Monday, May 26, 2008

Holy Crap

Some of you who are astute readers and willing to listen to my political/social/economic ramblings know that I have a 23-year-old daughter. You also know that my wife and I, who had been dating for about two months when she got pregnant, made the decision to give her up for adoption. In Oregon, you are allowed to get information about your birth parents when you turn 18 (a practice I'm not convinced is a good idea just yet, although I'm quite happy that our daughter found us), and so she did five years ago. 

While it hasn't always been a smooth ride, I have always been thrilled that my daughter is in our lives, although sometimes not so much. 

Now, in a plot twist made for a Lifetime channel movie, I can say that I am going to be a grandfather right around New Years Day, assuming everything goes well. Making things only slightly more complex is the fact that my daughter and the father were living together for a while, broke up for a few months, decided to get back together, and sealed the deal with a little surprise. He's moving up to Portland from Vegas in early July, and from the few days I've spent with him I have a good opinion of him. They do not plan to get married right away, which I think is a good idea. 

I am, of course, concerned about a few things. I'm slightly worried that we may end up being the defacto parents of this child for a variety of reasons, and we have no experience with such things. I'm also a little concerned that my daughter is a member of an evangelical church, and my experience has been that some members of such churches can be extremely judgmental and nasty, especially as my daughter isn't planning to get married. I do not think that all evangelical Christians are this way, far from it, but when Mel was pregnant 24 years ago (my God) the handful of people who behaved poorly at hearing this news were, with one exception, evangelical Christians. Me, I'm not terribly concerned about the opinions of the people in her church, but I am concerned that she went looking for community and that she may be disappointed when some ostracize her for being fertile. These are small issues, however. My grandchild has the world before her (we do not know the sex yet, of course, as she is only a couple of months into the pregnancy) and a support system that is ready to help when she needs and wants it.

My own reaction has been interesting. We found out on Mother's Day (apropos!), and for about a week I wasn't sure if I was reacting at all. Everything felt very - flat, which I attribute to shock. On the one hand, my DNA is doing what it's geared to do - reproduce. On the other hand, an unplanned pregnancy (at least in this case) is something that is going to have repercussions on the rest of my daughter's life, regardless of what choice she were to make. I am pleased she did not choose abortion, although I am pro-choice (technically, I'd call myself pro-planning and would prefer that women are never in a position to have to choose abortion, but consider it the lesser of two evils). I think that the emotional cost of abortion scars you for life, and it is a choice that women should enter into very carefully. At the same time, I have seen the costs of adoption from both sides, and they are high as well. My daughter is already scarred from that experience, and I often wonder if she would be happier and more stable had we kept her (although we can never know - there are so many variables). 

In all, I think she is making the correct and responsible choice to keep this child. I think that this situation is going to force her to grow up very quickly, and that she is going to be challenged on many levels, potentially to the point where she breaks down in some way. I think that the situation is going to finally give us the chance to earn her trust, as we have been where she is now in many ways. I think that I am going to love being a grandfather, and heaven help this child if she doesn't enjoy playing games with me. I think that explaining why there are so many grandparents (both my daughter and her boyfriend have divorced parents, and then there's us, meaning up to ten "grandparents", although in this case I think that genetics wins ties) will be a challenge. I think that this is going to be one loved child. 

I also think I would have preferred to be in my 50's before becoming a grandparent. I certainly would have preferred that my 60 year old brother become a grandparent before me. I'm fairly certain I have beaten all of my friends to grandparenthood, at least those who are at or near my age. Being a grandparent is a milepost that says you are old, that your life is over and it's time to hand the torch to those younger than you. That's not likely to happen, as my life is full of me sidestepping the traditional path because it doesn't make sense to me. I am a 45-year-young grandfather, and I'm looking forward to it. I'm still going to skip over my birthdays, though.

The only thing I know is that none of this (other than providing love and support) is in my hands. I can give advice when asked, a shoulder to cry on, a helping hand when needed. But in the long and short run, all I can do is those things. They are not trivial, but they are not the hard work of parenting or trying to build a long term relationship almost from scratch. This is the work my daughter will need to do, and I both wish I could spare her this struggle and exult that she has, at long last, reached adulthood for better or for worse. 

So think good thoughts for Steph as she goes through this gauntlet. It will not be denied, and we now celebrate new life into a world of chaos and uncertainty as we have for millennia, throwing our DNA into the void of an uncaring and hostile universe, and are glad. 


Jon said...

Congratulations to you and your daughter!

Seth Owen said...

And good luck!