Paying for the Privilege

Questions my six-year-old son has been asked at the barbershop:

“You’re not scared of a little water, are you?”

“You need to be a man.  Are you a man or a little boy?”

“You have a girlfriend yet?  Come on, you must have a girlfriend … ”

I take my son to a barbershop because he is not particular about his hair, he just wants it out of his eyes.  He has been to three local barber shops and every time he’s gotten his hair cut, he’s also been draped in machismo bullshit.

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I’m not having it anymore.

The ten dollars I save every six weeks is no longer worth my son’s discomfort.  I’m speaking with my dollar.  I’m voting with my money.

I’m paying his way out from under a detrimental influence.

I’m paying for the privilege to go elsewhere.

I’m paying for that privilege.

I’m privileged.

Ah.

It dawns on me that escape is easy.  My stylist (Mike at Salon Helmet) is skilled and professional.  He also possesses a progressive attitude and gentle nature, so from now on I’m taking my son to him for a haircut.  He’s the kind of person I want influencing my children and because I have privilege, I don’t have to just want it, I can pay for it.

There.  I’ve fixed my problem.

Now it’s your problem.

Ah.

Someone else’s problem.  There’s that privilege again.

I can’t very well leave it at that, can I?  I can’t just make my son’s world a better place.  I will not just cut and run. (Literally.)  I will strive to make your son’s world a better place too.  I’m going to contact these shops and lift up the drape.  Enough is enough and not just for some, but for every son.

Mercy

It was one of those days, you know?

I couldn’t face one more meal denied before it even made it on the dish.

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Not one more afternoon of shuttling, scuffling, entertaining and refereeing.

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Not another Friday before another weekend with nothing to do but stare slack-jawed at all the eyes, ears and bodies attached to my own.

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Then my son looked at my t-shirt and said

“Oh Momma! I really like how your shirt says “MERÇI”!”

Bless that sweet bilingual child because in that moment he reminded me of who I am and of all that I am capable.

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There is never a day when I don’t have more to give because of who I’m giving it to

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but a little merçi sure feels good.

For All The Marbles

First it was a small marble, an average one really, but clearly new as it bore no chips or scuffs.  My six-year-old brought it home and showed it off proudly.

The marbles kept coming, one every day, each found and each new.  When I asked of their origins my son was coy, cagey even, a curious posture from my usually forthcoming child.

Then one afternoon he pulled a Jumbo out of his backpack – a marble so big and sparkling it looked like the whole world.  This was no lost object; this was precious.  Still though, he insisted he found it on the playground.  Suspicions sufficiently raised, I pressed him as delicately as I could.  Where on the playground? “In a corner.”  The same corner, everyday? “Yes” There’s a new marble waiting for you in the same place at the same time in your playground?  “Um, yeah.”

Someone was baiting my child.  Somebody – a pervert obviously – was going to the playground every day and planting a new marble there and then watching my child find it.  Someone was planning to hurt my son.

I began formulating a plan to lurk at the playground the next morning.  I checked my phone see if I could set up a video.  Or what about our old baby monitor – I think I still have that.  I could set that up and catch the fucker from around corner.  Who would watch my daughter?  Could someone take her tomorrow morning?  Or should I just call the police now?

My friend, whose son was also “finding” marbles, was a step ahead of me and discovered what never crossed my mind: our boys had taken the marbles from their classroom.  Ah, yes, okay.  So NOT an elaborate kidnapping scheme concocted and currently being executed by a neighborhood pedophile.  Got it.

I handled the truth discreetly and with care, and my son and I moved on.

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This was my first experience with a child’s intentional wrongdoing and my instinct was to believe him and then shield him, no matter the suspension of reality required. I was pleased with this self-discovery because I come from a world where children are up to no good and not be trusted.  But I don’t live there anymore and that’s not where I parent.  My world is big and sparkling, with something precious to discover in every corner.

Adopting Salvation: Tim

I found my birth parents this summer.  Adopting Salvation is our story in three parts.

Part 3

Tim I heard from first.  Tim I spoke with first.  When I opened the door to finding my birth parents I was the definition of vulnerable; my whole self lay exposed.  When Tim stepped through that door without hesitation, I knew I was safe.  My birth father said yes and showed me it was going to be okay.

He also showed me pictures of himself so more fun could be had:

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Tim also showed me pictures of his family and that’s when I learned I was the eldest of his four children.  Technically.  Genetically.  It was a shock to see a large, happy, cohesive family that had nothing to do with me.  Honestly.  The feelings are difficult to articulate so I won’t try again, instead I’ll share what I wrote to him:

“I have no expectations and appreciate what is here and now.  I cannot imagine the position you were in 46 years ago and I do not feel angry about decisions made.  Well, a sting of rejection perhaps but nothing more and I assure you, nothing lasting.  I cannot miss what I never had.  I am grateful I had the chance to live, for look at me now!”

You would not believe how often and how deeply I have relied upon the “fake it ’til you make it” tactic throughout this process.  Transparent or not, Tim never hesitated to answer my questions and in that way he emboldened me to ask more.  As the layers slowly peeled away, he made it so I didn’t have to fake it, and isn’t that parenthood?  In addition, each of his children, my half-siblings, have reached out to me on their own and welcomed me to whatever lies ahead.  That level of acceptance, openness and kindness seems to me a direct reflection upon Tim and their mother and I have been blessed by their efforts.  That is trickle-down parenting at its best and in this case, most bizarre.

Tim and his family live far away but it is my greatest hope that I will see him one day.  I believe it will happen.  Tim has never laid eyes on me, never held me and I don’t think either of us wants to end the same way we began.

So until we meet, I say thank you, Tim.  You made me safe by saying yes when you didn’t have to say anything at all.  Everything is going to be okay.

I have had the best possible outcome of something long wished for.  Thank you to Annette, Linda, Tim, my four siblings and to everyone who wrote me and commented with notes of encouragement and care.  I lived this story while parenting my two small children during the summer of 2016 so I lived it quietly.  I wrote this story for my two small children so that one day they will know all the branches of their tree and the roots that hold them strong.  Finally I thank my husband who, when asked to step back and follow my lead, said yes, setting me free.

Part 1: Adopting Salvation
Part 2: Adopting Salvation: Linda

Adopting Salvation: Linda

I found my birth parents this summer.  Adopting Salvation is our story in three parts.

Part 2

When I told my Confidential Intermediary that I was born in 1970 she said, “Oh, that’s good!  Most of those women are pissed off.”  (If you ever need a Michigan CI and hate minced words, Annette is your girl.)  In other words, in her experience, those women are more open to contact; they still feel short-changed by their lack of choice after all these years.

When Annette found my birth mother and first spoke with her, she said she “wept with relief”.  To date, this is my only unselfish act during this entire process; offering the relief of knowing I was okay.  Annette sent her my information and a request to release hers.  She said yes.  Within a week I had her name, Linda, and 30 seconds later I had a face, courtesy of Google.

And that’s when something unexpected happened; that’s when the fun began.

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It’s fun to see so much of yourself in someone else.

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It’s especially fun to see yourselves at the same age, while also appearing to be in the same bar, wearing the same jewelry, drinking the same drink and living the same I-am-up-to-no-good-and-loving-it life.

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What’s really fun is discovering that when you look this similar, age doesn’t even matter.

Similar, familiar, comfortable.

Similarity came through old photos, while familiarity came through e-mails and texts and phone calls.  Linda spoke of herself with confidence and clarity; she was deliberate with her words and generous with her history and as she spoke I thought

that sounds like something I would say.

Comfort came in the gift of a lifetime when Linda and her husband John came all the way from Michigan to meet me here in Montreal.  She renewed her passport, drove fourteen hours and came to a city she had never seen to meet someone she had met only once, and then just barely.

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Not only was meeting Linda like looking in an actual mirror, there was an ease in our togetherness.  It was emotional without being devastating; joyful without being delirious.  Or maybe that’s just our personalities — but that’s just it isn’t it? — our personalities.  We were comfortable during arguably one of the most significant moments of our lives.  I am grateful for that, for the ease of our togetherness.

What does it feel like to be wanted?  To be important to someone else?  We assume we all start off that way but to hear it and feel it when we are capable of understanding it, that is a gift.  Outside of respecting my boundaries – if I actually had any – there was nothing that would stop Linda from meeting me, from telling me, from holding me.  And as she opened herself up to the child she gave birth to, I thought

this feels like something I would do.

Thank you Linda.  You could have been anyone, said or done anything, but you gave me exactly what I was hoping for.  I’ll always be grateful to you.

Part 1: Adopting Salvation
Part 3: Adopting Salvation: Tim

Adopting Salvation

I found my birth parents this summer.  Adopting Salvation is our story in three parts.

Part 1

I was born in June, 1970 in Detroit, Michigan and placed for adoption.  My parents took me in one month later and formally adopted me that October.

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My family

I’ve always known I was adopted but never gave much thought to finding my birth parents until I lost my first pregnancies.  In 2007, desperate for an explanation, I started the search so I could learn my medical history.

The Confidential Intermediary I hired via the court system asked me to release my full name, address and other personal information.  “This will act as a sign of good faith,” she said.  I said no.  “Them first.” I said.  She said no (this was a legal issue).  I had very young nephews at the time who shared part of my last name.  I was uncomfortable.

“What if they are convicted pedophiles, rapists, murderers?!?”

“They’re not,” she replied, adding – and I’ll never forget this – “They’re you.”

Of course they might very well have been deviant creeps but her point was clear – was I a deviant creep?  Well then being cut from the same cloth, they likely weren’t either.  Take a chance.

I said no.

Instead I received what the courts would allow; something called “Non-Identifying Information”.  I discovered that at my birth my mother was 22 and single, had brown eyes and a fair complexion with a “sprinkle of freckles”.  She enjoyed basketball and baseball and was “described as warm and friendly”.  At birth she gave me the first name of Linda.  My father was 19, also fair with brown eyes, was Irish, Scotch and French and “described as intelligent and friendly”.  He was aware of the pregnancy and voluntarily agreed to the adoption.

Safe and pleasant information.  I held it in my arms and then filed it away.  “A” for adoption.

This spring, nine years later, staring 46 in the face, the thought of finding my birth parents resurfaced.  At my age, (and theirs) I could feel doors closing and it seemed very foolish to let them shut.  Two healthy children later, it was not so much medical history I craved but a curiosity to be satisfied: where did these dimples come from, the same ones that kiss my children’s cheeks?  How is it possible I have no grey hair?  Who am I to thank for my low blood pressure and curse for my size 11 feet?

But most importantly, what if they’re gone and I’ve missed the chance?

I contacted the court.  I filed new paperwork.  I said yes to finding my birth family and almost instantly learned new things about myself; I was an eldest child, an older sister and even a cautionary tale.  New doesn’t come around as often anymore so I chose to embrace it.  I said yes, held the door open and waited for them to walk through.

Part 2: Adopting Salvation: Linda
Part 3: Adopting Salvation: Tim

10 Years

One night my husband dreamed he graduated from college and President Obama handed him his diploma.  That same night I dreamed Kim Kardashian and I were best friends.

We’re different, my husband and I.

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Today we had a fight in an ongoing battle.  In order to stop the fight he said he should just quit the thing he loves, the battle thing.  But quitting didn’t sound like a good idea.  It never does except for sometimes and then it sounds fantastic.  Like every-Tuesday-and-Thursday-evenings-and-every-other-weekend-to-myself fantastic.

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Marriage can be challenging.

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In addition to fights and differences, I know I do not give my husband enough.  I give everything to my children and hope my husband loves me for it or through it or in spite of it.  It’s like what that guy on Reddit said:

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(In case you’re on your phone and lost your new reading glasses:

“I love my kids. But there’s nobody I love more than my wife.  Why you ask?  Because my kids one day will grow up, start a family and leave us.  But my wife will always be by my side.  But you have to know and accept it won’t be the same for your wife.”)

Maybe you shouldn’t believe everything that an acquaintance of a stranger on the internet says but hey, you’re here now aren’t you?  And that doesn’t make it any less true.

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I pressed the wrong button in a Photo Booth once.  OR DID I?

A while ago we went on a family bike ride.  In the midst of it I looked at the back of my husband and thought, “I wonder where he and I will tour first?  Will it be Italy or the south of France?”  Not if, not when, but where.  That implies certainty and that is what I have to give.  Is it enough?

Fifteen years ago I pulled the future father of my children into my bed and stayed there until he proposed.  Ten years ago I married him in Montreal.  Even then I knew I wasn’t marrying my best friend but I did marry someone better – my complement.  We are different, my husband and I, but we are balanced.  Everything I am not, he is and and everything he is not, I am and on this single thing if nothing else, we agree.  It has made for a wonderful life, easy in practical ways and satisfying in most others.

As to thelizardkind76 of Reddit and his advice, I don’t know if my husband will ever forgive me for becoming a mother in the way that shortchanged his wife, but I hope he finds acceptance by the time we get to Italy.

Crab

My family and I just returned from a gorgeous trip to Cape Cod where we laughed with friends and kissed the salt off our honey-skinned children.

One early morning I snuck outside to see what low tide left behind.  I quickly happened upon a mother and her tiny child doing the same.  The girl was adorable, all diaper and pixie-dust, both shiny and soft.  The beach was covered in fiddler crabs and she was pointing out every one them, asking her momma, “Cab? Cab Momma?”  Her mother answered her patiently and even matched her daughter’s excitement when one crab would somehow distinguish itself from another, something only a two-year-old can see.  I commented on how sweet her daughter’s voice sounded and just how cute she was (I could not help myself) and the mother replied, “Oh she’s great when she’s not being an asshole.”  And I laughed.  Oh how I laughed, and not just politely.  I can only imagine the sleep that mother did not sleep, the coffee she’d yet to drink, the vacation she was not having.  I laughed as she showed me a tiny, adorable crab with a helluva pinch.

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Later in our trip I passed by a father holding his toddler’s hand outside a restaurant as the child teetered-tottered back and forth, overall-ed in seersucker, pacified in plastic.  It was a scene devoid of clouds and ire yet when I passed I heard the dad scowl, “Come on already!  I know you’re doing that on purpose.”  And I nodded.  Right.  The end of a long day ending in a long line.  The ache in the arm that never lets go.  The pace you’ve met until there’s no grace left.  Morning sand in your dinner crotch.  You’ll get no dirty look from me, Dad.  Godspeed until bedtime.

Had you been in my hotel room Sunday morning you would have witnessed a similar scene: me and my three-year-old nestled in bed, covered in sweaty curls, recent freckles and each other.  She wakes, immediately demanding, “MOMMA!  Is today the day we’re going to New Hamster?!?”  New Hamster is what she calls New Hampshire.  I mean, so cute, right?  It is only when I respond, “The fuck?  Farrah. What?  FUCK.” that you notice the clock reads 5:51 and coincidentally, not for the first time this trip.  You might then forgive me.  You might understand.

But kids are perfect, right?  They are pure of intent.  I cannot fault my child for being excited to start the day and even this I pray – long may she want to start it with me.  I just want it to start later.

Children are manifest ethusiasm, every word and deed comes from their core.  It is we who must ebb and flow with that great tide.  Sometimes I am full and ready to be sailed upon but sometimes I am a just a crab with sand in her crotch.

Happy end of summer to you, get those salt-licks in while you can.

Pillow Talk

Last night I dreamt I couldn’t sleep.  That’s what you call a good news/bad news scenario.  This is what crawled through my subconsciousness:

I was in my same bed, lying next to the same man, struggling to fall asleep.  Hours dragged on; I tossed blankets, kicked cats, repeated the Lord’s prayer – the usual thing.  As the sun rose, so did my dread of starting the day on empty.  When the light entered my room I caught movement outside the window.  I sat up and discovered a family of bears playing in the morning dew, just outside my bedroom window.  Renewed – happy even – I rushed downstairs to get my camera.  Hand-over-hand I dusted the shelf where my camera should be, finally landing on my zoom lens.  I pulled it down only to discover it snapped in half, rendered blind.  I suddenly heard children playing outside – had the day started?  Frantic, I grabbed the next lens I could find, connected it to the camera and returned upstairs.  Quick vs. quiet.  The bears had been replaced by a family of foxes, all in profile, motionless.  I couldn’t believe my luck!  I pointed the camera on a kit but the lens wouldn’t focus, the shutter wouldn’t even click.  “I am losing this moment deargodwhywon’tanythingwork!”  I look down at the camera and see that it’s not even mine.  It’s not my camera.  It’s weirdly white and on the screen it reads “TWIST” as if that’s a normal camera setting.  I look back at the foxes holding their position and I realize they’re motionless for a reason.  I step to the side and see the biggest coyote I have ever seen, (and I’ve never seen a coyote so … Wile E. Coyote).  What was the window in my bedroom has become the outdoors itself and there is no longer anything between me and it.  Instinct tells me I’m an easier target than a baby fox, so I run.  I find a cabin, bolt through the door, turn around and brace it with my feet.

I wake up.  I realize I am in my same bed lying next to the same man but there’s no coyote.  I was dreaming.  I was sleeping.  Sweet relief, I had slept after all!  But now I am awake.  I woke myself to reassure myself I had slept.  Goddamnit.  Now I have to start all over again.

I first heard this quote on Six Feet Under, long before I had kids:

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Now that I have children I wish it was just my heart because I feel like my entire nervous system is outside of my body, day and night.  Outside I’m like, “Yeah, I got two kids now and he’s already six and she’s three so yeah, I got this.  I know this.”  But then my head hits the pillow and I realize, “HOW DID YOU EVEN DO THAT?  DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT COULD HAVE HAPPENED?  LET’S MAKE A LIST.” And then I play the day’s film: the traffic we biked in, the food they could have choked on, the slippery bathroom floor, swim class, all the chances I took.  This is motherhood, right?  Yes, they now sleep through the night but I’ll never really sleep again.  And if I am lucky enough to fall asleep my dreams are peppered with fear.

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With my heart and nervous system outside of my body, two giggling conspirators hand-in-hand, I feel tingly all the time.  The exposure, vulnerability and unrelenting hyper-vigilence requires a sort of amplified consciousness; I now exist on another plane (and I can’t sleep there either).  It’s neither higher nor lower, it’s just deeper, but that’s made all the difference.  Parenting, not so coincidentally, reminds me so much of labor and birth; I’ve never felt more capable yet terrified, but also never more exquisitely awake.

Sleep on that, Dear Readers, if you can.  I’ll be up if you want to talk.

Sharpening Tool

It started when I found myself applying the “sharpening” tool to all my photos.  I assumed my lens was broken.  All three of my lenses must be broken because all my photos were blurry.

Then I could no longer color, but no matter, that was just a silly hobby.  I set it aside.

The magnifying mirror on my make-up vanity?  That was for precision.

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What does it take to finally take care of yourself?

Your kid.  My kid.  My six-year-old got a splinter in his heel and I couldn’t get it out.  I couldn’t get it out because I couldn’t see it.  I couldn’t see it because I needed reading glasses.  I didn’t own reading glasses because I couldn’t be bothered.

I couldn’t be bothered with seeing.

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It wasn’t vanity that put me off buying glasses for so long, though admittedly dependence played a factor, it just wasn’t important enough.  I often find that if it doesn’t benefit my children, it doesn’t get done.  Are you the same way?

Now I look like this sometimes.

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Jesus approved.

When my kids needs their fingernails clipped or legos separated or dollhouse furniture glued I look like this.  My son said to me laughing, “Momma, you don’t look like a Momma!” the last time I wore my glasses.  I wonder what he meant.  I was too busy loosening his swim goggles to ask.

Looking back (way, way back, there, that’s good) it seems crazy that I delayed improving my vision.  Where would I be without my kids?  No really, where?  I CAN’T READ THAT MAP.  They make me a better person in so many ways but I never thought they would literally let me see the light.

Now, about my hearing …

 

 

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