Sunday, September 8, 2013

It's a hard job, but somebody's got to do it.

This guy is awesome. Let's just get that out of the way.

But reading about a manly-man loving his gender-creative son reminded me of another thing we talk about in the adoption community that maybe everyone should talk about more.

Let me back up a step.

When you're considering adoption, you're presented with lists of questions to consider to help you decide whether or not adoption is right for you. And that's a good thing. But when I was reading them, I kept wondering why they were for adoptive parents.

For example: Is it important to parent a child who looks and acts like me and/or my partner?

That's something we should really all get over before we become parents. Because if you have a biological child, she won't necessarily look or act the way you think she will. Now, sure, if you adopt transracially the appearance differences might be startlingly obvious to all who see you, and you have to be prepared to handle the comments and questions that come with that decision. But what if your biological child is born with Down's Syndrome, or is an albino, or has no legs? I once met Puerto Rican albino twins. You think that mom was expecting to have blond haired, blue-eyed identical twins?! But there they were, at a wedding I attended, salsa dancing with the best of them.

And then there's Matt Duron. He probably wasn't expecting to parent a gender-creative son. When he had dreams of having children someday, when he first found out he was having a second son, his daydreams were probably not about helping him paint his nails. But that's the son he has.

And we all have to parent the kid(s) we have. Not the kid we planned on. Not the kid we hoped for. Not the kid's older brother or sister. Not the kid we wanted to be. Not the kid we expected. Not even the kid we had last week or last month or last year.

You've got to look, really look, at the kid in front of you. And really listen to what she's saying. You've got to figure out what your child needs right now and find a way to give it to her. That's the job.

That's why it's so damned hard. We have our own problems, and spending a lot of energy figuring out who your child is and what she needs is tiring.  And sometimes our kids make us face the things we hate about ourselves, either because they bump up against them, or because they share them. (And sharing the qualities we hate about ourselves is the most frustrating thing a child can do, isn't it?)

But what I admire about Matt Duron isn't that he's able to love a child who is likely gay and/or transgender. There are a lot of really admirable and lovable gay and transgender adults out there, and they were probably pretty darned lovable kids. What I admire is that he sees his kid for who he is and provides what he needs, even when it's not the most comfortable thing for Matt. (And for those who didn't click through to the article, let me just be clear that what makes Matt uncomfortable is when his son tries to edit himself to avoid teasing.) And that's what we could all do better at parents.

So yeah, I guess most adoptive parents didn't plan things that way. Or a lot of us, anyway. So we're not parenting the children we thought we'd be parenting. But my point is, neither are biological parents. Nobody gets the child they wish for. They get a real kid, who looks like herself and acts like herself and makes her own mistakes. And that's hard for many of us to accept. But we have to parent the kid we have.

That's the job.


  1. According to some, science has shown that "parenting does not matter", at least when it comes to "life outcomes", and the parenting is not extremely physically damaging or anything like that. These people say that the child's genes account for about 50% and its growing environment outside the home for about 50% of its resulting "life outcome".

  2. Parents have an awful lot of impact on "growing environment." I moved my daughter across the world, taught her the language in which she thinks, chose the community in which she lives, chose her school (and therefore her peers), chose her religion, and choose her extracurricular activities. I've had a pretty big effect on that 50%. So your evidence doesn't really point to "parenting does not matter."

    But I'm not talking about life outcomes here. I'm talking about a child's sense of self and the long-term relationship between parent and child. And sometimes just about getting through the day. It's a lot easier to parent if you accept your child for who she is.