Monday, April 1, 2013


2013 is the year of "yes" for me. If an opportunity arises that challenges me to push my personal limits, I will say "yes". I will take it on, and I will succeed or I will fail--but I will take it on.

So far the Year of Yes has brought me unexpected joy. Opportunities falling from the sky and landing with a gentle "click" to fit next to one another. A new job. *click* A new sport. *click* New friends who support my creative endeavors. *click click*

Through one of these new friends I learned about the "Listen To Your Mother-Austin" production. I put together a piece and submitted it, expecting nothing in return. Instead my piece was selected to audition for the show, and I stood in a room of strangers and read words that I had *never* said aloud before.

I cried, they cried.
We cried.

Despite the show producers' genuine enthusiasm for my work, and my reading, my piece did not make the final cut. In reviewing the cast list a little voice whispered to me "You fool, these people have all published books. Who do you think you are to compete on this field?"

I bristled at first, stung by the rejection of a piece so deeply personal. And then I felt relief, because I was spared the difficulty of saying those words out loud to a large audience. I was spared the responsibility of saying those words out loud to anyone. I could swallow them, hit "delete" on a file and it is as if they never were.


But because I said them out loud a part of me feels like I made them real. Do you ever feel that way? That until you name or claim something with words it doesn't really exist? That you can spare the world from your especially troubling and icky feelings by never actually giving them voice?

My piece gave voice to some feelings I've been trying to hide.

Mainly, that I am scared.

That I am scared of what the future could hold for YH.

The primary thrust of my piece was my frantic efforts to win YH's love. The lengths I go to to get him to trust me, to seek me out for comfort, to view me as his one true constant person.

Not so novel perhaps. I am sure many parents (adoptive or not) feel this way about their children.
But because of YH's diagnosis, because of his history of exposure to alcohol, my efforts in this area have a deadline. I wrote:

"At this moment in time it is hard to detect the damage within our son. Like many children affected by prenatal alcohol exposure he will “pass” as neuro-typical throughout toddlerhood. The first signs of compromised brain function may become evident as he starts school and slowly, as the years pass, the gulf between our son and his peers will widen.
It is bittersweet to look at our beautiful child today and know that this may very well be the best time in his life; that as he grows so too will his challenges.
The picture painted by “experts” is bleak: he is at risk for secondary mental illness and addiction. He is likely to suffer both from intense bouts of rage and from an inability to distinguish right from wrong. He will struggle with impulse control and long-term memory. His open and friendly nature (so charming in a three year old) will read as na├»ve and dim-witted to his future classmates. As they descend into adolescent snark, he will become an easy target; the kid they trick into doing “funny”, possibly criminal, things.
Because our son’s physical appearance is unblemished, he will be presumed to be a “bad” kid (instead of a differently abled kid).
It is a dangerous cocktail of impaired function that often leads to incarceration."
And so I am working like crazy NOW, when he is small and cute, to get him to love me and to get YOU (the world writ large) to love HIM.
Can you love him?
Can you look at his slightly-off behaviors and love him? Knowing that they will likely grow beyond "quirky" into full-blown "odd" or "off-putting"?  That as his toddler-chub melts away, as his lanky-boy body grows each day, so too might his difference?
I watch him when we are out in public. I watch him like a mama bear; I am ready to spring into action at the first sign of an opportunity to smooth his way. I intervene in "conversations" with other kids.

"YH loves Angry Birds! That's why he put his face so close to your t-shirt. I know you haven't met him yet, and it might seem funny that he came right up to you, but he just loves Angry Birds!"

I chirp and squawk and fake the cheer necessary to cover for the fact that he is bouncing with increased intensity at my side. I slide a hand onto his back and tap out a soothing rhythm until he quiets his little body.
I watch him with my family. I watch their faces watch him get riled up. I see how they don't trust him to be able to control his motions or his speed. How as he gets wound up (too many people speaking to him at once, too many demands, not enough space, too much sugar, too much waiting), they get weary.

I intervene here too and try to get him to fit into the expectations of the event, try to get him to be a little less *him* for the sake of family dinner night.

I do this all the while knowing that I can't do it forever. That I shouldn't even be doing it now. That I am not fooling anyone. That I am not fooling myself.

In a way it is easier to think about these things knowing that I am not the person who hurt him in this way. I am not to blame. I can look you in the eye and defend my son and stand up for him to be supported and at the end of the day I can comfort myself with the knowledge that I am not to blame.

It's thin comfort. It's comfort at the sake of blaming someone else, someone about whom I know very little. I know enough about his firstmother's life to make excuses for her decisions. (After all, that is a family specialty: we are experts at explaining away and minimizing one another's boozy habits.) But I certainly don't know enough to judge her, or pass that judgement on to the rest of the people in our lives.

So until I know how to do this differently, I will continue to play the fool. I will do everything I can to make each day better for YH , now, while I have the time. I will do everything I can to smooth out the ripples he leaves in his wake, to calm the waters that his energy churns when we are in public.


  1. Aaaannd... I'm crying with you. Nora, we love him already. The world will love him. Like all children, the world may not always understand him, but those who pay attention will get him and love him like crazy. xo

  2. I identify so much with this post, Nora...thank you for writing.

  3. Nora, your words are beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time. You are his mom and always will be AND will always LOVE him and do right by him, the best way you know how.

  4. Appreciating your words, your openness, and your strength for your family. Thanks for sharing, Nora.