International Adoption – It’s Not All Bad News

I didn’t comment when Reuters started talking about re-homing. Like everyone else I am appalled at the idea of giving a child to anyone without background checks, interviews, references, etc. I think it is awful for these children to have yet another disruption, yet another placement, yet another disappointment… I cannot imagine how their emotional wounds will ever heal when scabs are ripped off repetitively. But adoptive parenting is hard, people!

Parenting is hard enough, but we have all these extra layers to consider often without having all of the information to be able to make the best choices that we could. I know that not all agencies require education to help prepare parents for the unique complexities of adoptive parenting. I also know that even those who do settle for the ever popular online “Adoption Learning” option that barely qualifies as mediocre in my opinion. I know with international adoption often you cannot know what you are getting into, although I don’t see that as being any different from birthing a child – even if you have raised a child since birth trauma can occur; we are not with our children 24 hours a day. I know there are reasons why one family may not be the best fit for a child. I know how hard it is. I have no judgement for an adoption disruption, but I do think it absolutely must be done through an agency protecting the child legally and emotionally.

I do have a bit of judgement for (I know, I am working on it…) this idea that someone else should take care of our kids. I have a friend whose child was born with Downs Syndrome. She has medical appointments and specialists, but she transports him and she pays for everything that insurance does not cover. I have a cousin who has a child with anxiety. We noticed it as early as toddlerhood; my cousin not only talks him through his anxieties but has paid for the counseling that insurance would not. Would you think these mother’s have any less responsibility to provide the care their kids need if the children had been adopted?

Whether you adopt a kid or birth a kid, you don’t know what their immediate or long-term health will be. You don’t know if they will be athletically inclined or academically capable. Your genetics are not the guarantee that you would like to believe that they are. My real concern here is what is the message we are sending to our children when we accept state subsidies after they have been adopted. ‘Johnny, you are not really my kid – the state still pays me to take care of you’ or ‘Johnny, you are more messed up than your brother, so the state gives me money to get you counseling…because really we expect you to end up in the system/prison otherwise’ If you are adopting this child, claiming him or her as yours to care for… if you are the parent, you take care of whatever needs they have no matter how much it costs.

I am so tired of Reuters particularly and the popular media in general preying on these families who do need support so they can highlight all of the sad stories. Mijo is just fine. Sure there are complications of grief and having two families and wondering if this mom will get taken from him – but he is awesome. He is intelligent, caring, athletic, funny, and eager to please. Reuters interviewed two dozen families who told them horror stories, but did they interview the thousands of us who are more than satisfied with our adoption – even if it is hard work?

The problems the Alexanders faced trying to find “assistance” for their child is the same any parent would face – this is not a discrimination for international adoption. You are the parent, you pay for your child’s care. I think it is wonderful that this family were willing to move to a new state to get the care their child needed. Come on, Reuters, quit trying to create controversy. I’m over it!

Adoption: not for the feint of heart

Dear Christian who wishes to “save” an orphan, did you not realize it would be difficult? Did you not realize it would be painful? Why did you expect your child to be grateful? Is any child truly appreciative of what we give them of ourselves, of our time, of our resources, of so much? How often did you really thank your parents before you were an adult? If then?

You may be called by God, but when is God’s calling easy? Doesn’t God refine us with fire? Isn’t He the potter that molds and kneads and fires the clay? Children are wonderful at revealing our weaknesses, the areas where we need growth. Our weaknesses that we can hide from the world and even ourselves, children will reveal and test and exacerbate. Now that is a gift of God!

Was it easy for Jesus? Was he understood and accepted? Didn’t the very people he came to show God’s love, the people he came to save, reject him, ridicule him, torture him…? It is hard. Those who need love the most are often the most difficult to love.

(And now I get really edgy) why would you assume that adoption would fit easily into your life and your family? How dare you tell God who you will love. Yes, in many ways, adopting a baby would be easier on you, but is God’s call ever easy? Does God have big plans for you or not? The fact is that there is not a need for families to adopt healthy infants. (I won’t even start on demanding health when we all have diagnoses, take medications, etc.) The children waiting, hurting, lonely, desperate for a family are older, have needs that only a family can meet, may have siblings, and they are hurt. They have emotional wounds. They need you. They need love. And parenting will not be easy. It never is, but the call to love the orphan is going to overwhelm you, break you, and eventually grow you.

It is not easy, but anything worth having has a cost. It will cost you time, energy, money, patience, everything you are. And it will transform you.

Dating the “Natural” Way

For some people, they want to “give it some time” and try the “natural way” before they consider adoption, IVF, surrogacy, etc. Thats how I feel about online dating. I think I’ve finally reached a point where I have a good idea what I want. I could narrow the field more easily now. I’ve dated every race, all educational levels, and men with a wide-range of careers. I am pretty open-minded about trying a relationship on and seeing what works. Recently though I’ve realized that there are certain educational levels that match me better, and yes, even a race that I prefer. You like tall men; I like black men. Gasp all you want, but I think we need to be real about such things. It isn’t really the look; I prefer that culture. I’m still not entirely closing doors, but I can focus my search.

As a single mom, there isn’t a lot of opportunity to meet single men. I am certainly not barhopping. Babysitter time is precious and not to he wasted on a lame first date. Online dating makes sense right now, but I’m not ready to make the leap. On the other hand, I would love to have that kind of excitement again. So how long do I “try” before I seek fertility treatments for my love life?

Have you tried online dating? What pushed you into it? Do you have any tips for me?

Open International Adoption

Open International AdoptionSo we are doing it – for real. Open international adoption. While I had done some searching I had thought that it would be other, periphery relatives that I would find; instead it looks like I will be meeting Mijo’s biological mother. While I refuse to share much about my child’s story even on an anonymous blog, I will state that there are very good reasons why his biological mother is incapable of parenting him now or ever. There are so many hard truths in adoption, in any adoption, but one hard truth that I do not have to deal with is that there was no possibility for my child to be with his biological mother. I have kept up with the debate, and I truly believe open international adoption is the right way to go. But when it became clear that I could meet with the biological mother my stomach dropped. I am ashamed to admit it, but my stomach dropped and I wasn’t sure I wanted to do it. It took only a couple of minutes though for me to remember that it is the right thing, the best thing for Mijo. Being a parent means that we do what is best for our kids, not necessarily what is easiest for us.

Because I have read AmFam’s blog, I decided that rather than initiate contact over the Internet, it might be best to meet face-to-face. Face-to-face meeting is a bit more intimidating and perhaps emotionally charged, but AmFam made me realize that online interactions open up a more constant communication and looser boundaries. Perhaps it truly is for selfish reasons that I am planning an international trip to start this relationship, but I am also not sure yet just how positive this will be for Mijo.

So why am I opening up an international adoption? The short answer is for my kid. While he hasn’t had many questions yet, someday he will. This may be the only way that he can get the answers that he wants and needs. She is the only one who can tell me about his birth and infancy and about biological medical history. When he wants to send her a card, he can. I am always cautious where my child’s emotional health is concerned.

I don’t have a long-term plan. I am just realizing that we will meet, hopefully in the next six months. I don’t know if we will regularly exchange mail. I don’t know if we will move to an online relationship. I don’t even know how much contact is really right for Mijo.

So as I am thinking about this first meeting and trying to prepare for the absolute unknowable… What are questions that you would ask? What are questions that I really must ask? What are the things that I should say? What is it that she needs to hear from me that will provide comfort? And as long as I’m asking for advice, what do you think you would do as the next step in this open it international adoption relationship? What are the boundaries that you would draw? What you think will be most important to my son?

So, yea, Help!?!

Lincoln, Lily, Martin & Me

curse bubbleHave you seen Lincoln yet? I won’t get into all the gritty of my emotional reactions while watching this film, but it did make undeniably clear how the types of arguments used against ending slavery through the 13th amendment and the eventual legal equality of the races are the exact same kinds or arguments being used against gay marriage. For some that may make it easier for you to forgive those who voted against the 13th amendment, fearing the slippery slope or loss of morality in the United States, but it makes me sad that we seem not to be learning from history or even listening to ourselves.

Race is an issue. In my experience it is less of an issue than it was five years ago when it was less of an issue than it had been five years before that. We are getting better, America – thank you – but it is an issue. Some would like to believe there is a “there” we will eventually get to where race will no longer be an issue, but I’m not sure that “there” can exist – certainly not in my lifetime. As a multi racial family, perhaps we are more exposed making it more difficult to hope we will ever get “there”.

It is interesting to me that people will brazenly ask questions when a parent and child don’t “match”, but few people even blink when adults of different races are holding hands (or otherwise obviously more than just friends). I am a secure adult; talk to me about the men I choose to date. My child is developing his identity within an adopted family; why would you bring up racial identity in front of him like he is an exhibit at a museum? Why does it even matter if he is adopted or where he was born? If you aren’t curious how I met the man I am dating who is a different race than I am, then I don’t understand your curiosity about how I met my son? (Your kid came OUT of you? That must be weird and complicate your relationship.)

When people ask less than appropriate questions or when I was trying to keep myself calm while watching Lincoln, sometimes I sing Lily Allen’s F*ck You to myself. While there are many times I would like to say “F*ck You” there are many reasons I cannot. As a women and as light-skinned as I am, I could potentially get away with it, but my son is male and darker, so anger, even out of hurt, is likely to exacerbate any potential problems for him. Mijo has to learn from me that ignorance, well-intentioned or not, cannot be met with anger. Ignorance ideally needs to be answered with patient education. Unfortunately, I’m kind of a loud mouth who occasionally wants to respond with shocking things like “now I understand what they meant by once you go black you never go back *wink*“, but my son’s presence keeps me from being such a hooligan.

The thing I like most best about Lily Allen’s song is that while she is saying what she is thinking, she does so in a sing-songy way. Ignorance is ignorance. While there are people who truly do hate and see people as unequal, most people are not malicious. Let me not be the crazy Latina; let me not be the uppity white woman. If I want people be accepting and loving to my multi-racial family, I need to be lovable. That is my job, not Mijo’s job. He is a kid who gets to be a kid and act out if he needs to (to a degree). He has been through enough already. He did not choose this multi-racial family. While I think he is adorable, he does not need to be the cute face of adoption advocacy. It is my responsibility to protect my child, model appropriate responses, and reveal the best of my character to encourage people to judge families like mine not by our skin colors but by our love. But I still may be singing Lily Allen in my head….

You’d Better Not Pout….

I am alone in the house. Neither child slept here last night. I had the morning/early afternoon to myself to sleep in, clean, and catch up on work. I even went out with friends last night. You know the friends who my children barely know because they only gather at places where you must carry an ID; the ones who are still pulling the same shenanigans in their forties that they were in their twenties. I was prepped to sleep in, but I woke earlier than normal, so I shoved my eye mask on my face and tried to drift off again. It didn’t work, yet it took me more than an hour to get out of bed.

Wednesday I got some supremely bad news – like ruin Christmas for me kind of bad news. Until there is a resolution, I guess I’m kind of stuck. It’s a good thing we are already decorated for Christmas and I am nearly done shopping thanks to Black Friday/Cyber Monday.

Things are better with S-man. We are slowly working it out, but I also started dating which is just as awful as it sounds. Bad dates are one thing, but good dates with someone who could potentially be all of those things – oh the anxiety. I’m working really hard at waiting to see what that could be, trying not to have the conversation just yet. I’m waiting to see if I can fully trust S-man again. These matters of the heart cannot be rushed. I’m waiting for resolution on the bad news that I cannot even influence. I’m just waiting – and apparently I am pouting.

My quiet morning is not improving anything. Clearly if I felt driven to blog, it has only pushed me deeper inside my own head. For the record, I have written two other blog posts for you, but I haven’t gotten to posting them. One of them was really positive too! And yet, this was my horoscope for today: Your best strategy is to take some time away by yourself today so you can set priorities and put your goals into a healthier perspective.

I took the time… it’s not working. I need a healthier perspective. So what do you do to put an end to your own pouting? I am sitting in front of the Christmas tree typing. The only thing better I can think of would be brunch delivery, but that does not exist. I guess I’m really not good at waiting…

What Is Love?

So maybe I’ll try this blogging thing again. I was hoping to work some things out in my own and and just come back to posting normal life and adoption stuff, but I guess we are beyond normal. I guess I thought that when things were “interesting” around here I would post more often; however, this time I couldn’t find anything terribly funny about it. The short story is that there was a pregnancy scare and S-man and I have been dealing with the fallout.

Clearly, he already has issues with commitment, and a baby is nothing but commitment. He is absolutely amazing with both Mijo and Junior, but I suppose he feels he can always walk away. That also scares me a little bit because Mijo at least is old enough to suffer yet another loss if he suddenly disappeared. It’s not like it’s exactly the right timing for me to have a surprise baby either but S-man’s freak out definitely got me thinking in a different way. It isn’t that I want the baby. I don’t. It isn’t that I someday want a baby with S-man. That doesn’t matter to me. I am pretty patient with all of his issues because I at least understand where they come from for him. I was not surprised that he needed some space in the midst of all of this. I took some time for myself also. Brother 1 was awesome about making sure I could go out to dance to see my friends and blow off steam. Brother 2 was great about offering support through the internet while globetrotting. And somewhere in all of that perhaps I realized that I might just want a man that will commit, a man that won’t need so much space that I am forced to turn to other friends. Yes, I know it is ok to need your friends – and I have some pretty amazing friends, but I guess what I really want is to be someone’s person. To know that I can text in the middle of the night and not be a bother. To be the priority. With S-man I am nearly always the first person he would call. Only his family would trump being somewhere with me and even some of that is negotiable. But his family might trump me. And sometimes when he realizes how much he does love me, it makes him nervous enough that he tries to push me away. Mostly those times are so momentary it doesn’t matter. But this time, there was a moment there when I thought that might be the end of us.

I am stuck trying to determine if we can get past this or not. He is trying; I know he is. But even though I am starting to act normally around him, my heart is scared. I need to figure out how I really feel about commitment. There is definitely a part of me that doesn’t care at all about getting married. I totally respect marriage; however, I have seen so many marriages fail that it just doesn’t seem like a safety-net or commitment in and of itself. I guess the commitment of any relationship is based solely on the people in it not the legal status, titles used, or words said. I guess it’s that kind of thinking that made it very easy for me to be in a relationship that was not defined as a relationship and be with a man who I knew I had very little interest in marriage. It didn’t really matter what other people thought, because he truly is very good to me and we fit together very well. Mostly, he does act like I am his person, which I guess is why this has worked for the better part of a decade. Is that commitment? Is our moment only different from that of other couples because I think his issues make it easier for him to walk away? Can’t anyone walk away at anytime, really? Clearly, he hasn’t walked away.

Funny, I don’t think it would bother me as much or would I be in the same place if there was going to the baby. If there was going to be a baby, then I would be focused on the baby, not myself. It would be very easy for me to say to him ‘you can be in or you can be out but is not fair for a child for you to come and go’. The baby’s emotional needs would easily trump mine and there would have been disappointed but not the same sadness. The baby would have given me strength.

I don’t know if I can go back to normal. I don’t know if we can continue to fit together so well if I am now craving some sort of commitment. Or at least some understanding that he can’t just walk away? I don’t know if I have the patience for even momentary walking away and demands for space. Maybe we do have as much commitment as others just without the words. Can I go back to letting him be my person? Will he ever admit that I am his person? Does it even matter if he does?

While I try to figure all of this out, I am trying to focus on other things and let it fall into place. I have already started working on Christmas for the kids which is fun. I have started researching what I need to know for starting a container garden next spring. Any help with that would be appreciated as I have a black thumb of death. I guess that’s where I am. Thank you for listening. It did help me to write this out. Maybe I’ll write again soon about what the therapist said to me about it all, but I’m not sure I like her take so I need to let it simmer a bit longer.

Pardon me, Your Crazy is Showing

Tonight S-man and I had a collision of our crazy. I wanted attention. He wanted to be alone, but he didn’t want to communicate that. I was reminded of “Alexander” (as in the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad ex) which ramped my emotion for hours before I figured out the déjà vu. Alexander actually isn’t the worst of all the men I have dated, but he is the one that truly damaged me. Just thinking about the ways he changed me and who I might be or might not be if it weren’t for him is enough to make me call the therapist. So any crazy that comes from reminders of him just isn’t pretty.

S-man can be so loving and thoughtful and supportive. He’s good at handling my crazy when it pops up. Unfortunately, tonight his crazy is what unintentionally caused my crazy. When his crazy shows, it’s easy to think that he is entirely self focused. His crazy makes him (in my opinion) try to push me away. When my head is on straight, I can generally see it for what it is. We don’t often collide head on like this. I think that giving him space when he needs space is part of loving him.

I think giving space for people’s crazy is part of what we do when we care. One of my best friends used to deal with chaos by organizing everything. I’ve learned to appreciate her planning now (I can practically just show up and she takes care of all of the logistics), but at one point when I was overwhelmed with life and responsibilities her desire to plan ahead and talk it through felt like more for me to think about. She has forgiven me, but I’m not sure I can forgive me for not making space in my head to allow her to process things with me the way that she needed to.

Yet I also think loving someone means that we try not to subject them to our crazy. I don’t expect S-man to just let me be crazy. It is not fair that he has to deal with messes created by Alexander. It is because I love him that I have to try to get over the crazy. I don’t like when my crazy shows, but I like it even less when it impacts S-man. Thus far I’ve not had an issue with it impacting the kids. I’m sure they’ll eventually drudge up something from my childhood that I didn’t even realize still bothered me. I will not let my history hurt either of the kids. Working on me, even seeing the therapist, is integral to being the best me I can be, the best not-quite-girlfriend I can be, and most importantly the best mom I can be.

Make me feel better, tell me about your worst ex or childhood rival and how he or she ‘damaged’ you…

Rescuing Pets and Adopting Children

Since I told you I was going to let go of any pressure to blog and only blog when I had something to say (you know like two days ago), I have had three blog ideas come into my head. One is about how much I appreciate my friends which I will likely get to eventually. Tonight though, I want to work from a thought that I tweeted not too long ago…

Can we all agree to “rescue” pets and to “adopt” children? This tweet was spurred by overhearing a conversation in a coffee shop in a city that was new to me. What I heard was two people talking about “adopting out” and how quickly they could move “Joe” from house to house. While I was contemplating asking total strangers not to use the term “adopt out” as I walked out with my coffee to go, I was able to figure out that they were likely talking about a dog. The introvert in me was relieved that I didn’t have to talk to strangers. While I might be hesitant to correct those I know sometimes, the spread of inappropriate adoption language is something that I feel a responsibility as an adoptive parent to try to stop.

My dog is certainly a part of my family. He is practically one of my children in how I am aware of his feelings, make sure he gets to do fun things, etc. I went through the pet home study process with a rescue group before he moved in, just like I did before adopting Mijo. There isn’t an animal lover that can fault me for how much we love and provide for our dog, except maybe in that we don’t let him get on the furniture (just his own bed). There isn’t a reason for animal advocates to hate on my blog. I won’t even say that I think children are more important than animals, although I’m pretty sure that is what I believe.

But without question, children are more sensitive to the nuances of languages than animals. I get why animal advocates would want to utilize language that suggests making a pet a member of the family as a part of their advertising to people. I get it, but as someone who is so very conscious of how children feel about adoption and how people in general talk about adoption, I just can’t be ok with it. Because animals are not as sensitive to the nuances of languages, phrases like “adopt out” and “adoptable” and even “given away” are used without much thought.

But those same phrases can make children feel expendable, like commodities, or lacking in value. As an adoptive mom, my ears immediately heard the one conversation about adoption in a large coffee shop in an unfamiliar city, so I guess I’m saying that such phrases hurt my heart as well. I would prefer we gave children more respect than animals and saved the terms of adoption for children.

I also want to reserve the “rescue” terms only for animals. When we are talking about the Humane Society or animal control, rescue can be pretty accurate. You could literally save an animal from death. Even if that might be true for a child, it’s not the most respectful thing to say. When you talk about saving a child from his or her previous life, you are judging how awful his or her previous life was, which includes all of the people in his or her previous life.

Children love and often idealize their biological families. Children need to believe that the people and the country that created them has value. While I am thrilled to have the privilege to love and parent Mijo, I wish he never had to leave his biological family or his country. I like to think I’m giving a good life, perhaps even more opportunity, but that will never make up for losing his biological family, his country, and his culture. I do my best, but I will always be second best no matter how awesome I am.

I don’t really want to be the mom who approaches strangers in coffee shops to ask them not to use offensive terms that they had no idea could be hurtful. I don’t want to embarrass people. I’m not all that big on talking to strangers anyway. But it’s my job as an adoptive mom. So can ya’ll help me? Can we rescue pets and adopt children? Can you help me by educating those you overhear, especially your family and friends?

Prioritizing

If you follow me on Twitter, you may have known that in the last couple of months there have been some work stress for me. What it boils down to is that I did not get the promotion that I expected. Rather I was told “you’re not quite ready” and someone I’ve never met was appointed my supervisor, when I had largely been working without a supervisor prior to that. I had a good cry about it. I ate too much pizza one night. S-man has been nearly perfect in his support. I don’t know what I would have done without him; I probably would have been a tearful mess for days. People can say what they will about S-man, but he truly is extremely supportive when the chips are down.

It has made me really think about what is most important and what I want my life to be about. I am one of those rare women who is more concerned with respect rather than love. Have you ever heard of that? According to the therapist, most men want respect, and most women want love. When it comes down to it though, I have always craved respect. That may seem odd for a single woman, but I think it has a lot to do with my family of origin and never questioning I was loved. Also my parents are kind of intellectuals, so I probably felt like I had something to prove – ok, I did feel I had something to prove. So for me this felt like I had to earn respect. I tried so hard to get my mom to think I was wise beyond my years. But there are people who respect me… One of my girlfriends has no idea how much she helped me by asking me for advice last night.

Things I want to prioritize:

  • Mijo and Junior – there is nothing more important than these two little boys and my beyond normal family. They need my time, attention, and emotional stability, which means I’ve got to get over this and not let it get to me again later.
  • Love with all I’ve got – S-man, my friends, and all of my extended family. I cannot be faulted for loving too much. Spending time with and investing in those I care about will likely have the greatest returns of anything I could spend my time doing. I tend to check off my list and then give attention to others, but perhaps it’s time they move to the top of my list. S-man will be around less in just a few weeks (for the foreseeable future), so I want every minute to be quality.
  • Prayer (maybe even church) – It is the source of all wisdom, right? There is a part of my job that feels like I was placed there. Maybe it’s time to figure our what I’m supposed to do with that beyond doing my job.
  • Food – Cooking and meal planning make me feel better about myself and my attempts at domestication. I’m still learning, but I want to think ahead more and do take out less. That stuff adds up!
  • Scrapbooking – I enjoy it, but I think it’s important for the kids too. I’m behind on their albums, and I want to start a LifeBook for Junior. I think it totally applies in his situation even if he wasn’t adopted and that way he won’t feel left out when he’s old enough to realize. I feel accomplished, creative, and loving when I’m working on scrapbooks for the kids.
  • Organization – ah, it just calms my mind to have things completed and organized right now there are too many things on my list and much to “Spring Clean”.

Things I don’t want to prioritize:

Since I first drafted this blog, a few things have been occurring to me about what I need to let go.

  • This blog – I’m not walking away, but I am going to let go of the pressure. I’m an introvert. Some days I even have problems commenting when I really want to comment on your blogs. Even when I’m not writing, I am reading. I tweet more than I blog, and I think that fits for me. I really only want to blog when I have something to say… even if they are just silly soapboxes. This also means that I am going to continue taking my sweet time fixing the broken images. Now, if there was someone who wanted to sponsor my blog posts, I’d be happy to write every day, but until then….
  • Yard work – the back yard can fend for itself for a while. It’s hot and it’s really only the dog and us who are ever back there. I’ll be much happier if I’m not avoiding scratching mosquito bites, even if the bushes look a bit out of control.
  • Guilt about cleaning during work hours – I work from home most of the time, although I do go in or Skype in for meetings (this may be increasing). I can finish up things that weren’t done after bedtime, and I feel like I just might be succeeding at this adult thing when my house stays clean. It should be totally okay to do laundry, load the dishwasher, and even sweep the floors before 5pm.

I’m not really sure how I’m going to accomplish all of this. The first two priorities will likely happen in my decisions simply by keeping them in mind. The last three priorities I may have to schedule or put at the top of my to do lists. While I’m at it, I want to exercise more. Any suggestions for me on resetting my priorities and taking my lumps with a positive attitude?

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