Thursday, February 12, 2009

Overrating of Firsts

Usually when people make the decision to adopt, they rule out all age groups over the age of about 6 hours. Too old. When they find that babies less than a day old are hard to come by, they settle for anything that is still unable to make eye contact. If the baby can smile b/c it's happy to see you and not just b/c it needs to fart, again, too old. Part of the reasoning for wanting to score a neonate is the whole blank slate thing. While nothing can be done to change whatever parties went on in utero, the newborn baby's delicate psyche has not yet been torn asunder. Even a few short months of the infant's needs not being met can have a lasting impact on the ability of this little person to trust and attach with its caretakers. OK, a valid enough point. Though I must mention that damage done early is NOT always permenant or irreversible.

Another oft-cited reason as to why folks want a baby is so they can experience all the "firsts" in their baby's world: first smile, first tooth, first time to sit up, crawl, take a step. As a parent who has been witness to her bio babys' firsts, as well as to her older adopted childrens' firsts of a different nature, I'm here to tell you the baby firsts are a bit overrated. Don't get me wrong, I'll be the first to admit that I was the sterotypical first-time Mom who saved the lock of hair, the tooth, the hospital wrist bracelet, the first poopy diaper. Okay, that last one, not so much. I probably spent as much time chronicling and archiving what my new child was doing at every moment than I did actually interacting and caring for him. It was of utmost importance to me that I record every blessed meaningless thing about him. "This morning, when I changed his diaper at 5:24, he peed so high it almost reached the ceiling! I'll bet when he's in college he'll win contests when he's out with his drinking buddies. I am just sooo proud". Flash forward to my 3rd bio child's baby book: "Came home from the hospital today. He's pretty cute. Hope he's a good sleeper". Next entry: "He started 3rd grade today".
So you see, at some point we make the switch from the constant recording of every detail to actually just witnessing and appreciating them. Either because we lack the time or the brain cells, or b/c we just learned how to prioritize.

These baby firsts are pretty much one-sided celebrations anyway, a tool to help US bond with the baby, not the other way around. The 6 month old could care less that he's cutting his first tooth and probably thinks you're a freak for jumping and squealing and scribbling in your book (again) when he's screaming in pain and chewing on his toes. Their memories of their firsts will be pretty much non-existent. In contrast, when an older adopted child experiences a first, it opens their eyes in wonderment, changes their view of the world, and helps to shape who they are as a person. We expose our children to so much from such an early age, that by the time they're old enough to think about what they're seeing or tasting or smelling, it has lost its impact. The unique becomes ordinary. The special, commonplace. With that in mind, here are a few "firsts" of my adopted children. These things never made it into a baby book, but I was blessed enough to be there to witness their reaction to something new and special in their lives:
the cool, sweet taste of ice cream
a crowded bumpy noisy bus ride to school
a soft, cozy bed of their own
a Mama's warm lap to snuggle in
the steamy warmth of a shower
hunger subsiding when grabbing an apple from the bottomless bowl of fruit
the excitement of tunnels and slides, arcades and lights at a fun center
the crash and scatter of bowling pins
the wind in their hair as they coast down the driveway on their bikes
fuzzy soft bunny fur
a dog in a lap
the chaos and fun of having friends over
salty popcorn and cold drinks while watching a movie on a big sceen in the dark of the theatre
the creamy warmth of a cup of hot chocolate after playing in the snow

the all-encompassing love of a family

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Lori Printy said...

Before Nina I would have dismissed you out of hand; you have to say this you adopted older children. Now I know you are right. Even at 2 I see her firsts are richer and more rewarding for her and me.

(the picture of all 6 kids waiting for the feel good picture of the month)

Kimberley said...

We adopted a sibling group of 3 from Kaz this past May--ages 7, 5 and 1 at homecoming. We were that couple, the one that wanted a baby--a girl baby only please. We had our reasons--and you and I have heard them all.
I look at my older two, now 8 and 6 and just can't believe we almost missed them! They are just amazing--smart, sweet, loving and I could go on and on. We love all of them and can't imagine that all 3 of them would not be in our lives if we had stuck with what we thought was such a great "original" plan. My favorite first of theirs--swimming at the beach.
Thanks for this post. Completely agree!!
~Kim in NY

Lara said...

Great post! Thanks for stopping by and introducing yourself.

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