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Monday, July 31, 2006  

Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth

If you ever want to learn a lot about yourself, fill out the paperwork to adopt a child. You don't even have to actually go through with an adoption; just fill out the forms and throw them away. Trust me, it's a learning experience.

When Trash and I were filling out the paperwork a couple of years ago, we got to the part where it asks you what kind of…problems you're prepared to deal with in an adoptive little one. We went into this section full of naïve bravado. After all, we thought, people who get pregnant the old-fashioned way don't have any guarantees as to what they're getting, either. A couple of triathletic Rhodes scholar supermodels could end up with a Clint Howard character, for all they know. It's only fair for us adoptive parents to take the same risks, right? And there are selfish reasons, too. At the risk of seeming cynical, the more picky you are, the longer you're likely to wait.

So Trash started reading things off to me. Things like clubfoot. Cleft palate. 20% blindness. 40% blindness. 20% blindness in one eye. 20% blindness in one eye and 20% deafness in one ear. 20% blindness in one eye, 60% deafness in one ear, and total deafness in the other ear. And so on, until I was 60% deaf in one ear and 80% blind in both eyes. It went on. Missing extremities. Missing limbs. Missing limbs both above the joint, missing limbs below the joint, and missing limbs at the joint. Missing faces.

Clearly, whoever designed the paperwork put a lot more thought into this than we had.

This went on and on for pages, like a sort of macabre Chinese menu. Every imaginable form of disease, syndrome, infirmity, and deformity was listed, both alone and in combination with every other disease, syndrome, infirmity, and deformity. After about forty or fifty pages of this, we started to get a little depressed. Who wouldn't be, considering that by this point, our prospective child was pretty much down to a brainstem? Needless to say, we were no longer checking off items blithely. We could pretend to be heroes, or we could be honest with ourselves and let the hypothetical schizophrenic hermaphroditic quintuple amputee with chronic halitosis and projectile diarrhea go to someone better equipped to care for him/her.

It also meant that when M. Tiny arrived, perfect in every way aside from being in such a big damn hurry to be born, we could be that much more grateful for how well he turned out.

Of course, the form didn't have the one trait that might have been a deal-breaker. By which I mean humorlessness. Good thing M. Small doesn't have that.

His sense of humor's been developing nicely, ever since he was only a few months old. I remember an old Ray Romano standup bit, where he complained that the only joke he'd written since the birth of his new baby was to jangle his car keys and go "Heeeyyy…" I'm proud to say that even at an early age, M. Small was above such primitive japes. His initial tastes did tend towards physical comedy, however. Specifically, the funniest thing in the world to him was to find himself upside-down. Hours of hilarity, until my or Trash's back gave out.

But more recently, he's been venturing into verbal humor. A few weeks ago, I put him into his crib before remembering to zip him into his sleep-sack. "Oops," I said. "I forgot your sleep sack! Daddy's crazy!"

M. Small gave one of those belly laughs he only does when "breakdancing" (another physical-comedy bit, in which he lies down on the kitchen linoleum and I spin him on his back at approximately 200 RPMs until his irises get all swirly). "Hazy!" he mimicked, laughing harder every time. When you're not yet able to string a sentence together, your jokes have to be very short indeed. For the entire rest of the week, his favorite joke was "Crazy!" And he was generous with it, too; no matter who said it, it was cause for hysterics.

Eventually even the best joke loses its luster, no matter how much soul of wit it possesses. Fortunately, he's got a new one that he likes to tell: "Ah-CHOO!" This is accompanied by raucous giggles and spectacular full-body spasms, until he bumps his head on the carpet from a standing position and goes to be with his mom for a minute or two until the stars go away.

I can't tell you how glad I am that my son likes jokes. The challenge over the coming months is to keep him supplied with appropriately short ones. I know one two-word joke: "Pretentious? Moi?" As for other one-word jokes, the closest thing I can think of (not counting "Motherfucker," which is probably inappropriate) is "Kalamazoo." Long joke short, I only hope M. Small keeps learning English quickly.

posted by M. Giant 7:57 PM 7 comments


I'm adopted and it has never been anything but wonderful. It was never a secret and I totally got my dad's wonderful sense of humour. I'm glad to hear that M. Small is going to have the same terrific experience as me, because I wouldn't trade it for the world.

Congratulations on a great son! Congratulations on being fabulous parents.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at July 31, 2006 at 8:36 PM  

My niece is 21 months old and adopted. She has a great sense of humor and the updside down thing, still gets her hysterical. Her other favorite thing, running into walls and stopping right before you hit. Yelling Boom Chucka lucka boom and she gets so hysterical she gives herself hiccups. So my sisters friends, teaching their kids, stop and go and numbers, my neice, learning to run into walls. What a smart kid.
But, no matter what it is....the best sound in the world, is kids laughing.

By Blogger Libragirl, at August 1, 2006 at 2:25 AM  

I hope M. Small figures out that he has incredibly smart, funny, cool parents before he grows up and moves out. :-)

By Blogger Unknown, at August 1, 2006 at 7:00 AM  

I haven't been reading your blog long enough to understand what you went through with the full adoption process, but as a huge fan of your TWoP recaps, I can tell you that your son is lucky to have parents who have a great sense of humor. All science aside, I think that's definitely a result of nurture over nature, and I'm of the belief that the ability to laugh at and delight in ridiculousness is the best survival tactic in today's world.

By Blogger Morgan, at August 1, 2006 at 7:52 PM  

I can't wait for Trash to teach him demented combinations of traditional cliches, such as, "That's kind of like a wolf in grandpa's sheep skin rubber," or "Don't put all your chickens in your handbasket in hell." The schoolkids are sure to beat his ass in the bathrooms between classes...

By Anonymous Anonymous, at August 2, 2006 at 6:17 AM  

I have been meaning to email you to ask you some questions about the adoption process. I am still composing the letter in my head, but just know one will be coming in the future. Thanks!


By Blogger Finding My New Normal, at August 2, 2006 at 10:57 AM  

Chao is totally right - Trash doesn't understand cliches. Ask her to explain a bird in the hand sometime.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at August 2, 2006 at 11:14 AM  

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