Tag: Education

Wherever Two or More Are Gathered

Two years ago, when an Ethiopian judge asked how I proposed to take care of a baby alone I repeated, after my panic subsided, an old African proverb:“It takes a village to raise a child; and back home in New York City I have a small village.”

My words came back to me, with the news that Julia will attend the same preschool as the son of  another Single Baby Mama cohort. And amazingly, another S.B.M.’s son will join our 3’s group.

So as I clutched the acceptance letter in my hands in front of the wall of mailboxes and read the crisp, page-length text, two, three, four times, as the words washed into relief, washed deeper into me, as my jaw stopped its throb and ache from the lock of stress, a new thought bloomed and brightened in my brain; we Single Baby Mamas will now connect and share the realities of our lives and our children’s lives, daily.

The next day, as we three moms stood on the chilled Central Park playground watching our kids zigzag around the wild zone of free play, I announced, “I’m just so happy Julia got into a good school.”
“I hope you’ll all love the school as much we do,” Single Baby Mama #2 said.
“It’s great that they’ll all be together,” #3 added.
Single Baby Mama #2 smiled. “It maybe selfish,” she said, “but I’m glad there’ll be around single moms there. Usually I’m the only one.”

I’d experience the same unruly feelings for the first time a summer ago, after I bolted from the house with my then one-year-old, through the 100-degree July heat, rushed down and then up the steps of the subway and through the doors of a birthday party for a three-year-old only to discover I was the only mate-less parent in attendance.

As the birthday celebration worn on to its inevitable conclusion, as Julia stuffed chunks of chocolate cake into her mouth, I worked to remember that I nearly didn’t get a child to experience this awkward, odd feeling.

Sometimes the logic holds.

I want Julia to have the best of everything, and yes that includes a father.  God required two adults to come together and make a baby for a reason, I believe. However, for now, the best will consist of a great school, a great home and good mom. And I have a great example to follow. One of Julia’s God Mothers (yes she has two God Mommys Eula and Kim between their survival spirit and unsinkable faith my daughter will be well armed in the world. The search for a God Father continues.)

Still, in this case I am the one learning by Kim’s example.

Over the years I’ve watched Kim, for the most part, raise a wonderful daughter, Jenny, my God Daughter, on her own. Kim never complained, never doubted, at least outwardly. She has supported Jenny as she has grown into a lovely, smart, accomplished young woman; a woman we are all very proud of. And just when you thought the universe had done enough for Kim, a loving, smart accomplished man arrived into her life, a funny, handsome doctor no less, creating a miraculous second act in her life. Kim’s wonderful husband came with a young son in tow from his first marriage. Kim’s bond with the boy, and he with her, is so strong, so seamless, it would seem to strangers their union was formed in blood.

A few weeks back The New York Times ran a piece about a village of women in rural Vietnam, who, lacking marriageable men in their community, or had husbands who did not returning after the war, set out to create, birth and rear children on their own, at great risk to society and economic pressures. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/15/world/asia/in-vietnam-some-chose-to-be-single-mothers.html.

During the dark years of waiting for Julia’s arrival I asked the adoption agency for the names of other single moms and dads to be.  To me, this small community of women is vital. We don’t just survive, we thrive. And, so do our children.

Now looking at the wind worn wrinkled face of an older woman in the Loi providence from the curve of the newsprint, her red sweater clad grandson curled in her arms, I realized, over my morning cappuccino that I was face to face with an older, long-lost sister.

Shot through the Heart

I thought after viewing the morning news at the dawn of last Wednesday my next post would focused around Steve Martin was becoming a first time Dad at the age of 67 and the second coming, so to speak, of Alex Baldwin’s fatherhood as he and his third wife await their new baby.

abcnews.go.com/Health/alec-baldwin-wife-pregnant-fatherhood-time/story?id=18494143

I though I would craft prose around the disparity between the treatment of over forty moms verses dads, how society gives older fathers nearly visible high fives, and few snickers behind their backs at their news of “a bun in the oven,” while many first time over 40 Moms, receive wide eye stares, and looks reserved for Hollywood alien spacecraft landing on suburban lawns. Two years ago, a Whole Foods cashier not once but twice, integrated me during the same transaction about my claim of motherhood to Julia.
“ You sure you’re not her grandma?” The girl with the Kool-Aid colored red hair and pink slacked lips, asked.

I thought I would write about the documentary I’d seen a few months back featuring an Indian woman who finally achieved motherhood, at the age of seventy year-old, through an egg donor program and a willing doctor.

http://www.nbcnews.com/id/28112285/ns/health-pregnancy/#.USYl5Y7FX-Y

I thought I’d write of her glowing pride, as she held her baby, while her wrinkled, brown-skinned husband nearly levitating off the floor. “Now we are no longer ashamed, now we have a child,” he said, the curse of childlessness had ended. I knew for sure I wanted to write about the broken pride I held for this Indian couple, half a world away.

Then I clicked on an email around, noon and I found out Julia did not get in my first choice school for her, St. Hilda’s.
Even before Julia came home, even before the miscarriage that led to the journey of adoption, riddled with stories of bribes and terrors, I braced myself for the private school process in New York City. Five years earlier a Wall Street executive, Jack Grubman was brought down, not by the Feds or a money mismanagement scandal, but from his attempt to bribe his way into an Upper East Side pre school. http://abcnews.go.com/2020/story?id=123782&page=1

Every nursery school ,that I know of, our home is private, requiring an application and “play date test.” So if I must pay, why not give Julia the best, what I considered the best, what I had seen as the best. For the past five years I’ve watched two extraordinary boys at my church grow into talented, smart young men before my eyes, through the efforts of their parents, and St. Hilda’s. I wanted St. Hilda’s before I wanted Julia.

But the email said “ We sincerely regret”

I had prayed. “that we were unable to offer your child”

I had affirmed. “a place in our school.”

I read the e-mail, and let out an audible gasp reserved for witnesses to a pedestrian mowed down by a drunk driver.

I haven’t felt this low since my adoption of Julia was almost annulled.

*

“You know, after everything you and Julia have been through the past three years, this is just a blip on the screen,” my brother Jeffery said. “ Sure, schools matter but the parents matters more.”
I stood staring at the sea of Manhattan traffic trying to figure out just when my baby brother had become so brilliant, so statesman like. Gandhi of Michigan.

*

I walked into my home Wednesday night, and before I removed my coat, I removed a bottle of wine from the sideboard.
“St. Hilda’s said no,” I told my nanny’s curious eyes, the answer to the why’s and what for’s of my actions, my opening and pouring a beaker of wine within minutes of entering the house was unseen in the year that she has worked for our family.

“But we had the second playdate!” she yelped.

“Yeah, that seemed a good sign.”

*

“I’m in shock, did they say why?” My mom asked.

“They never say why,” I explained. “It’s like a mob hit., two to the chest, one to the head. And adios.”

*

Julia’s not quite three years old; plenty of time for disappointments, more than enough time to learn life uses them as paving stones. This I know. But this was a new variety of a disappointment. Disappointments of mine, I can weather. Disappointments for my girl, my Julia, well, talk to me in a month.

*

“I’ll see what I can find out about other pre-schools,” Ronda offered, later that night.

“Sure,” I said, and took another gulp of wine. The Cabernet burned its way down my throat. This is not a wine consumption enjoyment moment. This was self-medication.
“A blip on the screen.” Really?

*

The next morning, remembered the date, February 14th. A shot to the heart and your to blame, your give love a bad name.

The Price of Parenthood

The cost of Parenthood, according to The Wall Street Journal

This week The New York Times published an essay on the cost of  feeding,  housing and educating a child into adulthood, and beyond. The post by Nadia Taha, The Cost, in Dollars, of Raising a Child covered every element of child rearing one could think of from braces to college to providing healthcare to the child into his or her twenties. The negative effects of Motherhood aka. “The Mommy Track” against a woman’s career and total lifetime earnings was also detailed. This extraordinary break down,which came to $435,030 in a conservative estimate to $ 776,000  and upwards to a cool 1.6 million by The Wall Street Journal’s cost analysis can be found here: http://bucks.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/11/13/the-cost-in-dollars-of-raising-a-child/

But what the writer missed while covering the monetary benefit of not having children is this: Parenthood is rarely so simple and clear. Statically, more than half the children born are not planned, the result of  the “oops factor.” However, human nature and foibles didn’t come into the writer’s reasoning and neither did, it seemed,  did the heart.

As I read the break down my heart hurt. I thought of the parents, the singles and couples, who agonized over having children, and yet found themselves staring at an EPT test strip with two purple lines. I thought of my grandfather, the second man my maternal grandmother married, a woman who brought five children to the marriage and added two more to their new jointly formed family. No one in that house, I believe, conducted a dollar cost analysis to having additional children or the act of raising children produced from another man’s gene pool, an idea lost on me, sadly until the funeral of my Grandpa Joe, ten years ago. I missed thanking the one super hero that ever bounced me on his knee but I can be proud of my brother Jeffrey who followed our Grandfather’s example and married my sister-in-law, a mother of two, and added two children to their union, creating as close that I’ve personally seen to a black Brady Bunch.

As with many things in life you can look at the bottom line or you can listen to what your heart tells you. And somehow, I believe at the end of my life, the calculation made by my heart, to become a mother, to adopt a child, to step into the life I wanted, will yield the best return on investment.