Monday, September 18, 2006


The last few days I have been questioning my ability to be the right kind of mother for Lana. I worry that I am not “enough” of a mother or the kind of mother who will perceive what her needs are, the kind of mom who will be able to differentiate if she is doing something normal if she is doing something that indicates that I am fully not meeting her peculiar needs as a trans-racially adopted older child. In truth, there is a part of me that resists viewing her needs as peculiar – it’s the part that is screaming, “this is just the way we were choosing to grow our family and I am not going to buy into any school of thought that says I should parent her any differently than I parent Gabriel because to do so would be to show her that I love her less than my biological child.” And then there is another part of me screaming, “what in the h*ll are you thinking, f**king with this child’s life in this radical way? You MUST parent her differently than Gabriel because you didn’t pluck Gabriel out of his native culture and language and plop him down in the middle of low-lying-flat-corn-growing-middle-America, and you are going to have to bend over backwards before this child ever feels at home here.”

Gabriel was an extremely difficult child in terms of sleep issues, however, he has not been a difficult child in really any other significant way. He does not have trouble learning things. He does not have trouble communicating with me. He is not cruel or unkind or prone to throwing fits for no reason. (He does throw fits now and then – it’s just that I can normally determine WHY he is throwing a fit. And if not, I can shut him in his room until he is ready to talk to me.) I am not suggesting (not by a long shot) that we have a perfect relationship – because there are certainly things that he does that make me crazy, it’s just that I feel comfortable in my shoes that are labeled “Gabe’s mom” and increasingly panicked about the shoes labeled “Gabe and Lana’s mom”. Forgive me for pushing a metaphor here, but, it’s like my “Gabe’s mom” shoes are comfy-ugly wide leather Bjorns, and I’m worried that my “Gabe and Lana’s mom shoes” are 3-inch stiletto heels that will cause me to fall over and break my damn neck.

I know part of this is fear of the unknown. Everything I know about this child I know from a file full of pieces of paper, photographs, and two 10-minute video tapes taken more than 2 years ago. How am I supposed to KNOW how to parent her when I haven't gotten to know her yet?

I recognize that I had no real idea how to parent Gabriel when he first arrived, either. I once read an essay that described becoming a mother in terms of traveling to foreign country, where not only do you not speak the language and have terrible jet lag, but, you’re not allowed to sleep for more than 90 minutes at a time and you are completely responsible for a creature who doesn’t speak your language and cannot teach you his. (I tried to find that essay again this morning, and I couldn’t locate it online. I know it’s out there somewhere.) And even though I felt lost and overwhelmed and completely unprepared, eventually I got my mothering legs underneath me. I’m just concerned that they are not the mothering legs that Lana needs. And I also think about all the girlfriends who surrounded me when I was learning how to be Gabe’s mom, and how they showed up at my house with food and comfort and advice and let me cry on their shoulders (ahem, some of you are probably reading this right now and if I never said “thank you for being there” – I’m saying it now), and while I know that the arms and shoulders and comfort of my girlfriends is readily available, I worry that no one is going to be able to give me advice on how to parent a 4-year-old-Vietnamese child, except other people who have adopted four-year-olds, and can I just say that the number of those people in low-lying-flat-corn-growing-middle-America is extremely limited?

Yesterday, my friend M~ expressed a certain degree of surprise that I had joined a group here in town called “FCC” or “Families with Children from China (and other parts of Asia)” – because, quoting M~, ‘you don’t really enjoy organized group activities that much, and your husband really hates them.’ M~ wasn’t being mean, she was just being matter-of-fact. And it’s true – I don’t really enjoy organized group activities that much. So I said, “I need to have contact with people who have done this, because I’m afraid I won’t do it right.” And M~ said, “it’s probably good then, to have a support group.”

I know that there are support groups for mothers of newborns, and I didn’t feel a need to join one of those, but, I think, honestly, that I had a “natural” or informal support group in my sisters and girlfriends who had children themselves. But, I feel a need to seek out others who have done this, because my mothering legs are getting ready to jump on unfamiliar ground in three inch heels and, quite honestly, I might be a little bit scared to death.


Anonymous susan said...

Yesterday our pediatrician was questioning me about our daughter's age, weight, delays, etc. Toward the end of the conversation she asked me if I was scared to death. I said yes.

While I don't feel scared all the time I do worry about being the parent our daughter needs and if I'll be "enough".

I suppose only time will tell.

Monday, September 18, 2006 11:21:00 AM  
Blogger LawMommy said...

It's nice to know I'm not alone.

Monday, September 18, 2006 11:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Christina/Mrs. Broccoli Guy said...

I know what you mean. Even having adopted before, this is different because Zeeb is 3. I am scared and nervous and worried... about my mothering abilities, about the effect his adoption will have on our other kids, about dealing with developmental and cultural issues... the list goes on. But mostly I just want to bring him home already and just jump in and deal with whatever comes our way!

Monday, September 18, 2006 3:47:00 PM  
Blogger Historian G20 said...

Don't worry - you're a great mom now, and you'll be a great one to Lana as well.

Monday, September 18, 2006 5:02:00 PM  
Blogger Danielle said...

You are one to the smartest women I know and you are the perfect mother for Lana. You will figure it out. I think it is going to have to be something that you and Lana do togehter. You are both going to be stepping into new shoes. See you Sunday!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006 6:57:00 AM  
Blogger Kelly said...

I get scared a lot with our adoption as well. I think it is totally normal. It is going to be different meeting the needs of any transracially adopted child. The good news is, I don't think that any of us would be given a task we couldn't handle. We CAN do this!!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006 9:54:00 AM  

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