Push Me, Pull You

It's Been a Long December

I should know better. I should know how to handle this, both the logistical issues and the emotions that come in waves. I should be better at this by now, all these many years later.

I am not.

— __ — __ —

My daughter’s mom texted me with info about the Munchkin’s next show. She plays a mean electric guitar, and recently started singing at these shows. She’s been doing them for years, her talent growing with each performance. I watch each video, my jaw dropping a bit lower each time, and marvel at the beauty and talent radiating from her being on that stage.

I’ve never made it to a show.

I have tried so many times to make it work, to even just drive the nearly seven hour drive to arrive just in time for a show only to turn around and head back immediately after—but I’ve never been able to make it.

Every time I miss a show, I am filled with such guilt. And then I have guilt about my guilt. I feel guilty that I cannot be there; I want to be there. I feel guilty about wanting to be there; I should be happy and present in this amazing life I have been given.

I won’t be able to make her upcoming show. It takes place on a Saturday and a Sunday—during baseball season. And not just practice season, but during the games portion of our yearly love affair with America’s pastime. We try really hard not to miss games, save for last year when BigBrother missed his very last game because we had to leave on the vacation that we scheduled six months prior to getting the baseball schedule. The boys love baseball. We, the parents, love that they love baseball. Practices started this week, and we’ve already noticed a big difference in the way BigBrother throws. It’s going to be a great season for both boys, for us as their parents, for the grandparents that come to watch the games.

But

This is where fire life and parenting and baseball season and open adoption collide, and not in good ways. My husband works his normal 24-hour shift the Saturday in question, meaning that I am the responsible parent for getting kids to the field at Early O’Clock on Saturday morning for the LittleBrother’s t-ball game, to get BigBrother shuffled to his field in time to practice for his coach pitch game, to gather up one kid and all of our stuff and make it over to watch the other kid’s game—that is if we are blessed with two closer games. I will do all of that solo, save for a grandparent or two, that weekend. These responsibilities are a joy to me, save for rain and cold weather and dealing with other parents, as I love watching my sons do something they love so dearly.

It comes at a cost.

A cost I never considered when weighing the pros and cons of placing my daughter for adoption. A cost no one at the non-agency never mentioned. A cost no one was talking about at the time in online spaces, not that I had reliable, consistent Internet access at the time to use in order to research these topics. I believed what the non-agency told me, that someday I would have kids of “my own” and all would be well.

And it is well.

But the push me, pull you of wanting to be with my daughter and wanting to be present with my sons remains so hard. I physically cannot be in two places at once. My sons deserve my presence, but doesn’t my daughter too?

It feels useless, even counterproductive, to keep saying, “I just didn’t know.” But, oh, I just didn’t know.

— __ — __ —

Finding the balance of parenting and being a birth mother involved in a fully open adoption remains a constant struggle. While most things get easier as time passes, this elusive balance seems to get harder and harder to find. It was easy to visit four times a year before my husband and I had children. It was easier to visit frequently before Munchkin started school. It was harder then, but even harder when BigBrother started school and, yes, harder still this year when LittleBrother started school. Adding in the plethora of extra-curricular activities the elementary aged children are involved in, an adorable baby, weekends that are pre-scheduled for them, extended family, vacations, friends, and adults who have their own interests and desires and things to do and… it feels impossible. It is no one’s fault; it just is.

The weight of my choices feels too heavy to carry some days, especially as of late. I sit in the stillness sometimes and wonder how I’ll ever manage to endure a lifetime of this: this loss, this ache, this reality that a decision I made negatively affects my parented children, this never ending battle of logistics and emotion.

This feels like the longest December of my life, and I really don’t see it ending any time soon.

It's Been a Long December

 

 

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Unintentional Parenting, or Being Human

We influence our children in ways we don’t realize, in ways we couldn’t predict. Just by being ourselves, our human selves, we introduce things and concepts and foods and all sorts of stuff to our children. While we talk so much these days about mindful parenting, about being careful and intentional with our time and what we expose our kids to, we are human beings with likes and desires and experiences and failures and hopes and dreams.

Our children deserve all of that; our children benefit from our humanness.

— __ — __ —

I sat across the bench seat of the gold pickup truck from my dad; one of his hands on the stick shift and the other draped across the steering wheel. The wind from my open passenger side window whipped through my long brown hair, tangling it in knots behind my head. The sun streamed through the windshield; too short for the sun visor to be effective, I shielded my eyes from the sun with my hand. This scene played itself out any number of times in any number of trucks at any number of heights, of all of which remained too short for the sun visor to make a difference.

In those trucks on those drives, to and from voice lessons and softball practices to musical performances, I learned about my dad. I didn’t learn about his parenting ideals and how he imagined he might raise me and how, once here, I changed anything he might have thought about parenting because that’s what kids do. I learned that my dad loves sports on some deep core level that allows him to ignore the absolutely grating sound of static on AM radio. I learned he’s really hard to “beat” in a philosophical conversation; I still remember how flabbergasted I felt the one day when he threw out, “But if you were meant to be you, wouldn’t you have been you anyway?” I learned the stories of his youth. I learned about what made him a human being; I learned what made him tick, what made him mad, what made him him.

And I learned his music.

In the background of all of these little-but-big conversations, the radio played music—when it wasn’t making me claw my ears out because of the static on AM radio. Sometimes we listened to what I wanted to listen to, whatever was new and “hip” and on B94 in Pittsburgh. But often, my dad controlled the radio because, as we all know, the driver owns the controls. When we weren’t discussing the deep things in life, he taught me what he knew about music. Like most things he has an interest in, he knew a lot about music. He taught me little weird things about individual songs and funny stories about bands. I learned that he doesn’t like Beatles or Jimi Hendrix. And I knew early on, he loved Fleetwood Mac and that he adored Stevie Nicks.

— __ — __ —

On Mother’s Day 2003, the beginnings of a Munchkin growing somewhere deep within my belly, I saw Fleetwood Mac in Pittsburgh. At that time, still healthy, I felt that it was a fitting beginning to our journey together. A band that was one of my father’s favorites and eventually became one of my favorites was kicking it off for us. I didn’t know then what I know now. I didn’t know what was to come, how much heartache awaited. My hand fluttered to my still flat belly when Stevie reminded us that even children get older; I so looked forward to watching her grow up as my daughter.

— __ — __ —

I called my dad today, shortly after learning that Fleetwood Mac will be in Pittsburgh on October 14. “Guess who’s touring this fall!”

He started an unnecessarily long but characteristically my dad type of guess. I laughed and told him. We discussed the ins and outs of what it means that Christie McVie is back with the band. He joked about how I old I am now. At some point a co-worker walked by and caught wind of the conversation.

“This is why you raise your kids with your music. So that when your favorite band starts touring 30 years later, she’ll call and tell you.”

I smiled.

— __ — __ —

Chillin'

I don’t know which bands will tour in 25 some odd years that make my children pick up the phone, giddy to tell me, knowing that I won’t already know. I don’t know what movies they’ll watch in future decades and recall watching it with us on evening. I don’t know what meals they’ll want to make for their own kids. I don’t know if they’ll remember the way I danced them around the kitchen to all the Broadway tunes. I don’t know whether they’ll like any of my music or any of my books or movies or foods or stories.

But I share them anyway.

I want my sons, and someday my daughter, to know me as a human being in addition to being their mother. I want to be real to them, more than parenting theories and routines and bedtimes and chores. I don’t need to be their best friend right now, but I do need them to know who I am.

Hopefully when they’re nearly 33, they’ll want to call and tell me about my favorite band. Or just call me at all.