He’s eleven now. And I should mention that he’s bright. His IQ is higher than either of ours, which strangely didn’t come as a shock when we found out. In a way it was comforting, an explanation of sorts. But the key here is that he gets things, swiftly and with a confidence that is disconcerting at times. Chess was that way, at five he could beat me, from the moment he was taught the basics of the game he just saw the board in a way that I’ll never see it. I guess I should also mention his heightened fight or flight response, with fight always coming first. We suspect this is a carryover from infancy, the year of institutionalization coinciding with that precious first year of brain development where the neural net is carved in granite. His neural pathway to the fight response is a super highway.
Flash forward to last Monday where a simple game of tag, with the goal of swiping a knit hat ended in the principal’s office. He had the hat. I can imagine him pulling it down tight over his ears before taking off in a sprint. He’s no distance runner but he has good speed in short intervals. I’m sure it was after that initial burst that she caught him. She grabbed for the hat. He pulled the edges down tight. She got a firmer grip on the hat and in the process his hair. She pulled. He yelled. She pulled. He kicked. Let me say at this point that the last time he kicked was just a few weeks ago. He put his toe to his father's shin and succeeded in bending his father over, so I’m sure the girl had a right to be upset.
Warning – bad words ahead. She called him out. “Fuck you, you bastard.” She said. I can imagine the words bursting from her in a bellow, somewhat deserved to be honest. From there they both landed in the principal’s office.
Phone calls to parents were made. (I answered my cell phone when it rang so I got the good news first.) Community service was issued. And all around grumbling ensued. The incident was rehashed at length over the dinner table that night with the younger ones hanging on every word. It took a while to get the story straight and even then he glossed over her role saying only that she used the F word which is what earned her the trip to the office.
As parents we gnashed our teeth over the proper response. Violent knee jerk reactions aren’t unusual with this child but things have been better as of late. He accepted that he was in the wrong and we came up with his “consequences” together. Everyone agreeing that it was reasonable.
I went to school. I talked to the teacher who was quite matter of fact about the whole thing but then she said, “Well, did he tell you what she said?”
“just that she used the F word”
“it was more than that”
I gave her a questioning look and she quoted the exact phrase that was used. The girl had called him a bastard. She gave me a significant look. I stared at the teacher dumbly thinking to myself well he was acting like an ass, so the word was apt. Then it sunk in. She had called him a bastard - a man who didn’t know his sire. Oh.
“Surely she didn’t mean it that way.” I said.
“No, no, I don’t think so but I wanted to be sure he wasn’t upset by it.”
Until that moment I’d never thought of my son as a bastard. It had never crossed my mind before. But standing in that classroom with the 5th grade teacher watching over me I realized it was true. An archaic term to be sure but accurate, if you’re sticking with the literal definition, my son is a bastard. His sire is a mystery.
And so I’m left wondering why he left it out of the story, this very bright child of mine. Was he more impressed by the F word and so the word bastard didn’t seem necessary in driving home her transgression? Or was there another reason, one he doesn’t want to face, that he is something that is so looked down upon in society that we curse it. He is cursed. A boy who doesn’t know his sire and more than likely never will.
The beauty of an adoption that is going right, is that you forget. The fact of the adoption just floats right out of your mind. Eons can pass where it doesn't occur to you. The child is simply yours. And then there are jarring moments when it all falls back in your lap and your eyes are opened fresh again.
My son is a bastard… but don’t tell that to his father.