Motherhood, the Reality Show

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By Jeanne Marie Laskas
Sunday, July 16, 2006

The co-worker of a friend has decided to adopt a baby from China. Those two got to talking. My friend told her co-worker that she knows someone with two kids from China. The co-worker said, "Oh, I'd love to meet her."

So that's how we all ended up seated on the bleachers at my kids' softball game: myself, my friend Sue and her co-worker Allison, who brought along her husband, Tim. We're watching my kids over there kicking dirt. Because they were adopted.

Because they're Asian. I remember this. Waiting to go to China to adopt, all I wanted to do was look at adopted Asian kids. I have no idea what I was looking for.

The softball team is way into the off-season, making up games that were canceled by rain last spring, which means now we're spilling into soccer season, and my girls both have soccer games immediately following the softball game. So, on this ridiculous schedule, after we finish here they'll change in the car out of their softball cleats and into their soccer cleats and put on shin guards and new shirts.

I swore up and down I would never do this. I would never be a parent who overscheduled her kids. My only excuse is: Everyone is doing it. Softball, then soccer, and swim team if you can stand to get up early enough for practice. Everyone is doing it! Everyone is signing up for everything, and you get swept away.

So, Allison and Tim. They want to talk adoption. They want me to provide "a reality check." They're all smiles, and they look so much less tired than I feel. They're not all sticky. I remember this. I remember a time when I used a curling iron, mascara and wore un-sensible shoes.

Sticky. The reason I'm sticky is because I'm cutting oranges. I have an actual cutting board on my lap. The oranges are for the soccer game because tonight I'm Orange Mom. I did not realize this until I got to the softball game, was removing the bats and helmets from the car and happened to take note of the soccer schedule in my trunk and the little star next to today indicating that I was assigned the role. So after I yanked the kids out of the car and escorted them to the ballfield, where my husband was waiting to perform his duty as Catcher Dad, I ran back to the car and zoomed to the grocery store, bought the oranges, a little cutting board, a knife, some Ziploc bags and (smartly) a roll of paper towels, and now I'm back here, on the bleachers, cutting.

"The one thing I'm going to say about parenting," I tell Allison, as I stab my next orange, "is everything you swear you'll never do, you'll probably end up doing." She's looking at me, smiling politely. I tell her about when I was waiting to adopt my first daughter, I was in a store and I saw a little girl haul off and whack her mom across the knees with a roll of wrapping paper. "I was horrified," I say, "because that mother did nothing to discipline that child." I tell her I vowed right then to be a mother who demanded proper behavior. "Now, I just laugh at that," I say. "Because how are you supposed to give a kid a timeout in the middle of a department store?"

I'm chuckling, but neither Allison nor Tim is, and I can tell I've lost them. But then again I've sort of lost me. What was my point? What were we talking about?

Adoption. Allison is asking questions about China, about bonding, about feeling like a "real" mom. I remember having the same questions, of course I do, but they are now so old. Adoption? The thing about adoption is, I forget. What parent has time to remember the old days of labor and/or delivery? Parenting is a momentous thing, to be sure, but mostly parenting is a moment-y thing. Batting helmets and orange juice dripping down your leg and team visors you forgot for the third time to bring. A new tooth, chocolate milk, a fight over a stolen potato chip, a vitamin each day and soon enough rules about phone use and appropriate attire. Piles and piles of moments intersecting with moments, the big picture barely a distant promise.

If there's one message I could convey to people who wonder about adoption, it's this: You forget. The method of delivery may have mattered once, but it becomes profoundly irrelevant. A mom is a mom is a mom. A kid is a kid is a kid.

My 5-year-old, who is so tiny she looks, with her batting helmet on, exactly like a bobblehead doll, just smacked a line drive. I explode with joy, leap to my toes. I lose several orange sections in the process, but I don't care. It's her first hit off the pitch. No tee required. Just, ker-pow! I'm too excited, I know, jumping up and down on bleachers not quite built for rugged duty. I'm embarrassed in front of Allison and Tim. But they wanted a reality check, and this, I'm afraid, is it.

Jeanne Marie Laskas's e-mail address is post@jmlaskas.com.


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