Saturday, April 28, 2007

Living in Paradox/Reverie

One more reason why Nicole is fantastic. Read it first, please. Then:

If someone else were to tease apart relinquishment and adoption, it would be really easy to break it down like this:

relinquishment: bad, loss
adoption: good, gain

And it would be satisfying as an aparent to say, yes, that's exactly it. My daughter's loss of her first mother had nothing to do with our adoption, so while her loss is sad our gain is tremendously happy and move on.

But that's not what Nicole is saying. It's far too complicated for that, she's far too honest. (Sorry -- I know we could all use an easy solution). What she says, instead, is that we've all got to learn to live with paradox, with the copresence of seemingly antithetical thoughts, emotions, truths at the same time. Some possible paradoxes: I love my aparents and am glad they raised me and I wish I had never lost my first family. I love my daughter's aparents and can acknowledge their capabilities as parents but I hate that I am not raising my child and believe that n.families are best suited to raising their children. Or my own: I love that I have my daughter in my life and I hate that she lost her first family. Or another of mine: We hope for another child and we hate the conditions that would make that possible. Notice that the operator is "and," conjoining the A and B of each sentence. It is not as if the bad is displaced by the good, or that the moments are divisible as we'd wish. They are always interpenetrating.

Joy's response does not contradict Nicole, but seeks to make clear that that too easy dichotomy at the top of my post is untenable. Joy's adoption analogy, presented less gracefully: She could live abroad, she could love living abroad, but she'd always be an expat -- forever. Her life with her son shows her the difference.

I see what she is saying, too, and yet I think we're all in some ways always in exile from one another's innermost being and that biological relationships only seem to offer a way to bridge that divide. What I mean is this: I think it's too easy to believe that I have a natural way with my son, some magical access to his emotional life, that we have understandings that are rooted in biology -- that I will never have with my daughter. In some ways this might be true: I "get" his obsessiveness immediately, without even having to speak about it (or do I map my childhood anxieties onto his unique ones?) I get that sparkle in his eye just before he makes trouble because it "runs in our family" (but my daughter "glimmers" too!) After a dangerous pregnancy and near-disasterous delivery, his history is marked in and on my body, and mine runs through his. My daughter's body is marked by a different history, its tracings in her inherited beauty and her round belly, now full with toddlerhood but still bearing the marks of early hunger. She is uprooted and also cultivated. Both/and, her being not alien but hybrid.

In the end, both my son and my daughter are beyond my comprehension, though I have infinite empathy for both. Their possibilities extend beyond what I can behold, what I can even imagine. That's both the sadness and supreme beauty of loving someone else, in particular of parenting, in afamilies or nfamilies. Just families. But I'm starting to wonder if I'm one of few who thinks like that, which I had thought was a given, who loves the mystery and enjoys the unfolding.


Michelle said...

YES, I agree! I've tagged you for the thinking blogger, you're it! :)

Paragraphein said...

Very thought-provoking post (as usual). You've got me thinking about how I parent, too--a biological daughter--and what that means, how it looks different from parenting an adopted child (which I can only speculate on, not being an aparent, but am trying to grapple with through reading your and other aparent blogs).

I can see two different yet inherent pitfalls in parenting--in understanding and empathizing with our children--one distinct to bio families, and one distinct to afamilies. I wonder if we don't just trade one pitfall in for another, when we adopt rather than raise a bio child?

Anonymous said...

no, not the only one. this is why I can't write about it well...