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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.

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….

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?

In Search of a Stronger Circle

I read a lot of adoption blogs. Some I read because they make my heart swell. Some I read because they keep me up to date. Some I’m not sure why I read. Several I have quit reading. In fact I need to update the blog roll on this blog…. I am fairly opinionated about adoption blogs, but most of you do not know me in real life so you aren’t subjected to those opinions.

The Circle of Moms Top 25 Adoption Blogs by Moms contest has always confounded me. It seems to be quite the popularity contest with letting people vote multiple times. In the past, I’ve noticed that those near the top are the “popular” blogs, but not necessarily those with content I most respect. When I see a link on a blog I enjoy, I click over from Google Reader and vote for the ones I like. But I don’t vote often as they would prefer.

AdoptionTalk is a blog I read often, so that is how I found out about the Broken Circle. Apparently one of the blogs in the top 5 has been disqualified for not being “positive” enough – I’m really not sure how to interpret the statement. I’ve not read Adoption Truth before this, but I’ve added her to my Google Reader.

I think there are several under-appreciated blogs on the list.. and several over-appreciated blogs on the list as well. But I aim to be positive, so these are the ones that I suggest you look into and maybe even vote for if you are so inclined. From the bottom up (based on current standings), so those most under-appreciated are mentioned first…

  • One Fine Tree I love reading her blog. Teresa is honest and open, and her boys are adorable! They are young, so she doesn’t have a lot of adoption issues to examine just yet, but I am sure that will come.
  • If It Takes A Whole Life I fell in love with her European travel with two kids first, but I have since fallen in love with her as a mom – and more cute kids.
  • Mama C and the Boys If race plays in your family at all… or you’re a single mom… read Mama C.
  • They’re All My Own I’m newer to this blog, but I like what she has to say. I think she probably has experience and insight to share.
  • The Eyes of My Eyes are Opened More cute kids, but mostly she is able to dig into the sadness and trauma involved in adoption.
  • My Fascinating Life I hope “Claudia” knows how insightful and helpful she is.
  • American Family I’m a big fan of snark, but I’m also a big fan of thoughtfulness. AmFam is blazing a trail of open international adoption and planning for her forever home at the same time.
  • Our Little Tongginator I truly want to meet TongguMama in real life some day. She is such an insightful mom, in-tune to her kids’ needs.
  • AdoptionTalk If you care about what is going on the world of adoption, AdoptionTalk could be one of your primary sources. She may push your buttons sometimes, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t buttons that could stand a little pushing.
  • The Declassified Adoptee I am not sure I’ve actually followed this blog, but I’ve followed Amanda at Lost Daughters.

As adoptive parents, we do not serve our children well to hide from blogs by those that have been adopted or those that chose adoption for their children. Our children need us to read those things. They need us to learn from them. It isn’t always fun, but it helps us grow. It helps us wrestle with issues. I want to read more blogs by those that wrestle with issues. If I sound like a know it all, please know that I do not. I fear that is a weak point for me as I mostly use this (anonymous) blog to talk about my frustrations. Isn’t that how we create a stronger circle – by learning from each other and by challenging each other, growing together?

I’m in search of a stronger circle. What other blogs should I be reading? I may have purposefully left a few off this list (that I don’t particularly enjoy), but there are several on their list I have not ever read. I suggest you also check out Lost Daughters and The r house for adoption blogs. How are they not included in this contest?

Edited to add that “Claudia” may have the best view on the whole situation. Although now it looks like the entire contest has imploded. My question remains though… are there other blogs I should be reading to build a stronger circle?

Raising Boys in a Dangerous World

I was feeling badly about not blogging frequently. Now I am feeling badly that I feel like I need to blog about something. I wish I didn’t know the name Trayvon Martin because I would not know his name if he was still living. And yet, I wish I had heard his name earlier. I don’t watch the news often and often read international news sources more than American news sources, so it could be my fault that I only learned Trayvon’s story this week, nearly a month after his death. But when I googled for blogs about Trayvon not much came up. Is there a reason we aren’t talking about this? I know that I am tearing up just already writing this. Is it just too much to talk about, too emotional for us as mothers?

The mama post that most got me is MamaCandtheBoys’ Wearing a hoodie and sweatpants or… I am so glad she chose to share the photo of her adorable, precious, vulnerable son. It seems to be such a brave choice right now.

I don’t fully understand the law in Florida. I don’t know what justice can or will be served. Can and will are very, very separate in this case. I do know that nearly 1,500,000 people have signed a petition asking that George Zimmerman is prosecuted.

I don’t know what happened or who said what, even after listening to all of the 911 calls. (I had to post this link because it was difficult for me to find them because it seems people have been using it for SEO.)

I think that Michael Skolnik may have stepped on a few toes with his article White People, You Will Never Look Suspicious Like Trayvon Martin, but I don’t think he is wrong.

I know that yesterday, there was a “Million Hoodies” march in New York City to draw attention to Trayvon’s death, so maybe I wasn’t the only one who hadn’t heard about it.

I have heard (but not found confirmation) that Trayvon was on the phone with his girlfriend when he noticed George Zimmerman watching him. I have heard that she told him to run, but he said he did not want to. I will assume that Trayvon’s parents had The Talk with him, and he knew that running for safety could exacerbate the situation. I’m afraid that knowing that George Zimmerman ignored the 911 dispatcher’s instructions, nothing could have truly entirely kept him from harm.

As a mama, that is what scares me the most. As parents of brown children or black children, especially as parents of sons, we must prepare them for the assumption of trouble. While I prefer to assume the best of people, I know that the worst will be assumed of our sons. How can we ever prepare them enough even to manage the most sane of those who are prejudiced to expect the worst?

Corey Dade gave us a few thoughts from what his parents taught him. A dear friend who has a son on the verge of leaving adolescence, told me that she has talked to him about never wearing his hood up because it can increase negative perceptions… and he is an attractive, intelligent, well-spoken white boy. The worse has been assumed of him simply because he is a male teenager, and he is white. Our brown sons and black sons will be pulled over simple for driving. They will be followed in stores. They will not be allowed to date certain girls because their families do not approve.

I hadn’t yet thought about not wearing hoods up, but we will definitely have that conversation. Beyond hoodies, we will talk about perceptions of sagging and other fashion choices. I will explain to my boys that being well spoken is not bougie, but a way to encourage others to expect positive things from them. We have to talk about how perceptions can be changed by posture and gait and mannerisms. I am more likely to ensure that my boys drive cars that are clean and well cared for.

The pressure of self-preservation that requires such maturity and awareness of our boys before they are truly capable of such things crushes my heart for every one of these boys. It is overwhelming and perhaps why we don’t want to talk about Trayvon. But we cannot ignore it. We cannot pretend it isn’t reality. We cannot fool ourselves that there are not people out there who cannot see past the color of one’s skin. We cannot believe that the world is safe.

What we can do is support each other as mothers. Regardless of the color of our skin, regardless of whether our children are adopted or biological, no matter if our children are black or brown, we are all still mothers raising children in this dangerous, prejudiced world. We can support each other when the world is cruel to our children. We can learn from each other. I will support you. Will you help me? What will you teach your sons to keep them safe? What should I be teaching my boys?

Edit: I need to add this link to How to Talk to Young Black Boys About Trayvon Martin. I am sure there are more things we need to teach our sons, but this is a good place to start.

We Won! How a Hallmark Prize is Strengthening Attachment

I know it was luck that I won the Hallmark giveaway at therhouse, but it couldn’t be more perfect for the Beyond Normal family. I am a mom through international adoption and Brother 1 is co-parenting my sweet nephew, which means that we are extremely focused on strengthening attachment, expressing our love, and reminding the kiddos of our consistency.

Everything about this prize pack is child-focused. The lunch notes are perfect for an elementary school student , full of fun, support, and love. School provides necessary structure to our day and allows me to be the supportive parent, rather than the teacher, but it keeps us apart for several hours. Each of the fifty notes also have blank space to fill in your own thoughts and personalize the notes, so you’re kiddo knows you really do believe the pre-printed messages (since kiddos from hard places often doubt positive messages), and the pre-printed messages provide great prompts for groggy parents pondering how best to encourage your kiddo on that day. The pack stores easily in a kitchen cabinet or drawer, making them easy to grab each morning as I pack his lunch. I will likely be buying more of these!

The recordable storybook is perfect for the nephew to take with him when he is with his mom. The sound of the voices and scents of parents are often the most comforting things for young children when a parent must be absent. Angel Boy (AB) will have the blanket made by his Zia which will smell like our house and a story read by his father any time that he misses his daddy.

The three musical cards are adorable and super fun. They also express love and supportive relationships. We also think giraffes are awesome! The Beyond Normal Limits house thanks therhouse for this awesome prize! As an adoptive mom herself, I’m guessing Lindsey loves how we are using it to solidify attachment. We are excited and had to share our joy with all of you.

When Blogs Imitate Art

I can take no creative credit for the newest update to my blog (Trying to figure out how to do what I want to do in the best way possible is a lot harder than I thought it would be!). I have moved to my own URL, so I will be able to raise funds for the children left behind. I have found a theme I can live with (not love). I know I will never teach myself to program my own blog design. Maybe if I raise some funds with this blog I can justify paying one of you amazing artists to design something new and fabulous for me. (Lindsey, I am loving your new design fyi!) This is more of an experiment than a re-branding exercise for now.

When I decided to venture into the world of creating my own niche in cyberspace, I sought the guidance of a blogger that I appreciate on many levels. It was Casey’s suggestion that I consider creating my own “artwork” (i.e. Hyperbole and a Half) when I explained that I appreciate how TongguMomma protects her children’s (Welcome home, Mei Mei!) identities and stories by never showing facial shots or posting other identifying information about their family. (Adoptive moms have to be extra careful for our kids.) After a few months of trying out this blogging thing, I am not at all surprised to find myself saying that Casey was absolutely right.

There is just something so generic about stock photos. I, in no way, fancy myself to be an artist, but perhaps my scratches will create some sort of brand for me or, more importantly, entertain my readers. So I have replaced a few of the stock images with my attempts at illustration. I hope you scroll through the blog and check them out to let me know what you think. I think that all of my art teachers following second grade were clearly too nice to me.

Do YOU like my illustrations? Do YOU prefer my scratches to stock photos? I hope to get at least a few comments on this blog to help me know in which direction I should continue with Beyond Normal Limits.

Let’s Celebrate!

We are a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic family that most consider a bit non-traditional. Canada is really only tied into the family tree through one of my father’s friends who is a Canadian ex-pat. Perhaps that is why our Canada Day celebration left a bit to be desired. Brunch was great, but there wasn’t anything Canadian about our fare or our choice of celebration. It was probably just an excuse to go to brunch… because it’s brunch….

Actually, I have a good reason for recognizing Canada Day other than an excuse to go to brunch. It is not about teaching the kids a lot of trivia and historical facts, although that is probably why my father always made sure we remembered Canada Day as well as many other historical days that no one else ever remembers. It might be because I think we all need to find more reasons to celebrate more often. It is somewhat about molding global thinking and a wider world view. Mostly it is about showing respect for all cultures.

The culture of my family in to which I have thrust my child is not the only culture. He needs to know that I do not value my culture more than the culture of his birth. Simply adding in celebrations from his country of origin can be problematic also. Do you remember that girl you knew when you were younger that was obsessed with Paris? She took French class. She ordered crepes. She tried to wear a beret. The Eiffel tower decorated many of her belongings, and she swore she was moving to Paris as soon as she could. Imagine if that girl adopted a child from France (this is only an illustration). That child could feel like part of her collection or like the most important child in the world. While I want my child to feel special, she needs to learn to value others also. And what happens when that girl adopts a child from Brasil?

So we will find a (better) way to celebrate Canada Day. We will celebrate the Fourth of July, of course. Japan’s Ocean Day is coming up later this month; maybe we will go to the aquarium. We will celebrate Dias de los Muertos, Hanukah, Christmas, and Boxing Day, as well as, Children’s Sunday, St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo, and many more. I’ll let my dad handle the Bastille Day celebration.

What less common holidays does your family celebrate? and how?

We can always use another excuse for brunch, right?

Under the Microscope

Reading adoption blogs has taught me one important thing. No matter what choice I make as a parent, I will be criticized. Do I search for dolls that look like my daughter or is that sending the wrong message? Should I have kept her original name to honor that identity or should I have given a family name to claim her as a true part of this family? I can just imagine the field day some may have with the word “claim”. I use it simply as the name of an emotional parenting technique. I do not believe my children belong to me, but I am grateful they have been entrusted to me.

And that – respecting my children as individual personalities with emotional needs – is how I want to make all my parenting decisions. Children are all unique; adoption is only one factor in determining what is the best choice right now today. Today, my child may need to read books about his birth culture and country of origin. At Christmas, he may only want to celebrate traditions that his friends share. Having multiply identities is rough. Co-workers and clients do not need to be a part of my social world (for all of our mental health!), but they do want to connect on Facebook. Children that have been adopted have to balance out concerns about disloyalty and issues of loss and rejection. Adoption gave my kiddo a second chance at a family, but the fact that a second chance was needed is enveloped in sadness.

I read blogs by adoptees (I’m still not sure I like that term, but I will let them choose their own identifiers) and blogs by birth mothers and blogs by those who have reunited despite living on different continents. I read blogs by adoptive mothers I think are too big for their britches and blogs by adoptive mothers I want to hug and share a pot of tea with them – because tea seems nice and friendly and warm and loving, but truly black coffee is my drink of choice. I read as much as I can, trying to understand every opinion.

In one way I read so much because I don’t assume that I naturally know what is best for my children. I am human. I am flawed. I will make parenting mistakes. I know that is what parents do, even good parents. Yet, I also believe that I am a good parent, and ultimately, no matter what I read and what you suggest, I have to make the choices that I believe are best for my child right now today because I know my child and I am responsible to my child. I am responsible to meet my child’s emotional needs and understand the specific concerns that my child has with adoption. Each adoption story, like each child, is unique; so while there are many things that are never ok, there are also times when I can make a choice for my child that is best for my child even if you don’t think it is the best.

Boy howdy am I glad that I decided to start a completely anonymous blog. I am sure our non-traditional family already raises a few eyebrows. I can’t say I look forward to comments from haters, but I will try to learn something from them

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