Saturday, January 26, 2013

I just wanna parent like it's 1985

I miss the 80's. Not just Duran Duran and John Hughes movies, but the way things were back then. The attitude of it all, ya know? When I was a kid, it was perfectly acceptable to walk around the neighborhood knocking on your friends' doors until you found someone to play with. Then you would wander off together to the local playground, or ride your bikes to the grocery store to stock up on candy and rubber bracelets. If it was wintertime, you would spend the afternoon in an empty parking lot (I grew up across the street from an elementary school) sledding down the monstrous hills left behind by snow plows. Life was just so, so... carefree! Now it seems like every minute of my childrens' days must be planned, executed and heavily supervised. We tried to invite a neighborhood boy over to play a while back and his mom was all upset, accusing him of trying to go someplace uninvited (she only heard his end of the phone conversation). Oops, I thought to myself. I regularly send my child to her house to ring their doorbell hoping he'll find some more productive way to spend his time other than torturing his younger brother or playing endless rounds of Uno. When the friend did come to our house, mom and dad dropped him off and picked him up. He lives up the street. Am I the only mom who allows my six year old to ride his bike around the neighborhood alone? Mind you, I do not let him cross any streets (we live on a court at the end of a long street with courts on the opposite side - so his "block" is actually quite extensive). But still. Everyone else seems so much more overprotective than us. These other parents were all children of the 80's. They all survived childhoods in station wagons with no car seats (and rarely a seat belt), bike riding with no helmet and sledding directly into the street. Okay, so I make my kids wear helmets. They fall down a lot. And I appreciate the fact that things are generally safer now. But I firmly believe that we have gone overboard in our overprotectiveness. I work with teenagers who have no idea how to make safe, independent choices, and I worry about how they are going to survive out there in a world full of hurty things. I want my boys to be able to navigate the world on their own. But I am a parent in 2013 and my views are not exactly popular. What's a mom to do?

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The three year old philosophizes on life and death

I worry. A lot. When we decided to adopt I worried about what our child(ren) would ask in regards to their multi-parent existence. And how exactly I was going to deal with it. I read all the books, magazines and blogs, dutifully taking in the most appropriate responses that would have the least psychological damage. Then we adopted Paul. Who never asks any difficult questions. Seriously. Recently I have tried to bring up the subject of his adoption, and he pretty much blows me off. He has two moms (technically three if you count his foster mom). Big deal. He was a super cute baby. We have the photo album to prove it. He loves to hear us talk about his first weeks home with us. But that's about it. No queries as to where he came from, what his life in Korea was like, what his birth mother thinks about, nothing. Phew, I thought. This adoptive parenting stuff is a piece of cake. And then came John. John has THE MOST INQUISITIVE PERSONALITY EVER. We have been in the "Why" stage for about 18 months now. I often joke that I expressed concern at John's first few checkups because he wasn't saying much and I thought he might need speech therapy. He was simply taking it all in before verbally exploding. Anyone who has ever ridden in the car with John knows that I am not exaggerating. He asks questions about EVERYTHING, so I am not surprised when he had a million questions about his grandfather's death. Mostly they involved where Pop-pop was and when we were going to see him again. "How do we get to Heaven?" he asked. Oof. He became especially confused when we arrived at the cemetery and were carrying my father-in-law's cremated body in a box. Honestly, how do you explain to a three year old that our soul goes up to Heaven while our body remains on earth to be buried forever? As we were walking down the windy corridor of the mausoleum, John sweetly asked, "Is this Heaven?" And today he wanted to know when the men would open the wall and take Pop-pop out of the box. Hmmm....
But my favorite story from the week of dad's funeral was not about death, but life. On our way home from my sister-in-law's house minus our eldest, John was cuddling with his pillow in the back seat. The pillow was made by his birth mother and it is John's comfort object. He asked me if his tummy mommy (that's what we call her) grew it in her tummy and I said no, just him. Here is the conversation that followed:
John: "How did I get out of her tummy?" pause "Did I come out her mouth?"
Me: suppressing laughter, "Um..." looking at husband and deciding to just be totally up front, "No honey. You came out of her vagina."
John: after a beat of silence, "But how did I get out of China?"
Hysterical laughter from the front seat. How do we respond to that? Thankfully at that moment we drove over a small bridge.
John: "Look mommy! A bridge."
I love my kid.