Marcel has been in rare quotable fashion lately:
Last week, I came back up the stairs from the driveway at 6:55 am, already late for an early appointment. A lab appointment that required a twelve hour fast (read: no coffee) looked at Shrek, and announced with defeat; “My battery is dead, again. Can you please help me?”
Without skipping a beat, Marcel jumps off the couch, throws his arms over his head and in rah-rah fashion and hollers; “Yes! Yes Shrek buddy! This is your time to SHINE!”
You have never seen two people smiling so big, while jumping a battery at 7:00 in the morning.
“Mom do you really think yelling at me to stop yelling is an effective parenting strategy?”
On blended families:
“Well sometimes I find myself shaking, wondering, do I really KNOW Shrek? I mean, how do I know if what I am feeling is what you really are supposed to feel about your dad?”
“The only thing we can ever be perfect at really, is being yourself.”
It was date night extraordinaire. Everyone woke up excited about it. There were no sitters involved, and Shrek and I won’t even see each other for days. Now that I have your attention, I’ll share with you how this harmonic convergence came about, and perhaps inspire you to shake it up a little at your house too?
Date Night 1: Marcel and Sage For Marcel’s birthday, his fairy godmothers (one of my birth coaches and her girlfriend) asked me what he would like. In my continuing quest for simplicity, and less plastic I suggested they offer Marcel a special night out with just them. The plan: dinner out, then bowling (Marcel’s choice) and Marcel’s first sleep over away from Sammy and me ever! We are meeting up for breakfast at their house this morning.
He almost NEVER gets one on one time with my friends, while Sammy enjoyed such things often before and after Marcel was born. The experience of being seen, treasured, and adored by a loving member of our extended (biological or chosen) family is always memorable. I still hold my walks, dinners, and visits alone with my “Uncle” Richard (the first such weekend alone was for my twelfth birthday in his NYC apartment-incredible) as some of the most cherished memories of my life.
At those moments I was not a daughter, meeting or not meeting parental expectations, instead I was Kate, and she was magnificent. Because that is always how Richard made me feel. He asked the kinds of questions parents would never imagine, like this exchange when I was around eleven that I will never forget; “So you like boys yet? No? Good. Boys your age are not nearly ready for a smart alec like you.” It took me thirty-five more years to realize he was right. Uncle Dick passed shortly Marcel was born, but he remains constant in my musings. I still have his number in my phone. He’d think that is ridiculous. That’s why I can’t delete it.
Date Night #2: Sammy and Mommy. Our date fell in my lap in the form of two great (and free) tickets to see the Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain. He plays the Ukelele at home, has taken himself busking (with impressive results) and is now in a uke club at his school. Prior to the show he requested sushi at a place in town that includes an acrobatic display of juggling knives and onions drenched in oil that erupt in flames inches from your face.
At one point I said; “crazy to think that without Marcel or Shrek this would be what our life would look like all the time.” We both indulged in that fantasy for a second and our eyes got big. Then Sam said; “Well I really know how much Marcel loves me, and that feels good. He had to come up and give me another hug goodbye. He is mostly a good thing.” I melted, and reminded Sam that we are all mostly a good thing. I shared how much I know Shrek would love the show we are about to see, and yet, I was really happy he was where he was too.
For me the real gift of alone time with Sam, is to realize that it takes a different kind of focus to be on on one. You take the i-phone and the flames away and you have two people who are very different in a zillion ways. Our glue: we made each other a family, and that is something we really know at the core. That is ours forever. The kid is funny, and we really laughed, a lot. After the show, which was wildly entertaining for both of us (talk about arrival) although so starkly white compared to say, BB King the week before, Sam said; “Mom that was cool. Really cool.” Then he just hugged me in the middle of the street. Ka-ching.
Date Night #3: Shrek and the Fellars. Shrek is taking off tonight on a retreat of sorts that involves old friends, new friends, and listening to and making music. He has not had the opportunity to spend extended time with these particular friends probably since before meeting us. I am thrilled for his adventure, and also a little sad that I don’t get to spend all the long weekend lazy easiness with him. But rather than get my pout on and shut down (oh yes I do, and how) I chose a nobler route. I made an explicit ask that we spend some uninterrupted family time with real intention around the “fun” and “together” part from Sunday to Monday. He was all over that. We have a sweet ritual of hiding goofy cards somewhere for the other to find when apart. OK, so sometimes one of us thinks they need to remind the other not to forget this ritual, but hey you get your needs met right? He left before the rest of us, and was slightly giddy.
The text at about midnight saying he began missing me at 6:29 (the minute before he left) was one of those melty moments for me. The texts following telling me how great the gathering already was, and how much music he was playing also thrilled me. We have had some rough patches lately, so a week ago the thought of him leaving was upsetting because I was wondering when we’d have time to land back on solid ground. Solid ground, I am coming to understand is a state of mind. And, one we can share apart as well as together.
All of this reminds me that I have so much healing still to do around being left, and that moments like this do just that: affirm that in his leaving, he is actually closer to me in ways. His connection to me, and to us deepens when he can see his whole self realized in the context of his new family too. Ka-ching. Hopefully for Marcel, his overnight will strengthen a little of his independence and at the same time see how his connection to all of us is internal too. Sam? Well he is snoring on the couch a few feet from me as happy as can be!
The family has just arrived home from a whirlwind trip to Delaware to visit and celebrate various birthdays with my side of the family. We drove over 1,000 miles between Thursday night and this yesterday morning. Well, Shrek did the lion’s share there, and I book ended the trip. Driving that many miles amounted to saving that many dollars and then some in airfare. By driving through the night the boys were able to sleep allowing for minimal management and discomfort, not to mention the almost total absence of negotiations involved since they were asleep. Marcel slept for almost eleven hours strait, waking only once when we stopped for a break. Sammy watched the Empire State from the Tappan Zee and then fell back into his book for half an hour before crashing again.
Of course Shrek takes a big hit physically the next day, but bounces back with a little TLC. He kept telling me he was cranky. I was thinking to myself, “if this is your best cranky, we’re in good shape.” Having a day to recover is something we always do after a trip, never taking “vacation” to the last possible day. Writing this post helps me to ground in my home self again. Blogging always balances me somehow. It becomes a conduit for my own arrival in ways.
It has been lovely to notice, two years after we started dating how genuinely Shrek has become woven into the fabric of the larger family. He takes on the cooking of a dinner, or the interception of the pass at the family football game with ease, and something akin to grace even! What I witnessed more than anything on this trip, was how much he saw me within the larger family portrait. By “seeing” I mean seeing all of me within the family dynamic, and really knowing how to support, joke with, listen to and be with me and not to hover on the margins looking in.
Of course this is also about my showing him and them how integral to our happiness he is- with the easy hug here, or the cozy up on next to him at the bench while we are all at the beach. Marcel tossed the “my daddy” phrase out there as easy as he kicked his cousin’s football across the field over and over again. A ten hour car trip completed with ease is clearly another indication that we have deepened in our seeing ourselves as a family unit, and not as two adults and two kids making the best of it. There is an ocean of difference there. We have paddled some seriously rough waters to get here. Both of us taking our little dinghy in circles over and over again insisting our paddle was going the right way… On land for the moment anyway, we are digging the view from year two.
Speaking of accomplishments, I have a new piece published in Adoptive Families Magazine this month. I’m very pleased with the piece, an opinion piece titled; “Certificate of Live Birth and Parentage” where I weigh in on the question of what a birth certificate really should say. The link just went live last night, so feel free to be the first to chime in, and get the conversation going. I very much appreciated my exchange with the editor about this piece, and felt like the magazine is working hard to represent a broader range of voices in the triad. There are moments when my experience as both an adoptive and biological parent offer me a lens that seem to complement each other, and this is definitely one of them.
Like Sammy on his unicycle above balance is by no means a given, but an elusive goal that requires practice, practice, and more practice. In my relationship, parenting, transracial mind evolving, and part time working for starters I am feeling as if getting a few solid rotations moving forward before the wheel goes flying out from under me, is indeed an accomplishment. I’ll see if I can get Sam to volunteer a few lines on mastering the unicycle in less than two weeks to inspire all of us to keep on keeping on. In the meantime, hold on to something, or someone steady as you launch, and have a great week.
Six years ago I was approaching a place that was something like discomfort laced with pure terror. Having gained nearly EIGHTY POUNDS during my pregnancy and facing the reality of becoming a single mother for the second time was nothing short of paralyzing at times.
But thanks entirely to the continuous support of my amazing village, here we are six years later about as steady as the canoe can be-packed full on for her daily journey up river.
I have been struck with a crazy wave of nostalgia as this birthday approaches. Saying goodbye to five seems to really be rocking my little heart. I feel desperate this week to recall milestone moments, which are nothing but bubbles that burst just as I reach them.
OK, I have to stop subjecting all of us to this parade of crazy haired shots that get me every time. I just don’t remember soaking in how incredibly amazing this child was at this moment. Yes, I was massively sleep deprived, working full time, and dealing with parenting 101, 201, 301, 401, simultaneously. So much of it I feel I just survived. Survived well enough, as this blog testifies to for the most part, but now on the other side, I wonder how much of it I missed?
Well instead of fighting it, I am just going to let myself feel the grief and land in it. Then like him, perhaps I’ll be able to launch into this new year with all of the joy, magic, and adventure it holds.
Just as I was about to push “publish” Marcel came in the kitchen to ask me what rhetorical means.
And, we’re off.
One of the most remarkable things I have noticed about my shift to part time so far, is that a Sunday has become truly a day of rest. For the past eight or so years, Sunday was anything but restful for me. Sunday was the day to get everything accomplished: the laundry, the house cleaning, the groceries, the bills, the return calls, and emails, the to do lists, the arrangements for help the following week, the fall clothes out and ready, the summer clothes packed or given away. Sunday was when my Monday obligations would crawl up into my spine as soon as I stopped working on my Sunday ones. Sunday was often sewn with guilty thread around the edges for the time I wasn’t spending at play with the boys.
Now that I do not go into work on Monday, I have this day to write, and tend, and connect, and take care of what else I need to. It allows Sunday’s potential to spread her arms upward to the sky and be whatever we want her to. Yesterday that looked like almost eight hours at the skatepark, a picnic, coaching Marcel’s soccer team, cooking a delicious dinner, and an early night to bed. My sense is that this is wildly close to what I dreamed a Sunday could like with my family.
I am working part time this year.
It was a very brave choice on many levels.
This is me riding the boys to school last Friday, because I can.
I’ll be doing that again tomorrow, weather permitting.
Why I made the decision, the creative ways we came up with to finance the undertaking, and what I am learning about myself in the process will be forthcoming here.
Quote of the week relating to this dramatic shift came from a friend of a friend; “Catherine you wear part time beautifully. It really suits you.”