Remember when I told you all she could say was "k!"? In the past couple of weeks, Nat's been just an explosion of babbling. "Gah! Gah! Bwah! Bah!" she says, "Da! Bwah! Kah!"
The other day, I was on the phone with Aunt Nancy and in relating some meaningless middle part of a story, I said "you know, blah, blah, blah..." And Nat, who was sitting across from me tearing down my block towers looked up and shouted "Blah! Blah! Blah!" which made Aunt Nancy laugh all the way through from the other side of the phone.
For the past week, Nat's been sometimes going "Uhd!" when I pick her up. I wasn't entirely sure this was not an attempt to say "up" which I often say as I pick her up. But I wasn't entirely sure it was, either.
Today, the social worker came for our home study update. We were all sitting around the dining room table with Nat in my lap. Gatsby, my cat, stepped around from behind the social worker's chair, and Nat flapped her arms excitedly, broke out in a huge grin in Gatsby's direction and declared "Cah!"
So I put "cat" down for her first word.* She has said "cah!" before when the cats were around, but it wasn't until today that I was really sure she knew what she was talking about. Today, there was no doubt.
Generally, she seems to have made the conceptual breakthrough that the sounds we make have direct connections to the concrete world. Over dinner, I held up her water cup and said "cup." "Uh-K!" she said, in a kind of inverted version of the word. She was really excited that she knew the sound and the cup went together. Now when I stand over her saying "mamamamama" she really studies me hard and tries with all her might. It comes out closer to "ba" than "ma" but she is trying to put her lips together for the "m" sound and she's getting close.
So any day now, I expect she'll be ready to deliver the Democrats' response to the State of the Union address. Look for her soon on C-Span.
* Upon hearing this, Aunt Nancy insists "Hey! 'blah' is a word!" So let the record show that "cat" is entered under protest.
Poor Julie's post on her anxieties about adoption got quite a bit of flack in the blogosphere, as did the comments of several of her readers.
First off, I want to make it clear, that I understand where Julie is coming from and I was not a bit offended by her funny Ward and June comparison chart. Every domestic adopter I've talked to has felt the same way about doubting they could ever be picked by a pregnant woman looking to place her baby for adoption. Before Nat came, I wondered the same thing. I spent a lot of time calculating what kind of woman would ever want to choose Cole and me.
But since Nat came home, I don't worry about that at all any more. What I worry about now is making sure a potential birthmother doesn't pick us if we're the wrong family for her.
I have been working on profile number two for this next adoption and rather than fretting about presenting ourselves well so as to impress and attract any birthmother, as I probably--if somewhat unwittingly--did with our first profile, I fret about making sure the letter is as clear and informative as possible about who we truly are. I think about what I'd need to know about the strangers I would give Nat to, and I try to make sure it's in this letter.
I feel very differently about this letter than I did the last. I am not, for instance, going to give you all a pdf link to it like I did the first time around, because now that feels sort of like a betrayal of a potential birth mother's privacy. If this is really a letter to her, then it shouldn't be public like that. I read our old letter and wince at how shallow it sounds.
I didn't intend to be shallow the first time around, I just didn't know any birth mothers back then, and now that I know Mama Rose and have read some birth mother blogs, a "PR"-type "Dear Birthmother" letter just feels disrespectful of the profundity of the decision process a woman in a crisis pregnancy is going through.
Like a lot of agencies and programs, ours offers guidelines for these profiles that, when followed, seem to produce such formulaic results that it is nearly impossible to tell them apart. With so little to go on, it's no wonder adoption workers often tell anecdotes about birth mothers choosing families based on the dress someone is wearing in a picture, or the fact that the family vacationed in a place she always wanted to go or that they had a white cat or a two-story house or various other seemingly trivial details. There's not that much of substance to go on. Browse the profiles on the internet, imagine choosing one to give your baby to and you'll see what I mean. If you did give your baby to one of them, you have my deepest admiration. I can't imagine how you could even decide who to meet and interview based on those two- or three-page sales pitches.
So if you are "thinking about adoption" and worried about the process of putting yourself on the line to "get picked" just remember that birth mothers have the even harder job of picking. And it isn't a contest, it's a match. Be yourself and you will attract the right birth mother. Hire a consultant and your karma will get you in the end.
After all, we are a geeky-freaky, socialist, butch-femme lesbian couple (one atheist, one liturgical junky) who live in the middle of nowhere and we got Nat.
ok, so - i must ask - why do you think there's a strong likelihood that nat will grow up straight?
is it because of the 10% rule or do you have other opinions? just being nosy over here.
and though I answered her via email with "10% rule" I felt the question deserved a longer answer, considering some of the stuff I've read on this very topic.
I recently read Dan Savage's* new one, The Commitment in which he tells the cynically humorous, yet somehow also warm and sweet tale of how he and Terry decided to elope to Canada and then throw a big party to celebrate their 10th anniversary.
Really great read, blah blah blah...
But one thing bugged me. He kept going on about how DJ (The Kid) is most certainly straight. Now, DJ was six years old at the time of writing, but Dan went on and on about how DJ is obviously straight because he likes heavy metal music and can throw a football really well.
This dismayed me for a couple of reasons. First of all, gee thanks, Dan, queer teenaged heavy metal fans and football players across America will undoubtedly feel really empowered to embrace themselves and come out now, given your reinforcement of simplistic stereotypes that fuel high school bullies the world over.
Second, hello, DJ is SIX years old. His sexuality has a good long way to go before before it's sorted out, I'd say. But then, I think sexuality shifts throughout people's lives, whereas "it's in the DNA" seems to be a religious belief of Dan's and this "I can tell my six year-old is obviously straight" thing is part of the creed. It is true that some people felt they "knew" something concrete about their sexuality as young as six, or even younger, but that is not everyone's experience. It wasn't mine, for example. And even for those who "knew" at three, it was they who knew, not their parents. In short, I think Dan should leave this one up to DJ, and while I'm sure that's the message he's giving DJ (judging by a few tender scenes in which he discusses it with DJ), it's not the message of the book, given the silly football comments.
Third, when I was waiting for Nat I read this really helpful and interesting book called Families Like Mine by Abigail Garner. In it, she interviews and shares the stories of a number of adult children of same-sex families.
One of the things she talks about is how, ironically, it can be harder for the children of glbt's to come out to their parents when they realize they are queer themselves. The reason for this is that so many same-sex parents are counting on the heterosexuality of their children to prove that they are good parents whose families are healthy and "normal." Gay parents point to the fact that their children are not statistically more likely to be gay than straight parents' children as a good thing. Their children get the message that being gay will disappoint their parents or prove their family a failure.
Now that's what I consider "internalized homophobia." God forbid Nat should think it would disappoint us if she grows up to be queer in any way at all. We certainly will not raise her to feel that we have a stake in her sexuality, only to know that we support her taking charge of it and being healthy and happy.
But, all that said, there's a roughly 90% chance (more or less, depending on who you talk to) that Nat will be 90% straight. So we certainly have to prepare her to be a strong woman who knows she deserves a good man who treats her with dignity and kindness. And that's one way in which the men in her life now are useful. We have no doubt that a girl could learn to have high standards in a male partner from her lesbian moms and her own personal experiences, but Uncles and Godfathers and Grandfathers will no doubt give her a nice example to keep in mind if and when she's man-shopping in the future.
*Disclaimer: Dan Savage is something of an arch-nemesis to me, as he is sort of what I want to be when I grow up, except more politically radical and more female. So I straight-up confess my anxiety of influence.
I get Rob Brezny's weekly horoscopes via email. Sometimes, if Cole's says "buy your partner flowers this week, she deserves it!" I clip and send her hers. If mine says "you need a lot of extra sleep this week" I do the same with mine.
But what I most often get a laugh-aloud kick from, is reading Nat's. Horoscopes not written for babies, applied to babies, can be very amusing.
See? Here's Nat's for this week:
PISCES (Feb. 19-March 20): You've entered the most shadowy and
enigmatic phase of your astrological cycle, which is why I think you're
about to have a lot of interesting fun. You should look forward to your
travels in the abyss with exuberant anticipation. Here are some guidelines
to help you get the most out of the coming days. (1) Do the things that
are hardest to do, but do them gladly and with grace, as if they were a
great privilege. (2) Stay in intimate connection with your dark side, but
don't let that turn into an endorsement of your dark side's fantasies. (3)
Brainstorm about how to disarm and neutralize your adversaries without
On the "L Word" (um, "L" is for "loyalty," okay? That's the only reason I watch it!), they have introduced the concept of the "manny," which as far as I can tell, is a sort of indie-rock-metrosexual version of Uncle David.
In the case of the fictional Bette and Tina, there was a need for a "male role model" in their daughter's life to please the social worker facilitating (or not, it remains to be seen) their second-parent adoption. But the topic of opposite-sex adults in the life of a child with two same-sex parents recently came up on a glbt parent listserv I'm on, too.
I watched with interest as various memebers of the list extolled godfathers/mothers or accused people who wanted them of internalized homophobia for thinking their families were incomplete without the other gender parent.
After watching the debate for a few days, I finally decided to say something about our circumstances. This is roughly what I said:
Before our daughter arrived, I didn't give too much thought to the question of men in her life, beyond assuming there would be some, if anyone looking in from the outside cared (like social workers, etc.). But now that she's here, I find I am really grateful for the men in her life. It turns out that not only does she have a fabulous couple of wonderful godfathers (the church kind) who live at some distance from our family, but she has a special man in her daily life (Uncle David) we never planned.
Now that I have this concrete daughter, and now that I worry about her in traditional parent fashion, I am so glad she has this example of a man in relation to a child and a man in relation to women. There is a strong likelihood that she will grow up to be straight, and when she starts looking around for partners, I want her to know innately that a man can and should be competent, nurturing, respectful and kind to women and children. It's not an image readily available in the media.
This is one aspect of opposite-sex relationships for children that never occurred to me before I was a parent. But hopefully, if our daughter grows up to be straight, she'll automatically look for a partner who treats her like her Uncle David, her Uncle Dan, her Godfather Wayne and Godfather Davis, my father (her Granddaddy) and the other good men in her life.
It's true that our family of three--two moms and one baby--is a "complete" family, but as far as I'm concerned, more is always better when it comes to people who love our child (well, and us, most of the time). Bring on the birth family members, the grandparents, aunts, uncles, godparents and "mannies" say I.
Being an "older parent" gets a lot of negative press. It's one of those subjects that people seem to feel has an obvious moral value based on "common sense." I'm sure there are indeed some down sides to being over 35 (or even over 45) when your first baby arrives, but you have heard them all repeatedly in mainstream media from the New York Times to letters to the editor of People magazine, right?
I want to extoll the benefits of being an older parent.
1. Having children for me, was an afterthought. I had decided first in my babylusty 20's and then in my coming-out early 30's to have and then to not have them. I had settled quite happily on not having them and changing my mind was a matter of happy surprise. The effect of this approach to children, for me, has been an attitude most often of gratitude and enjoyment rather than resentment of how hard parenting is. I didn't "have to" do it. No one particularly expected me to, including me. I did it for fun and it has been 99% fun.
2. Cole is at a very high and stable point in her career. Becoming a mother at her age will not take the kind of toll on her career or lifetime earning potential that it typically takes on of a professional woman in the U.S.
3. Cole's career position also frees us financially so that we can have me at home, making up a new freelance career as I go along, with little profits for a while. If I wanted to, I could get a full-time OTH job with pay that just breaks even with high quality childcare expenses, but I don't want to, right now anyway. Cole's age makes this an option for us. If we were both just out of grad school struggling to make ends meet, get jobs and then tenure somewhere? Life would be far less relaxed.
4. We have both been through enough major life changes at this point that we know who we are and have stable identities that are not easily threatened by the role shift of becoming parents. The change in role, lifestyle and identity is more of an adventure for our core selves than a scary upheaval of who we thought we were.
5. We have wiped enough snotty noses, bandaged enough skinned knees and rolled our eyes at enough tantrums of other people's children by now that we aren't all that freaked out as these things happen to Nat for the first time. We have enough confidence in our wisdom about life that we feel comfortably competent as parents most of the time.
6. Two or three years of sleeplessness and even 18-21 years of whatever daily energy and stress kids will require just doesn't seem like a very long time anymore. It seems like a fair investment for the possible (though not guaranteed) return of a good relationship with adult children and maybe even their children, etc. Having this longer view of things takes day-to-day anxiety out of parenting in many ways.
Now I realize that plenty of older parents are totally immature and incompetent and plenty of 21 year-old moms of three are brilliant and easy-going, happy, healthy moms. But these are some of the beneifts we associate generally, with our age. So if you too qualify as "older" (I believe the OB's these days consider anything over 35 to be "advanced maternal age") take pride!
I got a letterfromMr.I. recently. In it, he explained that throughout Ramadan and on the feast of Eid, he had been in solitary confinement (what he said the prisoners really do call "the hole") and was still there, due to...prison overcrowding.
Yeah. He gets a punishment treatment that is pretty well known to make people psychotic, not because he is violent (far from) uncooperative (he is the most respectful person I've ever met, even to people who do nothing to deserve respect) but because the prison where he is supposed to settle down and spend the next thirty years is full. And they have moved him three times (looking for that permanent place) in eight weeks and every time they do, they simply take him from his cell and put him on a bus. He can bring nothing with him and so he loses my contact information, all the photos and letters I've sent him, (or anyone else has sent him). I guess prisoners don't have "property."
Cruel and unusual anyone?
I bring this up today, because it's MLK day. I want to remind everyone that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was also regarded as a threat to national security. He was spied on by the government, red-baited (communists being the "terrorist" class of the 50's and 60's), wire-tapped, etc. etc. Like I said before, we here in the U.S. have a way of jailing the people who turn out later to be our heroes. Then, well after they're dead and gone, we apologize and venerate them.
To read some of the dangerous things MLK said in his time, please visit Terrance. And if you're really feeling like giving Dr. King his due with your time and mind and heart today, read The Letter from Birmingham Jail which is a favorite of mine.
(The theme will be nonfiction books enjoyed at grad schools I have known.)
Sexism and Godtalk by Rosemary Radford Reuther Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality by John Boswell Playing in the Dark Toni Morrison Imperial Leather Ann McClintock Gender Trouble Judith Butler Love the Sin Jakobsen and Pellegrini A People's History of the United States of America Howard Zinn
(Not so much favorites as some I like a lot)
Bill and Ted's Big Adventure
The Incredibly True Story of Two Girls in Love
Daughters of the Dust
Swimming to Cambodia
The Star Wars Trilogy (the real one)
I Just Can't Stop:
(Some good, some bad, some ugly!)
Compelling others to read and write
Eating Velveeta dip
Dancing when the B-52's come on
Whining about this town
Things to Do Before I Die:
Watch my kid(s?) grow up, find partners and have kids of their own unless something fabulously rewarding that isn't that strikes them as a better idea in which case watching them accomplish that instead
Spend the next 50 years at least with Cole
Live abroad again
Live in a city again
Learn to play the guitar and take up piano again
Learn to speak Spanish
Travel pretty much everywhere
Things that Attract Me to Blogging
The internet is a place where social introverts can reign as rock stars
There are so many cool people and good writers I'd never meet in a zillion years otherwise
Instant feedback on my writing
An excuse to practice writing often
The labyrinth of blogrolls and links that lead endlessly into the wee smalls
An opportunity to show off my baby
An easy way to keep friends and family up to date
Things I Say Most Often
How's my girl?
Hey, baby girl!
Um... (Cole and I say this to each other when we have nothing to say, but want each other's attention anyway)
I am so tired!
My back is killing me!
We have the world's cutest baby!
Who wants tea?
Seven Impractical Things That Would be Really Cool Anyway
Horseback riding lessons
Owning a horse
Spending the academic year in one place and the summers in another
Living with most of my best friends in the same house
A hot tub
Global socialism--in which everyone gets not just health insurance, food and what all, but a horse, two homes and a hot tub--power to the people, baby!
Some days? Running away and joining a convent of radical hippy nuns
(Do you sense the central conflict of my life there, or what?)
So anyway, I'll not tag seven people, but take it and run, if you like!