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?
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?
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