Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Pimples and Stuff

The other day at the beach, I caught a glimpse of what they talk about at Camp OUT. Very serious, deep conversations, like, where do your pimples come from? Mom? Dad? Donor? Surrogate?

It’s all about the pimples.

Ben asked me, as we walked to the water, Mom? Did you have pimples as a teenager?

Nope. Not until I hit my twenties, I told him. I spared him the detail that at 44, I can count on at least one a month.

Then the guy you got the stuff from… he must have had pimples.

Huh? I asked.

Well, one girl at camp? She didn’t have any pimples and neither did her mom or her dad, or her other mom, not that she mattered…

Not that she mattered?

Well, in causing pimples. You know what I mean.

I did but I was shocked to hear such a deep level of understanding not only of genetics but also of birthparents.

It’s not that simple, I said.

Whatever, he said, signaling his desire to end the conversation immediately.

When Ben was two and a half years old, he asked, over and over again, Where Daddy? Where Daddy? It tore me apart. I wanted to give him what he needed. I talked to a much wiser friend- with a PhD in psychology- and she said to me, he needs to know where he is from. He’s two and a half. He’s not looking for dad as much as trying to understand him family in the context of others.


So I started answering him with a very gender neutral, We’re your parents. Mom and I are your parents. Just like – and I’d name straight and gay parents configurations.

It satisfied him a little- but not entirely. As he grew older, he understood how babies came about and wanted to know where his father was. The line no longer worked.

I explained how he had a biological father- someone who donated sperm to help parents who could not have a baby on their own like his mom and I. He never wanted to be a dad. He never planned on being a dad. He simply wanted to help other people be parents.

It was at that time I explained that I was adopted- both my biological mother and biological father had no part in raising me- they did not want to be parents. Instead, they did the best thing they could which was to give me to someone who did want to be a parent- but couldn’t on their own.

I’m not sure if it was because he didn’t feel alone anymore or finally understood, but he stopped asking as much. Occasionally, he’d ask me about what the ethnicity of his biological father was or what color hair he had. But that was it.

Zachary never asked about a dad, or father- ever. He did have Walter and Allan in his life at the age of two on but I tend to think it’s because he had decided already. I asked him once – after a long talk with Ben that he was clearly tuned into about the biological father- did he have any questions?

No. He’s dead.

Zachary was about five at the time. In his mind, he killed him off. No disappointment if the man is dead. I understand that as an adoptee.

I don’t know, I answered. I only know he never meant to be a Dad to you. He was only helping your mom and I, and many others, have kids.

Jake, on the other hand, had Walter and Allan full force from the time he was born. He never asked about a Dad because he had two. And he knew it. Two moms, two dads, and two brothers. I’ve asked him, too, if he has any questions and he looks at me like I’m nuts.

The other day, I said to Allan, you are a good man. (He was being particularly kind about a difficult situation.)

Jake was at the table and he looked at me and said, No he’s not. He’s my dad.

Three kids. Three very different takes.

Before Ben dashed into the water, I asked him- obviously ignoring his desire to have the conversation end- Do you know what the ‘stuff’ is?

Yeah, he smiled shyly.

Is there anything else you want to know?

Nope, and he was off in the waves, clear about the pimples.

I mean, what else really matters?


Anonymous Laura said...

When the kids asked difficult questions growing up....I would always head for the vacuum and start cleaning........I made Deb deal with the hard stuff!!!!!

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