Never Violence

I got sucked into an intense parenting conversation with my mother. She has talked occasionally about a colleague’s sister’s teenage son (perfectly clear, right? ;)), and about how his mother is going to send him to last-chance wilderness boot camp in a few weeks because he is mouthy and stays out all night. The mother and father of this kid have apparently been very strict his whole life, and now he curses at them, tells them he hates them, and won’t obey his curfew. I totally misread her point the first time she told me this: she was saying, How horrible for his parents. I was hearing: How horrible that his parents are doing this. I’ve read and heard accounts of people sending their kids to these programs and thought, Well, it’s hard to imagine what else they could do—but for a mouthy kid? A mouthy teenager? Of course we neither of us know the whole story, but based on our different understandings, we misunderstood one another.

For my mother, this means that I am judging her parenting. She didn’t send any of us away, but has told me many times that she considered sending me to military school because I was so depressed, and I have said that I’m glad that she didn’t, and I would have seen it as proof that she didn’t love me. I know as an adult that it wouldn’t have been that, of course, but as a teenager? I would have been certain, and heartbroken. It seems like a relevant fact that she never did sent me away, but she has apparently been needing to talk this out/set me straight, so while Mr. Book and Joey played with a cardboard tube (adorable), we talked about this without her persuading me to her point of view. She started to explain to me that parenting isn’t always simple, and sometimes you have to do hard things and be mean in order to help your kids, and I was saying that yes, I know that it is complicated, but I still value coming to these decisions from a place that prioritizes a warm and close relationship with my kids over their GPAs, and she felt as though I didn’t understand, and finally Mr. Book jumped in.

My mother was explaining that you want your kids to be successful, and you can’t stand to watch their actions close doors for them—I suggested that there will be doors open to them that you can’t possibly imagine, and while you can support your kids to succeed you can’t make them, and maybe their ideas of success aren’t the same as yours—and she was getting really exasperated. Mr. Book had been listening quietly, mostly focused on Joey, and he all of a sudden looked up at my mom and said, “We have different values than you do. We first off want our kids to be good people; we secondly want them to be happy; and everything else is a pretty distant third. We don’t prioritize success in the same way that you do, or think about it the same way.” My mom asked how you can make your kids be happy; he said that you can’t, you can’t make anyone be happy—but you can help. The conversation ended then.

I’m writing about the conversation because I’m still worrying it, chewing away at it and trying to figure out what happened. My mother has regrets, and that is what it is—I don’t hold my childhood against her, and I don’t bring it up with her. I know that we’re nowhere near the hardest parts of parenting yet, and am in that frustrating position of saying that while I know that I can’t know what it will be like, I think and I believe and I anticipate these various things. My mother kept asking me what I would do in this woman-I-don’t-know’s position, and I kept saying that I would really have to find myself in that position and figure it out—but I might see if he wanted to stay with relatives for awhile, I might let him drop out and look for work, I might ask him what he wanted and where he was going. Who can say? My mother worries that our decision not to hit our kids is a sign of some fatal parental weakness, and that we will be taken advantage of by horrible children; again, I suppose it’s too soon to rule that out for sure, but we don’t let Joey crawl around the floor in restaurants or make other peoples’ lives a burden to them. We have limits for him, but we don’t hit him when he crosses them—we just pick him up, explain, and redirect him. And my mother watches us, and worries.

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Up the Duff

For a few days now, my gums have been bleeding when I brush my teeth. I told Mr. Book that I thought I had scurvy. That’s something I’ve experienced before—er, bleeding gums, not scurvy—but only under a particular set of circumstances, so I considered the way I’ve been feeling overall and took a pregnancy test. Sure enough: I am pregnant!

I’m surprised, but pleased; I will worry intensely about miscarriage for awhile, but if all goes well, we will have a baby in May or June. As with my last pregnancy, while we’re not telling the world at large (my parents, the Mister’s mom, and Kate), I will want to talk about a miscarriage here if it happens, so I might as well blurt the good news out at six weeks(ish. This is just my best guess). Honestly, I’m not so much excited yet as boggled; yes, I know where babies come from, but I was genuinely surprised to see the second line on that test. Heck, I have kept it around and keep pulling it out to look at: yup, still pregnant. I don’t know why I was so surprised—bleeding gums, nausea, tender nipples, fatigue—I decided that I had scurvy and mono, which while an unconventional choice, doesn’t really seem like the most obvious answer.

Mr. Book says that if this one turns out as great as Joey, we have to have another.

I feel a little weird about my fertility. I think this is an artifact of birthmotherhood. For one thing, my internet world is filled with really amazing ladies who had to put a lot more time and money into family building than Jenny Fecundity over here. And for another thing, of course, I am a birthparent because of that fertility. There’s some cultural problem bound up with that in my head: that my fertility is the slutty kind, and that the kind you have to work at is not. Certainly having kids eighteen months apart adds volume to that self-critical voice—even though that’s what I wanted, thinking that kids close together will mean staying in baby mode and then moving out rather than having to switch back and forth, choosing a really rough year and hoping for sibling closeness. Of course, that voice is not only in my head: When I told my mother that we’re expecting, she immediately asked about our future contraception plans (condoms and then a vasectomy, for the curious). My mother has made it clear in past conversations that she’s ready and eager for another grandchild—but her first response was not that.

At any rate, despite the weirdness of my brain and self-image, this is good news. I’m drinking tons of water and touching my stomach and smiling.

Shana asks:

You have written that Ruth and Nora are in the waiting pool again.  I was curious if they are using the same agency?  I am curious if the way the agency treated you and Mr. Book influenced their decision this go-round.  If this is too personal I apologize.

They are using the same agency—but it’s an agency that Mr. Book and I had essentially no contact with. Here’s the deal: their agency (Agency A) was not licensed in the state in which I was living. Agency A referred me to Agency B, which was a truly crappy agency. Agency A apparently supported Ruth and Nora and gave them what they were looking for—Agency B treated us all pretty shabbily. However, Ruth and Nora have stated that if they were to receive a query from Agency B a second time, they would be willing to proceed with a match. (I talked about this more here.) That has left me wondering whether I should be slightly more explicit about my feelings re: the adoption experience. But based on what they’ve said in conversation, I suspect nothing that I could say about ethics or regret would persuade Ruth and Nora to walk away from a possible match.

How Mr. Book Is Doing

I was asked, and now I’m going to break it down: Not so hot.

It was only a week or so ago that I decided that no matter what happens, we’re moving to California when our lease is up in May. It feels pretty weird to me that I’m the one who decided this—we’ve talked about it for a long time, I’ve given input and waited to see what he wanted to do—but in the end, I made the decision. While I was in Illinois, the Mister was having a particularly bad time at work: the worst timing. And one night, I sent him an email that contained this:

You know what we’re going to be doing a year from now? We’re going to be shoving boxes into a truck, that’s what. And I will be sing-songing to Pete: Bye-bye, [Mr. Book’s work]! Bye-bye, customer service! The cat will be losing it, but getting enough treats and wet food that he’s just nervous and not a catastrophic poop monster; we will probably similarly be bribing Pete with (fruit-sweetened) popsicles. Maybe we’ll make plans to stop for the night halfway through so that Pete and Aztec both can get some rest. Maybe we’ll power through, pausing only to get Taco Bell that I can hand to you and then feed to Pete. It will be hot, but not too humid, and as we make our way south, it will get hotter and drier. Pete will be occasionally interested by our narration, but mostly (likely) bored and tired of the car—whenever we stop for gas, we’ll take a little extra time to let him run around and wear himself out. Maybe we’ll put the laptop on the dashboard in front of me and watch Yo Gabba Gabba together. When we finally arrive, we will be hot and sticky and tired, but there will be beer, juice, a/c, and a pool—and probably pizza from that place we went to with my parents. You will never speak to [your bosses] again, and while you’ll be looking ahead to a tough and schoolworky fall, you’ll be able to spend the summer finding part-time work and playing in the water with the baby, who will hardly be a baby at all.

And after he got that, he seemed to feel a little relieved. When I got home, after he’d had a bad night, I pushed it a little further: A year from now, I said, you will be done with that job forever, even if it means we sell all our stuff and buy plane tickets south (happily, that will not be necessary). I will drag you by your hair away from this place, and in a few years we will come back to a different life in this city we both love. And he seemed relieved again, and encouraged. A couple of days later, he told me that he’d been telling himself at work that he wouldn’t be there at the same time next year, and that it was hard to believe but still helped—and I confirmed that yes, a year from now we’ll be gone. And that’s how we decided.

On the one hand, since we’re moving to my family and my homeland in order to change his career, I have been pretty sure that Mr. Book needed to make the final decision about whether we actually go. On the other hand, I’ve been depressed the way that he is now, and I know how impossible it can be to believe that things will ever change. But things have to change; the function of his current job (as I said to him, hands on his shoulders, looking into his eyes) is to eat him. He is to be used up for the good of the corporation—and he is feeling pretty well chewed up these days. So I said that even if he doesn’t get into law school, we go south and spend the first year with him working part time and studying full time. Either way, though, I’ve got to get him away from his work—it is (of course) impacting every part of his life. Last night, when he got home from work, Joey kept staring at him without reaching out or smiling; Mr. Book wondered aloud whether it was because Joey could tell how upset his dad was. So I spent a little time coaxing my husband to play with the baby, and they both enjoyed it—but it’s not something the Mister can initiate these days. He just isn’t doing well enough.

My parents are delighted that we’re coming, and are remaking one of their guest rooms into a “kids’ room” (my mom is still ready for another grandchild, if anyone was wondering!). I know that there will be hard things about living with them, and Lord knows there will be hard things about law school and babies and a sudden lack of decent public transportation (fun fact: I can’t drive a car). But my sweetheart isn’t doing okay, and we’ve got to make a change.

Stalled

There’s a lot going on right now. I’m going to talk about it in kind of a scattershot way; that’s what my brain is doing just now. The Skype conversations have stopped after the initial two, and there may be more in the future, but not now. No pictures from them yet this year, and no plans for a visit. That looks, I know, like there’s nothing going on at all—but in addition to jetting around the country and watching Joey work on blowing spit bubbles,  I’m brooding about it. That’s a shock, I’m sure. =)

My husband and I are talking about possibly moving in with my parents. Not for awhile, and it’s the farthest thing from certain, but he would really like to go to law school, and that will be pretty tricky on our own. My parents lived with my grandparents for awhile while my dad was in graduate school, so they’re very open to the idea—the prospect of more time with Joey can’t hurt. In fact, since I first asked them, they’ve brought up the possibility several times, always positively. The thing is, Mr. Book hates his job. It makes him miserable pretty much all of the time. But if we weren’t paying rent, he’d be able to just work part time and go to school and never go back to this job again. We haven’t talked yet about the effect that would have on the adoption, perhaps because another thousand miles wouldn’t make that much of a difference. Nora comes to Southern California a couple of times a year for work. . . .

I did email Ruth about pictures and Skype, in what I hoped was a not annoying way, and she wrote back to say that Skype won’t work right now, but maybe in a few weeks (good news), that they’re still thinking about visit dates (not great, but okay), and no word about or link to pictures, which kind of stinks. She didn’t ask after Joey, which I totally at random was a little upset by. I wrote back and only responded directly to what she’d said, which is a lame little passive-aggressive thing to do, but I started a longer and cheerier email and got nowhere. That longer email mentioned the possibility (which seems more and more likely as we talk about it/look at law schools/grow hopeful) of our relocating to California for a few years; the final version did not. Maybe next time.

I’m distracted from my grim thoughts by watching Joey dream—he’s smiling, he’s making milkface, and his eyelids are fluttering. He’s so big now: eighteen pounds at last weigh-in. A couple of days before Easter, I asked Mr. Book whether he thinks about what it would be like to be done having kids now—to be raising two boys, one of them a toddler, one of them our Joey—and he said that he does, but that he mostly imagines baby Cricket, not the boy he is now. For whatever reason, the fact that he is so far so different from Joey makes him feel even farther away. –And I’m back to grim. I’m going to stop here and go back to watching the baby.

Soon

I got to make dinner for my family last night, the last night home—made spaghetti with kalamata marinara, roasted baby broccoli with parmesan on top of it, and some feta garlic bread. Nom nom nom. I did most of the cooking when I lived with my parents, and it’s nice to know that I’m missed.

My mother and I went out for coffee before dinner—I think she would like to make this a tradition. She asked me how things are going, and we ended up talking about the adoption quite a bit; she concluded that I need to have a baby. I don’t know, maybe she has a point. I’m feeling frustrated these days, and it doesn’t feel like my ideas about how to conduct this end of the adoption are working out or are what Ruth and Nora want. Don’t worry, I’m sticking to the prearranged child production schedule…but both Mr. Book and I have said to each other that we feel ready to have a baby. September can’t come too soon. Someone said to me recently that I will never have the relationship with Ruth that I really want, and that rang true, and now I’m not sure what to do. Remain available, be gracious, try to focus on other things.

This is a lame entry. Something better is bound to come along soon.