All week, I've had a tightness in my chest and stomach. I tried to breathe like that chiropractor taught me in 2011, a year that was essentially a slow-motion panic attack. I thought it was about work, which has been a little bit intense. I felt frustrated with myself for letting something so banal--something that on balance is a positive in my life--get to me on such a visceral level.
Then, yesterday, I had a great day at work, chatting with our spirited new intern and leading a writing prompt for our Summer Writers' Workshop. During my nightly plummet into social media, I soaked per usual in the day's headlines and outrage, and my stomach clenched again. It finally dawned on me.
On Tuesday night, Dash woke up around 3 am, and I dragged him into bed with AK and me. He promptly fell back asleep while I tossed and turned and chased the blue light of my phone for hours. I kept thinking about what everyone not wearing a jacket announcing their lack of empathy is thinking about. Then I fell asleep and dreamed I was driving to the border to do...what? I didn't know. On my dream-drive, I fell asleep at the wheel and woke up on the 5 South, terrified and guilty and amazed I'd only caused a traffic backup and not a crash.
So yeah, I think that situation is causing me some anxiety. Poor me! I'm so anxious about a thing that is mostly theoretical to me! But hey, this is my blog and it's where I work my shit out, so here goes.
My friend Wendy is a writer on Bob's Burgers who is in the process of fost-adopting two little boys. She raised a shitload of money for childhood cancer research and wrote this piece a couple of years before #MeToo, and she regularly trolls our troll of a president on Twitter in ways that are cutting and sincere and hilarious. Clearly I want to be her when I grow up. She tweeted:
My husband & I have cared for a child old enough to know when he was
separated by DCFS but too young to talk. When he first arrived, he’d
scream all night. One of the only ways to calm him was to take him
outside to look at the moon. These poor babies have no one to hold them.
Baron Vaughn tweeted:
Creating a large population of children traumatized by a country dividing them from their parents couldn’t possibly backfire.
If you've spent five seconds in DCFS circles or reentry circles or you've talked to your therapist about attachment and trauma, you know where this is going. You know that American greed is creating, among other things, a massive public health crisis. Gang membership numbers peaked in the '90s and have dipped since, but mark my words, we're going to see a spike for a number of reasons in another ten years.
But this isn't about public health or my under-informed predictions.
Here's what I posted in the small adoption FB group I'm part of. (In the fall, I quit the one I was in for years after a fallout with two MAGA moms over, guess what, immigration.)
Like most people with a heart, I've been having nightmares about family
separation at the border. But do any of you feel like being an adoptive
parent brings an extra layer of...something? I just keep thinking of
what a huge trigger these headlines must be for birth parents. I know
there's a difference - all the difference - between voluntarily and
lovingly placing a child and having your kid kidnapped by ICE, but....
If I and every parent I know, including bio moms who never miscarried or pined for a child, feel gut-busting panic about the possibility of being separated from our children--if we feel like the things that are most true in our lives are subject to review at any moment--how do people who've actually been separated from their children, for any reason, feel?
The replies to my post helped me clarify my fear/outrage and its corollaries. One mom noted that lots of adoption boards are overflowing with comments about "How do we foster or adopt these babies?" As my friend Sarah said, "You don't! They have families who desperately want to be with them!"
I flashed on the days when I wanted a child so bad I had kidnapping fantasies. I even wrote a short story about it, because writing is a healthy alternative to kidnapping. (Try it, ICE!) I admit--and it brings me deep shame to do so--that the feeling of "Hey cute kid, I wish I could take you home with me" was stronger when I saw babies and small children of color. As if they were somehow more available for the taking.
The taking of children of color, and the erasure of their parents, is nothing new in America. That thought I had was the legacy of slavery, end stop. Even in relatively politically neutral circles of Head Start, etc., the stuff we can all more or less agree on, I sometimes sense an undercurrent of "Kids are okay because they haven't yet embodied the fallout of all the shit that society has piled upon them. But grownups with their messy problems and cultural differences, ugh."
I think there's some of that going on right now. We want parents to be with their kids, but I want us to want it not just for the kids--but for the parents. The ones who did something right and necessary by getting their families out of shitty, colonialism-generated situations in their home countries, but who maybe also make mistakes or snap at their children or smoke cigarettes. All of that stuff is okay too. You don't have to be blameless to deserve basic human rights. There's a billboard around L.A. urging people to become foster parents, and it says: You don't have to be perfect to be a perfect parent. It speaks to me because for a long time I thought I did, and filling out a thousand forms to prove I was worthy didn't help matters.
I know this post is a fucking mess. I'm a bit of a fucking mess right now. Because I had a busy week at work and am thinking about some stuff I went through in 2011. Can you imagine what I'd be like if someone stole my kid this week?