Saturday, June 27, 2015

Existential Musings (part 1)

I began this post over a month ago.  It will surely offend some people.  I make no apologies for that, except to say that I am not intentionally trying to offend anyone in particular.

I am not often at a loss for precise words to express the usual parade of logical thoughts that typically march in an orderly manner through my brain.  But there is something I have been thinking about a lot lately, yet I find myself unable to procure the particular words I want need in order to express it. So bear with me as I try to stitch all my thoughts together in a way that others can understand it.

I remember being in late elementary school and junior high school (yes, I am old enough to have attended junior high school instead of middle school) and asking my mom questions about the existence of people, what makes a person who they are, why thoughts are intangible, why we can't get into each other's heads and feel each others feelings.  I remember where I was standing in our game room when her answer was to go ask our pastor, but I wasn't looking for a spiritual answer; I was realizing on a deep level that we are all unique and we all exist within our own minds and can only know each other through what we choose to reveal of ourselves and what we try to understand in others.  So I guess I have been interested in existential questions and answers for decades.

At 2, he craves attention, cuddling,
comfort and someone who can
keep up with his roller-coaster of
emotions. He needs to test us and
know that we will always be there for
him, even when he is crazy and completely
During the craziness of life, it is so easy and quick to yell at Joseph when he does something naughty, especially intentionally, or get frustrated with him when he asks for, say, a cracker and then slaps it out of my hand onto the floor when I give it to him because he is 2 and has already changed his mind about wanting a cracker in the time it takes for me to obtain one.  It is so easy to tell him "not now" when he asks to play "chugga chugga choo choo" with his wooden train set.  But when I think about how he is a tiny little person with thoughts and hopes and ideas and how he just wants to be understood and loved, I just want to cuddle him and give him everything his heart desires. When I think about how I have feelings and desires and that, just because I am older, does not make my feelings any more real or legitimate than his, I think about human nature and how ingrained the desire to be secure and loved is in all of us.

Joseph has been sick the past week, which makes him extra cuddly (and also extra difficult).  So last night, when he clearly asked "mama's bed?" when I was putting him to sleep, how could I say no to allowing him to fall asleep in the comfort and security of his parents' bed?  As he laid there on his belly, he indicated that he wanted me to rub the backs of his legs and his feet. I love a good foot massage, so it wasn't strange that he enjoyed this, but as we rested together in the dark waiting for sleep to envelop him, I thought about how, for 17 months, Joseph's desires for love and human touch and comfort and security went unmet. He is resilient, and even though he still bears some emotional scars of his time in a terrible orphanage, it is still an ineradicable necessity at the core of who he is as a human being.  It even seems selfish, in a way, that babies, toddlers, children,  want so much from their grown ups, but it isn't.  They didn't ask to be born.  Joseph certainly didn't ask to be abandoned at a time when other babies are forming bonds with adults and learning that they are supposed to be held, kissed, and given attention.  But he is here now, and he knows that if he asks, we will give him the things he needs and wants.  

At 5, she wants attention, she
wants to share her ideas and
feel validated, she wants to
make us proud, and she still
wants comfort and cuddling!
Tonight, I was putting Joseph to sleep again (after a lot of playing trains), and he only wanted to fall asleep while lying on my chest.  So I heard my lanky toddler's breath get slower and felt his drool soak my shirt while we rested belly to belly in the darkness and my thoughts turned (as they so often do) to the children who are still in orphanages and to the children whose needs are not being met. Some of them may not even know what life is "supposed" to be like, but surely they must know that something is missing or not right because the need to be touched and loved and cared for is so absolutely profound to being human.

As I cuddled my sleeping son while he rose and fell with my own breath, a judgmental thought sneaked into my mind.  If a person (or a couple) has the desire to procreate, I respect that.  Some people, most people probably, want that and it is also part of what makes us human and at a primal level it ensures the survival of our species.

Larry and I never wanted to have a family that way, and we want our kids to know that they were always our first choice. I know that we are unusual in that way.  

But there are too many people who try to chase away infertility for years, spending crazy amounts of money (or billing insurance for it), just longing for a child to hold and take care of.  That is crazy to me when there are so many kids in this world who need a loving parent to hold them and love them and give them security.  When the needs and wants of children are so humanly universal,  there is a disconnect between the kids who already exist and who need parents, homes, love and security and those grownups who want to offer it only to children who don't exist.

Joseph and Abigail could have been anyone before they were placed with us. I could be joking with another little girl from Henan who, at her core, would have been the same as Abigail, but not her specifically.  I could be cuddling a different little boy who was selected by the orphanage director to leave Zhoukou, and he also would have been amazing.  He wouldn't have been my sweet Joseph, but whoever he is, he would be amazing when given the chance to be in a family.

If you are still reading, thank you.  If you are skimming, here were my main points:

  1. Larry and I want our children to know that they were always our FIRST choice for family building.  They may have, as many interracial adoptees do, a crisis of identity someday, but we never want them to question how much they were wanted, and were not a sort of consolation prize.
  2. At the very core of who we are, we all start out the same.  We want to be loved, secure, held and we trust that grown ups will take care of us.
  3. If people want to procreate, that is great.  (Here is where I get a little judgmental, and my gay and lesbian friends are exempt from this judgement.  This is heterosexual judgement only.)  If people who want to procreate but for some reason can't, they should adopt a child who already exists and needs a family and home.  The child you could create through medical intervention is really no different or no more special than any other child who is dying for love, affection, and attention: all humans start out needing these things.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Why I Am Impossible to Shop For

Larry gave up years ago trying to figure out what to buy me for birthdays/ Christmas/ etc.  We go for sushi for our anniversary.  We like to take trips and do things or buy experiences.  But he wisely gave up buying things.  As my 37th birthday passes me by, here is what I really want:

  1. A chance to say good-bye to my mother-in-law Kathleen.  She was/is an unattainable model of motherly perfection.  She had infinite patience, deep wisdom, even composure, volumes of thoughtfulness, she always put her kids (both biological children and her students) first, and every word and action she ever made was deliberate and well thought-out.  I always felt like a sailor-mouthed, impulsive, unorganized mess next to her but it made me always want to do better.
  2. Until my next birthday, I want my children to avoid making extra work for me.  For example, today, when I have the regular chores of laundry, 30 minutes of watering plants because the rain teases me but never falls, dinner to help make, kids to bathe, kids to put to bed, and the other million things that a mother does in the hours between 4 pm and 8 pm, it would be supremely helpful if Joseph did not find an unlocked cabinet containing a glass lighting globe and smash it to glass smithereens on the bathroom sink and floor.
  3. Children who wake up after I have had time to wake up on my own, brush my teeth, and put in my contacts.  This means all I am asking for are children who sleep until a little after 6.  That is all it would take.  
See?  That isn't much, right?

A birthday from 29 years ago.
Of course my mom isn't in the picture: moms are always taking the pictures!