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!

Second Class Citizens? (with a PSA for PAPs)

by Luanne

As an adoptive mom of almost thirty years and an adoptive sister of . . . well, never mind how long, I am used to the occasional patronizing tone when someone finds out how my family was created. It’s recognizable when someone  sees my kids and says too brightly, “Oh, I’ve always wanted to adopt!” as if we were talking about adopting puppies at the shelter. Or when someone uses childbirth or breastfeeding as the end-all-be-all example of being a mother. It was especially noticeable when the kids were babies and somebody would say, “You’ll probably get pregnant now. That’s what happened to my sister-in-law. Their new baby looks just like my brother did when he was a baby!”

Underneath all their reactions is their belief that adoption is somehow not the real thing, not the best way to create a family.

Is adoption the second best way to create a family? That’s what John Eastman, Chairman of the National Organization for Marriage, thinks. Read this article by Adam Pertman.

http://www.chicagonow.com/portrait-of-an-adoption/2013/11/you-are-not-entitled-to-your-own-facts/

If adoption is second best does that make adoptees second best kids?  How can people who think like John Eastman be willing to relegate 1.5 million children in the United States to second class status?

One of the most insidious places, though, for this type of thinking can be found in the minds of some prospective adoptive parents out there who feel (because after all it’s a feeling problem more than a thinking problem) somewhere in their hearts that adopting will be somehow “lesser” than giving birth to their children.

To all PAPs: I’m not saying adoption won’t be different from having bio children or that there won’t be some very different issues, but if you are honest with yourself and recognize even a whiff of this “lesser than” feeling, PLEASE DON’T ADOPT.

After all, adoption is a huge undertaking and, as with all parenting, lasts for the rest of your life. I know it’s National Adoption Month, but this event shouldn’t be about persuading people to adopt children. If you can’t go into it knowing your family will be a first-rate family, then go to the shelter and find a cat or dog. They have a way of being grateful to you–and that’s probably what you most want.

Adam Pertman

Adam Pertman

Adam Pertman is Executive Director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, a national nonprofit that is the pre-eminent research, policy and education organization in its field. Pertman – a former Pulitzer-nominated journalist – is also Associate Editor of Adoption Quarterly, the premier research journal dealing with adoption and foster care. He is the author/editor of two newly published books, Adoption Nation: How the Adoption Revolution is Transforming Our Families — and America (which has been reviewed as “the most important book ever written on the subject”) and “Gay and Lesbian Adoption: A New Dimension in Family Diversity”, and has written many other chapters and articles on adoption- and family-related issues in books, scholarly journals and mass-market publications.

Creating a Strong Family Story

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.

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.

Fla. social worker finds unlikely home for troubled foster child – CBS News Video

This CBS evening news story really touched me.

Fla. social worker finds unlikely home for troubled foster child – CBS News Video.

Here’s a 2nd article:

http://young.house.gov/press-release/representative-young-congratulates-eckerd-adoption-specialist-connie-going-angel

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