Thursday, June 19, 2014

On Parenting and Being an Adult

Roo's birthday is coming up in a few weeks. I'm not sure where the last five years went but she's starting kindergarten in the fall and she has already started reading chapter books and is generally much smarter than any five-year-old has any right to be. She is my favorite.

That Roo has the parents she does feels like a gift to me. The more I get to know people the more I realize that P an M aren't just excellent parents. They are exceptional human beings. The world could use more people like them. I look up to them in so many ways and I hope that if I ever grow up, I end up being their kind of person. The only downside I can see to Roo being their daughter is that children so rarely appreciate their parents. I hope that Roo is the exception and that as she gets older she realizes how amazing her parents are and how blessed she is to be their daughter. I hope that as she gets older she knows that I wouldn't have placed her with just anyone, and that in fact I couldn't possibly have placed her with anyone on earth but P and M - not for a second.

I have never worried even once about whether Roo is happy and healthy and loved. She has such a good life and such a good family. I used to wonder if, as Roo got older, I would wish I had parented her but the opposite is true. The older she gets, the more I love my choice and the less I care what anyone else thinks of it. Things people might say that used to offend me just make me laugh now. I wish that I were this certain of every decision I've ever made in my life!

But even though I don't regret my choice, I do still wonder sometimes what life would be like for me and Roo if I had parented her. I don't consider things too deeply because I can't wrap my mind around custody arrangements and child support and I honestly don't know where I would be living or working right now. But I do think, if I had parented, I would have an almost-five-year-old now. I would have registered her for kindergarten. How scary is that? I don't have a clue how any of that works. How do you know you've found a good school? A good teacher? How do you prepare a child to go from preschool to kindergarten?

I'll confess to ignorance in pretty much the entire realm of childcare at this point. I have no idea how much a child is supposed to eat or how much sleep they should get every night. I don't know when naps stop. I don't know what you're supposed to teach them and when. How much TV is too much? Do kids still get chicken pox? So many questions.

I know that most people don't know any of these things when they have a baby. They just figure it out as they go along, which is kind of a terrifying thought, isn't it? All these people who haven't a clue what they're doing are raising children, and those children are going to be adults someday whether they're raised right or not. It sounds like a terrible idea. Who came up with this? Somehow it works and enough of us make it to adulthood (relatively unscathed) to keep the world going. I'll never understand it.

P and M seem to have the whole parenting thing figured out. They're not perfect but I think they do a better job of it than anyone else I know (although I will admit to a slight bias in their favor). I think it's because they were ready for parenthood when their firstborn was placed with them. They were absolutely ready to be parents. They were prepared. They stay calm. They make rational decisions. They are adults.

This is, I think, my problem with the idea of me registering a child for kindergarten. I don't feel like enough of a responsible adult to be trusted with that kind of decision. I know myself. I do stupid things more often than I remember to eat and I make bad decisions almost exclusively. I had to have help picking a health insurance plan and I don't actually understand any of it. I once ate half a can of chocolate frosting in a single sitting. My mother could make a list entitled Ridiculous Reasons My Daughter Has Phoned Me and the Equally Ridiculous Questions That Followed. (I once left her a voicemail that went something like, "Hi Mom, this is Jill, your youngest child. I think I poisoned myself. Will you call me back when you get a minute? No rush.") I will make it through an entire day off work without remembering that I'm supposed to eat regularly. Last year I bought a t-shirt with a pattern of unicorns on it and I wear it to work (also, ask me about my whale shirt).

The idea that I am a both a registered voter and a government employee should terrify you. I am thirty years old but make no mistake, I am not an adult.

I used to bristle at the idea that as a birth mom, I chose adoption because I wasn't ready to be a parent. "I was ready!" was my battle cry. I thought that I proved it by parenting Roo for nine weeks. I think I even blogged about the not-ready-for-parenting school of thought, because I remember writing the phrase "I was absolutely ready to be a mother."

But what I've come to realize in the past little while is that, no, I absolutely was not. I wanted to be a mother. I wanted it desperately. But that doesn't mean I was ready. Looking back I can see that. And what's more, I still don't think I'm ready.

I want to repeat that because when I realized it, it hit me with great force. I am not ready to have a child. I'm 30. When I'm in a quiet room I can't hear my heartbeat because my biological clock is ticking too loudly. I am jealous of pregnant women I see. My insides feel all squishy when I see babies. My mind is blank of every thought but one: I want one of those! Babies are awesome and at my age, when I see one I am biochemically predisposed to want one of my own.

But that's not enough. What on earth would I do with one? For the most part I'm no better off than I was five years ago. I make a lot of the same stupid choices and I have some of the same bad habits and I am an absolute child about things for the most part. The biggest difference between the Jill who placed Roo and the Jill who is typing this is that the latter is five years older and needs a haircut.

I don't want to discount any personal growth I might have done. I am a slightly better person right now. But I don't think I'm any better prepared to be a mother.

I already know I'm going to get comments from mothers telling me, "Nobody is ever really prepared for parenthood. Nobody is ever really ready." People are going to tell me that you figure it out as you go along, that you get ready as you parent. People are going to point out that plenty of people who aren't ready to be parents still have kids and make a decent go of it. And I believe all of that.

But believe me when I say that if I met an amazing man tomorrow and we fell in love and got married, I would think long and hard before having a child right away. I have more issues than Newsweek. I know I'm not ready to be anyone's mother. And isn't this the perfect time to figure that out, now, while I'm not anyone's mother?

I wasn't ready for Roo and I'm still not. I am so, so grateful that her parents were ready, and still are. I couldn't have placed Roo with just anyone. I love her too much for that. I could only have placed her with them and I'm so glad I did!

I think there will come a time, maybe a few years from now, when I stop panicking every time a bill comes in the mail, when I do my taxes before April 15th, when I give up napping under my desk at work, when my therapist no longer calls because he's worried about me ... there will come a time when I unironically describe myself as an adult, when I will see babies and think not only of how much I want one but of how much I have to offer to one as a mother. It's going to be a good day.

I'm just not there yet.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I love your blog so very much!