“Man is the only animal for whom his own existence is a problem which he has to solve” – Erich Fromm
I wonder what it means.
Why is my son so obsessed with the idea that he would not have existed if I had been allowed to keep his sister?
He asks this quite frequently. Lately at least four times a month. This means to me he is thinking about it alot.
I wonder if it is some typical developmental milestone or is it some affect of being collateral damage to his sisters adoption.
Is he feeling I love her more?
Is he feeling neglected? Do I talk too much about her?
Is he wishing she was here but has no way to express that?
Does he feel like he doesn’t exist because she does?
Does he question his role as the first born in our family but not the first born to me?
Does he feel any envy or animosity towards his absent sister?
Does he simply just miss her and want to know her? Is that why she appears in all his school projects?
Or is it, again, just general developmental stuff?
Mr. Gunther was my third grade teacher. As the smartest student in the class (I was labeled “gifted” in the 3rd grade), I often finished my work early and was left with hours to kill and nothing to do. Mr. Gunther would send me to the Principals office and I provided clerical backup and assistance to the school receptionist, Mrs Kmetzo. I was an 8 year old receptionist.
“Good morning, Franklin School, how may I direct your call?”
Yes, I really did and said those things.
In between answering the phones for Mrs. Kmetzo, I sat behind her and pretended to sort papers. Most often I found myself staring out the window musing over the jungle gym and the kids out at recess.
A common thought, a pervasive, intrusive, disturbing thought for me during that time and at that age was:
“Where do I go when I die?”
I was obsessed for my entire third grade year with my own mortality. Growing up a conservative Catholic, I was taught (but never believed) heaven and pearly gates and St. Peter welcoming me and all that magical religious stuff.
I never believed it.
I could accept that my body would die and turn to dust but where did I go? Me? My voice? My personality? My spirit?
Yeah, I was an intense kid (not much has changed in that regard).
I was reminded of that phase in my life when I recently began pondering my sons obsession with his own existence in relation to his absent sister.
Of course it is possible he might not have existed. However, it is also possible he may have but his father would have been my daughters father. It is also possible he could have been born to his father and another woman.
We simply cannot know.
But for some reason, something is bugging my son and he has a need to know. Clearly, my answer of “we cannot know for sure, Nikolas” is not comforting him.
I don’t know what to say or how to help him.
And I don’t like that feeling.
I also despise that my son has to even ponder these things. They surely don’t tell surrendering mothers that our future children will also be traumatized by the loss of their siblings to adoption.
I wish I could make it easier for him.