When this post hits my blog, my family will be in a courtroom where Jodi is officially adopting the Divine Miss M. She will finally be recognized as a full and equal parent under the law and soon, we’ll all have the same last name. (That latter part is notable because I am bizarrely preoccupied with signing our Christmas cards, ‘the Martins’ instead of three first names).
During this hearing the judge is likely to ask me why I think Jodi will be a good parent. Who can answer questions like that?
Jodi is a good parent, so the idea of whether she ‘will be’ is a non-issue. Jodi’s been a good parent for years. My concern is how to explain that in actual words. There isn’t a checklist. Obviously there are some don’ts that are deal breakers – like you can’t abuse or neglect them – but beyond that, the answer to what makes a good parent is nebulous, at best. And to be honest, I think whatever the magic qualities are change by the day or the hour. Honestly, there have been a few days since M hit the tween years that simple survival means marks in both mine and Jodi’s favor. Pretty sure that’s not what the judge is looking for in response to that question, though …
I have to answer in a way that is worthy of Jodi’s parenting. This is where I derive my concern. I’ve watched her parent for years and she deserves more than a trite, hackneyed response. Last summer comes to mind, when we were on our way to the two-week camp. M was nervous and I was being protective, but the day was really saved when Jodi was subtly empowering. Or when Jodi brought that same subtle empowerment to get M through the move to a new state and starting a whole new school. Or maybe hearken back to when M and Jodi first met seven years ago, and M, who has always been as selective and stingy with her affection as I, was the first to say, “I love you.” But those are stories, not really answers …
An easy response is Jodi is a good parent because she’s patient. I don’t mean that flippantly. Jodi possesses actual, real patience. I’d never seen that quality in a person prior to meeting her so maybe that’s why it stands out but she has it in everything, not just parenting. It’s something I admire and envy in turns and its value cannot be overstated when it comes to raising children.
But I can’t stand in front of a judge and just say she’s a good parent because she’s patient. There are other things.
Everyone shows their caring and affection in different ways (yes, I am stridently avoiding the phrase ‘love language’ – because blech, nauseating). Jodi shows hers through service – she’s a server, a doer, a fixer. She does things for people she cares about, she looks for ways to help them beyond mere words. I don’t think it’s a conscious thought process on her part, it’s just who she is and how she approaches relationships, in general. It goes well with her other qualities, such as rejecting the idea of naps or sitting down, and her boundless love of projects (*sigh* admittedly, I do miss naps). Recently, she found driftwood while she was fishing. Gathered it all up and brought it home. Why, you ask? I can assure you that was my question. Granted, I think mine was more along the lines of what the h*ll? But she saw some and thought it would be perfect for making wands with our Harry Potter obsessed child. The two of them, and when M has friends over the three of them, sit out on the deck with the sander (could be the wrong name, it’s a machine thing, electric – not my area), varnish, some other tool that makes carvings in the wood (again, her area) and make a lot of seriously cool looking wands. These don’t look like sticks or toys, they’re like art. She works with her on volleyball and swimming. When it’s time to come up with Halloween costume ideas, it’s Jodi who puts all that together – because project! The year she wanted to be Athena, the Greek Goddess of Wisdom, what started out as a store bought costume was transformed into something else entirely. Even M’s greek sandals that barely showed had gold vines that went halfway up her calves and were the most elaborate ever. They’ve already begun assembling this year’s costume, Zombie Prom-goer (not Queen because, well, our daughter is way too much of a feminist for that). Jodi’s the one M goes to for electronics and mechanics and god knows, Jodi will have to be the one to teach her how to drive because I’ll never possess that level of patience.
Is that how to answer the question – use examples? Maybe. But only if what underlies those examples comes through. Inevitably, Jodi and M spend a lot of time together, truly working together.
There’s also the fact Jodi knows M. This may seem an inconsequential thing but children are hard and they are all very different from each other. No-one simply knows children, they have to know each child. I love our daughter immensely but, as I’ve mentioned, she’s not easy, she has a lot of quirks and not just a little OCD. Navigating the Divine Miss M is no simple task and understanding her is even harder. The only way anyone is ever going to do that is to commit to really knowing her. And Jodi is nothing if not committed to M.
I suppose that brings me to the real crux of parenting because goodness knows, it takes commitment – to the child, not the other parent. If, God forbid, anything happened between the two of us, if Jodi ever decided to take a foolish turn and not love me anymore, her feelings for and her commitment to M wouldn’t change. Obviously, the logistics of parenting would change for both of us, but Jodi’s role in M’s life wouldn’t be altered. I’m confident M knows that as well, if one were to ask her (but I wouldn’t recommend it as she tends to lecture about family and equality a lot). Jodi is her parent and her commitment to M in that regard doesn’t depend on how she feels about me.
Isn’t that the point of adoption? You’re establishing your relationship with the child, your willingness to be responsible and accountable for her, formally intertwining yourself forever with the little girl in front of you. That’s parenting, and it’s separate from me. This is their day, in my mind. I just get the honor of being there.
— love, the Martins