The Education of Empty Nesters

by Luanne

Usually when I sit down to write a blog post it writes itself. It’s not that hard to look back at how adoption issues touched my family when we were younger. It’s not difficult to figure out where I stand on contemporary adoption issues, especially after doing some research and reading other blogs and articles.

But I’m not sure how to write this post because the territory feels so uncharted. I’m talking about being the parent of adult adoptees. Maybe this blog post is to sort out this role in my head.

Like all parents, adoptive parents grow into their roles and those roles change as the children get older. The parent of a baby is different from the parent of a young child is different from the parent of a teen.

But what about the parent of an adult? Isn’t that where we’re supposed to wipe our hands, satisfied that we did the best job we knew how to at the time? We can say have a good life, call me a couple of times a week, and I’ll see you on the next holiday!

 

I’m starting to think it’s not quite like that for the parents of adult adoptees.  At least it hasn’t been for us.

While my kids were growing up, my husband and I knew adoption was a big issue and that doctors and counselors and teachers didn’t credit it with being as “big” an issue as we felt it was—for adoptees, not for parents. These adults seemed to look at things through the lens of parenting, not of growing up as an adopted person. Sometimes hubby and I would grumble to each other that so-and-so didn’t really get it. And sometimes we would wonder if we were over-estimating the influence of adoption on human emotions and identity and personality formation.

What’s strange is that although we did recognize that adoption was a key element to who our kids were, we still just didn’t get it. But that’s also because our kids didn’t get it. They didn’t understand that adoption had an effect on them, and they didn’t realize that it could be behind—or partially behind—some problems that they had.

What had to happen first was that our kids had to grow up. Then, as adults, they began to learn more about themselves.  But they can’t do that completely on their own during the most stressful years—the years just past high school and college where people decide who they are and what they will do with their lives.  Hubby and I had to learn this new territory with them. We couldn’t do it for them.  We couldn’t even help them do it. But we had to go through our own process alongside them and be there for them in any way necessary. We have to go through process. I’m correcting the tense because we’re still going through it.

This stage for the adoptee might not come until decades later for some, but I would argue that in many cases that is because the parents weren’t taking this journey with their child. In today’s adoptive families, there is often times so much more knowledge and understanding than there was in past decades. That means that a lot of parents of children today will be parents of adults in not too many years, wondering as hubby and I have how to negotiate this new territory.

Maybe we need something in place that helps guide older teens and adult adoptees in their 20s—and their parents as well—in learning the role of adoption in their own character development and relationships.

Do you think it’s possible to create support for newly adult adoptees and their parents?

An Invitation to Parents of Adult Adoptees

by Luanne

Guest blogger Lisa and I are at the stage where our children are adults. We can’t find a private Facebook group (or any, for that matter) for Parents of Adult Adoptees. So we are proposing to start one IF there is enough interest.

What seems amazing at this point is that their problems as adult adoptees at times seem larger than when they were children. And their relationship with their adoption changes, too. What they feel and think at 13 is not the same as at 18 and not the same as at 24 or at 29. Who knows what it will be like as they age into their thirties and beyond.  We want to be knowledgeable about ways to be supportive to them.

Here’s your invitation:

If you have older kids, 17, 18 and above, would you like to meet in a Facebook private group to discuss issues relating to our adult adoptees in a supportive environment? If you do, ask to join here. We can’t wait to see you over there!

What If a Village Really Will Raise a Child?

by Marisha

One week ago, Governor Jerry Brown signed a new bill into law that allows California children to have more than two legal parents. The bill was partially a response to a case where a lesbian couple broke up and couldn’t parent the child. The child’s biological father wasn’t allowed to take the child and, instead, the girl was sent into foster care.

Here’s a link to an article about this bill.

I don’t know why a judge couldn’t choose a biological parent over foster parents, but knowing the thickly scarred institutions of California, I am betting it’s because he hadn’t gone through proper foster parent certification. Why it was necessary to allow for more than two parents instead of a bill that would give a biological parent the first place position in a case like this, I do not know.

But my imaginative brain is just spinning over this. My first thoughts went to adoption. If more than two parents can legally parent a child, then open adoption could change to something new. Rather than the very different roles of legal adoptive parents and the birth mother (and in some cases birth father, if he’s involved), all three or four could “equally” parent the child.

You think kids learn to play one parent off the other NOW (whether the parents are married or divorced)? I realize that when some adoptees get a little older–say, teen years–they may do this anyway in an open adoption, but if all parents have the same legal status, what will happen?  And what if there are more than three or four parents? I haven’t read of a limit on the number of legal parents. What if an entire village decides it really is going to parent a child?

Where does YOUR mind travel when you think about this new law?

Smore Stories – Daring To Journey Through Adoption: Hope On The Horizon

Tara’s next installment.

Smore Stories – Daring To Journey Through Adoption: Hope On The Horizon.

Do You Fantasize About Your Child’s Origins?

by Luanne

I’ve read about the fantasies that some adoptees have about their origins: birthmother, birthfather, original extended family, culture or country of birth. Although every adoptee might not experience this fantasy life, it seems natural to me. As a writer (and non-adoptee), I am always imagining alternative lives for myself, with much less impetus to do so.

In fact, and I’m sure my parents wouldn’t like to hear this, when I was young, I used to tell people I was a changeling, so sure I wasn’t anything like my parents. [Big wink]

What I want to know now is this: am I the only adoptive parent who has had fantasies of their child’s origins? For those of you adoptive parents whose children do not know their birth families, do you imagine what they might be like?

When Marc showed himself to be a little puzzle genius at the age of three and four, I wondered if one of his first parents–or maybe an aunt or uncle–had the mind of a puzzle solver. Maybe someone was an engineer or a police detective or an internist.

I just spent way too long looking for a photo of Marc with one of his K'Nex creations . . . .

I just spent way too long looking for a photo of Marc with one of his K’Nex creations . . . .

When Marisha was singing and dancing at age four, my mother first said, “Oh, she’s going to be a singer,” and then, “Oh, she’s going to be a dancer.” Mom turned out right on both counts. But at the time I wondered if Marisha’s first mother was a dancer, if her first father could sing. When I discovered online that her Korean “clan name” is replete with singers and musicians, I imagined that her talent was genetic and how her first family members would love to hear her sing and watch her dance.

When I find myself doing this imagining I tell myself to stop, that it’s not healthy. But I’m not sure. Is it healthy or unhealthy?

Do you fantasize about your child’s origins?

Smore Stories – Daring To Journey Through Adoption: Welcoming Brokenness

Tara’s next post in her series about adoption:

Smore Stories – Daring To Journey Through Adoption: Welcoming Brokenness.

All Together Now

by Robin L. Flanigan

Robin is an award-winning freelance journalist. You can find her at her blog, The Kinetic Pen. Her story, which looks at adoption, infertility, and some inherent complexities, was anthologized in 2007.

Annalie is sitting across from me, dipping her fingers in yogurt and stacking sliced grapes on top of her grilled cheese sandwich. It’s Mother’s Day. My second one. Done with my meal, I pick up the newspaper and start scanning.

“Adoption.”

I drop the paper.

“What did you say, honey?”

She repeated herself. It sounded the same.

“Did you say adoption?”

She nods.

“Where did you hear that word?”

“The treeses.”

So the trees told her. The trees tell her a lot of things.

I ask her what the trees said.

“Annalie is adopted.”

“Oh,” I say. I nod slowly. “Do you know what that means?”

She stares at me.

“What’s adoption?”

“Um…”

That’s all I can get out. My eyes start to tear up. I don’t want her to notice. Standing up, I tell her I’m going to get her daddy.

“He would love to be here for his, okay? I’ll be right back.”

I turn the corner and blink hard, soaking my cheeks.

Almost two years ago, a friend from college sent me a plastic bottle of holy water from Lourdes for good luck. She’d picked it up from a pilgrimage there, when she traveled with dozens of fiercely Catholic relatives on behalf of her uncle, who was battling lung cancer. After praying for him she prayed for herself, that the Lord would see fit to bless her with twins. She gave birth to two girls nine months later.

My friend told me to bless myself with the water and soon I would be a mother. The bottle, half the size of my palm, looked like a tourist shop trinket. The word “Lourdes” was printed in fancy type above the head of a woman praying to a supersized Virgin Mary. The woman wore a long robe; a cross dangled from a chain encircling her wrist. Short lines representing bursts of light surrounded the Virgin, her hands also folded in prayer.

I spread a towel on the floor and lay down, the square tiles hard against my spine. Feet flat, knees propped together, I twisted off the bottle’s blue cap, hiked up my shirt and watched the cold water drip onto my skin, just below the navel.

Catching my breath, I made a sign of the cross out of the quivering pools on my belly. I’m not Catholic, but it seemed like the right thing to do.

I drag myself down the hallway and find my husband in our bedroom, folding laundry.

“I really need your help with a conversation downstairs.”

Patrick puts his hand on my arm and laughs as he heads for the door. I tell him to wait, that I need to fill him in first.

I’m not finished when he walks out and heads for the bookshelf in Annalie’s room.

“That’s perfect,” I say, realizing what he’s after. “It’s over here.”

I reach inside her crib and grab one of her favorite books, A Blessing from Above, an adoption tale about a kangaroo with an empty pouch.

Back in the dining room, Patrick tousles Annalie’s hair.

“I hear you have a question,” he says.

I join them at the table after turning the volume all the way down on a Leonard Cohen song. Annalie’s not saying anything. It’s really quiet.

“Maybe we’re making too big a deal out of this,” Patrick whispers in my direction.

A few more seconds pass and he gets right to the point.

“So you want to know about adoption?”

There it is. Right there on the table.

He opens the book and flips through the pages showing Mama Roo leaning up against a tree to rest; the baby bluebird falling down, down, down out of its crowded nest and into Mama Roo’s pouch; the two of them hugging and happy.

I say it’s like the story of the day she was born. How she was with Jessica and Peter in the hospital and then came home to live with us.

Annalie taps her palm with her fingers and rubs circles on her cheeks.

“I’m putting on makeup,” she announces.

“Do you understand what adoption is?” I ask.

She scowls and sticks out her hand, as if telling me to halt. She pumps her hand back and forth. I tell her to stop, that it’s a rude gesture.

“I’m pushing you away,” she says. Then, “Why did you adopt me?”

Three pregnancies in one year, all through in vitro fertilization. The first was ectopic, ending when my right fallopian tube burst late one afternoon while I was watching TV. My husband didn’t answer his phone at work so I crawled to the middle of the driveway and waited. Patrick spent that entire night, before the morning’s surgery, trying to sleep in a plastic chair at the foot of my bed.

Doctors knew fairly early on that the second one wasn’t viable either. With an ultrasound showing the possibility that the embryo was stuck in my left fallopian tube this time, they advised being injected with a cancer drug to abort the pregnancy. I returned to the clinic, pulled down my underwear and leaned over an exam table for the shot. Except that it didn’t work. I went back for another round the next week.

The third loss was a blessing. It was over fast.

Soon after the last one I got a call while on vacation from my friend Janet, who had just found out she was pregnant. We’d gone through the same five years of infertility treatments together. That night I had a dream I was at a party. I had finally adopted a little girl. She measured a couple of inches and fit nicely in my hand. At one point in the evening I realized I’d forgotten to change her diaper, which made me feel like an unfit mother. Then a woman appeared and asked if she could hold my daughter. I watched as she took my little one into her hands and promptly dropped her. Suddenly transported outdoors, I searched frantically for my baby among the rocks and weeds. The woman laughed, said she had dropped her own children like that. I wanted to ask everyone at the party to stop their conversations, to help me look. But I kept quiet. My baby was gone and I knew it.

I let her father talk first.

“Jessica knew that we would love you,” he says. “When you were in Jessica’s belly, she searched the whole country for a mommy and daddy who would love you very much. And she chose us.”

“And we waited for you for so long,” I chime in. “We wanted you so much.”

“Why mommy and daddy have no babies?”

Two-year-olds are supposed to ask about the sky and bugs and whether they can jump on the bed just this once.

Images of basal thermometers and needles and pregnancy tests flash through my mind. I have no idea what to say. That miracle cures didn’t work? That medical science couldn’t deliver?

Patrick looks just as stunned. He can’t take his eyes off her.

“That’s deep,” he starts. “Well, there are many answers to that question, and you’ll find new answers every year. But one of them, one that I like, is that sometimes mommies can’t take care of their babies, so somebody else takes care of them. God makes it that way.”

The audience tearfully listened to the photographer explain his images of one dead or dying newborn after another, slowly appearing and fading away in a tangle of breathing tubes and unanswered prayers. In one photograph, a woman cradled her underdeveloped baby in crossed palms. In another, a 10-year-old boy, standing next to his mother, had dumped his head in her lap after being convinced that six hours without a heartbeat is too long to bring back to life the brother he had been holding moments before.

This was bereavement photography. Pictures that document the short time parents have with their doomed children. I was there to watch the pain, to measure it against my own and be reassured that I had not gone through the worst. Not by a long shot. That system of measurement had become an obsession, starting two months earlier when I rented a documentary about a single woman who adopted 13 children with severe disabilities. Weeks later I was at the theater for a double feature: the first film followed a blind Israeli lawn bowler on her trip to the Para-Olympics; the second was about a dwarf, the sole survivor of a family experimented on during the Holocaust by Mengele himself.

At the theater again for this lecture, sniffling with strangers, I tried to persuade myself to be thankful my husband and I lost our babies before they beared any resemblance to the smallest child up on that screen. But our own grainy photographs from the hospital flashed through my mind, images of the embryos before they were implanted, proof that I was a mother three times over if only for a couple of weeks.

I kept expecting all of this other suffering, all of this greater suffering, to ease my own. To make my struggle less valid. I had a good life.

But I needed more than one tissue when the photographs stopped shuffling, when the screen was blank and the theater was black and the audience was given a minute to recover in silence.

I’d thought starting the adoption process meant the healing had officially begun, but no crust was forming on my wounds. Some women, even those who had happily adopted, said that the sense of loss never goes away. Decades later it can smack you upside the head when you least expect it. Like when a baby shower invitation comes in the mail or you hear a co-worker gush over the birth of his first grandchild.

Decades.

The dull lights overhead had begun to flicker and I couldn’t even deal with that.

Annalie points to a vase of flowers on a Mexican cabinet behind me.

“Are those good flowers or bad flowers?”

I look at the bouquet. We tell her they’re good.

Next, she points to the Christmas cactus in the middle of the table and says she wants to bring it over to the good flowers.

Patrick unbuckles her booster seat. She hops to the floor, rounds the table and asks me to get up so she can use my chair to get the plant. I rise and she kneels on the seat cushion to reach the cactus.

She extends her arms toward me.

“Can you hold this while I get down?”

I set the plant on the cabinet.

“Is this how you want it?” I ask.

“Yeah.”

Annalie looks at the tall crystal vase and the short terra-cotta pot beside it.

Then, with authority, she makes her pronouncement.

“Adopted.”

I look at my husband, mouth agape, and silently give thanks that our daughter is making sense of her world.

She feels safe and protected and loved.

She belongs.

And so do we.

Smore Stories – Daring To Journey Through Adoption: Turn In The Rose-Colored Glasses

 

Tara’s very wise words of advice to prospective adoptive parents and adoptive parents.  Smore Stories – Daring To Journey Through Adoption: Turn In The Rose-Colored Glasses.

Smore Stories – Daring To Journey Through Adoption..

by Marisha

Tara Bradford has initiated an exciting new series on her blog. As an adoptee and an adoptive mother, she has a wealth of experience from both perspectives which can inspire and enrich the rest of us. Follow the link below to read her description.

Thank you, Tara!

Smore Stories – Daring To Journey Through Adoption...

Tara Bradford

Tara Bradford

10 Ways You Might Be Letting Down Your Adopted Child

by Luanne

Do you have the best intentions to raise your adopted child in the best possible way you can?  If so, you’re like most of us adoptive parents.

In the case of international and transracial adoptions, the intentions can multiply, as do the mistakes made by parents.

Cheri Register, in her book Beyond Good Intentions, lists ten reasons adoptive parents who think they are being good parents often fall short.  In fact, we all fall short in some way or another.41JFR2MD2PL._SY300_

The book is organized according to these ten reasons, so I will list the chapter titles and gloss each one:

  1. Wiping Away Our Children’s Past–a child who is adopted is not a blank slate. She comes with a past, including the past before she was born.
  2. Hovering over Our “Troubled” Children–don’t pathologize your child.
  3. Holding the Lid on Sorrow and Anger–allow and encourage the expression of emotions in your home and don’t show your child that you don’t accept emotions or have to be protected from them.
  4. Parenting on the Defensive–if you’re defensive, you’re going to come off as angry at the child. You might do something dumb like tell her she ought to be grateful. See my recent grumpy post about that subject.
  5. Believing Race Doesn’t Matter–of course, race matters. We live in a race conscious world. Saying “I never see Lauren’s race” isn’t doing her any favors. She has to learn to live in the world the way it is. And her race is something to take pride in–not to ignore.
  6. Keeping Our Children Exotic–This is where sometimes people think “exotic” = cute. Your child isn’t an exotic pet.  Need I say more?
  7. Raising Our Children in Isolation–Children need to be raised in a diverse community. This is healthy for all children, no matter their race or if they are adoptees or not. But international and/or transracial adoptees, need this even more.  This is the one where my husband and I most let our kids down.
  8. Judging Our Country Superior–How does that make a child born in another country to people of another nationality feel pride and instill self-confidence?
  9. Believing Adoption Saves Souls–if you follow this logic to its conclusion you learn that God intended for your child to be torn away from her birth parents, culture, history, genetics, etc.–all to save her soul. How will that make her feel about the religion you bring her up in? Or about herself and her natural emotions?
  10. Appropriating Our Children’s Heritage–This is a big ick. If your child was born in China and you were born a white person in Philadelphia, don’t start to think you’re Chinese by adoption or by extension.  You’re not. It does your child no disservice to have you act like you think you are. It can be perceived as a colonialist attitude.

A huge thanks to blogger Menomama who directed me to this clear and well thought out book.

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