You’ve Got Someone to Blame

The questions have been frequent and earnest this week.  A seven-year-old boy who is becoming acutely aware of the fact that from house-to-house, family-to-family, things look different:

“My friend (fill-in-the-blank) can watch (fill-in-the blank).  Why can’t I?”

“My classmate can stay up until (fill-in-the-time).  Why do I have to go to bed so early?”

“Why can’t I have (fill-in-the-blank) toy?  (Fill-in-the-blank) does.”

“Guess what? (Fill-in-the-blank) can eat/drink (fill-in-the-blank).  Can I?”

But tonight the conversation moved from the customary if not occasionally frenzied comparison/contrast to how these differences make Oscar feel.  Embarrassed is what he said.  Like a kid.

I wanted to shout from the rooftops:  “You are a kid!  You’re growing too fast as it is!”

But I didn’t.  This wasn’t about me.  It was most assuredly about him.

So, I gave him an out.  I told him that if ever he felt embarrassed or like a kid because one of his friends gets to do/see/eat something he can’t, he can blame us, his parents.  I gave him the verbiage he needs to deflect and to be able continue to socialize, to play without being embarrassed.

However, instead of audibly exhaling at having a place to put the proverbial blame, Oscar looked at me and said, “I thought you said that we weren’t supposed to blame other people for our problems.”

I explained this wasn’t his problem but rather his parents’ philosophy of child-rearing–something over which he has little to no control.

He seemed to understand.  And as I wrapped my head around the fact that more and more I find myself wondering who is raising whom, I tried to exhale and hoped I did the right thing.

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Making Peace with the Plastic

This is the view of my backyard from my sons’ bedroom.  It is not lost on me that short of being outside in the yard, the best view of it is from my two youngest sons’ bedroom.  This yard has been an oasis for me (mainly in its creation since most gardeners seldom sit long enough to enjoy it).  I love watching the rain nourish it.  I love walking in it early on a summer morning listening to the proverbial sound of silence.  I love inviting my friends and family to celebrate milestones in it.

And though I love watching my children play in it, I would be lying if I said that I love the plastic.

On those rare occasions when the weeds temporarily escape my notice and I am sitting, I look at the plastic toys–and there are plenty of them–and think about what the yard will look like when they’re gone.  A bench here, maybe a fountain there.  I dream and design in my head and try to figure out where I could possibly fit a small greenhouse.

But then I stop.

I remind myself that for the first seven years we lived in this house, there was no plastic–just two people who longed to be parents.  The yard was lush; the yard was free of Green Lantern action figures and Clone Wars balls and anything from Little Tikes.

Then I do some very quick math and realize with a vengeance that the toys will be gone seemingly almost as quickly as they came.  My sons will no longer want to play in a sandbox, on a scooter, or in a $39 pool from Walmart.  I’ll have the yard back–and the bench and the fountain and, yes, the greenhouse.  Ten years from now there won’t be any plastic–just the memories of three boys who happily played in this space–among the trees, between the flower pots, and with their toys.

As long as they want them, their toys will stay.  Something tells me, though, that I might want them a whole lot longer than they will.

Fighting the Foes No Single Superhero Can Withstand

I haven’t seen The Avengers.

I don’t plan to see The Avengers.  Not because of the now-infamous line that has given many in the adoption community significant pause but because it’s simply not a movie I would enjoy.

But it is a movie that my children will probably one day want to see.  They’re young now–too young for a PG-13 experience; but all too soon, given their current penchant for all things superhero, it will be on their short list.

And as their mother, I feel it is my responsibility to think through the line in question.  My sons are adopted.  How they see and feel about themselves is and always will be of paramount importance to me.  And anything that might interfere with their sense of self-worth I question.  I have to.   Any parent would.

The line that has caught the attention of many adoptive parents and adoption professionals amounts to effectively two words: “He’s adopted.”  The character who speaks this line uses it as either a way to explain the violent actions of another character or, as some have suggested, as a way to distance himself from this character.  Either way, it is a line that is supposed to be a joke, supposed to be funny.

In our culture, saying something is “just a joke” seems to grant that something certain privileges, amnesty even, that cannot otherwise be achieved.  Say something offensive in one context and you might get fired; say the same words someplace else, call it a joke, and suddenly you get to peck at anyone who might deign to be offended.   The person offended is suddenly condemned as “too sensitive” or not knowing how to pick his/her battles.   Many people expect comedy to be inappropriate if not offensive and defend its right to be so.   We’re told to “laugh at ourselves” and “learn how to take a joke.”

As a 44-year-old, I know how “to take a joke.”  I can take it in the context it is delivered.  I can run it through my own personal filter; attach it to the schema borne of decades of reading and viewing and observing; form my opinions; and make my final determinations.

Children cannot do this.  Not yet.  And while one can certainly argue that young children should not be viewing a PG-13 film, many are.

Whether a viewer is adopted or not, offended or not, it is comments such as these–joke or not–that contribute to society’s perception of people who are adopted.  Yes, there are plenty of positive representations.  Plenty.  But sometimes it’s the one negative comment–whether about adoption or something else entirely–in a sea of positive that sticks–to your child, to mine.

The Avengers may be garnering attention today, but tomorrow it will be something else.  Here’s hoping that though there is occasionally a misstep along the way that we continue moving forward.

A Narrow Fellow on the Walkway

“A narrow Fellow in the Grass” by Emily Dickinson

A narrow Fellow in the Grass
Occasionally rides –
You may have met Him – Did you not
His notice sudden is –
The Grass divides as with a Comb –
A spotted Shaft is seen,
And then it closes at your Feet
And opens further on –
He likes a Boggy Acre
A Floor too cool for Corn –
But when a Boy, and Barefoot
I more than once at Noon
Have passed, I thought, a Whip lash
Unbraiding in the Sun
When stooping to secure it
It wrinkled, and was gone –
Several of Nature’s People
I know and they know me –
I feel for them a transport
Of Cordiality –
But never met this Fellow
Attended or alone
Without a tighter Breathing
And Zero at the Bone.
************************************
And may I present  . . . “A Narrow Fellow on the Walkway” by Edgar Farias:

Bravo

“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” –Aristotle

This afternoon during one of our soon-to-be famous Latin lessons, our instructor mentioned briefly Newport Children’s Theater, a place where budding thespians can begin honing their acting chops as young as eight years old.  I turned to Oscar; and though I knew the answer before I even asked, I asked:  “Oscar, is that something you’d be interested in doing?”  I barely had a chance to utter the last syllable of my inquiry before his emphatic “NO!” hit the airwaves. 

Oscar, the consummate showman at home (we could sell tickets to his performance when we run out of Cheez-Its), has yet to be bitten by the acting bug.  He’s had plenty of opportunities–starting in preschool; and, very recently I thought a friend at school, who performed in a NCT production, might inspire him.  But, alas, no. 

Photo Credit: Deanna DiMarzio

As we walked out of the library today after our lesson,  I mentioned it one more time–just to check in and possibly delve into his rationale a bit more deeply.“Oscar, are you absolutely sure you wouldn’t be interested in Newport Children’s Theater?”

“I’m sure.”

“It’s fine with me.  I was just curious as to why.”

“Well, I love going to plays and seeing other people perform.  It’s just not for me.  I get stage fright.”

And just as I was about to bring up the fact that he regularly hits the stage with his violin in tow, he said:  “I know what you’re thinking.  But the violin is different.  When I’m on stage with my violin, it’s the violin that does the talking.  Not me.  So, that I can do.”

A soon-to-be eight-year-old who knows his limits, who feels comfortable and safe expressing them, who knows himself. 

Take a bow, Oscar.  You’re on your way.