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Have you heard the SockKids Song? You haven’t?
Click on the image below to hear two different versions (via YouTube). Many thanks to Mike Petrone for organizing the studio time. Click on the image below to listen to the two versions:
That November night was an evening like so many others, cold and dreary. It would end up being extraordinary.
My two daughters, separated by four years and divided on so many subjects, were in perfect disharmony again over another silly issue. One daughter wanted the window down for some fresh air while the other demanded more heat.
I kept my cool for the initial spurt of acrimonious words, offering a compromise by lowering the window halfway. I was more determined to keep my eyes focused straight ahead as our little car navigated the tricky curves of the Southern State Parkway along the south shore of Long Island.
“I’m cold, Daddy,” one daughter said, mechanically pushing the window up, igniting a fierce retaliatory response from my other daughter in the front passenger seat.
“No!” was her reply.
The window slid up and down several times, distracting me as I drove in the left lane.
“Stop!” I finally shouted.
It momentarily quelled the battle. A few seconds later, I heard the window slide down. And up. And down. And up.
By now, rush hour traffic was all around me as I headed back east to go home. I had enough. I reached over to push a button to give me control of the window. I took my eye off the car in the middle lane next to me and in that split second he crossed in front of me.
I stopped short and my left tire hit the narrow barrier. The car bounced up and down like a rubber ball, then spun around 360 degrees. It felt like we were in slow motion. I felt a momentary sense of relief as I could feel two tires in the back settle down. Yet, we spun around again 360 degrees. I remember thinking, “Oh my God, I’m going to hit someone and hurt them. Oh my God.”
It’s safe to say now during this brief moment I was preparing myself to die so I let my body relax. But it was only for a second or two. I fought to regain control of the bouncing car and steered it away from traffic and into the median on the left. The car darted off the highway and into brush, speeding toward a group of trees as I pressed hard on the brake.
My oldest turned around and said to her sister, “I love you.”
She then said to me, “I love you, Daddy.”
I kept pressing on the brake as the brush and branches scraped and battered the frame of the car. We came skidding to a stop, banging into a tree. The car was smashed in but we were unharmed. I made sure everyone was fine and sat there for a few minutes. I got back on the highway and drove home – in silence. No one asked to put the window up or down.
I walked in silence and went upstairs, turned off the bedroom light, laid down, and cried. Some tears were from fear, fear that I could have been the reason why my daughters never got to live through their childhoods. There were tears of joy, thankful for this “miracle.” There were tears of gratitude, too. I was grateful that I would have more days and memories with my daughters.
Grateful. Grateful to still be here and able to hug and tell my daughters, “I love you.”
I reflected back on that night many times and wondered what have I done wrong that these two beautiful people in my life can’t see how terrific their relationship can be. Sisters and brothers should always have great friendships.
I spoke about that moment a couple of years later during supper on a hot summer day. We were sitting down at a dining room table after a barbecue when I began my thoughts, remembering the instant my oldest told my youngest, she loved her.
Perhaps embarrassed, both of them diverted my thoughts again, this time making fun of my socks, mismatched as they were on this August afternoon. We started to laugh. Then another miracle happened. I saw some sighs from my daughters that they were actually enjoying each other’s company – at my expense.
I was fine with this situation.
I let them tease me some more. I gave them a big grin. Then I started thinking. Wait. Where do my missing socks go? What happens to them? Are they runaway socks? Do they seek other humans’ feet to warm? Could they time travel?
The laughter continued while my mind raced. While ideas were percolating, I still never left this sweet moment, relishing the smiles on their faces.
They were inspiring me.
Both of my daughters.
I started to draw up the concept inside my head. The excitement was building that I had something special to share with adults and children.
I looked down at my socks for a brief moment and whispered, “Why, thank you, my friends.”
I waited for the laughter to die down before I gave them both my gratitude.
They looked at each other with puzzled looks.
“Why?” asked my youngest.
“For showing me that remembering a tough moment can lead to a special one.”
On August 6th of every year, I wear mismatched socks to celebrate our extraordinary day, the day where my daughters enjoyed each other’s company and the moment the SockKids were born.
I hope they notice my mismatched socks more often.
We celebrated the 7th anniversary of my daughter’s “Gotcha Day” last weekend. That was the day we met–the day we became a family. The day I became a parent. Most people become parents the old-fashioned way. There are really only two steps . Step 1: Get pregnant. Step 2: Deliver a baby. Yes, there are all sorts of doctors appointments and stuff along the way, but that’s the gist of the process as designed by Mr. Spock. Simple, logical, and straightforward.
Step 1: Yay, we want to have a family! Attempt traditional step 1.
Step 2: Step 1 does not work. Consider other options.
Step 3: Take a bunch of tests to see why Step 1 does not work.
Steps 4-7: Attempt various medically induced methods of achieving Step 1.
Step 8: Cry a lot.
Step 9: Realize that the love in our hearts does not need to be confined to bio-kids.
Step 10: Decide to adopt.
Step 11: Go to parenting certification classes through county.
Step 12: Complete home study with county social worker, who inspects your house and has to ask some very personal questions.
Step 13: Wait around for county to match you with a child.
Step 14: Get disappointed a few times and wait some more.
Step 15: Switch to a private adoption agency.
Step 16: Make the decision to go with an international adoption.
Step 17: Repeat Step 12.
Step 18: Fill out a gazillion forms.
Step 19: Collect copies of every important document in your and your spouse’s life short of high school transcripts.
Step 20: Mail everything off to the adoption agency in a starry-eyed dream of parenthood.
Step 21: Wait 12.5 months (note that this is one trimester longer than the old-fashioned method but less than half the gestation time of an elephant, so we’ve got that going for us).
Step 22: Receive a photograph from the adoption agency of Your Kid. Fly over the moon as many times as necessary.
Step 23: Get visas and other travel documents together.
Step 24: Make arrangements to leave the country for two weeks. (If you don’t have pets, perhaps you can skip this step.)
Step 25: Pretend to go to work and do all the things you’re supposed to do while surreptitiously looking at photo of Your Kid and flipping out.
Step 26: Fly to Beijing, where you spend a nervous few days trying to remember every moment so you can share it with your child later while you acclimate to a time zone 12 hours opposite your own.
Step 27: Fly to the city where you’ll meet your child. Walk into the hotel room in this city and see two beds, a crib, and a stroller an realize This Is Really Happening.
Step 28: Sit nervously in said hotel room in new city for two hours waiting to meet your guide while your husband finds an NFL game from four days ago to occupy his time (and takes a video of you babbling your excitement so your child has future documentation of what a spaz you were before you met her.)
Step 29: Meet the guide and other family who is adopting in the lobby and walk down the street to the civil affairs office.
Step 30: Sit down in chairs across from the door of the waiting room so you can see people walking down the hallway. Wait
Step 31: Other family is adopting an older set of twins. They get there first. Watch this new family take shape before your eyes.
Step 32: Hear the elevator bell ring and know that in two more heartbeats, a stranger will turn the corner and walk down the hallway toward you, carrying the baby who is destined to be Your Child.
Step 33: Wait the longest two heartbeats of your life.
Step 34: Have your breath taken away by the first sight of Your Child.
Step 35: Sit down with your guide/translator and people from the orphanage.
Step 36: Have person from the orphanage hand Your Child to you. Reach out your hands, wondering if you are really prepared for this, if you are totally going to screw up this whole parenting thing, if someone made a terrible mistake somewhere because this can’t possibly finally be happening, if you’ll ever manage to be as good a parent as this little human deserves to have.
Step 37: Hold Your Kid in your lap for the first time. Breathe. Feel an unimaginable wave of gratitude wash over you. Repeat as often as necessary.
I dropped the kid off at a friend’s house yesterday and stayed a few minutes to chat with the mom, my friend L. It’s one of those fortunate instances where the mom and I became friends when our daughters were about 10 months old but our children actually grew up to like each other. Granted, we threw them together on a regular basis so we could hang out and they had no choice in the matter, but giving toddlers narrow choices is part of the fun of parenthood. The girls parallel played for a few years and then discovered they enjoyed playing together. They’re both quieter, thoughtful kids who like a lot of the same things, so it’s not surprising they’ve chosen to be friends, but it’s nice all the same.
While L. and I stood on her driveway chatting, a couple of the neighbor kids came over and said hello before all of the kids–mine, hers, the neighbors–went off to play together. Just for an instant, I had this sudden flash of seeing myself as these kids must see me: as somebody’s mom, as just another adult.
After the kids had all gone off, leaving the two mothers alone on the driveway, I said to L. “They think we’re grown-ups.”
“I know. I feel like I’m pretending,” she replied.
“Me too. All the time.”
I’ve had similar conversations with other friends at various times (those moments when you think, “We’re sitting around talking about mortgages and our dental health while our kids play–has it really come to this?”). Most of the parents–heck, most of the chronological adults I know–have had similar moments of feeling that they’re totally faking this whole responsible adult thing. I remember my mom visiting with the mom of the kids who lived behind us (they really would chat over the back fence). They seemed so together, so responsible, and so comfortable with themselves as, well, grown-ups. It astonishes me that I might possibly come off the same way to my kid and her friends.
But I guess I do.
I”m a grownup. I’m still the mom who jumps in the pool along with the kids, climbs the monkey bars, and stood on her head at a Girl Scout meeting. It’s a different take on adulthood than my mom had, but it seems to be working. Maybe this is what adulthood is supposed to feel like: You feel the same as you did when you were younger only with an overlay of shock that a bank would loan you enough money to buy a house or people at the grocery store call you “Ma’am.” We’re faking it, but we’re making it.
–by Susan Petrone