Sunday, August 12, 2012

Child, Parent, Child

Have you ever heard that you never really appreciate your parents until you become a parent yourself? For me, that is not true.

I think that on a certain level I have always realized that I have two really "good" parents. I have always felt their love and support. For the most part, my childhood was stable and care-free because they worked hard to make it so, and even when I was very young, I could compare the attention, moral direction, and affection I received from my mom and dad with my peers' families and know that I was fortunate. In fact, I have always had confidence in my ability to parent because I knew I grew up with great role models.

On the other hand, it is true that since D. became my son, I've gained an expanded view of my parents' relationship with me. Because I realize they may feel the same heart-searing dedication to my well-being and emotional fulfilling that I feel for D., and knowing that I may be just as cherished - with such forgiveness for my foibles, and such interest in the mundane details of my life - I feel differently about them.

As good as my relationships with my parents are, they have certainly been strained at times. I'd say that my mom in particular brings out the best and the worst in me. Perhaps it is because I have the confidence that she'd still love me even if I were an ax-murderer that I don't always treat her in an exemplary way. I get short and snippy. I lose my patience. I needlessly point out her weaknesses and get angry and defensive when she points out mine. She pushes my buttons, and I push hers back, even harder.

My mom is getting older. And as is typical with aging, she's become more rigid and perhaps a bit slower. Never-the-less, she gets up early every Monday morning to drive through traffic and come spend hours upon hours on the carpet playing trains, or reading stories, or blowing bubbles with her youngest grandchild. She volunteers enthusiastically to babysit (and often when we return, the laundry is folded, too!) With my wily little toddler, she shows such patience, energy, and sense of adventure, it overwhelms me. The are such clear manifestations of her love.

So, when I came across the text below, which is attributed to "Spring in the Air," it really moved me.

Letter from a Mother to a Daughter:

My dear girl, the day you see I’m getting old, I ask you to please be patient, but most of all, try to understand what I’m going through. If when we talk, I repeat the same thing a thousand times, don’t interrupt to say: “You said the same thing a minute ago”... Just listen, please. Try to remember the times when you were little and I would read the same story night after night until you would fall asleep.

When I don’t want to take a bath, don’t be mad and don’t embarrass me. Remember when I had to run after you making excuses and trying to get you to take a shower when you were just a girl? When you see how ignorant I am when it comes to new technology, give me the time to learn and don’t look at me that way... remember, honey, I patiently taught you how to do many things like eating appropriately, getting dressed, combing your hair and dealing with life’s issues every day... the day you see I’m getting old, I ask you to please be patient, but most of all, try to understand what I’m going through.

If I occasionally lose track of what we’re talking about, give me the time to remember, and if I can’t, don’t be nervous, impatient or arrogant. Just know in your heart that the most important thing for me is to be with you. And when my old, tired legs don’t let me move as quickly as before, give me your hand the same way that I offered mine to you when you first walked. When those days come, don’t feel sad... just be with me, and understand me while I get to the end of my life with love. I’ll cherish and thank you for the gift of time and joy we shared.

With a big smile and the huge love I’ve always had for you, I just want to say, I love you... my darling daughter.

As a parent, now I realize that the overwhelming love we feel for our children makes us vulnerable. Even when I can rationalize my son's behaviour as typical toddler antics, his frequent "daddy preference" or refusals of bedtime kisses and such slight rejections really hurt me. So now, when I roll may eyes at something my own mom has said for the umpteenth time, I try to remember how that small expression might wound her the way it wouldn't if it came from anyone else.

I am learning so much from D. and from being his parent. My perspective on my work, my marriage, and my own family of origin is evolving because of my relationship with him. Right now, it is certainly bringing a greater sense of compassion to my connections with my own parents. It's a compassion I hope to sustain and grow with patience, energy, and a sense of adventureas we all continue to age.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Oh, the Irony

What a hypocrite! Is that what you have been thinking about me?

Isn't it ironic that I come here and express strong disapproval for a proposed reality tv show that focuses on adoption while I myself blog away? I have been feeling kind of uncomfortable about this apparent inconsistency since I last wrote, so I've been thinking a lot about it. And I suppose there is a case to be made that my reaction was hypocritical given how much I've shared about our son, his birth mom, and how our family was built.

There are some important differences, though.

First, and most important, I think, is that on this blog, someone who has the best interest of my son, his birth mom, and our whole family at heart has editorial control - me. Conversely, I think it is safe to assume that on a reality tv show, editorial decisions are based on what will drive viewership and profits; the more drama, the better. 

Next, since I began blogging, I've become increasingly concerned about over-sharing and relating parts of my son's story (or his birth mother's) that aren't mine to share. When I look back now on some of my posts about our match and his birth, I cringe, wondering if I've revealed things they would - at some point in their lives - rather I hadn't. Obviously, that relates to my concern about a child who cannot give consent to participate in an adoption show. But you know what? Much of their story is my story, too. There is a lot of overlap. I think it would be sad if my concern kept me from sharing the parts of my experience - our - experience that might be helpful to others. So, to address the concern about telling stories that are other peoples' rather than mine, I am increasingly cautious and aware about keeping some things private or labeling my feelings and experiences as my own, etc.

Last, even unsuccessful television programs are watched by thousands and thousands of people.  On-the-other-hand, this blog is followed closely only by friends and family. I know that occasionally others drop by, and I welcome that! But generally, anyone who comes here either has some connection to us or to adoption. It's hard for me to imagine someone teasing my son on the schoolyard because of something they learn here, while I couldn't confidently say the same if we elected to take part in a nationally-broadcast tv show.

What do you think? Does my reasoning make sense, or am I just making excuses? Do I have more in common with the producers of a reality tv show about adoption than I'd like to admit? Would it be different if I was trying to profit from my writing, as some adoption bloggers do? And how do you handle blogging or otherwise sharing potentially sensitive information about others' in your life?