We’ve been off the grid so I’ll be flying by the seat of my pants for this week’s Forever Family. A bit of stream of consciousness thinking, if you will. Bear with me.
Absurdity. Things I’ve heard over the years which have elicited a tight lipped smile screaming I can’t begin to think of something to say right now. (Names have been changed to protect the bumblers.) “Just relax and you’ll get pregnant in no time.” “My cousin adopted her daughter! Then the birthmother took her back…that can’t happen to you, right?” “Do you ever wonder if it will work? Because he’s black and you’re, you know, not.” “Have you tried acupuncture? Susan swears that’s how they conceived their second.” “You’re adopting? How wonderful! You know as soon as you get a baby you’ll get pregnant, right?” “I’d carry a baby for you and BrightSide. I like being pregnant.”
Daunting. Parenting is h.a.r.d. All parenting. I don’t care if that kid came out of your woo-hoo, was carried by a broke graduate student, blended into your family, or arrived on a jet plane…whichever way you look at it, you’ve got a real live human being in the equation. “Oh, that toddler phase was a cakewalk” said no parent ever. “Teens are easy – I totally get them.” Nope. Not that one either. Kids fluctuate, although their seasons can last anywhere from a day to six months or more. I find it easier to survive if I give them pet names: Foot Stomper, Door Slammer, Poop Producer, The World’s Tiniest Violin, Walking Zombies, Bottomless Pit, Hunger Strike, Whirling Dervish, and Swamp Monster.
Overshadow. Siblings, my oh my. Those can be complicated relationships even in the best of circumstances, but throw in adoption and now you’ve got the opportunity for a truly explosive mix. Someone struggling with identity issues already has enough on their plate; when they start comparing themselves to a sibling it can be heartbreaking.
Personal. My story. Your story. Their story. Our story. Sometimes it’s clear, sometimes it gets mixed up together, but above all else we have to remember this is personal. Private. Precious. I have the right to tell my story, but that may interweave with those I love. The trick is to tread gently and make sure I don’t trample someone else’s privacy with my words.
Taboo. Boy, this is a big one. Why on earth are so many topics off limits in this culture? I didn’t get pregnant at the drop of a hat, and it completely shocked me because my pre-marital years were filled with a single message: for the love of all things holy, don’t have sex and get pregnant or you’ll end up another teen statistic; now you want to finish college or you won’t get a good job and your life will be derailed and it all starts with having the sex. I’m not saying someone should have been cheering me on, but maybe by the time I was in my late twenties I should have known a little something about fertility. (See also: sex, sexual orientation, civilized political discourse, parenting struggles, mental health, and Coke vs. Pepsi)
Implicit. I’m a writer and a strong believer in nonverbal cues. As such, there are some things I absolutely know. BrightSide will be there for me without a moment’s hesitation, even as I’m acting the loon as I jump off a cliff. T-man’s face softens an instant before he does something truly kind or generous, and Bear would give me the very last shirt off her back if I needed it. These are just a few of my know-in-my-heart facts, but I’ve had (hopefully) half a lifetime to practice reading the signs. I think one of the mistakes many of us make with our kids is believing they implicitly know certain things, so I’ve rededicated myself to saying them. Out loud. Often. They include: I love you. Yes, always. I love your dad. I love watching you enjoy life. I feel ___ when you do ___. But yes, I love you, always.
Once. Despite my One and Done list, I’m not a huge fan of this word. First there’s those dreadful Once upon a time fairy tales. I love a great story as much as the next girl, but after the first fifteen or so you can’t help but believe that the sun always shines and the gift always comes and it always works out in the end. Then there’s the I only make a mistake once fiasco. I’ve fallen into this trap, and the walk of shame as I realize I’ve once again lost my temper/overreacted/overcommitted/eaten an entire bag of potato chips is a bitter one indeed.
Now. I’ve read multiple variations of this but it’s striking any way you look at it: There is no past. There is no future. There is only now. (attribution unknown) I spent many years stuck in the past, beating myself for ancient mistakes, carrying burdens from decades ago. I spent years contorted in worry about the future – how would I twist it, shape it, control it to fit my needs. Sometimes I still fall into these traps, but mostly I try staying here. Being present. Remembering that now is the only place I can truly be.