"We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations." – Anais Nin
It was suggested to me recently that I was a better parent to my sons due to the loss of my daughter. While the person expressing this sentiment meant it as a compliment, it did not sit well with me.
How can surviving trauma make you better? How can losing one child make you a better parent to another? If anything, I would expect it to make you worse. Damaged, fearful, perhaps overly protective, more neurotic, attachment disorder affected or not.
As I thought more about it I realized I am not a better parent. I am a different parent than the one I would have been had I not lost my daughter to the adoption machine.
Itâ€™s very similar to the concept of adoptees not getting a better life in adoption. They get a different one. Better is very subjective. Like beauty, better is in the eye of the beholder.
What you might consider better, I might consider worse. You might think itâ€™s wonderful that a child gets taken from her mother and is able to get ponies and pools. I might think it better that a child get a complete identity sans ponies and pools. I might think it better not to damage the mother so the child can have a perceived (not guaranteed) more secure future.
Better is subjective.
I am not a better parent. I am a different parent.
The most notable aspect of my different parenting is that I am very concerned with how my children feel. Their feelings and their ability to express those feelings is critical to me. I work with my sons regularly to tell them its okay to feel this or that. I assure them that anger is okay (expressed the proper way). I tell them its okay to cry. I urge them to tell someone if they have hurt their feelings.
I had my feelings horribly disregarded during my pregnancy and the subsequent loss of my daughter. No one gave a shit about how I felt or how my child felt or would feel. It was all about the brokers selling the baby and the adopters receiving her.
I am very sensitive to this. My feelings matter, so do hers and so do those of my sons.
I believe personally that is the only area that I am â€œbetterâ€ because of my loss. If anything, I believe my sons suffer due to the loss of their sister. They suffer their personal loss of her as well as a slight loss of me due to her adoption. Itâ€™s a wound I carry in every aspect of my life and that includes all time with them. I cannot be happy for their successes without being sad for missing the same in her life. How is that better? I am frequently distracted, sad, depressed, not fully â€œthereâ€. How is that better?
Just last night at dinner my son was asking me about his sister. He was running down a list of a family birthdates and asked me what hers was. I reminded him it was a few weeks afo.. I told him how old she turned and he said â€œWow. Thatâ€™s old.â€ (She is 12 years old than him so I guess from his perspective that is true). He then asked me, again, if we would ever get a chance to meet her.
â€œI hope so. Somedayâ€, I told him. This is my standard answer. I donâ€™t commit or make promises as I simply donâ€™t know.
â€œItâ€™s hard for herâ€, I explained further.
â€œSometimes I wish I could go back in time and change things.â€ he said.
â€œOh? What would you like to change?â€ I asked inquisitively.
â€œWell, actually, I wouldnâ€™t change anything but I wish I could go forward in time and see how things will turn out. I wish I could find out if you will ever get to meet her. Then you would know for sure and could feel better.â€ he responded.
He continued on about the future, stuck in the year 2037 for some reason. I chuckled and listen to him ramble on. He talked over hover cars and space ships and teleportation and robots.
â€œIt will be coolâ€, he said. â€œThe world will be better.â€
There is that word again.
Will it be? Like my parenting style due to adoption, will the world better or just different?
Ask me in 2037. I might know more then.
If I am not around, ask my son. And be sure to ask him if he has met his sister yet.