Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Childhood

It's not exceedingly frequent, but I have often considered the idea of adopting a child. Depending on my circumstances in a few years, I may even consider adopting a couple of children.

On a flight to Miami last year, I sat next to a woman on the plane. She was interested in me and what I do, and so we chatted about this and that. Women who are mothers typically light up when I tell them about my research. It's kind of cool, because I get to hear many wonderful stories. Before I knew it, she told me the story of her adopted daughter. She said that when she was 28 years old (my age!), she was working as a nurse in one of the Miami hospitals. She and her husband had been trying to conceive their own child for 3 years, and nothing was working. One day, a 15-year-old girl girl arrived at the hospital with "stomach cramps" and delivered a full-term baby. The girl was on vacation with her family from Brazil, and the father insisted that she leave the baby behind. Apparently, one of the nurses came to the woman when she was on her break and asked if she wanted a baby. The answer was an unequivocal yes, and she and her husband adopted the baby girl. The woman beamed when I asked to see pictures of her then 18-year-old daughter. In 100% proud mother fashion, she shared with me all 30 of the wallet photos she had in her purse.

In my travels, I get handed babies all of the time. Of course, I find this more comical than anything. I always bounce the baby around, make a few faces, laugh and hand it back to its rightful owner. One time, though, I was touring through a coffee-picking tenement near the Nicaraguan border, when a woman desperately handed me her child and said that he would die if I didn't take him with me. I certainly didn't laugh when I heard this one. She said that the baby was her 5th child and that she couldn't afford to feed another one. I looked at her, then looked at the little boy in my arms and realized immediately what was amiss. The mother was a very attractive woman with dark, distinctively Mayan features, but the child had honey-colored skin, curls of dark-blonde hair and big, round, deep green eyes. The mother pulled me aside and pleaded that I take her child to his "American father". At first I was confused, but then I looked at the two children that were clinging to her skirts and knew exactly what had happened. Sexual tourism is a big thing in this part of the world. American men come down from the States for women like this all of the time. I later learned (in a brothel in San Jose), that these loser American types are referred to as "Teddy Bears" because they are all typically big, fat and hairy. (And in my mind, telling their wives and kids in the suburbs that they are going on fishing trips down South. Anyway.) Doing the math on the child in my arms, I calculated that he had most likely been conceived during the last Christmas season. From my brothel friends in San Jose, I learned that it's not especially uncommen for women to come to the city sell their bodies, most especially over the Navidad season, so that they can give something to their children.

Of course, I am in no position to even consider bringing children into my life. I don't anticipate being there for quite some time, and I am in no rush. But the thought is there. Not too long ago, I thought about how the act of parenting is really having the ability to give someone a great childhood. Every child deserves to be safe and loved. In this, every child deserve a proper childhood. One day, I'm sure I'll reclaim a bit of my own lost childhood in the process of caring for new little people, whether they are biologically mine or not.

8 comments:

VJ said...

You know N, I had many immediate emotional reactions to this that might seem a bit unusual. They are counted in 184 years & redneck truckers.

The first human rights organization known in the western world was the Anti-Slavery Society; 'Society for the Mitigation and Gradual Abolition of Slavery Throughout the British Dominions' founded in London in 1823. The American Anti-Slavery Society was founded soon after in 1833 by the famous abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison. Frederick Douglass was one of their famous lecturers. That's 184 years of effort to eliminate the worst practices of human bondage, and yet 'sex slavery', particularly of very young children is still with us today. It is a tragic burgeoning problem affecting many regions of the world. It steals the futures & well being of millions of young men & women around the world every year. There's a UN link below;
[http://www.un.org/events/10thcongress/2098.htm]

For the functionally illiterate, there's also a recent Academy Award winning movie 'Born into Brothels' and a website: [http://www.kids-with-cameras.org/home/].

But 'Teddy Bears' indeed. Rush enjoys vacations alone down in those same sunny clines, and yet somehow has need for scads of Viagra for his desperate needs that can not be met closer to home. But no one has mistaken him for a cuddly anything, well since Gerald Ford held office. It's a joke and a lark for plenty of guys. Worse I imagine for some of the distinctly non 'Teddy bear' like blokes who frequent some of the younger clientele. These kids, these women and the men who frequent them in 3rd world contexts are now among the most significant disease vectors we know. You can follow the rapid spread of AIDS in Africa by looking to the long haul trucking routes, and to the sex workers who serviced this clientele. [Wait for the trucking bit...].

Strictly speaking, prostitution is not slavery, but when the body in question is one of a juvenile, it's questionable if they understand or can legally consent to such transactions. All for a bit of what amounts to 'mutual masturbation'. So sex tourism, looking for that 'special young stuff'? How very, well early 19th century of us & the punters who participate. I fear we'll be just as unsuccessful as our great grandfathers in stamping out 'white slavery', but hey I think we're bringing back the miserable, discriminatory & useless Mann Act too. We never truly learn anything from history. This is what history tells us. Each generation has to continuously reinvent their own version of the same wheel.

'Teddy Bear' was also the nickname of Red Sovine, an almost ancient C&W singer who penned the very popular trucker tear jerker (are there any other kind) 'Phantom 309' in the mid-late 1970's. Naturally, I think he died just about before you were born. He's still selling though: [http://www.redsovine.com/]

On the general question & proposition, I'll agree. Once you've overcome the inertia, you're almost home.

Cheers & Good Luck! 'VJ'

jaymichaelrivera said...

I knew there was something I liked about you! ;]

As you know, I work for foster and family care agency here in California.

*** WARNING: PR SPIEL AHEAD ***

There are roughly 500,000 children in foster care in the United States; roughly 300,000 are available for adoption. My wife and I are giving serious thought to adopting children through foster care. The kids who come through our office are so needy, for lack of a better term. But they're so bright, and loving and are just the victims of bad parenting.

If you're interested in pursuing this at some point in the future, I'd be happy to answer any questions. It's not for everyone, but it's an amazing experience.

One last thing: one of our local papers ran this story on one of our foster parent families who adopted six girls. It's an amazing story and a real tear-jerker. Make sure to watch the slideshow.

*** END OF MAKE-A-DIFFERENCE RANTING ***

I-66 said...

My name is I-66. I was adopted, and I support this message.

Phil said...

I was surprised to learn through others how difficult and expensive it is to adopt a baby.

A very noble thing - and a huge commitment.

Namaste said...

I heart I-66.

El Guapo in DC said...

I am convinced that you are the gringa version of mi madre.

Asian Mistress said...

I am adopted too and if you ever want to chat about it let me know! Cookie has my contact info... :)

DC Cookie said...

Would you consider god-parenthood? :-)