How do you talk to a six-year-old about grownup stuff? Like So:

My Sugar Bugger.

I know, I know, I promised you I’d write about the YMCA, physical fitness, all of that.  I’ve been making notes on the YMCA post for months.  But it’ll wait.  Because I’ve gotta get this one out.  It’s the kind you like, it’s emotional.  And the Y’s in it.  Sort of.  We had occasion for this conversation because of the Y.

People who know and love us might cry.  I didn’t, but I’ve had six years to deal with the inevitability of this conversation, and I must tell you that it went tons better than I was expecting it to go.

If you’re new to the story or this blog, you can read some of my thoughts about parenthood, some other thoughts about parenthoodChild’s present fake father situation, and the Child: Origins in (lightly) fictionalized form.

So last night, on the way home from the Y, Child was talking about her little friend whose house we passed’s father and mom’s boyfriend.

She got this sad look on her face, and she said, “I wish I had a father.”

I am so accustomed to being able to dodge this conversation that I said, “You do!”

She said, “No.  Fella’s my fake dad.  I mean a real dad.”

“You do have a real dad, Child, but Fella’s way more your dad than he is.”

“Really?!” She was legitimately surprised.  There are some real pleasures in observing childhood, of getting to re-live that naivete, that utter faith that nobody around you is trying to mess with you, be dishonest, or dick you over.  Life pre-awareness-of-sex.

“Yeah, really.”

“Who is he?”

“He’s a guy I knew in college for a while.”

“Were you married?”

“No.  We were just friends.”

“Then how’d you get me?”

“Sometimes that happens.  Sometimes friends get babies together on accident.”  (I was not in a financial position to be on whore pills, but we were using lots of birth control)

“I want him to be my dad.”

“Why?”

“Because Fella yells at me all the time.”

“Your biological dad would yell at you all the time, too.  It’s what parents do.”

“I want to meet him.  Can you call him?”

“I don’t have his phone number, Child. I don’t know if you’ll ever get to meet him.”

“Why not?!”

“Because, Child.  He chose not to meet you.  He said he wasn’t ready for you yet.”

“When will he be ready for me?”

“I don’t know, Sugar bugger.  And anyway, what’s so wrong with Fella?  Doesn’t he play with you?”

“Yes.”

“And hug you?”

“Yes.”

“And buy you stuff?”

“Yes.  But can I tell him?  About my real dad?”

“Sure you can.  He already knows.”

So that’s the way it went.

The bit that surprised me was the, “I want to meet him.” She said it with such certitude and finality.

I’ve heard tell that kids who are adopted or who only know one of their birth parents have some kind of psychic off-kilterness. An adopted friend who had two kids of her own and was married happily looked up her birth mother.  She said it was compulsive.

It’s a real thing, the biological magnetism.

And personally?  I’m totally torn.  I’ve always said that when Child wants to meet her father, I’m absolutely going to help her with that.  But I was expecting it to be at least seven years from now.

I know her biological grandparents would dearly like to be in her life, but out of respect for their son’s arrangement with me, they have not.

And my kid is awesome (of course I think so).  She’s sassy and resilient and really good at not taking things personally.  But she’s six.  I mean, is it fair to say, “Ok, we’re going to meet your father, but we’re not going to live with him, and he’s still not going to be in your life.”?

She’s still hopeful and naive and happy about the world.  I don’t want to invite disillusionment.

Because I’ve also said that if he ever craves involvement, I’ll need him to put his money where his mouth is and pony up with some back child support and some kind of legal accountability before I put my sweet girl in emotional harm’s way.

But again, I was expecting that to happen you know, really any time before she’s officially a grown up.  Or even a teenager.

And here’s the thing.  I have great faith that if child’s bio dad wanted to, he’d be a terrific father.  But he has not had the advantage of six years during which his life is literally upside down, and he doesn’t matter much, and people make ridiculous assumptions about him and his character based on his having a kid on his own.

And even if he had, it’s totally different for men.  Men who are single dads are total heroes. They’re like the Don Juans of the playground benches.  Sisters and moms and strangers bring them casseroles and come pick up their laundry to do.  Women who are single moms?  We’re whores. And if we accept welfare, we’re whores who deserve to be poor, and who are trying to trick Uncle Sam into paying for our Lexuses.  (I would like to posit for the record that the brief times during which I have accepted financial assistance from the state, I would have never been able to afford a Lexus, or even a 1997 Ford Aspire. True story.)

Therefore, I imagine Child’s bio dad to be very similar to the way he was when I knew him, that is to say he is still probably not especially responsible.  And probably still doesn’t like himself terribly well.  And probably still drinks too much.

So even IF I could, with a clear conscience, say, “Okay, Child!  Let’s go!  We’ll find your father this summer!” What kind of can of worms would I be opening?  What are the statistical odds that her life would be better after that?  That it would be worse?

My basis for asking Child’s father to make the same choice that I had to make (100% or 0%) was extremely unscientific, but was that the most rogered up people I’ve ever known are the ones who’ve had here-and-gone-again fathers or mothers.  Who’ve had a consistent stream of rejection in their young lives.  (Also, it seemed unfair to me for him to have to be cool with whatever choice I was making, but that’s a post for another day).

So what are we going to do?  I dunno.  But I’ll keep you posted.

I welcome your input and feedback, but if you’re going to be hateful toward me or toward Child’s bio dad, I thank you in advance for keeping your comments to yourself.

Moving, Love, Sex, and Laundry

We bought our first house.  Both of us.  We are only tardy in doing so if you do not subscribe to the notion that 30 is the new 20.  We went real estate shopping and had big fights about money and who’s more responsible with it, whose employment is more valuable, and whether we were sealing our relationship’s fate.

I did (most of) the packing.  Which means I went through (most of) the closets, and found forgotten stuff both important and trivial.  In Brad’s clothes closet I found an old envelope I sent him when we were first dating.  Back before we’d spent much time together in person.  When we were still in the delirious, heady, infatuation stage.  When we would talk on the phone for hours, and still write emails, too.  When we lived for our weekends together and weren’t too vexed by the commute.

The envelope contained a card that said something absurdly lovey-dovey and a pair of my panties folded up in a zip top sandwich bag.  I was both touched that my highly pragmatic lover kept said card, and excited that I found another pair of panties!  My first impulse was to wash them and put them back into circulation.

When I mentioned them to Brad, he said, “You can have them back if you want.”  If he’d given them back to me a year ago, my feelings probably would’ve been hurt.

Maybe I’ve misunderstood it along the way from the things I watch and the people I know, but it seems to me that, while sex is totally fun and really makes things a ton better–all can be forgiven when orgasms are imminent–I’m starting to think that my long-held notion that sex is somehow an integral bit of what makes two people stay in love relationships might be flawed.

Here’s why.  On Sunday while Pearl was having a play date, Brad and I went to Lowes and bought some new deadbolts for the new place.  He installed the first one largely unassisted.  When he was finished, I had this flash of wild gratefulness and love and pride and glee.  It was kind of like how I feel post-orgasm.  I’ve been feeling this way about my lover a lot over these past couple of days.

I guess I didn’t realize that one can access that kind of  joy in other ways. Though somewhat similar,  it was even different from the feeling I get after Pearl does something incredibly cool, or she says or does something that makes parenting feel like a payoff.  It’s like a confluence of sentiments.  A party of pleasures that originate in myriad bits of my mind and body.

It’s like for every way in which he annoys me deeply, there are at least 10 things about him that I just don’t think I could do without.

I like doing his laundry. I like that he kept some of mine in a bag for a couple of years.  I like the way he smells.  And I like him as a lover, but what I love about him is so much more than that.

 

Modern Love a.k.a. Dead Babies 2

I’ve been reading essays over at the NY Times archive of Modern Love.  I think most of what I write as essays would fit in there.  As they say: “know your market.”  Two of the most touching essays I read were, “My Husband is Now My Wife,” and “A Lost Child, but Not Mine.”

In writing these essays of mine, I have to really go deep, back to where I was a few, sometimes as many as fifteen, years ago.  I have to kind of take a soak in a hot tub of these feelings I have been too busy to feel.  I get all pruny and dizzy and then it just kind of bleeds out of me in words or tears or fights with my lover.

Facebook has been a surprising catalyst of late, sort of similar to the writer of “A Lost Child, but Not Mine” who found out that the father of her aborted pregnancy was having a baby with another woman on said abortion’s 3rd anniversary via MySpace.  After the Dead Babies post, I’ve been paying slightly closer attention to Pearl’s father’s mother’s facebook page.  I noticed she took down her post about the dead babies, after I commented under it simply the word “fraught.”  Maybe she also read my rant about Dead Babies.  I also noticed that her son, P’s bio dad, has been commenting on her statuses a lot.

On one hand, I’m happy that he seems to be doing well.  On another hand, I’m annoyed that he’s frying my mind and soul with all this anger.  All these feelings.  And then, of all the stupider than stupid things, I saw that he commented on his mom’s status that he was having trouble sleeping last night.  I was, too.  So initially I thought, “serves him right.”  Then I wondered if there’s some kind of psychic reason we’re both having trouble sleeping, or something I’m meant to learn from suddenly being re-exposed to his existence.  Which, to be truthful, I’ve done my best not to think about.

I didn’t love the guy.  I barely knew him.  But he was fun and we had simultaneous orgasms, which seemed significant at the time.  Especially since I barely knew him.  And I saw a ton of potential there.  I feel kind of like I should, passively, all the way over here, cheer him on.  He is, after all, somebody else’s kid.  And his success increases the odds that he won’t utterly disappoint P when she decides to hunt him down in a few years. I mean, maybe they’ll be able to make something of a friendship or mentorship or some such.  When they’re both grown ups.

I overheard Pearl telling her friend the other day, “I don’t have a dad.”
“Why not?” Her friend asked.
“I just don’t.  Some people just don’t.” Pearl said, dutifully.  Because that’s what I’ve told her.
“But what about Brad?”
“Brad acts like he’s my dad, but he’s not.”

Fortunately, Pearl had this conversation with a little girl whose story is a lot more tragic than Pearl’s.   And also fortunately, Pearl has been satisfied so far with very surface, vague answers about her bio dad.

Occasionally, she’ll get a hair up her ass about it.  She’ll say, “Is grandpa my dad?”  Which always grosses me out, but is a totally logical question, since grandpa is my dad, and the whole generations concept eludes P at present.  She’ll say, “Is Uncle Kippy my dad?” Another gross but reasonable question.  She’s known Uncle Kippy her whole life.

For other moms in this situation, Here are some of the things I’ve told Pearl about her father.  It’s important to me not to pass judgement or valuations of his choices or character to Pearl.  I want her to have the freedom to make her own decisions about him. And frankly, I appreciate that he recognized his own limitations.  And yes, this has been fucking hard.  But having a baby and a childish partner?  Thank you, but no thank you.  I have had freedoms that other single mothers just don’t get.  I feel mostly lucky about the way things have come out.

  • Your Dad wasn’t ready to be a father.
  • Some people have two dads, or two moms, or only one dad, or only one mom, or a dad and a mom, or a mom and a grandma. There are all kinds of families.
  • Brad is not your father, but he takes care of you like he’s your father.  He’s part of our family.
Brad and I are not married, and even though it causes everyone around us to cringe and occasionally demand it, or argue for its value, I think it helps Pearl to know that we’re all hanging out in this unconventional family together, and we’re refusing to do it the way other people think we should.  What do they know, anyhow?

Dead Babies?

This was posted today on facebook by someone over whom I feel equal parts love and incredulity:

Today we remember the babies who were born asleep, or whom were carried but never met, or those who were held but could not be taken home, or the ones who made it home, but didn’t stay. Make this your profile status if you or someone you know has suffered the loss of a baby. The majority of you won’t do it, because unlike cancer, baby loss is still a taboo subject. Break the silence. In memory of all lost angels.

Grammatical errors notwithstanding, this post fondled a part of me that has been dormant for enough time that what I’m experiencing now is unpleasant.

My girl, who’s six now, started out as a massive inconvenience. A repercussion of recklessness that rippled hard choices off steel words off emotional upheaval. Before she was born, I hoped for her to end herself because I was too brave or not brave enough to end her.

That hope ended the moment I met her, and while it’s been a wresting struggle against a rock-meeting hard place for most of her life, she has brought me piles of joy. She is especially cool now that she’s six. She’s hilarious. She’s sweet and loving and adaptable and well-behaved and she knows how to entertain herself and she’s loyal and lovely and remarkable. I still get a little tripped out when I remember that she started out as cells splitting in my uterus.

But these Facebook Posts that are full of self-righteousness and that predict my inaction infuriate me in the best of circumstances.
First: How do you know I don’t re-post because I don’t care? Maybe I prefer to make my ideology known in more subtle ways. Maybe I don’t want your poorly-written, ungrammatical, sentimental spew all over my status. Maybe I don’t want to predict that 95% of the people I know are too callus to care about dead babies, or breast cancer, or bullying, or hunger in Africa, just because my feed didn’t happen to be on their wall that day.

This particular facebook post, because of the circumstances that surround the person who posted it (my daughter’s biological father’s mother who has opted to, and then not to, meet the lovely child), and because I remember being in a place where I especially wanted my baby not to come home, sent me into a place of pain and anger and fear.  A place that’s only distant enough to hint at non-recognition.

These moments where I don’t know whether to kick walls or weep or throw up are like bricks of mucous in my stomach.  They are dizzying distractions that remind me that happiness is fragile, that I am wrong to think something’s figured out, or that it’s safe to expect some modicum of future contentment.  Because invariably, shit happens, and then people pick it up and chuck it at you.

An enraged bit of me has my fingers quaking to tap out a nasty, angry missive to facebook friend in question.  One full of the sort of haughtiness and insensitivity her post evinces.  One that points out the hypocrisy.  I’m coaching myself not to, because while I don’t understand her choices, I respect her freedom to choose as she pleases.

A paranoid bit fears that the post is some kind of message to me about impending legal doom.  I have a long-held, and mostly quelled, paranoia that the other family will use the legal system and their considerably greater financial resources to try to force me to share my girl, or move, or enter some kind of massively inconvenient and hurtful custody arrangement.

A sensitive bit is disgusted, and wonders at the level of obtuse, flagrant cluelessness.  I ask myself, “How could she be so brazen in suggesting that she cares about lost-to-death babies when she’s got a lost-alive one out there?”   I mean, some of–probably more than I’m willing to put forth–the reason I kept my unwanted pregnancy was that when I declared I’d be giving her up for adoption, my mom said, “How could you do that?  How could you give away my grandbaby?”