Friday, January 18, 2013

The Littlest Bachelor

Ben was away this week.  His absence somehow corresponded with the week a month the babysitter takes off and (how? how?) the aide’s car breaking down.  No Ben, no babysitter, no aide.  I relaxed my standards a bit.

Usually, six o’clock finds us sitting down to dinner at a candlelit table, giving our high points and low points (often pitching our voices above Mihiretu’s but no matter).  This last week it found us (minus Ben) draped on the couch, Mihiretu with earphones and Yu-Gi-Oh on the iPad, the girls and I dug deep into trashy television.

Sunday night was the Golden Globes.  Great fun for all, plus a teaching moment when Jodie Foster came out (me: “Girls, do you know what just happened?”  Mae:  a firm “Yes” and then “What?” me: long explanation of Jodie Foster’s path, the meaning of an open secret, etc.)

Tuesday night we watched the tivoed “The Bachelor”.  Please hold your calls and letters – I know, terrible, terrible thing for young girls to watch.  Ridiculously sexist, absurdly unrealistic view of love and marriage, basically a female orgy with one very lucky guy in the middle of it.  The girls have received a long mom lecture on my opinions on relationships, on romantic ideals versus true everyday love, on how this TV show is total horseshit but also so very fun to watch.

So we were watching, the girls and I, chomping our popcorn, sipping our wine (okay, that was me), discussing how very articulate was the one-armed girl in addressing her disability, when Mihiretu, settled in the crook of my arm, peeled off his headphones and pushed the iPad aside.  This, usually, would be when the happy scene crumbled.  Mihiretu, tired at the end of the day, at loose ends while the girls and I watch something on TV in which he has no interest.

But this boy, who takes his television straight-up animated, watched raptly, silently, for a good five minutes before asking, “That girl gonna get a wose, Mama?”  I said that, no, it looked like that girl was not going to get a rose, that girl was headed home, it seemed.  “Good,” he said with a quick nod of his head, “I no like her.”  I had to say, I agreed.

He finished out the show with us.  It was utterly delightful.  Later, when I told Ben, he said, of course, it’s about romance with lots of pretty ladies, right up his alley.  Plus, all that cleavage.  Really, what’s not to love?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

What Doesn't Kill You

We five Caprons, do not, thank God, live in 1930’s Germany, or, thank God, Rwanda in the nineties, or, thank God, Syria in 2013.  We do, however, seem to have a lot more discomfort than most of our direct peers.  Our direct peers, of course, are highly educated, highly privileged, gorgeous, fit, middle-aged white folks.  They, like we were just a few years ago, are pursuing their careers, raising their children, sure working to varying degrees to keep finances afloat, to keep marriages afloat, but generally, life here in Marin is pretty fine.  Our problems are first-world problems, to be sure.

We five Caprons live in the perfect storm that is Hurricane Mihiretu (and yes, I include him in the number being oppressed by his behavior, much of which he can’t control).  We are awakened at odd hours by screaming and tantrums, we are in constant terrorist negotiations, we’re giving everything we have to this needy boy and it’s still not enough.  No it’s not Hitler’s Germany but it’s tough.

I’ve been feeling guilty lately about how all this domestic conflict is affecting the girls.  They didn’t ask for another sibling, they certainly didn’t ask to be tortured by said sibling.  But I heard something recently that gave me a bit of perspective.  It was NPR, part of the white noise of my day, I have no idea of the context but here’s the essence: Just because it’s not making you happy doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing.

I think we privileged white people get really caught up in our own happiness.  If we’re not happy, we’re failing.  I’ve been feeling like quite the failure lately.  But this mothering I’m doing, this non-stop chore of loving a boy that often does everything he can to repel that love, it is worth doing.  And, for all my faults, I am a good mother.  I have that to give to the world. 

A friend read a recent post and shared her experience of growing up with an adopted Columbian brother – a boy who came to her family at six with plenty of history.  She said that, yes, being his sister has had its challenges, but that the experience has taught her so many things, deepened her in a way that she might not have been otherwise.  She’s a doctor now and she said that her brother taught her compassion, which is essential in her work, essential to her life.

Perhaps my girls are learning lessons they wouldn’t have learned had we not brought Mihiretu into our lives.  We are giving them depth if nothing else.  They know what hardship is – theoretically from Mihiretu’s story before he came to us and realistically from living with him.  They know, first-hand, what malnutrition is, what global inequity is, that really hard things can happen, even to kids.

So maybe we five Caprons are a bit miserable at the moment.  Maybe we’ll continue to be for years.  But maybe that’s not the worst thing that could happen to a person.