i might have been there, might have done that

5/17/11

One of the commenters on the previous entry wrote (and I’m paraphrasing liberally) that all parents say “childrearing was the most rewarding, best thing I’ve ever done” because we all make the best of the narrative we’ve chosen. Besides the possible exception of Alois and Klara Hitler, Joyce and Lionel Dahmer, and the parents of იოსებ ბესარიონის ძე ჯუღაშვილი (among others), that’s absolutely correct.

There has to be a word for the human desire for things to work out in a way that means all other ways would have been wrong. It must be a defense mechanism from far back in our DNA, a “no regrets” escape clause that doesn’t allow us the painful luxury of sensing the outcome of all our other untaken choices. We define our past and present with proclamations like “it was meant to be”, and “I can’t imagine it any other way”, even though it doesn’t take much effort to see how fluid and fragile the writing on those stones really was.

Occasionally, though, we do sense an alternate reality. We visit a coffee shop in another town, or we see a person across the subway platform, and some tiny portal opens for a second. I sometimes think it’s a peek into our brother (or sister) selves, inhabiting a different timeline. It could even be where déjà vu comes from, a foreign yet familiar sense, not that we’d been there before, but that our other self is there right now.

We have to believe this other self is happy, it goes about its world the way we do ours, feeling inexpressibly blessed for having made all the right decisions. It has to feel exceptional, almost predetermined – as do we, for how could we go on knowing some other reality is having all the fun?

0 thoughts on “i might have been there, might have done that

  1. jje

    Reminds me of one of my favorite passages from Prince Caspian:
    “You mean,” said Lucy rather faintly, “that it would have turned out all right – somehow? But how? Please, Aslan! Am I not to know?”
    “To know what would have happened, child?” said Aslan. “No. Nobody is ever told that.”
    “Oh dear,” said Lucy.
    “But anyone can find out what will happen,” said Aslan. “If you go back to the others now, and wake them up; and tell them you have seen me again; and that you must all get up at once and follow me – what will happen? There is only one way of finding out.”

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  2. jp

    I’m one of those not-a-breeder-but-a-parent types Anne mentioned in her comment on the last post: my two kids joined my family through adoption.
    And this rings very true for me:
    “We define our past and present with proclamations like ‘it was meant to be’, and ‘I can’t imagine it any other way’, even though it doesn’t take much effort to see how fluid and fragile the writing on those stones really was.”
    Sometimes adoptive parents say “it was meant to be,” which I find extraordinarily problematic. Because, really, fate or God or Yahweh or your diety really brought HIV to Ethiopia to wipe out much of an entire generation and specifically a young woman who was raped by an HIV+ man who then contracted AIDS but didn’t pass it along to her baby but did kill her quickly so she couldn’t raise the child so that you could parent this child? Really? Fate or Jehovah implemented the one-child policy is China so as to ensure you could have your beautiful little daughter?
    Because adoption is *always* the second choice for the kid (who, unless they are much older, have no agency whatsoever in what decisions are made around for for them), and often for the parents (even if it’s a better choice for the kids, it’s still not the first choice). Most parents come to adoption after struggles with infertility. Not my husband and I; we chose to adopt despite no indication of infertility. So our kids were our first choice. But I will never pretend that I’m the best possible option for my kids.
    And, what this means is that, yeah, I actually CAN imagine it happening some other way. I wish my kids could have remained with their first families–not because I don’t want them to be my kids, but because I don’t wish the trauma of losing a parent on *any* kid and especially mine. I love them so much that I grieve also for what they’ve lost in becoming my children.
    So, yes, it’s all incredibly fluid and fragile. And parenting through adoption has its own incredible moments. For example, I have no expectation that my kids will look like me or act like me or be anything like me. So when I hear them echoing words I use or laughing at jokes that make me laugh too or being huge bookworms like I am, I’m amazed that despite being a household of four non-biological relatives obligated to each other only through the law, we’re still a family.
    I can imagine lots of things differently. But I can’t imagine my life would have been better or richer without my kids in it.
    [Also, holy shit, Ian, you put your commas *outside* of quotation marks? How have I never noticed this before?)

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