Cage Match: Purim vs. Halloween

A couple of the comments on that last post reminded me of something I read, gosh, it must be about three years ago: almost all adoptions are transcultural adoptions. Cricket’s certainly falls into that category; he went from an Irish/British/German-American home of practicing Catholics to a (currently) single-parent home of a practicing Jewish mother. Cricket is being raised vegetarian, and while I am vegetarian myself, the Mister and the boys are not. (Okay, Kit is at the moment, being as he’s only drinking breastmilk [and the breastmilk of a vegetarian, no less], but I’m sure that a year from now he won’t be any longer.) Cricket is growing up in the north, and Joey and Kit are growing up (at least for the next few years) in Southern California. But there are also less clearly defined cultural differences—I’d describe our house as more kid friendly, although of course that’s just my point of view. But we have a much higher tolerance for noise and chaos, and a greater appreciation of silliness. Ruth has a more organized life for Cricket, with more travel and a very carefully planned diet.

Ruth (disclaimer: as far as I understand from our past conversations and the decisions she makes) sees herself as needing to protect her culture. She doesn’t want Cricket to think that Christmas is awesome because they are Jewish, and she understands Jewish holidays as being less exciting for children than Christian or secular ones. She doesn’t want her child pressured into conforming to cultural gender norms, and licensed characters goob her out. And fair enough, sez I, to all of these things. I have some of the same concerns, although I choose to handle them differently. The problem for me is that Ruth doesn’t see our (Book) culture as having any value for Cricket—and if it holds any interest for him, that’s a bad thing, as it may serve to draw him away from her culture. This isn’t something that we talked about before the adoption, because the idea of a transcultural adoption (or, frankly, the idea that I had or was anything that might matter to Cricket) wasn’t something I was aware of. I did ask specifically about sending Christmas gifts, and got permission spelled out in our agreement. But the only other time that the cultural difference came up is when Ruth told me (eight months pregnant) that I would probably have to talk to Cricket at some point about being a Jew with Nazi ancestors (mine).

The whole mess is slightly more complicated now, because Cricket is interested in his brothers and the things that they like—what their lives are like. Last Christmas, in addition to a gift, I sent a pound of dates because Joey was completely nuts about them, and I thought it unlikely that they’d be able to get good dates where they are. I included a note explaining that these are dates, and Joey loves them, and I thought you’d like to try them, Cricket. I never heard whether he had one or not, or liked one, or anything like that. We don’t hear back about things that we send. And that was more discouraging for me than was probably reasonable. Too, these boys will be doing and liking more and more things that Cricket is supposed to stay away from: Joey is crazy about Blue’s Clues; we’re going to Disneyland again this fall, and I expect Joey to lose his mind with joy; some of their favorite foods are sure to be meat-related. I feel as though I should be allowed to say these things, but I’m not sure that I am. And the ways that I reach out keep getting worn down; I certainly won’t send anything like the dates again, and Skype hasn’t happened in . . . shoot, I’m not sure. We Skyped in March, maybe? Or maybe the last one was February. I sent a sweater that I knitted, but if I don’t see any sign that he has worn it this fall or winter, I won’t send another in future. And when Joey and Kit are old enough to reach out themselves, while I certainly won’t refuse to help them, I don’t look forward to trying to get across how unlikely they are to hear back.

Excuses

I’ve been super cranky about the adoption recently. It’s made me a bit quieter here. I think I mentioned that there was a new plan put into place a few weeks ago: Mr. Book was going to take over scheduling the next visit! I was really excited about not being the one to send the emails and make the plans. And after a week had gone by with nothing doing, I asked my husband about it—I nagged, albeit (I think) a low key kind of nag. Another week went my, and another mild nag from me with no results. So I was not doing anything active toward managing a visit, but I also wasn’t letting go and nothing was getting done. I can’t really blame the Mister; he was having a particularly rough time at work, and he also finds it hard to switch into a mode where he can email Ruth after nine hours spent at Wal-Mart. A couple of days ago, Ruth emailed me to suggest a date for a visit and let me know that after I nagged her (carefully), she ordered a photobook to send. Things are happening, but I also feel like I’m having to push every other adult in the relationship, which I resent—and which must make me seem pretty unpleasant. When I step back, nothing gets done and I can’t actually 100 percent let go. But now I’m at this mental place where, when I first saw the email from Ruth in my inbox, I felt only hostile. Time to change my brain.

I talked to the SW at Catholic Charities about this stuff yesterday, but she didn’t magically solve my problems; instead, she said “Yeah, sounds like you’re stuck in this role. How can you do it without resenting the others involved?” I’m still working on an answer to that question—I don’t resent my Mister, because I can see what he’s going through and know that he’s on my side, but Ruth and Nora. . . . Well. It could be worse, I guess: she asked “Do you resent them for adopting Cricket?” No. Ruth mentioned that they think that could happen now that I’m pregnant with the little bird, but it hasn’t yet rung true for me. If you saw my last roundtable post, you know that there are definitely people I blame (including, always, myself), but not Cricket’s moms. Not that our relationship is such that I could say “No, but I do kind of resent [redacted].” My sister Kate, trying to cheer me up, said “Maybe once you have your baby, you’ll be so busy that Ruth and Nora will have to wait for you for once.” My response: “And then visits will never happen.” I am so positive in my outlook. Here I am, rolling my eyes at myself.

One totally random but probably adoption-related tidbit: all along, I’ve collected baby stuff. I’ve talked about this before, about my hope chest and hoarding and weirdly material view of what I need to parent. But I’ve also tended to go for things that would fit/suit Cricket, and that hasn’t stopped even now that Cricket is twenty months old and I’m pregnant with a technically viable little bird. When I have spare money to blow, I want to get a pair of toddler shoes or a hoodie for a two-year-old. I really expected this to change with the pregnancy, but I can still rationalize the larger stuff—I’m going to have a son or two to raise, and he/they will need shoes all along!—and it’s still what I feel drawn to. Buying clothes for ghost Cricket is one of the weirdest things that I do, and I’m glad that his moms don’t know.