Monday, December 27, 2010

The kids are alright.

A week ago we finally got around to watch The Kids are Alright. It was a movie we wanted to see because of the topic, and because we read that it was handled in an intelligent manner. The kids are indeed alright, but the poor souls have really whacked out bio parents. The premise of the movie is a lesbian couple who each have a child by the same sperm donor, whom they had not met. When the daughter is 18, her 15 year old brother talks her into contacting their bio father. Initially the sister is not interested but relents. What started as a situation that was seemingly headed in the right direction turned into a horrible mess for the people involved.

The movie was surprisingly funny, even though I could have done without the whole messy are you now straight part, or the cheating. We agreed that the movie should have a subtitle The Kids are Alright (but the parents are REALLY f*cked up). The women are so messed up they named their son Laser. Who the heck names their child Laser? We are always interested in how non traditional families handle sensitive topics. We both grew up in non traditional ways, then decided to top our upbringing by creating an even more complicated family dynamic. And that is quite an accomplishment when you combine our backgrounds. :)

We have heard on many occasions people spouting how they could not have a child unless it is "their own." That deep need to have a biological tie to a child. YAWN. One thing the movie drove home to us is how neither one of us could ever considered such a setup. When there is a bio parent out there that is known, the probability of your life being upended increases exponentially. In a particularly (to us) funny part Nic, the uptight, control freak, snob, highly intelligent, physician mother almost chokes on her food when she realizes the guy who was studying International Relations in college dropped out. Uh, uh, her kids had half stupid genes. Worse, he works "in the food service industry." Actually he owned a seemingly successful restaurant. Like I said, she is a snob. That is the lesson on putting so much emphasis on DNA and what you seem to think you know about your artificially inseminated offspring's parent. Our fly by the seat of our pants parenting is clearly influenced by our complete lack of interest about SS's genetic makeup.

What we do know is more important, there is a very minimal likelihood of a bio parent gate crashing our lives and blindsiding us. We are in control of when and how our daughter seeks her roots. That is so much more important than boasting what we think we know. And although the daughter, Joni, was eighteen, legally an adult and able to search for her donor, she was clearly unprepared emotionally. I should know, I had a child at that age, but I would not consider myself mature then. So there on our screen was one of our biggest fears, an interloper screwing with our family. It was quite sobering.*

Another interesting aspect was how these accomplished, intelligent and obviously very caring women had obviously not talked to their kids about the donor. Something along the lines of... "how about a heads up when you feel the need to know about the other half of your genetic makeup?" Like many parents they frequently repeated the "you know you can tell me anything" mantra. But like many parents what it really meant was "you know you can tell me anything as long as it is what I want to hear." And while many people think it is overkill, it is why we talk about China, about the SWI and how we waited to bring SS home, in age appropriate language. As SS gets older we will discuss with her more details about her story. Because at 15 or 18 years old it is not the time to figure out how we feel about her birth parents, or the circumstances that brought us the greatest gift we have ever received.

A poignant scene between Nic and Jules resulted in a late night talk. Nic is being a condescending b*tch insinuating that she must carry the financial load alone, while her wife, Jules, stayed home. Jules challenges Nic's history revision and points out that the nannies were never good enough, the jobs she had were not good enough. She did an amazing job of holding a mirror up to her wife by telling her that she used the stay at home with my kids excuse as a form of control. That led to a 3:00 a.m. talk for us. One thing I will always give P is that he is able to talk about the dark parts of his soul (at least with me) most of us would never share . Whether it is his now freakishly humorous dislike for infants and bratty children in general, to admitting that he has been selfish at times.

P felt ashamed that he saw himself in Nic, he expressed his guilt about "pushing" me to stay home. Anyone that knows me is aware that I pretty much do what I feel I need to do, even when it is to my own detriment. I made up my mind at age 7 that I was going to have a Chinese daughter and I made it happen. OK, P and the Chinese government helped me a heck of a lot. But no one was going to get in the way of my dream (other than the abrupt halt in International adoption). Another instance where my utter lack of interest in DNA has been a blessing. I was very surprised that P felt such guilt. He expressed that he might have sabotaged my efforts to return to work. Nah, unless he was responsible for my diverticulatis, surgery and G0d awful recovery, nope, don't think so.

But he is right about the control, and not control over me. When we decided to adopt we knew that we would be giving up a lot of control. To this day P does not know how I survived the process, because unlike him, I am openly a control freak. My view of the situation is that P's surprising needs and decisions regarding SS began on Family Day. When he saw SS, when he realized how much was out of his control and the consequences, he decided to take control. P could not do a darn thing about those almost 16 months, but he sure as hell was going to be in control from that day on. Somehow that need to protect SS manifested itself into his lack of trust of anyone else as a caretaker.

And that is where his guilt comes from, misguided guilt, but such a sweet gesture. I do not deny that if I could return to my former job and salary tomorrow I would jump at the opportunity, dump SS at school full time and never look back. I am also grateful for each and every moment I have spent with SS. So what if she can't pronounce properly because she is imitating my speech? At least we have fun being unintelligible together.

It was both sweet and funny to hear P describe himself as a shrew. But I am glad he was able to open up and discuss how he felt. By the time he left for work two hours later we had both cleared the air. Guilt weights a heck of a lot, and this time, it was an unnecessary burden. I think we should stick to comedies from now on.

*On the other hand, if we determine that SS has the emotional maturity to seek her biological parents before age 18, we would do everything we can to make it happen.

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