Saturday, January 19, 2008

Our Daughters, Ourselves

We've made some educated guesses, but that's all they are. We still don't really know our new daughter.

I know V. eats almost everything, and she likes it when I throw her onto the couch like a sack of potatoes. She wants what she wants when she wants it. She screams until she turns red if she doesn't get it. She really likes Adinah, and she's become very attached to Anette. But is that love? I don't know.

I could list another dozen things that we know about her--another round of attributes--but to say, for example, that she's talkative (in her jibber-jabber way) is really only to say that she's heard how gabby Anette, Adinah and I am, and she's imitating us, adapting herself to us. "V. likes to laugh," but I only know that because I'm tickling her and snatching at her toes and letting her bounce up and down on my chest until she giggles herself into a frenzy. Such is the mirror game of parenthood. Does any Dad ever really know who his kids are?

Then again, within the greater sport of parenthood, and within this house in particular, V. is unique. (I suspect she's getting the short end of the stick, but that's another story.) By the time we met her, she was a year old, and living with her second mommy. It's tempting to fill in the time we missed with all sorts of terrible stuff. Actually, we know that V. was mistreated. But because we don't know exactly what happened, we project. I imagine that anything which V. has experienced has affected her, formed her, or even hardened her. Maybe that's why she's so "tough," or why she's been hitting other little kids, and us too.

But that's speculation. A lot of kids smack each other around, just as a way of saying, 'Hello.' (I do hope V. won't be a biter--blood is such a bitch to wash out of pajamas.)

It could be just as likely that, after living her first year in uncertainty, V. is guarded, and hesitant about asserting her real self.

Okay, yes, she's fifteen months old--it's not like I'm expecting her to suddenly turn to me and say, "You know, actually, my favorite Beatle was Ringo." But I am waiting for that moment when I can recognize something elemental in her. I believe in nature, nurture, and humans who are born with (almost) everything they need to become who they are.

I want to see who V. is, and who she's always been.

Until then, I guess I'll just have to be satisfied knowing she really, Really likes vanilla pudding.


Elizabeth said...

That's a tough one.... The obvious answer, which you obviously know, is time. But I find, with my adopted kids I do wonder if certain things I don't get about them are because they were in an orphanage, or if their bio mom would understand such-and-such about them better than I do. Whereas with my bio kids, when I see things I don't get about them, I just shrug and say to myself, ' what the fuck is that about?' and go on with my day.

pat said...

Ha! Yes...what the fuck? But with our adopted and foster kids, it's harder to have that sort of instinctive answer (and panache). You're always beset by these shadow wonderings.....

more cowbell said...

Hmm, interesting. My kids are all bio-kids, all 3 have the same nature, same nurture, yet are wildly different. I've been dealing with some thing lately with 2 of them -- 1 in particular of a more serious bent -- and I wonder, I have questions, about things I don't get. It seems the adoption thing would just an another layer of questions for parents ... another layer that may have nothing to do with anything, or everything to do with everything. I wonder now, if my dad ever wondered those things? (I am half-adopted, my dad, when my sis and I were 4 & 2. It's not something I really think about, until I"m reminded, but now I wonder if he wondered those things? Hmm.) Anyway, interesting post.

Sometimes I feel like parents really aren't in charge at all ... we're just along for the ride.

pat said...

Good question: did our parents navel gaze like we (well, some of us) do? Dunno.
And I do think parents are in charge, but not always when they think they are and not in the way that they imagine.