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?
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.
I know this is long, but please stick with me…
In adoption, there are a lot of people quoting the verse in the Bible that states that we are called to care for the widows and the orphans. There are even some organizations like Both Hands who attempt to support both orphan care and widow care with creative fundraising events, yet their partner organization, lifesong for orphans, does not seem to recognize families that do not include both a mother and a father as adoption appropriate families. I wonder if they would consider a single woman living in a separate city from all of her family a widow?
Before I started the adoption process, I figured that fundraising would not be that difficult. I had heard story after story of families raising tens of thousands of dollars in grants, gifts, and fundraising. Surely, a single woman on a single income would be eligible for assistance. I knew there would be some grants that would not be open to me, but that just meant less applications I hoped. I didn’t grow frustrated as I crossed organization after organization off the list after reading their requirements, but I did get frustrated when the curt or belittling rejection letters and emails started rolling in. As I dug deeper, all I could find were forums stating that they had never heard a single story of a single person receiving a single dollar in grant money. Ouch.
I think I have a pretty healthy perspective on the church. I have several ministers in my family. I have taken enough Bible, Religion, and Theological courses and held enough positions in churches or church groups to fill a resume. One of my best friends as a teen was a pastor’s kid and one of my college roommates was a missionary kid. I have seen how the church has hurt people and destroyed lives because the church is made up of other people. I have also seen how the church has made powerful, positive impact on people’s lives.
Once I moved out on my own, it was difficult to find a church locally that could speak to me. The people were often sweet, but they either came on too strong (frightening this introvert with their small talk) or ignored me completely because they did not know what to say or what to do with me. Although, they did almost always say Welcome. I get it, it is often easier to talk to kids than adults, and parents generally value people and places that value their kids. My primary excuse for never finding a new church home was that I often disagreed with the exegesis or had studied it myself more than the preacher and did not feel challenged. I am sure the therapist would argue that I was never made to feel a part of any church. I wasn’t a part of the church family because I didn’t have a family.
It was in a church that I learned that people generally disappear from the church after high school, reappearing about the time they get married or start having children. It a chicken-egg problem. Do young adults not come to church because there isn’t a place for them or is there not a place for young adults in the church because they do not come? I never blamed the church in general because I did not fit, but I didn’t try to make a space for myself either. I am an introvert.
When I first moved out on my own in a city away from all immediate and extended family members, there were times that I felt alone and times that I felt that maintaining a household, albeit a small apartment, was really more than one person could do. My parents had married before they had left college; there was much that I was experiencing that they simply could not understand. That was when I first started contemplating the idea that maybe I was a Biblical widow.
In Biblical times, people married even earlier than my parents did. Women lived at home with their family until they were married. I don’t recall many stories about Old Maids in the Bible. In fact, dads like Laban made sure that the older sisters like Leah were married off, one way or another. The reason that widows were such a social concern was because Biblical women did not have the same rights as the modern day woman and could not fully care for themselves. I’m glad that I can choose my mate or whom I do not want to marry. I am glad that I can work and vote and purchase property.
Paying bills, cleaning house, working full time, caring for kids, mowing the lawn, planting a garden, and maybe a little advocacy work… it’s more than any one person can do, at least well (and I don’t like not doing things well). Now I can afford to pay someone to help with at least one of those things. My brothers are often around to help now. I’m in a much better place, but I also know that my income is above average currently. Most of my single friends agree, it’s hard work to do it ‘on your own’, simply in the organization and tasks to do (forget about all that emotional mumbo jumbo).
The rest of the world probably doesn’t interpret the Biblical widow the same way that I do. There are days that I find some irony in having a family that includes at least one widow and at least one orphan. Most of the time, now, I don’t consider myself a widow. I have help here pretty consistently. Yet, there are days when I experience discrimination unexpectedly that do make me feel like a widow all over again. While the church may not care for these modern day widows, I think that single adults, especially single parents, are a population that could use our caring and assistance. So what single woman’s lawn are you going to rake this fall?
I want to be clear that I don’t think that I’m better than you are because I waited to start a family. Wanting to parent but feeling like the responsible thing to do was to wait was kind of like a scab that people kept ripping off with exclusionary suggestions that I could not understand or my experiences were not good enough because I did not have a child in my home full time. My years as a nanny weren’t enough to join in the conversation. Being the go to caregiver when a family member would travel for weeks at a time was still just babysitting, despite legal paperwork that named me as guardian. So often I felt I had to explain why, even as a single women, completing an education and establishing a career, I was not parenting “my own child”.
For me it wasn’t about infertility (that I know of), but I know many others who have felt the sting of comments and questions from others about parenting. As excluded as I felt, I am sure those suffering from infertility felt even more devalued and vulnerable without the defense of responsible choices that I tried to use. I still find it interesting that I felt a need to defend myself, yet apparently Americans are most skeptical about single mother families.
I don’t want that old defensiveness to in any way sound like judgement for those who were able to or forced to start families earlier than I did. Clearly, single moms need to stick together. Whether you are young or old, single or married, working or staying at home, if you are trying to do the best for your kids, I consider us on the same team. If you want to parent, are trying to get pregnant, or are in the process of adoption, you are likely consciously considering the best interests of your future children and doing research on what is best for kids and will be best for your kids. Of course you have something to add to the conversation. I have felt the sting of exclusion and want to ensure that I am not unintentionally doing the same to anyone else.
Within one week, I read that Americans are more skeptical about single mother families than families with two gay parents And China is once again allowing single women to adopt (although only heterosexual women). It hit especially close to home after being encouraged by agency staff not to pursue a specific adoption program as a single woman, even though the country’s laws allow for single women to adopt. More than that and more important than my feelings, my heart hurts because this means that even as I have eliminated exclusion from some by officially joining the mom club, my child will still be impacted by discrimination.
I have and continue to create opportunities for my child to have relationships with strong male role models, including the brother that has established residency with us. I know the fact that I’m not yet married will have an effect on my child, but I am doing my best to mediate that and turn it into a positive.
I am sad that my child who must already deal with racism and the complications of a multiracial family will also be forced to deal with societies discrimination against me. I don’t even like dealing with the not a part of a couple syndrome most of the time! It seems so unfair for a child who must already process not having her biological family to also deal with others’ perception that her adoptive family is not good enough. It’s a good thing we celebrate being a bit beyond normal.
I am thrilled that I no longer have to deal with “you’re not a mom yet” or “it’s different when its your own kid” or other such belittling statements. Boy was that a pet peeve when I was trying to make the most responsible decision about when to bring a child into my home! I wanted to make sure I could both support my child financially and dedicate the time necessary to be an active, in-tune parent. I haven’t yet heard anyone suggest that an adopted child is not the same as a birthed child. I anticipate that one won’t bug me as much. What will the therapist say about that?
So now I’m wondering if I should buy one of those costume jewelry diamond rings? Perhaps that would save my child a few unnecessary looks and comments. Advice?