and plenty of sand to get messy in.
Most of all, love is the park on the first warm weekend of Spring.
Some time ago, I wrote here that something exciting was happening in mamagigi-land. I quickly realized I may have set the excitement bar too high as I received a handful of comments and a plethora of personal e-mails in all sorts of e-mailboxes from friends, family and newer online friends wanting to know the scoop. (Even my mother delurked.) One friend thought we’d somehow been placed with another child and quasi-chastised me for not letting her know sooner and personally, if this was, in fact, the news.
In reality, I was eager to share I am now writing a column addressing adoption, open adoption and first-time motherhood for the newsletter of my adoption agency. I just wanted to wait until it hit the newsstands, if you will.
Anyway, my first column is out and I’ve now wedged the column’s logo into my sidebar.
Aside from that, six inches of water have been shop-vac’d and push-broomed out of our finished basement — that recent rainy Nor’Easter was a doozy — and we dealt with a Cold Turned Touch of Croup in Maeve that had me thankful for her birth mother’s medical history.
Turns out I never needed any history as the Battle of the Wicked Cough and Lips Turning Blue-ish were a cold turned something akin to croup, but in those first moments when one’s imagination runs wild after witnessing her child sick with something she’s not seen before, there is relief in knowing there are medical records and ways to reach out if needed. That’s open adoption, for ya.
The other night my sister and I went out for an impromptu dinner with the kids. Kid-friendly Ruby Tuesdays was the not-so-lucky locale for this outing, as my sister’s son Dashiell loves the salad bar and she likes the vegetarian options.
Maeve, however, wasn’t having it at all. It began as soon as I took her out of her carseat. She didn’t want to leave the side of the car, her feet planted firmly on the pavement, her top half swaying toward me as I took her hand and tried to walk forward.
Shoulda been a clue.
As I attempted to place her in her highchair, all toddler hellfire broke loose. This wasn’t a meltdown — it was more like self-combustion. Absolute hysterics, I tell you. In fact, I’m sure she was way past the point of even knowing what she was crying about.
As Dashiell was trying to talk over her to show me something about the maze on the kids’ menu, and my sister and I were trying to calm her down, the waiter approached and introduced himself. All I heard was “person,” “serving,” “today.” Lucky him.
We couldn’t hear him over the babyshrill let alone concentrate on what we’d order, so we (loudly) requested more time. By now I was thinking we might just need to go. Pitying those around us and not wanting to ruin their evening, I was about to suggest this change of plans when my sister headed off to the salad bar to grab some finger food to console the wild beast. (I say this with love, folks, so no nasty e-mails, please.)
Meanwhile, I remembered I had pink bunny cookies in my purse — don’t ask, I’ve also got six CDs, a yo-yo that lights up, a flattened granola bar or two, a lint brush, a plastic egg holding a red bouncy ball, my family’s fortune in loose coins, three ballpoint pens that don’t work, about a half-dozen wrapped tampons floating loose all willy-nilly, a bottle of generic Tylenol, a diaper, an envelope of horse-sized Advil gelcaps from my latest dentist visit, a pair of Maeve’s socks rolled into a ball, a red Sharpie marker, a booklet of kiddie ride tickets for this summer at the boardwalk, and Sandra Boynton’s Hey Wake Up book — and so I simultaneously broke every good parenting rule and handed her the cookies as a peace (and quiet) offering. Hush money, if you will. Just … make … the … screaming … stop.
Between the cookies and the snacks my sister brought back from the salad bar, Maeve calmed down. (Although the fiery look in her eyes had us fearful her head would spin again at any moment.)
Problem is, we began to think we were added to some sort of Ruby’s Watch List. In fact, we’re pretty sure there now are sketches of us taped up in back. You see, we hadn’t ordered yet, which means Maeve ate seven stolen grapes and five stolen raisins. My 21-month-old could very well have a permanent record.
While we waited for the server so we could place our order (which included salad bars, folks), the hostess hovered near our table, pretending to be checking out Something Very Important somewhere very close to the little plate in front of Maeve. Good at playing hostess, not so good at playing detective.
As my sister and I debated if we were just being paranoid, our dinner arrived and it was the manager who delivered it. He questioned if he was “missing food for the kids.” Now absolutely sure we were the latest denizens on Ruby’s Watch List, we pointed out that both kids were eating the salad bar. He smiled something short of an actual smile and left. Moments later he was talking to Detective Hostess.
As soon as we could get our waiter’s attention, we explained that it seemed folks were worried we’d ordered for the kids and we wanted to confirm with him that he had, in fact, heard us order the salad bar for both of them. He seemed confused, agreed we’d ordered for them, and claimed he didn’t know of anything amiss.
Before too long, Detective Hostess, Manager Man and our waiter were talking in a restaurant huddle.
Before we left the not-so-relaxing dinner, I headed to the ladies room. My sister had both kids at the table and before I’d even exited the stall, I heard their voices in the bathroom. I actually wondered if something had happened back at the table related to the Grapes Security Breach, but it turns out Dash just needed the restroom.
As we waited, she and I reminded one another that the next time we get the bright idea for an impromptu Girls’ Night Out with the kids, one of us should shoot the other first as that would be less painful.
As we laughed, he suddenly bellowed, “Get!Her!Out!Of!Here!” We looked over, and all we could see was Maeve’s tush as she was squeezing herself under the door to his stall like she was a limbo finalist.
“Da-shiell!” she cooed and giggled, happy to have found him in this self-created game of hide-n-seek.
“Mo-om!” he yelled, flustered and embarrassed.
Rrrrright. Time to go.
On the drive home, both of us exhausted, we wondered aloud if our husbands could have done better. We assured ourselves they couldn’t — ahem, ahem — and vowed that one day soon we’d suggest they take the kids out for some good father-child-brother-in-law-cousin bonding time.
And we’d head out for a mani and pedi. Yes, that sounded nice.
But by the time we pulled into my driveway, our plan morphed instead into an Evening of Espionage as we agreed we should instead trail the guys and watch from afar — as part of “Operation Can They Leave Less Food on the Floor And Avoid The Ruby Tuesdays’ Sketch Artists?”
Now that’s a Girls’ Night Out.
Enjoyed an Easter Egg Hunt in the park this morning with friends. This was Maeve’s first — and guess how many my little bunny found? Drum roll please … wait for it … here it comes … One!
In her defense, there were three gazillion children and some parents were picking up eggs and tossing them in their children’s direction so they could fill their baskets first. Hello? Not us, we just sent her off on her way, sure she would make us proud. Oh — and see that pink egg just a few baby steps ahead of her? Yeah, that’s not the one she found.
And, as soon as it was over — about 55.237 seconds after it began — she dropped her basket and bee-lined it for the swirly slide. This, even after we popped open her plastic egg and found three little chocolates inside. Chocolates, I tell you. The girl needs to get her priorities in order.
All in all, I’d say we’re sliding into the chilly weekend quite nicely. Hope you are too.
Greatest Kid on Earth after seeing ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’
Last weekend we hopped a train into New York City to see Ringling Brothers Circus. Wanna know how to get a 20-month-old to sit, two straight hours, quiet as a mouse? Easy. To paraphrase Oz’s Dorothy: Elephants and Tigers and Zebras — Oh my!
Afterwards, we left Madison Square Garden to grab some lunch. Turns out, the eatery was near a subway stop and Maeve and her grandma took a walk over to see the choo-choos. She watched, wide-eyed, as trains roared in and roared out, and waved hello and bye-bye to each and every one.
She loved the circus. She loved the trains. I loved sharing these “firsts” with her.
As I first noted here, I’m looking for your favorite children’s book with an adoption angle. I’ve gotten some good responses, but know there are plenty more out there that folks must be reading to their children (adopted or not).
I’m upping the ante a bit. For everyone that submits a book before the end of April — that’s four weeks folks! — I’ll drop your name into a bowl and let Maeve draw the winner. Before she tries to eat the little paper bit, I’ll read who won and send them a brand-new copy of one of the recommended books. Now that’s a sweet deal, yes? (Those who previously submitted a title please consider yourselves entered.)
There are no parameters for this other than the book being for children and include adoption.
As I explained in my first post, I’m planning a page here just for children’s adoption books and I’m more than happy to include your name, your blog if you have one, and any comments you have on the book you recommend. I’ve got some I love, and will add them very, very soon as I create the page itself. I’m just hoping to see what you folks have in your arsenal first. Kind of like, “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.” Well, sort of like that. Get your mind out of the gutter. Yeesh.
I’ve also got a few to add that aren’t specifically adoption books, but very clearly avoid mention of a precise way the family was created. They can surely be read as adoption-friendly. These also are good, I think, for using as a springboard for talking about one’s adoption.
So, just drop me a quick comment with a book or two or three you love and love to share — and any comments on the book you’d like to run with it. I’d like this to be a useful resource for anyone, personally touched by adoption or not, looking to add to their library and broaden their kids’ exposure.
Now that I’ve bribed you with a brand-new children’s book — the winner being oh-so-carefully selected by 20-month-old Maeve, and lil ol’ me carefully packaging and lovingly sending it to your door — I ask you: What have you got to lose?
Em over at Letters to a Birthmother found herself in a quandary recently as her nephew, while looking at photos of her son’s first mother, expressed confusion at the notion of two mothers for a child.
She froze up, and began worrying that if she didn’t know how to answer her nephew’s questions, how would she ever adequately discuss it all with her son, the one who would need these answers most of all?
I so understand.
I think every adoptive parent committed to openness and sharing understands. She asked for advice, and I happened to stumble onto her post before anyone else had chimed in. Funny thing is, in reaching out to her, I quite possibly may have authored the longest comment ever (any bloggerville awards for that?). Obnoxiously long, actually. I simply was on a roll and wanted her to feel better in knowing we’re all human, we’re all doing the best we can and we’re all in a similar boat. In fact, while I was writing my novella, furiously typing because she struck such a chord with me, the always insighful Jenna managed to get in a perfectly sensible, well-written and far more appropriately sized comment essentially expressing my sentiments before I could even hit send. That’s how long I was type, type, typing away. Yeesh.
Anyway, as I expressed at the end of my discourse over there, it seems good fodder for mamagigi-land and I want to take up here the matter of handling unexpected yet pointed questions on open adoption and all its workings. It can be hard enough to explain to an adult — but throw in an innocent question from a child and, well, all sorts of tizziness can set in, especially when you realize your own child will be asking soon enough.
It is hard, isn’t it? When we have the luxury of time to consider future questions and conversations, these things play out quite differently in our imagination. Like a well-scripted movie or television program, the right, poignant, memorable words and thoughtful facial expressions fall into place.
But what about when we’re about to order pancakes and hash browns or we’re strolling the aisles of Target? And if the pop quiz on open adoption comes from loved ones we so dearly want to just “get” it, well, it’s darn easy to panic a bit.
I’ve been trying to consider each of these why-are-they-looking-at-me-like-I-have-two-heads moments as a test run, as a good thing. Case in point:
My six-year-old nephew, whose mom (my sister) has explained adoption to him numerous times since Maeve came into our lives, has seemed on each occasion to understand both the general idea of adoption and ours specifically. But every once in a while, he asks a new question.
A month or so ago I was in the store with him when out of the blue he asked me if Maeve would ever leave us to go live with her real mom. I froze. After all, I’d never imagined these conversations with him or Maeve taking place in an aisle at Target. In my mind, these delicate topics and intricate stories were lovingly detailed while nestled on my couch, fire crackling before us, my arms wrapped around the inquisitive child.
Instead, over a red plastic and metal shopping cart, I explained a couple points as slowly and gently (more for my good than his) as I could. First, I am Maeve’s mom and she will live with me, Aunt Gigi, and Uncle Tom until she is all grown up. I explained that he didn’t have to worry that she would leave us. Then I explained that he was right — that Maeve has another mom. While I’m the mom who loves her in person all the time, her other mom also loves her all the time but doesn’t live close enough to see her every day. I explained that when she carried Maeve in her tummy and went to the hospital to have her, she had thought long and hard about taking care of baby Maeve until she grew up and decided she just couldn’t take care of her the way she wanted her to be taken care of. And so, I explained to him, even though it was very sad for her, she looked for people who would love Maeve as much as she did. And, I asked, weren’t we so lucky she found us?
I let that sit a moment or two and then said, as if I were letting him in on a secret, “Actually, if you think about it, it’s pretty cool Maeve has so many people who love her, don’t you think?” He listened, he nodded. I could tell he was absorbing, processing.
A few moments later, when I had his attention again, I told him we have photos of Maeve’s other mom at home. He looked puzzled. “Where?” he asked, as if it was impossible he hadn’t already noticed them. I explained that Maeve has a little photo album just the right size for hands that has lots of pictures of her other mom, and some of her other mom’s family, and photos of Maeve with them while we visited in a park one day. I told him the book was with all her other favorite books she keeps in a basket in the living room. When I asked if he wanted to see them, I wasn’t surprised he said yes.
By the time we arrived at my home that afternoon, his six-year-old energetic self wasn’t thinking about it anymore. And I could have let it go. Instead, I asked if he still wanted to see photos of Maeve’s other mom. He did, and so we nestled and looked, page by page. When we finished, I told him that anytime he wants to know more, he should just ask me.
And then he ran off to play with whatever treasure Target had bestowed on him. Just like that, in the blink of an eye, he was satisfied — for now — and ran off to play. My panic had been mostly for naught. He wasn’t expecting a perfectly worded presentation on the matter. Just a few answers to the questions that popped up in his mind.
Of course it’s tremendously important to me that my nephew and others in our life fully understand and respect our situation. But in the end, it’s the moments shared with an inquisitive Maeve that truly matter. It’s her questions I need to prepare for. So I try to be thankful for the little zingers from random folks or unexpected questions from loved ones and consider them lessons and learning curves for the critical conversations with Maeve.
I had a eureka moment early on, actually, in how to share my belief in adoption openness with the less-convinced around me. Initially — before we were even placed with Maevey Gravy — I found myself unsure how others would react to my wanting openness with our future child’s birth mother. So, as even some of my closest family members expressed doubts at such an arrangement I found I was only hinting at the idea of openness. Being wishy-washy. Separating myself from it, even slightly. Kind of sticking my toe in unknown and possibly very cold waters.
But very quickly that didn’t feel right. It was like I was cheating the lot of us — me and Thomas as adoptive parents, our future child and what I wanted for him or her, and that child’s first family. I wasn’t being fair to us — ultimately, the only ones who really mattered in our story.
A side effect of this hinting or doling out information in bits I thought those around me might be more able to accept, was that I was actually providing them “cracks” in my story. Cracks or “loopholes” in which they rested their worries and comforted themselves that perhaps these are just thoughts and ideas — trial balloons, really — and Gretchen would likely come to her senses soon enough.
That’s when I realized I was letting an irrational fear interfere with some of the most important relationships I would have in my life. So I let go, deciding my family and friends loved me enough and would love my future child enough that they would have to sort it out for themselves. That, like it or not, this is what Thomas and I believe — wholeheartedly — is best for our future family.
So from then on, when I discussed our impending adoption and the openness we sought, I embraced the truth of it all and told it as it was. I didn’t look to ruffle feathers or furrow brows and never discussed this approach for the sake of being “radical.” I took into consideration those I cared about, of course, but ultimately I had to consider our future child first.
And, funny thing — the sky didn’t fall. In fact, an incredible burden was lifted from my shoulders. When I told it as it was, an established fact in our lives, people listened. No one jumped from their seats, enlightened and moved beyond words. Of course not. In fact, I’m doubtful anyone ever was convinced in that very moment. Or is yet, for that matter. But they listened because I was really talking. There could be no doubt in my voice, its intonations, my body language, that I had made a choice and was committed to living it. And when folks asked skeptical questions I tried to answer clearly, honestly and completely — not editing myself for others’ sake. And with every conversation, it felt right. I took them as they came, explained why we believed an open adoption was a good thing and tried to fully respond to questions about a child confused by two mothers, or whether a birthmother would interfere when she disagreed with our parenting. I tried to answer these things to the best of my ability.
Sometimes it meant keeping it simple: ALL children who are adopted (assuming they know of the adoption, of course) WILL have questions. Period. So, I’d continue, why not have answers? Answers inevitably are better than questions, questions that forever linger.
The full story was now theirs to process.
(I’d also try to share with them — even if just a tidbit — a gentle moment or a few words from her birthmother, or even relay a heartwarming look on her birthmother’s face. It seems I needed to remind them that Maeve’s birth mom is a human being with a heart and soul and feelings and loss like anyone else. Absurd? Yes. But true nonetheless. I’m always wanting others to consider Maeve’s first mother, all first mothers, really. I’d like to think that people entertaining doubts about us connecting with her birthmother can look at their own love for Maeve and through that tangible example, see past their fear and simply want the best for Maeve’s other mother too.)
I also hope that as time passes and our family’s openness proves successful, today’s doubters may become tomorrow’s believers. At the very least, they must process their views and make sense of inequities.
Time for an admission: Sometimes, in my weakest moments, I try to take those anxiety-inducing voices of skepticism or confusion and (nicely) use them as motivation to remain committed for the long haul — in a sense, to prove them wrong. No, of course it’s not about them. It’s about Maeve. But I try to use the naysayers to our family’s advantage, rather than let it become a debilitating disadvantage, by reminding myself that working on openness will shed light for these folks, as well as reap rewards for Maeve.
Rewards she so richly deserves.