

While I was home for the holiday, my mother decided that we would all watch home movies together. All three of us girls protested, and not in a playful, groaning kind of way—we were sincere in our desire to not see highlights from what was, for all of us, a bad time. But my mother would not be deterred. The pieces she chose for us were from when I was was seven to eight, Tammy was five to six, Kate was three to four, and my brother was one and a half to two and a half. A short way into the viewing, my father realized that seeing my brother as a toddler might be somewhat rough for me, now that my son is growing into toddlerdom, and began awkwardly patting me on the back. That part was pretty grim, I’ll admit it—I started to cry (and stopped myself!) when I was describing it to Mr. Book later. But the more interesting and depressing part was seeing what a bad mother my mom was even when she knew she was being filmed. I know that toddlers can be a handful, but she was so controlling with him that it’s hard to watch. One piddling example is watching toddler Colin on an Easter egg hunt; when he found an egg, he wanted to open it immediately and let the candy fall into the grass. This is obviously not ideal, but it seems harmless enough; worst case, he either doesn’t end up eating the candy or he gets a little grass with his candy. But my mother cannot let him be, and kept grabbing his arm in what looks like a painful way when he tries to open his eggs, until finally he had a meltdown and she stood over him, rolling her eyes at the camera. It’s a piddling little thing, I know, and unimpressive to read, but in the context of their relationship (and all of our relationships with my mom), it’s discouraging to see.

 

My mother also wanted me to know that while she knows that I have “an issue” with the relative who molested me when I was little, he has his own struggles. And that my depression has been a bad example to my little brother, and that I am therefore partially to blame for his suicide attempt. My therapist told me in our first session that I should have less contact with my mom, and I thought, But I haven’t even told you anything about her! And that’s not right, anyway—my mother and I have a good relationship. I told Mr. Book that she wanted me to talk to my mom less, and he said, “Yes, sweetie, we all want that.” I was genuinely shocked; I have a good relationship with my mom. Mr. Book qualifies that, says that I have a good relationship with my mother for someone who was abused by her mother. He also says that “Your mom’s way of showing love looks mean and crazy.” I do wonder, now, whether my standards for relationships with one’s mother are badly warped: for example, I would describe my Thanksgiving trip as a good visit. Sure, there were parts of it that were horrible, but not too many, and it was nice to see everyone. My mother also told me how much she loves me, and she really does—it’s just complicated.

 

Maybe I shouldn’t talk about my mom on what is, primarily, an adoption blog. I’m giving into the impulse for two reasons. One is that it’s something that impacts my thinking all the way around, and it’s context for the things I do in adoption. Like when I mention food—my making petit fours for group therapy doesn’t really have anything to do with adoption, but hearing that sort of thing several times might provide some background for how distressed I am when I realize that I can’t feed Cricket. The other reason is that my mother is involved in the adoption; Ruth just sent her a letter, beginning a dialogue on what her role might look like. But when I say something like “Ruth and Nora are trying to decide whether they will give Cricket the book my mother sent him,” that sentence will have more meaning for someone who has also read “When I was a child, my mother made me eat my own vomit.” So that’s my thinking right now; we’ll see how it evolves.