Saturday, April 17, 2010

This Child

"I no longer wish to parent this child."
Have you heard the news?
Well, if you have been to this blog before, you know sometimes I get inarticulate when I get upset, so I've been thinking more than usual about what I want to say here. I apologize if I'm nonetheless incoherent and rambling, but I know I have to get this off my chest.

What does it mean to be a parent? To be a family? To make a commitment?

When I was 10 or 11, my dad took off, and I never saw him again. Don't be sorry -- I consider his absence a stroke of luck, because my father was a criminal, an addict, and a compulsive liar, and I ended up with my mom and the two best grandparents any child could ever have. But I spent a lot of time in my childhood thinking about what it meant to have had my father leave. At times I wondered if it marked me somehow. Was I unlovable? Was I a loser? Was I only half as loved as my friends? And I wondered how I might pay the price; after all, I knew at least one friend whose parents didn't feel comfortable having her play at my house because of our "situation." I knew it was not my fault that my parents divorced or that my father defrauded people or that he left. I knew, too, though, that I carried his genes, and I wondered if that did make me tainted, if I would grow up and steal or drink or have addictions. I wondered if I would leave my children someday. I simultaneously vowed to be nothing like him and to worry that I might not have a choice given my DNA. And while I was not ashamed that my father had walked out on us, I sometimes felt embarrassed that I had no one to take me to the Father-Daughter picnic kind of thing.

Along the way, surrogates come into all our lives -- people you adopt or who adopt you as the next-best-thing-to-kin. We have soul sisters, father figures, borrowed Grannies and all the rest. We build a community based on love connections rather than blood ties. But sometimes when conflicts arise in those connections, and sometimes when endings happen, people end up saying, "Well, blood is thicker than water." Sometimes people feel that if you aren't related to them, it's easier to walk away away from you. And then the sting returns... and then if you lose that person, you feel acutely reminded that you don't have those blood ties.

I don't say goodbyes as easily as some. I believe in commitment. I believe in wedding vows and til death do us part, I believe that when you adopt a child you are their family the same as any other family.

Oh, sure, I might fantasize about running away from home as much or more than the next girl, but the truth is, I believe strongly in responsibility to home and family, in putting the good of the tribe ahead of the good for myself.

If I make a promise, I mean it. If I make a bargain, I keep up my end of the deal. Sometimes I still wonder what part of my father I carry inside me, but I'm nearly as old now as he was when he fled, and so far the only family resemblance I'm aware of comes in my ruddy cheeks and blue eyes.

I do not know the woman from Florida in the news for sending her adopted child back to Russia with a note saying she longer wished to parent her child. In fact, I know very little about her, because I can't bring myself to follow the news coverage. I heard the basics on the radio while I was driving, and before the 30 second piece ended, I had tears in my eyes and turned the station. I guess I have always reacted strongly to stories of child abandonment, I guess I always will. But I wasn't thinking of my father when I heard that story. I was thinking, as I always am I guess, of my children.

What if my Rooster was orphaned, had no family to raise him? Would he be unadoptable? Would he suffer a similar fate to the boy from Russia who was turned away for having too many issues?

Children are beautiful little beings we fantasize about when we want to start families. Then the come home, still beautiful and small, but much harder than we imagined. They come with dramas and they take enormous effort and they can pummel you sometimes with their force, flatten you with their needs. But parents who choose to have them (biologically or legally) make a promise, a commitment, a sacred pact. To me parenthood goes something like this:

I will love you, my child, no matter how hard it gets. I might not like everything about you, but I will do my best to raise you to be a person you will love, who will have things to offer the world, who will love your life. I will shelter you, I will protect you, and I will teach you. Wherever I have a home, you have one as well. Your childhood will not last forever, and so I will treat it as a sacred space in time, and I will use it to help you begin the best future you can have. I will be your parent, you will be my child, and nothing can come between that.

As someone who admittedly kvetches ad naseum how hard I find it to parent, and how difficult it seems my children can be, I really cannot imagine doing anything else. I cannot imagine ever walking away. I cannot fathom writing down the words, "I no longer wish to parent this child."


kristi said...

AMEN! And some days it does get very hard.

jess said...

A sacred pact. A-fekking-Men.

Joeymom said...

Adoption is permanent. That's the point.

And if anything ever happened to you guys, we'd be happy to have the Roo.

Anonymous said...

what you wrote is so beautiful and honest and, at least to my sensibilities, universal... it brought tears to my eyes. As the full time at-home mom to an exceptional child with some exceptional needs ( she has Asperger's ) and her "NT" toddler sister there are moments every day when I imagine fleeing, just for a few seconds. And then I take my next breath and if I even try to picture life without my girls, I CAN'T breathe... I can only imagine how damaged this WOMAN must be to be able to let go of this child... Not that I feel sympathy for her in the least degree - I am angry, disgusted, sad, and confused in turn. I try not to dwell on it, and I try to love my own just a little more faithfully every day.

One Mom said...

So very well said...anyone who doesn't feel their heart catch in their throat, or the sting of tears at the back of their eyes, when reading this..well, they're just not a parent.

Anonymous said...

This mother writes a blog and she has adopted several children from Haiti, one of which ended in a "disruption" (they will be giving the child to another family after he completes a residential program.) I guess he was dangerous to the other children and did some horrible things to them. She speaks about it on some posts. The entire adoption thing is complex and can end up being a nightmare for all it seems.

Anonymous said...

FYI-the mom who sent her child back to Russia was from Tennessee not Florida. Read up on RAD. The situation is more complex than you think.

Anonymous said...

Read before you judge.

Sherry C said...

Beautifully written, Roo sounds like a lucky boy. I just started following your blog. I hope your priate party was loads of fun for everyone.