25 February 2007

When I Was an Egg

Curious Girl is working out both concepts of time and history, and she, being four and a half, dates all history from herself. So things that happened a long time ago happened "when I was in my orphanage." And things that happened before that were "when I was in J's belly." And before that has been pretty much unimaginable.

But then, school happened. This fall's lessons about Martin Luther King, our talks at home about politics, and then President's Day lessons about Abraham Lincoln got her thinking about US History. "I heard about President Clinton today," she said cheerfully last week after school. "You know, with the hat,"she added, gesturing from the top of her head up towards the roof of the car. (Clinton, Lincoln: good phonemic awaress of that last sound, fuzzy name recognition) "It was on a tape, at rest time. Someone shot him. It was sad." I thought this was rather an odd rest time story, but agreed it was yes, very sad when President Lincoln got shot. (turns out that there was no story on tape at rest time, but rather a teacher-read book about Lincoln that didn't mention the asassination, but the teacher had remarked that Lincoln reminded her a bit of MLK; CG probably made the leap that since MLK was shot, so was Lincoln.) "Was that when you were a little girl?" she asked. No, it was a long time ago, I explained, which led to her wondering whether it was when she was in the orphanage, or growing inside J's belly. "So it was when I was an egg," she finally announced. I demurred. "But then where was I?" I tried saying that she wasn't anywhere in particular, but she was having none of it. The best I could do was "You were energy in the universe, waiting to become an egg." That seemed to make some kind of sense to her, although she wanted to know what was universe (the ground? no, everything all around.) I'll check the text of It's Amazing!, but I'm pretty sure it doesn't cover the pre-egg, pre-sperm development. Anyone else have a better explanation of where we were before we were eggs? I heard her playing the other day, telling one of her dolls that an egg was meeting a sperm and turning into a baby. She has the right idea. I love watching her scientific thinking develop, but there is something adorable about the certainty with which she discusses being an egg.


We had a teacher conference last week, and the teachers told us that she talked about her birth mother in class. One of her classmates was in a small car accident on the way to school last week, and when he arrived and told them about it, it reminded her of how I'd had a car accident before she was born. So she told everyone that I had my accident while she was growing in J's belly, and that J was her birth mother. Later that day, she mentioned that she has two mothers and a couple of her classmates kept asking whether that was true (not in a mean way, just in a "we're four and we're curious" kind of way. Her teacher said yes, it was, and mentioned that a boy across the hall has two dads and there are all kinds of ways to have a family. CG just said, "yes, I do." I think it's neat she's able to talk about both parts of her family. She may not always want to be so verbal about it at school, but I'm glad to know she can talk about family, unprompted.


Her other line about her first parents these days is this: "I know my birth parents really well. You don't." I say yes, she does, because she grew inside J., and she would have heard J's voice, and felt her move. Last week CG wondered why her first mother doesn't come to our house. Then she wanted to know where she is now, and when I told her that I thought her first mother was probably still in the city where CG was born, she sat up in bed and said, "Oh! We have to go visit her." A few minutes later she said, "But we don't even have any pictures of her." And a few minutes later, "I know my birth parents really well."

As the lines between reality and fantasy become more clear for her, she may lose this sense of connection. But I hope not. I hope these fantasies help her forge a narrative connection to those first months of her life, give her a strong foundation for the story of her.

And it all stems from the time when she was an egg.


Songbird said...

It's such a relief to this old adoptee to hear the openness with which you hear CG talk about whatever comes into her head related to her origins. And I love the train those thoughts take, too. It is confusing even now to contemplate what I "know" on some level about my birth parents and what will remain unknown.

Camera Obscura said...

If one wishes to be really technical, probably too technical for four-and-a-half, all (unfertilized) eggs are created the same time as the rest of a female body. (Which explains why they have a Best When Used By date of about 32 years.) So half of you was created the same time your birth mom started developing in the uterus of her mother. Which means CG's "when I was an egg" could be considered a much longer time than just the last 9 months before birth.

But as for the investment of consciousness, and its residence before the body, I must leave that to the philosophers and the theologians.

The only adoptee we have in our family is my nephew, who is not of our race so there was never a question of not discussing his adoption. I think it sounds like CG has a good handle on things.

Rev Dr Mom said...

I love the way Curious Girl's mind works!

I don't think my kids ever pressed me on such existential questions--at least not to the extent CG has. I think your answer about being energy in the universe is actually pretty good. For me that implies being part of an on-going creation, and I like that.

Arwen said...

Mmm. I have heard the most inclusive response to a child asking what happens after we die is that we return to where we came from. That works for many philosophical frames. Asking where we CAME from... well. Phew. CG certainly is curious. This is awesome.
Could we suggest within accepted science that pre-fertilization we are probability waves regarding a our unique DNA combination? Pre-egg we're probability waves. That's the whole us, though. The component molecules of us - well, there's the science poet standard that all our molecules were created in the stars.

Phantom Scribbler said...

Such a lovely post. CG is quite a profound thinker. These windows into the life of a thoughtful adoptive family move me so much.

liz said...

I love CG. She is so wise.

timna said...

awesome conversations.

Shannon said...

That's really interesting. I love hearing how kids figure these kinds of things out. Nat has been interested in her family and what "family" means, lately. I think she's just beginning to get the concept.

niobe said...

Late to the party. And only just barely tangentially relevant. But when did I let that stop me?

This story reminds me of one of my younger sisters, who after having had the concept of evolution explained to her asked our mother: "How old are you, Mommy? And that's including the time when you were an ape."