Adoption and Parenting: 12 – 18 years old

[Every Friday for the first two months of 2013, DWLA will feature a story from Barbara Shipka’s blog about her personal experiences with adoption and parenting.  We will sample a story from each of eight categories: 1) Before; 2) In Peru; 3) We’re Home; 4) 2 – 6 years old; 5) 6 – 12 years old; 6) 12 – 18 years old; 7) 18 + years old; 8) Musing / Thruout.  Barbara’s son Michael’s video was showcased in Gifts to the World.]

Which Box to Check?

Marching Band2

by Barbara Shipka

— adjective: relating to, characteristic of, or derived from Spain or Spanish-speaking countries
— noun: ( US ) a person of Latin-American or Spanish descent living in the US
usage: This is the word most generally used in the US to refer to people of Latin American or Spanish ancestry — from the World English Dictionary

Somehow, for me, that definition doesn’t seem to fit very well for someone who is really Native American… But the US government has no category for Native Americans born in South America.

My son is from a small intact tribe of people who have lived in the Cloud Forest on the east (Amazon) side of the Andes for at least 500 years. Their tribal language is still their first language. More…

He doesn’t speak Spanish. Tried studying it but hated it! (Any connection to it being the language of the oppressor? Mom wonders…) He switched to Japanese and loved it…including a high school summer in Japan.

All through school we struggled with which box to check…

____ Hispanic

____ Native American

____ Other

None really fit.

But, he’s decided to let it go. These days he checks Hispanic…

[Photo by Barbara, High School Marching Band, Minneapolis, 2008]


Barbara is a single mom and was in her mid-forties when she adopted her son, Michael.  He was 10 weeks old at the time. Together, they spent many months navigating through the rather overwhelming legal processes for adoption in Peru.  Today, as a junior at the University of Minnesota, Michael is majoring in Native American Studies.

For much of her career, Barbara has been an executive leadership coach and organization effective consultant for Fortune 500 companies.  Another part of her career has been working in education and with non-governmental organizations in Europe, The Middle East, Africa, and The Caribbean.  Over the last twenty years, in addition to becoming a mother, she has also become an author and artist.  You can learn more at

These blog posts are snapshots from Barbara’s collection of stories about her experiences of their life together from March 1991 to today.  Visit her blog, Adoption and Parenting, to read more of her stories.  When you arrive, click on “Label” under “Home” where you see the tabs Recent…Date…LABEL…Author.  This will rearrange the stories into 8 categories:

Categories via 'Label'


  1. As an airline employee, I can assure you there are a plethora of other things our government does that equal a big fat zero in the common sense department… 🙂 Thanks for opening my eyes to such an array of challenges many of us would never otherwise ponder!

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