Thursday, June 23, 2011

Little Boy Musings

I have been wanting to blog the first bit of this story for months.  But first I was pregnant so I kept forgetting, and then I had a new baby so time went by super fast.

Matthew is a what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of guy.  Not that he doesn't try and swing things his way, its just that whenever he tries to do something sneaky, its written all over his body language and is blatantly obvious.  When he's thinking about something, he's asking about it in detail.

If I help you set the table, can I have some candy?
How about after supper, then can I have candy?
How about in my lunch tomorrow?  I will save it for recess instead of eating it on the way to school.
When can I have candy next?  Can we go to the corner store tomorrow after school?

Sometimes, though, things are percolating under the surface and it takes a few days or weeks for it to bubble over so we can see what's going on in there...
In February sometime, Brent was working and I was trying to get everyone to school on time.  It was three minutes before the first bell rings, I was still in my pyjamas, no one had their shoes on, and I was wrestling Riley into a pair of socks and sweating from the effort.  Matthew appears at my elbow and asks,

Mommy, why did you and daddy have to have kids?

I was initially going to brush him off but *something* [hello, God] told me not to.  This was worth unpacking.

What do you mean?

Like, why did you have kids, why do you grow babies, why did you adopt kids if you can grow babies in your tummy?

.................a few things were running through my brain, the foremost of which was, NOW?  YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT THIS NOW?!  Seriously, NOW?!!!  Kids: famous for their uncanny sense of when would be a bad time.  What makes this bad timing?  First, I'm alone.  No backup.  No second adult voice of wisdom and love to make sure I get this right, this first inquiry in five years, and who knows when we're going to get a second chance to answer a question when he's primed to hear the answer?  Second, I'm harried and sweaty, making me less articulate and more likely to say the wrong thing.  Third, I'm pregnant, so I draw blanks all day long when I'm trying to think of something to say.  I prayed, and opened my mouth with no plan whatsoever:

We adopted you because we had a house and a family and an extra bed, and lots of love to give to someone, and you didn't have a house or a bed or a family.  God put us together because he knew we needed someone to love, and you needed a family.


And he runs off.
The big parenting moments are always fly by the seat of your pants kind of moments.
I hope I gave him what he needed: nothing more, nothing less.  But a bed?  Why did I put the part about the BED in there?!  Maybe because I was in his bedroom and I was grasping.

Until last night, that was the last we heard about it.  Well, that's not entirely true: for a school project he brought in his baby photo album and explained to his entire class how he was born in Thailand, had a Thai mommy, lived in a foster home with a foster mommy, rode elephants and ate sand, and then flew home to live with his parents in Canada.  Everyone thought that was really cool: other parents were commenting to us about how their kids came home and told them about Matthew being born in another country to another mommy, and being adopted when he was one.  His teachers were pleased by his openness and willingness to share his story.  When asked how it went, Matthew pronounced:


Ever the articulate one.

So last night we're sitting around the table playing this game we've recently invented, where each person chooses any country in the whole world they would like for us to live in if we could.  Matthew always chooses Thailand.

So I could sleep with my Thailand mommy.

Talk about breaking your heart with sweetness and grief.

Mommy, if we lived in Thailand could I see my Thailand mommy?

YES!  Of course, the next time we go to Thailand, you can see her.
[We have the most open international adoption I've ever heard of: we exchange letters and photos, and plan to visit whenever we can manage it financially]

How about my Thailand brother and sister?  Could I see them, too?

Well, that would depend.  If Kuhn-Mae says you can see them, you can.  Its her job to decide if we can meet them or not, but probably she would let you.

Ayden pipes up,
Why wouldn't she let us see them?
[Again: I'm alone, answering deep life inquiries by the seat of my pants.  God?  We need to have a chat about timing....]

Well....Maybe she might worry that if they met each other, it would be more sad when they say goodbye.  Or maybe she would worry that they could be jealous.

Jealous of what?

Well, she doesn't have any money, no house, no way to buy food for her kids, so they don't live with her. They live with relatives.

Well, we could bring her some food and some money!
Kids, on poverty.  It really is so simple, isn't it?

That would be nice, wouldn't it?  We could share what we have.  But it would only solve her problem for a little while.  Once the food was eaten, and the money was spent on clothes and a house, she still wouldn't have any more food, or any more money to pay for a house or clothes.  She doesn't have a job, or an education that could get her a job.  That is why she gave you to us after you were born; because she didn't have a house to live in, or food, or a job, or money for clothes.  
Oh.  Why doesn't my Thailand daddy give her some money?
[Are You There, God?  Its Me, Melissa.....]

Hmmmmm....This one is a real dilemma.  You see, Matthew's birth father abandoned his birth mother when she became pregnant with him, claiming it was not his child and he would take no responsibility for it, or her, or their previous two children [they had been divorced for several years at this point].  He kicked her out of her house and cut her off financially.  He's the reason she's so poor she can't keep her kids.  But we don't want to taint Matthew's view of his birth father, nor do we have the other side of the story (although actions speak pretty loudly here...), nor do we want to talk negatively about him.  On the other hand, its Matthew's history and he has a right to know it.

Ummmm....well....see....He's not a nice man.

I don't ever want to see him, then.

You don't have to.

[Nor can you, since the man won't acknowledge that you exist, but thankfully Matthew didn't go in that direction at all]
I don't know that I told that part of his history as well as I could have.  I really was at a loss.  How do you look your child in the face and tell them they were not wanted by a key person in their life?  I'm sorry, I'm not that into breaking six year old hearts.  All Matthew knows of fathers is his own, real life daddy who trips on his toys and wrestles on the trampoline and cooks him good food and says I love you every night before Matthew goes to sleep.  How could he reconcile that with abandonment in an alternate father figure?

Oh, life.  You are too hard.  You are a shitstorm every day, every hour, always.  Thank heaven for ports like REAL daddies, who show up daily and fix remote control cars and show you how to tie your shoes.  And mommies who answer Really Big Questions.  These are the days when you know you are a parent but you feel like a little child floundering in a big sea.

I sure love you, Matthew.  I'm glad you're my boy.
Bwraaaaaa....[looks at the ceiling and changes the subject]

Big questions from little boys.


Rob-o-SE-yo said...

THis was a really sweet, touching story, Mel. Thank you for posting it. I love the way your kids ask questions, and the way you answer them, and I appreciate that you share it with us.

Jen said...

This is so special. Thank you for sharing. You did AMAZING! I am seriously impressed with how you answered those tough questions. What a great example for those of us who will no doubt be fielding similar questions at some point in the future.

literal mama said...

The other day, at lunch, Kaleb started asking questions about my mom and dad and then he figured out who my dad was and the conversation got really weird and I had to answer questions about his grandpa (who he loves) and about how his grandpa treated me. It was hard to be honest and still not taint him against his grandpa. I feel your pain. Seriously. The questions are hard because we think there's a right answer, but really there isn't. If we're honest without too much information and our children aren't hurt in the process, we've done it right. Our big boys already know that people aren't all good and the world isn't perfect. It's just harder for them to grasp when it's people in their own lives/families.

Where's my instruction manual?

Tamie Fields Erdman said...

Oh, Mel. I'm sitting here in the Anchorage Airport crying.

amy frances said...

Thank you for giving an unwanted child a home and a bed and love and a permanent place in he world, Melissa. I wish there were more people like you.

The bed is really, really important.

melissa said...

@Robo, thanks for reading. I love how you never disappear, even though our lives are very different looking right now.

@Jen, thanks. I'm impressed with your grace in adjusting to motherhood. You did much better than I =)

@Sara, crazy rock and hard place! I feel your pain, too. You've worked hard to foster a loving relationship for your boys with your dad, its pretty cool that it has taken six years for the topic to arise at all. It really does help to think there's no right answer--I often assume every other adoptive parent knows exactly what to say and I don't. But that can't be true.
If you find an instruction manual, mail me a copy!!!

@Tamie, my bad. =)

@Amy, on second thought, you are right: the bed is actually really important. I was looking for concrete examples that a six year old would understand, but its also symbolic of shelter in many forms. ♥