On Monday afternoons my son has short, one on one swimming lessons.
Last week the lesson fell on one of the colder days of the year, and the interior room where the swimming pool is felt strangely hot and humid. I helped L get out of all his layers and put on his swimming trunks. Then we took his goggles off and put on his new goggles with the the special farsighted lenses. They are not exactly his prescription, but finally, he does not have to become legally blind every time he gets into the swimming pool. It was a big development, as it has been very disconcerting to try to learn to swim while simultaneously not being able to see.
Then I sat and watched him for the next fifteen minutes, the length of the lesson. And it was lovely. L has become long and lanky in the last year. He is 95th percentile in height, but only 55th percentile in weight. From a distance I could watch his perfect skinny body poised to leap into the pool. His pointy shoulder blades sticking out like little chicken wings. The winter sunlight came streaming throught the window and gave the scene the feeling of a pristine memory; an idealized flashback from a movie.
L is not tremendously coordinated and tends to be tentative, so his jumps into the pool felt gangly and awkward. But he was so proud of himself. "Mom, look at me float all by myself!" "Watch me swim underwater." When he would pop out of the water he would concentrate so hard on blowing air out of his mouth and nose. I could see his confidence growing. His positivity warmed me and removed me from every other worry that I had.
Even watching L talk with his instructor was so beautiful. I couldn't hear what he was saying, but he was so sincere and animated. Their conversations were frequently peppered with high fives as each new miniscule milestone was passed.
As I sat there the word "elegiac" came to me. As though the scene was simultaneously a bittersweet ode to childhood and parenthood. But the definition of that word is more about sadness or death or loss. So elegiac is not quite right. But it's close.
I think this is why it's hard for me when people give up on having kids due to infertility and because "adoption is just not for them." Adoption is more complicated and it's harder (which is why the "just adopt" contingent drives me mad. Tell those people people that they'll need to shell out 20k plus, and have their entire lives scrutinized and then wait in limbo with no guaranteed time frame, and see how they feel about "just" doing anything.) As an adoptee I know that adoptive parents take on a special challenge. But so do parents with dyslexic kids, or ADD kids. Lots of kids present special challenges.
But to give up on being a parent (IF that's what you really want), to miss this opportunity to watch a child grow, to never have a child look to you with delight at their accomplishments - I can't stand that people will miss that experience. I realize this is very self-indulgent, because I am assuming that my view and my experience of parenthood is somehow universal. I realize everyone's experience is very different. . So I'll shut up soon. But I do want to say one more thing. When I delight in my son; in his mannerisms, his expressions, his joy and his pride, it has nothing whatsover to do with the fact that he is genetically related to me. I can't even see myself in him anymore, although on occcasion I do see my husband. But that is not where my love comes from. Instead it comes from enjoying the uniqueness of this little person, with his own character, and his own features, and his own personal experiences. He is himself, and that is what is perfect to me.