With the little bit of time this season– this odd season of slowing down but commercial madness, the time the season allows a working mom, I am slowly unpacking all that has been jammed in over the past many weeks– both emotions-wise and activity-wise.
Until a week ago, I had been working at a fevered pitch– too-long hours again. Things never slowed until the Friday before Christmas day. In much of November and the first 2/3 of December I was leaving at office often at 9:00 p.m. or 10:00 p.m. Some nights I walked out at 8:00. Twice I managed to pick my daughter up at the end of aftercare and the couple of days I left at 5:30 felt like a full day’s vacation. I missed my daughter’s school “Peace Concert” which I had never missed before. I hadn’t gotten around to reading the school email update that announced it.
The legislation I have worked on since I walked into my office the first week of February, passed on December 18. I am deeply satisfied with the work I have done and with what I have learned in this job over the course of almost a year. I found skills, endurance, speed and political savvy I didn’t know I had– or didn’t have previously.
But I am still often sad with the hours and days that keep passing when I am not home after school or home to supervise homework or free to drive my daughter to Hebrew school. I miss the kinds of talks that happen in the car, especially in winter, when it gets dark early. I am sad about the volleyball games I missed which will never be seen again. I miss talking about my daughter’s day with her while it is still fresh. I know she misses me.
Thursday, December 13 was the start of the next phase of our expanding family. We left the house at 7:15 a.m., took my daughter up the block to our neighbor/ one of our closest friends for them to feed her breakfast and bring her to school. Then my partner and I got in the car and drove north two hours on the main highway, the main artery here where we live– to meet– my daughter’s sister’s mother. The sister she has not met yet and we have not met yet. We met at a rest stop– this one a very nice, clean newish rest stop with a Starbucks. Until that day the mom and I had emailed but never spoken. She made contact with us and we did a lot of sharing and all our planning by email. We decided that the adults should meet first before planning a meeting for the children.
We spoke to one another for the very first time when we were ten minutes drive from our meeting place. She called on my cell phone (we had exchanged phone numbers before this trip)– saying she was there already asking if she could order coffee for us.
She laughed and I laughed– warmly– happily– when we heard each other’s voices on that call. We had broken the barrier of the abstraction of virtual communication with live voices on two ends of one phone call. When we arrived exactly ten minutes later, we couldn’t find her at first and then found her– in line waiting for our three coffees to be delivered by the barista. We hugged each other– all three of us and she cried hard and I cried too. I like all that in a woman– her open laugh when we heard each other’s voices and her tears and hug when we met.
We gathered our coffees and found the most private place we could. She took us in when we sat down and she said, “We’re family, we’re family.” I agree and am glad she that she is the kind of woman for whom that is a given fact– not a question.
We sat next to a window, and it was a gloriously sunny, warm winter day. We, all three, took each other in and we took out our photos and talked for an hour and a half. Our daughters, these two sisters, look a lot alike– both brown-skinned with pitch dark beautiful expressive eyes, both with very dark, brown hair and wide, round faces. Their own faces, but faces very much alike.
We talked about deep things–and we talked honestly. We talked about the things parents often don’t share easily– what we worry about, what we most want for our children in the biggest sense– in terms of connection, now and in their lives forever–after we, their parents are gone. We talked about the adults and other young people in our worlds who are the deepest connections for our daughters. We talked about our daughters as Latinas and as Jews and about identity and what we have figured out about giving them a sense of place in their worlds. We talked about our own real experiences and what is hard and what we have loved about being a single parent (she) and a lesbian couple (we).
We did not talk about the kinds of things that parents sometimes talk about–things that matter too– but that can easily slide into a conversation driven by competition or insecurity. We didn’t talk about our daughters’ grades or ease or lack thereof in school; we didn’t really talk about their activities. I have no idea if my daughter’s sister is a swimmer or piano player or the best singer in a choir or whether is in the girl scouts or loves animals or likes princess clothes.
At home at night, talking this over with my daughter, things were not so sunny. When my daughter found out about her brother, she was nothing but smiles, and when we told her– several weeks earlier that her sister’s mom was ready for them to meet, she was thrilled. But when we came home from that first meeting, sadness welled up. Losses welled up. She cried that her brother and sister don’t live with her and she cried that we have not added another child to our family– that what she wants is a sibling here at home.
I thought about the losses of adoption in ways I have not thought in a little while. I feel grateful to have had chances to do a lot of the emotional work that leaves me grounded and not insecure about any of her expressions of loss. Much of the time I can listen and not argue with any feeling she has. I can understand that feelings of loss have nothing to do with the unfailing permanence of her love and attachment to us.
Some parents whose children came to them by adoption think, “it was meant to be, it could have been no other way than that this child became my child”. I don’t think I think that way. I don’t think that any child was meant to be left by birth family, or to be raised in another country or culture. I do think that even though harsh circumstance shapes our lives– all of our lives, that good can and often does come. It is nothing but good that we three are family– and it is nothing but good that her younger brother and younger sister are with their respective families.
She is fully and undeniably my daughter, my partner’s daughter. It’s mine and my partner’s to help her through rough waters and I feel a sense of great happiness that I know she knows that. We are hers forever and she is ours forever and that is indisputable. Whatever twists and turns brought her to us, she is ours and we are hers and that is that.