Sunday, April 11, 2010

In Which Adoption Makes Me Dust Off Some Old Feelings

I've come to a realization about myself over the past few weeks.  All along I've been secretly in love with the idea of having a little girl. 

I didn't even suspect that I wanted a girl; when Jeremy and I got married I knew that the odds were in favor for us having a boy, as Jeremy comes from a long, long line of all boys.  Sure enough, we had a boy, and with Connor's birth and the subsequent discoveries we made about his genetic condition I knew that the likelihood of us having a girl was now close to nil.  Connor would either be an only child or we would be adopting-- and since we didn't have a preference as to whether or not we adopted a boy or a girl, it was extremely likely that we would end up adopting a boy.  Between 70% - 90% of families who are adopting request girls, and in many countries (China being the notable exception) the number of boys waiting far outnumber the girls.  I was happy with the idea of having another boy.  I like boys.

Yet somehow the child who seemed the best fit for our family ended up being a girl.  And while I'm trying to keep myself from becoming overly excited as, after all, she's not ours yet, I'm finding myself rapidly losing the battle.  From out of the corners of my closets I'm pulling out carefully tucked away toys that I'd saved from my childhood just in case: a large box full of my old paper dolls, a little wooden doll's bed with clothespins for bed posts, delicate embroidered pillow cases and linens.  I've suddenly noticed that the extensive independent reader and young adult book collection I've acquired over the years is composed less of books like Captain Underpants and much, much more of books like A Little Princess.  "Plucky young girl has adventures and ultimately saves the day" seems to be the general theme I've gone for.

I was such a tomboy-- I spent most of my childhood barefoot with holes ripped in my pants at the knees, climbing the tallest trees in the neighborhood and playing soccer and football with the boys on the playground.  Why is it that I'm now drawn like a magnet to all of the frilly little girl dresses, hair bows and tights and patent leather shoes that I wouldn't have been caught dead in as a kid?  I feel a little bit like I did the first four months of my pregnancy-- those innocent, naive, giddy months before we got the devastating (at the time) news about Connor.

Perhaps most telling is how I find myself slowing way, way down in the toy aisles of the local stores when I'm passing the section with the play kitchens.  I find myself fingering the "mother daughter" apron sets and dreaming about our little girl standing next to me while I work in the kitchen, chopping little Velcroed-together vegetables while I chop real ones on the counter above.  Why have I never had this fantasy about me and Connor working in the kitchen together?  Is it because he's a boy?  Have I really bought that heavily into gender stereotypes?  Or have I not been thinking about this because I knew it was such an unrealistic expectation for Connor, given his developmental delays, and I knew I'd be setting myself up for disappointment?

That, instead of the having-a-girl thing, may actually be the underlying issue here.  I'm fully aware of the fact that this adoption-- the adoption of an older child with special needs-- is not going to be a walk in the park.  But according to the orphanage, other than her language delays Sylvie is developmentally on track, so the idea of her and me playing "kitchen" together is not out of the realm of possibility. 

For the first time in the past four years I'm letting myself think about what it would be like to have a child we can do the sorts of things with that typical parents do with their typical children, and I think my brain is just going a little overboard as a result.  I remember so many fun things that I participated in with my parents when I was a kid; things that I expected to be able to do with my children and which I put up on a corner shelf in my figurative closet after Connor was born.  I haven't missed them; Connor has brought us so much joy and has enriched our lives in so many incredible ways.  But I think that just like the idea of having a girl, I didn't realize how much I was holding on to the idea of having a child who was able to share in those things until I allowed myself to start thinking about them.

So I'll do my best to reign myself in-- a lot can happen in the next year-- and I'll be preparing myself for meeting the unique challenges that adopting and parenting an older child born in a different country and who currently has no formal language will bring.  And I'll be more than ready to accept and love our daughter for who she is no matter where she falls developmentally.

But I may buy those aprons anyway.  Just in case.



Mary said...

D'aw. You made me cry again, sister. A beautiful post, for sure. While I'm definitely excited to have a little niece to buy girly things for (despite my hating most dresses as a child), I'll admit I'm probably more excited that you'll get to have some of those more.. expected parent-child experiences with Silvie. You're so wonderful with kids, both developmentally "normal" and not. I know you'll have a blast with imaginative play and everything else to come.

Julia O'C said...

It just seems that bringing this little girl into your lives is going to be a great thing for ALL of you. For Violet, holidays, new experiences and "typical" childhood things are magical and wonderful. For Emmett, they can be overwhelming and confusing - but he learns from watching her that maybe they're not so awful. Her joy is contagious. When Emmett's issues overwhelm me, it's Violet who reminds me that overall, life is pretty great. There's magic to be had in a piece of string or sidewalk chalk and chores like grocery shopping are Big Adventures. These are all things that I wish for you and Sylvia.

Tom said...

This post was beautiful sis.

Love you bunches,

Julia said...

Lovely, lovely post, and very thought-provoking. It'll be so interesting to see how your relationship with Sylvie complements and augments your relationship with Connor, and vice versa.

Wherever HE Leads We'll Go said...

What a beautiful post! It brought a tear to my eye! You really know how to get to the heart of an issue and your ability to share that on your blog is a wonderful blessing to me!

One Mom said...

Beautiful. Just beautiful.

Which aprons did you choose?

xraevision said...

Thank you for sharing your very provoking thoughts. I recognized some of my own considerations in your examples, as I often wonder what it would be like to have a child different from mine. It's hard for me to imagine now not having a deaf son, and every week, I am surprised by my friend's 13 month old daughter's vocalizations; she's naturally making sounds that my 2 and 1/2 year old X has yet to attempt. In our travels to various therapies, I have encountered so many parents of children with different kinds of issues, and whereas I think before I had my own special child, I would have felt sorry for them, now I understand that most of these parents are special too. It's amazing how I've grown into parenting my own child and how blessed I am to have the opportunity to overcome my own limits. Thanks for reminding me!

Sylvie will certainly be a very lucky girl to have you as her mom, especially if she has that Velcroed veggie set. It's a long standing favorite toy at our house and I highly recommend it!

Kristina said...

What a lovely post.

I know you are still learning about Sylvie, but I wanted to put it in the back of your mind that quite a few parents in a yahoo group I belong to for parents of children with cochlear implants adopted deaf children that were older and did get them CIs. Just in case you ever want to think about it or want people to talk to about their experiences, you could stop by and put up a post and I'm sure you'll get a lot of information from the group. There is a website you can review if you are interested prior to joining the group:

Sylvie is a really lucky girl!

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