Whole and Half Adoption: My Thoughts

I read all of your comments on my last post with great interest. Thank you, very much, for your insight and compassion into a contentious topic.

I wanted to first clear up what I consider to be poor writing on my part, for which I apologize. I was trying to be all vague and mysterious about where we live and it ended up coming across as just…muddled. Tammy will be listed on our child’s birth certificate as her other parent, and we will be given a temporary custody order until the adoption is processed, some six months after the birth. If we were never planning to go anywhere for the rest of our child’s life, this would be enough, legally, to ensure that both of us would be treated as our daughter’s legal parents. However, because there are many places in the United States that would not automatically assign Tammy parental rights (if not outright ban them), we have to go through with the adoption to protect our family in those states.

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Please note that everything that follows is a collection of my personal opinions, colored by interactions and discussions with friends and family members. I am not adopted myself, so I do not have first hand experience. If I offend anyone with what I say, please know that it is not my intent to do so, and be kind to me in explaining why you feel as you do.

Adoption is not a black and white issue for me. I, personally, do not like it when people (many Catholic and Evangelical groups, for instance) paint it as The Solution to an unwanted pregnancy (as opposed to abortion). I also do not think it is fair to say it’s always a Bad Thing, like my friend, and some in the adoption rights community say it is. It’s like life: complicated, and with trade offs (life is complicated you say? How shocking).

Encouraging biological family members to stay together is much more complicated than just providing free prenatal care, as some “crisis pregnancy centers” imply. (Gentle hint STRONG SUGGESTION: do not EVER go to a crisis pregnancy center. They are con artists.) You cannot have a discussion about adoption without discussing sex education for children and teens, education in general, access to contraception and abortion, the roles of religion and culture, social services to support lower socio-economic status women and children, social stigmas of welfare queens and teen moms, “anchor babies”, the role of biological fathers, cycles of poverty, the foster care industry, the for profit adoption industry, international adoption, parental rights, pregnant women’s rights, the “personhood” movement, and on and on. All of these things are, in my opinion, intrinsically linked. But phew! Who has time to discuss all that? And what legislation could possibly address all these things in a meaningful way?

In a perfect world, there would be no unwanted babies, and there would be no families who wanted babies but couldn’t have them. Obviously, this is not a perfect world (again, it’s truly shocking). I think we should do what we can to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies, and assist in achieving pregnancy for those that desire it, but we have to acknowledge that there will never be a perfect balance.

So what to do about those babies that, for whatever reason, are being placed for adoption? If a family member is willing to take them, I think they should be given first dibs. If a family member is not readily available, I do not believe they should be coerced into taking in a child they cannot adequately care for.

If no family member is available or appropriate, then I think a child should be placed for adoption to the greater community, in whatever form the birth mother (and father, if applicable) are comfortable with: open, semi-open, closed, etc.

Ideally, a child will have access to a basic medical history of both sides of his or her family (obviously, this is not always possible or practical). I do not think that adoption records should be destroyed, unless the birth mother specifically requests, after a certain period of time, that they be. If an adopted child wants to have contact upon reaching adulthood with their biological family, a court appointed independent third party should be assigned as a liaison to coordinate that contact, i.e. contacting the birth parents and asking their consent to provide the offspring with their name(s) and contact information. If the birth parent(s) do not want to provide contact, then the process stops there.

That may seem harsh to children desperately searching for information about their genetic history. I do not, however, believe that we are entitled, as a human right, to extensive genetic information. I also do not believe that once a child is born, their right to know trump the right to privacy of the person who gestated them.

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As far as my own child goes, we did a lot of thinking, obviously, about the role of biology, nature/nurture, the role of fathers, gambling with genetics, and fate before we settled on our donors. All three of our donors were chosen from a pool of willing to be known (WTBK) men, rather than the totally anonymous men.

We do have basic medical information about the donor, as well as some family medical history. We have a short recording of his voice, and pictures of him as a baby, a child, and an adult. We have the option of signing up with the donor sibling registry (DSR) to find other children created in part by the same donor.

We chose not to go with an anonymous donor because we do feel that genetics and biology are important, but to what degree we do not know. And we don’t know how important our child will view them. As the lovely blogger over at Bionic Mamas says:

“The biggest reason we chose a willing-to-be-known donor is that we wanted to be able to say to the Bean that even before he was a bean, we were thinking of him as his own person, whose thoughts and desires might well be different from our own.”

Isn’t that fabulous? You should go read the whole post. Also follow the blog.

Do I resent the fact that Tammy and I cannot combine our genes to create a child? Yes. Selfishly, deep down in my reptilian heart, I’m damn angry that we cannot have a child that is created out of our deep love for each other. I’m angry that our child will not look like both of us. I’m angry that all of the little quirks that combine to make Tammy the lovable, exasperating, funny, and gloriously wonderful human being she is will not be reflected in our child.

I also resent the fact that some people (again, like my friend in the adoption rights community) will consider the donor our daughter’s father. Parenting is so much more than providing DNA. It’s more than giving birth. And I resent the hell out of the idea that there are some people who will always consider a one time DNA donation a permanent admittance card to the parenting club.

But I cannot afford to go too far down that road my friends, because that way bitterness lies.

And a child is more than the sum of their genetic parts. Genes do absolutely play an important role, but how can that role be quantified against all the daily mundane slog and earth shattering crisis that make up a life lived?

In the end, our child will be her own person. She may turn out different from how she would have if she were raised by a biological mother and a father. But we make millions of conscious and unconscious choices in our lifetime that change who we are and who we could become. There are also things that we have no control over that influence the sum of our parts.

Ultimately, Tammy and I are just one of them, for better or for worse.

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Adoption by Another Mother

Tammy will have to adopt her daughter.

We live in an area that allows gay adoption (similar to straight adoption but more fabulous), but because there are so many shitty parts of this country that do not allow gay couples to adopt and we can’t risk being in such a place if/when an emergency happens, we have to spend thousands of dollars on a lawyer to draw up the necessary paperwork, spend a couple of months in limbo, go before a judge, be deemed fit, and then go back to living our lives exactly as they were before, but more…legal.

Insert jazz hands. Legalistic jazz hands.

I’m torn about the whole thing, to be honest. Part of me is insulted that gay couples have to go through this. If a straight couple has to use a third-party to reproduce (i.e. donor gametes), they don’t have to go through all this once they finally achieve their longed for pregnancy. It’s automatically assumed that whatever the mother gives birth to is automatically genetically related to the couple that is assumed to have created it.

But on the other hand, I’m certainly not gambling with my child. Our family will not be the test case family. Sorry. Too precious, too scary. Too much to lose.

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While we’re on the general subject of adoption, can I throw a few (virtual) thoughts at you? Keep in mind that my thoughts are colored by my own interactions with people who were adopted or gave up a child for adoption, and my future experience of what we lovingly refer to as a half adopted child.

I have three cousins that were adopted. One of my adopted cousins has passed away so I have no way of knowing what he would have wanted to do, but the other two had different reactions to wanting to find out about their roots. One has reconnected with her birth mother (with the support of her adoptive parents), has gone to visit her and they are friends on Facebook. My other cousin started to investigate his birth parents (again, with the support of his adoptive parents) but after not much effort decided to stop looking. There could definitely be more to his story (maybe he found out something he didn’t want to know? Maybe he got overwhelmed?) but for now, he’s just living with the information he has. Neither of my living adopted cousins wish they had stayed with their birth families, or that they hadn’t been adopted.

My SIL gave up a child because she got pregnant as a teenager, and her family shamed her into it. That’s the long and short of the situation. She recently found the girl online.  My SIL wrote her a letter asking to meet up with her, but the girl, now a woman, declined, for reasons unknown to me.

I also have a friend who is adopted, and I’ve had a lot of long talks with him recently about his experience. It’s a long and complicated story, and while he loves his adoptive family, he feels like adoption is a traumatic, brutal and cruel thing, and every human being has the right to know where they come from. He’s gotten very involved in the adoption rights community.

Obviously, our child’s situation will be different from those I briefly sketched out above. She will know half of her genetic heritage, and we chose a donor specifically because he had agreed to be contacted when any offspring turn 18, should they want to know more about that side of their genetics

Our child will grow up knowing a kind man, called a donor, gave a small bit of himself to help Mama and Mommy make her. Parts from Mommy and parts from the donor made her who she is. She will know that Mama and Mommy are her parents, and that families come in all shapes and sizes. I’m a firm believer that genetics are only a part of who you are…but it’s easy for me to say that, as a person who knows all about her family.

I worry that our child will at some point start to romanticize the donor, or think of him as her dad. Will she wish that she was growing up with him and not us? Probably at some point she will. She will probably say something along those lines to us when she is angry at us. But as much as I try to prepare myself for that moment (or those moments) I know that hearing it will be like a knife in my heart. What happens if our daughter feels like we robbed her of something? What if she resents us? What if her life is less than, because she didn’t grow up knowing what Tammy and I both knew about our families?

What are your thoughts, dear readers? Do you support adoption? Do you think, like my friend does, that adoption should be an absolute last resort? Or do you think it is a beautiful way to build a family? Or is it somewhere in between? What about people using donor gametes?

What rights do children have to know about their genetic history?

The Measure of a Woman

I never really knew my grandmother. She died when I was a kid, but I don’t remember a time when she wasn’t sick. She had Alzheimer’s.

GrandmaGrandma, going fishing, probably around 1935.

My only real memory of her revolves around this antique doll she kept at her house. My sister and I were playing with it once, when I was about 6. She saw us playing with the doll and came running into the living room. “Stop that!” she shrieked. “That’s MY doll!” She snatched the doll out of my hands and whacked me aside with it. She thought she was a little girl again, and some other kid was stealing her best toy.

My other memories of her are a hodgepodge of her laying in the hospice/elder care home we moved her to when my Grandad could no longer take care of her. Her Alzheimer’s was in a fairly advanced state at this point, and she no longer talked or walked. My mom would bring my sister and me to see her once a week, and we would shuffle in, awkward and unsure. We’d say a few things to her, prodded by our mother, but Grandma never looked at us or responded. I was always relieved to get out of that room. I felt like I had escaped some looming terror.

She died of pneumonia following a stroke when I was ten years old.

The grandma that I didn’t know was a study in contradictions. Born on a tobacco plantation in southern Maryland, she was raised to be a southern lady and was bewildered by the changes that the 1960s and her hippie children brought. She was shy and gentle, to the point of running from cameras and never standing up for herself when her husband bullied her. But she also left home before she was married, and lived on her own during World War II. She moved to Baltimore and ran a steel mill and played the drums in an all women band. She later married a divorced man (my Grandad, who converted from Catholicism after his first marriage so he could re-marry) and became a military wife. She never worked outside of the home again. I wonder if she used up the last of her will to rebel before she married, or if it slowly leaked out of her like a deflating balloon as the weight of life bore down on her shoulders.

Grandma & Grandad

My grandparents, sometime in the 1940s, before they married.

My mom says the one and only time she remembers her mother yelling at her as a child was this: It was the mid 1950s, and my Grandma was trying to vacuum the stairs. My mom was very young at this point, probably 4 or 5, and she was trying to help my Grandma, but was of course mostly in the way. My Grandma was probably frustrated and tired and worn out from caring for three small children while moving from military base to military base all over Europe. She apparently turned to my mom and snapped something like “S___ will you quit?! You’re in the way!” My mom’s eyes filled with tears, and she told my grandma that she was “trying to help.” My grandma turned off the vacuum, sat down on the stairs, and pulled my mom onto her lap. “Oh S___, I’m sorry. You’re right, you were helping and I’m sorry I yelled at you. Thank you for being my helper, and I love you.” She never yelled at any of her children again.

Grandma & Grandad w Grandaughters

My grandparents with my sister, me, and two of my cousins, sitting on the porch steps to my Grandma’s family plantation home in the 1980s.

But contrast that gentle love with the same woman who believed the sharecroppers that worked her family’s land were a different species, some kind of sub-human that should not have any kind of meaningful interaction with “her kind,” and was never able to reconcile her racist beliefs with the ’60s race revolution.

A woman who, along with my Grandad, paid off three different girls who got “in trouble” by my uncle in high school to “deal with the problem”. What exactly that means (adoption, abortion, etc) was never made clear.

A woman who donated so much blood during World War II that she became sick and weak, and her health never really recovered. She would remain fragile for the rest of her life.

And she was also a woman who had at least one miscarriage, and then a surprise baby at age 44. A woman wouldn’t let anyone tell my aunt that she was a “mistake,” and laughed and smiled as my mom, 11 years old, danced her baby sister around the living room, calling her “blondie angel,” and “my first baby.”

Grandma w Kids

My mom and her siblings with my Grandma in the early 1960s.

She was also the woman who never, ever said a word when my Grandad would say, at every meal “C____, get up and get me another drink!” despite the fact that to get the milk out of the fridge, he wouldn’t even have to get out of his chair. Every single meal, for years, my grandma hopped up without complaint, until my mom and her siblings started to talk back for her. “Get it yourself, Dad!” they would exclaim.

My grandma would have been 97 this month. I miss a woman who I never knew, someone who I never will know.

Happy Birthday, Grandma.

Like a Sleeping Baby

Thank you, lovees, for your helpful suggestions yesterday. Last night I had a snack before bed (whole wheat toast with peanut butter), took a unisom, put in ear plugs, and went to sleep, blissful sleep. I only woke up three times to pee. While I wouldn’t say I feel like a new woman, I DO feel like I can function and that I remember my own name. Which is a marked improvement. I’ll take waking up 3 times versus waking up 10 times for all and sundry reasons any day of the week.

I do feel a little silly for freaking out yesterday on my blog. A gigantic THANK YOU and a hearty smooch to everyone for not pointing out that a) it was only two nights, so, you know, buck up and b) I’m going to have a baby (knock on every type of wood available) in threeish months, and perhaps I should get used to sleep deprivation?

Because here’s the thing: both of those thoughts had occurred to me, even in my befuddled state. YES, it was only two nights. Apparently (she said, sheepishly) I had a bit of a panic attack that this was my new reality and how would I function and OMG what if my heart just exploded like one of those Japanese executives that work 20 hour days and end up keeled over in front of my cubicle or oh God what if I’m at home and Tammy’s out of town and the cat runs out of food and eats me and they discover my partially eaten body days later? …like I said, I don’t do so well without sleep.

Which brings me to the next point, which is that we’re going to have a baby soon, and babies, despite being delicious, are not widely known for their sustained sleeping. I am aware of this fact, and have gone into this pregnancy with my eyes open about the difficulties we will face once the baby is here (and there are plenty, believe me). I know that sleeping will be a challenge, I know that. But first of all, I won’t be having to get up for work like I am now (for at least three months, hopefully four if we can swing it financially). And right now (subject to change), we are anticipating that I will sleep in the guest room with the baby in a bassinet once Tammy goes back to work (after two or three weeks) so that she can be in charge of basically everything except feeding and wiping baby bum until I can get my metaphorical feet on the metaphorical ground. We’re basically anticipating that I will be completely useless around the house (cooking, cleaning, laundry, conversating, etc) for a while. Thus my freezer meals. And my parents helping out around the house.

And, hey. We could end up with a good sleeper. I was, apparently. My mom said by like two weeks I was going down around 7, sleeping until midnight, waking up then to be fed, and then sleeping again until 5 or so. After the early morning feeding I would fall back asleep and go until 8 or 9. Why, that’s downright civilized for a two-week old! As much as my parents like to cackle about me getting a child just like I was (read: a handful), in this instance I hope they are right.

The Fundamental Things Apply / As Time Goes By

We had our 20 week anatomy scan this morning. That’s the big one where they check all of the organs and can tell you the sex, if you want to know. We did want to know, even though it doesn’t make much of a difference. The things we want for our child (kindness, empathy, bravery, sense of humor) aren’t sex or gender specific.

When I was younger, I was adamant that I wanted a girl. “I don’t know anything about boys!” I’d wail. But my mistake there was to assume, despite my Women & Gender Studies degree, that females have innate traits that I would have an automatic connection with, and that males have innate traits I would not understand. Such silliness. I would like a child that I can snuggle with, and read books with, and cook with. Tammy would like a child that will play outside with her, go camping with her, and swim in the ocean with her. But you know what? A child of any sex or gender combination will not guarantee us a child that enjoys any or all of those things. Our first lesson in parenting is to accept our child for who they are, regardless of what is between their legs and in their heart. What we ultimately want is for our child(ren) to find what brings them joy.

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At the perinatal clinic (with the high res ultrasound machines), I asked the receptionist if I need a full or empty bladder for my 20 week anatomy scan. She assured me it didn’t matter, so I went to relieve myself, glad I wouldn’t have to spend an uncomfortable hour being prodded in the (full) bladder. When I came out of the bathroom, an Asian gentleman with a heavy accent started scolding me (that much was clear from his tone) but I had no freaking clue what he was trying to say. Tammy read my blank look, and interpreted that I shouldn’t have gone pee, that he needed my bladder full to check my cervix. I told the ultrasound tech that the receptionist told me it was OK (I’m such a tattle-tale) and he stormed off to scold her.

Unfortunately, his accent did not improve while he did the scan. He muttered to himself, ignoring us most of the time when we asked questions, occasionally including “good, good, look fine, eveyting look fine”. My first clue that there might be a problem was when we were measuring the “alus” (“the what?” “the alus…you know…baby poo poo” “oh, the aNus. Gotcha”) and I saw these dark circles in the lower abdomen.

“What are those dark circles?” I asked, three times. He finally responded, “I take picture, review after.” But then he told us the sex, and I sort of forgot about those circles.

It’s a girl. Whatever that means, in all its glory.

After he finished taking his pictures, he told us he was going to go review and would be back in later. We waited around 20 minutes and then a doctor came in. She told us that the tech had trouble getting one or two shots of the brain that she would try to get (she did successfully), but also that she wanted to review one of the pictures he did get of the abdomen. All of a sudden, I remembered those dark circles and got nervous.

It turns out that either the baby has enlarged bowels or cysts on her ovaries. Apparently it’s difficult to tell at this point of fetal development exactly what these fluid filled spaces are. We need to come back in two weeks to see if the spots have gotten bigger or smaller. It’s entirely possible that, whatever the issue is, it will resolve itself. If the spots are not gone, the perinatologist will refer us to have an MRI, which will give us an even more detailed look than the high-resolution scan at the perinatology center (and those scans are crazy detailed).

From my googling this morning, I’ve determined that fetal ovarian cysts are often a result of the large amounts of hormones circulating in MY body. Which makes me feel insanely guilty, and does inject the worry that I’ve harmed our daughters future fertility, should she want to have kids at some point. Most fetal ovarian cysts resolve themselves before birth or shortly after.

Enlarged bowels can be a sign of blockages in the intestines. AKA, my baby is already full of shit (if I don’t laugh, I’ll cry. Work with me here). I ALSO feel guilty about this, like I’ve given my daughter my own screwed up bowels (chronic constipation, etc). Again, these often work themselves out before birth or shortly after.

Worst case for both scenarios would mean regular ultrasounds leading up to the birth, possible induction, and ultrasounds for the baby after birth. Worst WORST case scenario would mean surgery shortly after the baby is born to either remove the cysts or blockages.

Obviously, I wish the scan had gone perfectly and shown no problems. But I’m surprised at how well I’m taking the news. I’m trying to be fair and reasonable when describing this to my parents (“the doctor wasn’t what I would call ‘concerned’, but she does want to monitor it”) and not wallow in melodrama, as is so often my want. I’ve done a little bit of googling, but I’ve tried to skim-without-really-reading the posts where women say “my baby had this and it meant X number of surgeries” or “my baby had this and it was a sign of cystic fibrosis” or “my baby had this and we had to remove her ovaries” or “my baby had this and then she died”. Wow, guess I read more of those than I thought, huh?

Aaaaaaaaanyway, I’m doing reasonably well, for me. I’m trying to focus on her sweet arms and legs kicking me, and my happy laugh as I got to see visual evidence of what I’ve been feeling for weeks (side note to my daughter: no wonder my bladder hurts every time I stand up. You’re doing a straight up goal scoring kick into it!) with regard to movement. I got to see Tammy’s face as we looked at our daughter’s profile, her yawning mouth, and her little fingers giving us the “here’s looking at you, kid.” Maybe we should name her Ingrid?

Here's Looking at You, Kid 3

Here’s looking at you, kid. We are in awe of how marvelous you are.

Ramblings

Tammy did not get that job that would have required us to move, after three rounds of interviews. On one hand, I’m incredibly relieved that moving is no longer on the table (for now), especially because my parents are closing on a house in our neighborhood on Friday. On the other hand, I had worked myself around to a place where I could view moving as an adventure and an opportunity for us, and a chance for me to stay at home with the baby in January.

Tammy’s getting more and more excited about having a baby. As she puts it “my excitement is directly proportional to the size of your belly”. Even I can’t deny that I have a distinct bump that can only mean one thing. Random people have been more comfortable coming right out and asking me if I am pregnant, which is oddly discomforting. Saying yes feels almost…embarrassing, like I’ve been caught with my hand in the cookie jar. Or like a teenager caught smoking or something.The flip side to this embarrassment is that I’ve become much more comfortable talking about the work it took for us to get pregnant. I drop IVF and frozen embryos into discussions of pregnancy and siblings like it’s no big deal at all. Look at me, normalizing IF and shit.

Speaking of normalizing, I’ve been working on acting like a normal pregnant lady who’s relatively assured of a baby at the end of this process. Tammy’s been painting the baby room, and we’re planning what furniture to buy. I’ve been researching day care options (OMFG expensive). I’m planning meals to make and freeze for the early days after the baby’s born and I even made my first one: tomato soup from Smitten Kitchen. I’ve made the recipe a few times before, but this was my first time making it with fresh tomatoes from my mom’s garden. I did the whole blanch and shock thing to get the skins off easily, which worked like a charm. The fresh tomatoes (as opposed to canned) made the soup taste much more…tomato-y, if you know what I mean. Not a bad thing, just an observation.

I’m planning to make a few more soups (potato, broccoli cheese) and casserole type things (lasagna (don’t have a link to the vegan recipe I use), chicken pot pie (again, don’t have a link but it’s from here, which I highly, highly recommend). Any other suggestions, especially healthy suggestions (note my decidedly unhealthy options above) for freezer meals? Keep in mind that I’m vegetarian and Tammy’s vegan, but I’m pretty good at veganizing recipes (i.e. subbing veggies stock for chicken stock, faux meet for real meet, almond/soy/rice/etc milk for cow’s milk, etc).

I have a few posts rattling around in my brain but the biggest one is about religion and faith*. So, obviously a very light post that is a breeze to write. Another one is my struggle to be sensitive to people trying so hard to get pregnant while celebrating my own pregnancy. So, also quite fun and light. Slightly less heavy is the post on the second parent adoption proceedings that Tammy will go through after the baby is born.

Happy Fall, everybody.

*Working title: “On Why I Burst Into Tears When Discussing God and Death, or Spiritual Malaise”

Childhood Neurosis

I’ve been thinking a lot about what our future kid is going to be like. What will their interests be, their personality, their likes, their dislikes?

And beyond that, what things will they inherit from me, good or bad?

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I was kind of definitely a weird kid. I was anxious, even then, and lived almost entirely in a world populated by my imagination.

My mom and I had a good laugh about it recently when Tammy and I went to visit them. My parents are cleaning out their basement and they came across a lot of stuff from my childhood, including artwork, school pictures, and books. A lot of these things brought up memories.

Weirdo Kid Memories:
1) My sister and I each had a special “comfort item” that we slept with. Hers was a doll, and mine was a bear. We used to play together at night when we were supposed to be sleeping. We would pretend we were new moms, and we had just given birth (not that we had the slightest concept of how that process would work) to our doll and our bear.

The only weird thing about my sister’s doll was that it was bald.  Because she had thrown up on it so many times as a child, my parents had pulled the wig off it, basically saying, “fuck this”.

Anyway, we would play this game where we introduced our new kids to each other. Here’s how that conversation would go:

Sister: Sarah, come meet my new baby! She’s beautiful! Only problem is…she’s bald.

Me: Sister, come meet MY new baby! He’s beautiful! Only problem is…he’s a bear.

And then we’d play the game again.

2) I freaking LOVED the Little House on the Prairie series. The books, not the show. Don’t speak to me about that abomination.

Little House on the Prairie

(I also loved the spinoff books about Rose (Laura’s daughter) and Caroline (Laura’s mother.)

I went through a period when I was about 8 where I longed to live in “olden times”. I would steal one of my mom’s work skirts (calf length on her, beyond floor length on me), put on the prairie boots that were inexplicably in style at the time (and that I had successfully convinced my parents to buy for me) and run around the backyard pretending I was saving the crops from a looming tornado. Or frost. Or something. I also wore those clothes while making forts in the living room, and then knocking them down when the tornado came.

3) I had a dress when I was around the same age that I LOVED. Actually, I loved dresses my whole childhood and my mom had to FORCE me to wear pants when it was cold outside. I know. Worst lesbian ever. Anyway, this dress was old-fashioned, with a sash and smocking along the top. It was kind of maroon colored.

When I was in elementary school, we took a field trip to some local caves. Upon learning this, I instantly knew I would wear my dress because being in the cave would be ALMOST like being in olden times (no telephone wires, no cars, etc to ruin the illusion), and my dress would make things more authentic. I also had these stickers that were little paw prints of animals.

animal paw prints

Before leaving for the field trip, I accessorized my dress by sticking many of these stickers on my dress, reasoning that girls in olden times obviously had wild animals as friends. Perhaps people would even think these stickers were real animal prints and know me to be fabulously cool. I was so excited.

Of course, as soon as kids saw me they made fun of me. They said my clothes were dirty and ugly and that my mama should “wash me better”. While we were in the cave, I peeled off those stickers, but held on to them. That night in bed, I stuck them on my headboard. The see-through backing of the sticker showed the maroon fuzz that came off my dress. For as long as I had that bed, every time I saw the stickers I felt those kids mocking me, and was ashamed and embarrassed all over again.

Anxious Memories:
1) I had an immense fear of my parents death, and “what would become of me” (I picked up that phrasing from books). I worried constantly that they weren’t taking their vitamins. For a long time I thought it was normal for kids to worry about their parents dying, but I have since been informed this is not actually the case. My parents had to talk to me over and over about which aunt my sister and I would live with if they died. Far from reassuring me, for some reason this made my fear worse.

2) I also had a huge fear of fire. The area my parents live in often has droughts during the summer months, and sometimes the town will tell people not to water their lawns to conserve water. Combine this with learning about Smokey the Bear (and how one unattended campfire can cause a forest fire) and I was convinced our (brick) house was going to burn down every day.

Smokey the Bear(I took this sign a little too seriously)

To combat this, I ignored the town’s injunction over watering the lawn (rule bender, even then) and watered the…house. Yes, I would go outside and water our brick house during the summer. To keep it from burning down. No need to thank me, Mom and Dad. I’m here to help.

What kind of funny/weird/sad things do you remember about yourself from childhood? Do you think these memories influence who you are as an adult?