Friday, July 27, 2012

Nature... Nurture... Dunno

I've had adoption much on my mind lately.

A few years ago, this wouldn't have been unusual.  When Laney was new to me, I thought about it constantly because I felt not only unequal to the task of being a mother, I felt unworthy.  This is probably true for all parents, since being someone's parent is a uniquely humbling experience.  But I think it was aggravated for me after years of failing to get pregnant and, at least how I saw it, failing at being a woman.  And I worried and worried that a failure like me was lacking the fundamental skills required for mothering.

But, finally, that fucked up mindtrip came to an end and I grew some confidence.  Laney is my girl.  She's mine until she grows up and then she's her own (but still a little bit mine, right?).

Which brings me to lately, in which my cousin's husband, Michael, has begun poking around This led to some emails among me and my cousins and my brother discussing my paternal great-grandfather, a fellow named Francis Patrick Nolan.  I found myself very curious about old F.P.  I wondered what kind of man he was and if he was funny, or quick-tempered, whether he was musical, whether he was mean.  This curiosity left me curious about why I was so curious and what all this curiosity meant for my own kid.  Curiouser and curiouser.

Am I curious about F.P. because his blood runs through my veins?  Or because he was my grandmother's father?  I lean towards the latter.  As my grandmother's father, he had a material effect on the woman she was; a complicated woman, hilarious and loving but also prone to a kind of coldness.  She could be mean.  She could be wonderful. It stands to reason that when confronted with the specters of her parents, I'd be curious about who they were, since the parents they were to their daughter informed the woman she was, the mother she was to my father, and so on and so on.

But there's that blood stuff too.  The blood and the DNA that have been passed down for generations.  Biology binds us to the ones that came before too, right?

I can't help but think that my father, whom she never knew, has had a much more significant impact on who she is than her biological grandfather, whom she may one day find.  But that is a question of the past that'll be resolved in the future.

We'll have to wait and see if she'll be interested when her cousin's husband starts farting around on  Will she want to know about my mother's father in the same way I'm curious about my grandmother's father?  Will she want to know about him because that will help her to understand her own grandmother?  Or will she, lacking any shared DNA, feel no connection to him at all?

There's no way to know until we know.  The quality of having been adopted is not, after all, monolithic.  Different adopted people have different relationships to their own adoption.  For now, as I wonder about this stuff, I have to accept that it is what it is; which is a bit of tautological rhetoric loathed by some (like Laney's grandmother).  But I think it's a convenient idiom: this is a situation over which I have no control.  Laney will have to work out her own connection to the past. I'm blessedly, blissfully done with feeling like less of Laney's mother because of biology.  

She is a curious kid, though.  I wonder who she gets that from?