Saturday, December 17, 2011

Is Semi-Open Open Enough?

Erica and Tyler are sick -- horribly, no-fun-at-all, wishing-they'd-gotten-flu-shots sick. This is especially sad because tonight was the night that we had planned to drop Ashley off at their apartment for a few hours so they could have their Christmas celebration.

Is Ashley devastated? Heartbroken? No, she's fine. She's mildly disappointed, but she understands that this is not a cancellation, it's just a rescheduling. Our visits happen frequently enough that there is not an extreme amount of pressure on any individual visit. The Christmas visit with Ashley's brother and first mom will still happen, just later.

A few minutes ago I received an email link to this article. I really feel for these people, and I hope they get the photos and letters back. But at the same time, I found myself thinking, "Wow, how sad to have all your 'memories' of your birth mother fit into one folder." It's not my place to judge; I don't know all the circumstances. Maybe for this family and first mother, this was the best possible arrangement. And, admittedly, it's still a step in the right direction from the old, closed adoption model. I had no such folder when I was 24.

But I'm glad that Ashley's memories of her first family will be more plentiful, and that they will consist of real experiences, rather than pieces of paper in a folder. I understand that such openness and the possibility of real relationship isn't feasible in all cases, but it's what I truly wish for every child.

Friday, December 16, 2011

More Thoughts

I grew up with amazing parents. I mean really, two of the most rock-solid people you could ever meet. They are the base on which I stand. I was loved, I was cared for, I was supported.

But it wasn't enough. I grew up, and I functioned. I passed in the world as whole. But I wasn't whole. I was nurture devoid of nature. I was missing an essential element that I needed for psychological health.

It is true that biology does not make a parent. There are plenty of people in the world who have no biological children of their own yet are amazing parents; my husband is one of them. There are also plenty of people who give birth or provide the genetic material for a child, but, for various reasons, don't seem to know what to do after that.

Angry adoptive or prospective-adoptive parents who comment on blogs (not so much this one, but others I have read), I hear you when you say this. I really do. I also hear you when you say that there are worse things than being adopted. It is worse to endure horrible physical and psychological abuse at the hands of a biological parent. It is worse to grow up without parents at all, raised by strangers in an institutional setting. I get that. I hear you.

But I am also begging you to please, please hear me when I say this one simple thing: if you remove a child from his or her biological family and completely cut off all connection with and knowledge of that family, you are doing harm. You are depriving the child of something essential, something necessary for psychological health and well-being. From the child's point of view, biology does matter.

Now, we can argue all day about where that harm falls on the scale of things, but that's not really the point. I'm asking us to aim higher than "better than terrible." I believe that, whether we adopt or not, the children of the world are our responsibility -- all of our responsibility. I know that many of you share my view. In fact, some of you feel so strongly about this that you have decided to forgo having biological children of your own and to instead devote your energy and resources to taking care of children who are already living: children who need parents, and in some cases, not only parents but parents willing to take on the challenges of caring for children with significant special needs. You have chosen adoption as your strategy, and I am not saying that you shouldn't adopt.

But I also believe that our ultimate goal should be for all children to have not only adequate food and shelter and love and care, but also psychological health and connection to their roots and heritage. If we can love children who are not our biological offspring enough to adopt  them and bring them into our homes and our hearts to be raised as our own children, can we also love them enough to want them to have the whole package?

I think we can all agree on the goal of having happy, healthy, well-adjusted children. Disagreements happen on the level of strategy. I understand that we live in a world that is far from ideal and that my goal is a lofty one. Adoption is a flawed strategy for a flawed world. It is not in itself something holy. It is crucially important for all of us who are connected to adoption to keep this in mind, and to continue to have thoughtful, critical discussions about this human-created institution. Yes, there are many situations in adoption may be the best strategy under the circumstances, but there are also many, many situations in which it is not. Let us please all continue to explore alternatives when they are viable.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Family Preservation

Adoption has shaped my life, from my very first breaths until the current day. I am an adoptee, an adoptive mom, and an adoption blogger. I think about adoption and its implications every day. And I am going to tell you something that will surprise some of you and will not surprise others at all. I do not love adoption.

There have been some fabulous conversations in blogland this week as a result of this post and responses to it, such as this one and this one. There have also been some hurtful things said.

There's a lot that I could write in response to all of this, and I may try to write more later, but for now I am motivated to try to briefly formulate my own statement of beliefs.

I advocate for open adoption because I believe that if adoption happens, it is absolutely essential to the psychological well-being of the child that some form of connection to the biological family be maintained. But I also believe adoptions should happen less frequently than they do. I believe stronger efforts are needed to keep biological families together whenever possible. I believe that, as a culture and a society, we are too quick to rush to adoption as a solution before exploring other options, and I believe that this failing is rooted in a common misconception: biology doesn't matter. But biology does matter. The bond between a child and her biological family is real, and anytime that bond is severed, whether in infancy or in a later stage of childhood, there is pain and trauma.

Sometimes I feel like I am standing on the edge of a cliff, shouting this into the wind: Biology matters. Biology matters. Biology matters. The words come back to me, unheard. But I will keep shouting.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Grief and the Adopted Child

My adopted daughter is sad. Not every minute. In fact, for the most part I would describe her as a happy child. One of the great joys of being her parent is the way she expresses delight ... how she lights up over little things, like the small pink Christmas tree she bought for her room with her allowance. I love it when she smiles at me. I love it when she skips. I love it when she sings in the shower. And boy, does she sing in the shower!

But I'm not fully embracing all that she is if I don't acknowledge that sometimes she is sad. Lately she seems to be grieving the siblings she doesn't get to see. She hasn't wanted to talk about it much yet, but I know. I see that she has hung the sister's letters on her bedroom wall. I see that her eyes are red as she slips her family photo album into her desk drawer. She has two brothers and a sister, biological siblings, who were a part of her life when she was younger. She hasn't seen them in years, and because of circumstances that are currently beyond our control, she doesn't know when she will see them again. Think about that for a moment. Put yourself in her shoes. Imagine that kind of loss.

Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

Adoption is complicated and hard. It almost always involves pain and loss and trauma. Yes, there is a joyful side of it too, but the joy is not the whole story. As an adoptive parent, my tendency is to want to focus on the positive, but it is my job to make space for the mourning. My daughter is sad because she has a reason to be. Yes, she gained an adoptive family, and in so many ways she is thriving and doing well. And yes, because of our commitment to openness, she has been able to maintain a relationship with her biological mother and to form a new one with her youngest brother. But she still lost so much. 

She is grieving because she needs to grieve. This can be a hard thing for adoptive parents to accept, but it is part of loving a child who has come to you by way of loss. 

Saturday, November 26, 2011

I Eat My Words and Help Clean a Room

Here's what you should never do: brag online about something your kids are doing well because of your amazing parenting skills, as I did when I wrote about my daughters keeping their bedrooms clean last month. Why? Because it is one of those inevitable laws of the universe that as soon as you do so things will begin to unravel. Ashley really had been doing well with her room when I wrote that post. For months, she had kept it in very good shape. Not perfect. But not bad at all for a 10-year-old.

By yesterday, however, her room had reached full-out disaster stage, as in can't-walk-from-the-door-to-the-bed-because-of-all-the-stuff disaster stage. In general, my philosophy is that my kids' rooms are their own spaces. I ask for -- and sometimes even get -- their cooperation in maintaining order in shared spaces, such as the living room, but I'm more relaxed about their bedrooms, because, well, they're their rooms.

Up to a certain point, that is. My tolerance, it seems, has a limit, and Ashley's room had reached it, becoming essentially unusable. (She actually slept on the pull-out couch in the living room on Thursday night because her room was such a mess.) Also, we needed to move the window air conditioning unit into her closet for winter storage, but the closet was full of stuff. Something had to be done.

As I wrote in that earlier ill-fated post, I normally expect my daughters to do their own room cleaning. That's the flip side of the your-rooms-are-your-own-spaces coin; I don't expect their rooms to be kept perfectly clean; I do, however, expect whatever cleaning is done to be done by them, not me. But rules are meant to be broken, and this situation clearly seemed to call for some parental guidance. I told Ashley I would help.

We spent about four hours working together in that room, and by the end of it all we had three bags of trash and five bags of old toys and clothes ready for donation, all parted with willingly. In some of her previous cleanings, various unrelated items had been shoved into bags and boxes; we sorted through all of those. Three categories: trash, give-away, keep. Summer clothes were put into the drawers under her bed and winter clothes were folded and put into her bureau. Dresses, shoes, and, of course, the air conditioner are now in her closet. Oh, and we bought a new zebra print comforter at the mall earlier in the day. The perfect (and seriously cool) final touch!

Is the room now completely neat? No. As the hours went on and she got tired, I noticed her shoving items into the cubbies of her desk with less than careful attention. Was the job fun? Uh, not exactly. In fact, at one point I got pretty cranky with her. (When I later apologized to her for my crankiness she said, "That's OK. I understand that you get that way sometimes." I love that both of my daughters seem to get that parental crankiness is not something to be taken personally. Parents are human. We get tired; we grump; and we still love our children even in those moments -- which isn't to say that I'm not working on reducing my level of crankiness.) But it was time spent together, and when we were done we both had a feeling of satisfaction. Her dad and Mackenzie were by that time watching TV in the living room downstairs, but we opted not to join them. "Don't you want to hang out in my amazingly clean room?" she asked. Why, yes, yes I do. So we ended the night on a cozy note, watching one of her favorite TV shows on a laptop as we sat on her bed under the zebra print comforter.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Mommy Page Interview

Guess who's the featured blogger on Mommy Page today! That's right -- it's me. (I also stole the cookie from the cookie jar, in case you were wondering.)

I hope you'll stop by and check out my interview as well as other great content on the site.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Morning Musings

I read a bunch of adoption blogs yesterday, as I do most days, and woke up this morning with an image in my mind of a plant pulled out of the soil. I think this image captures something that I hear many adoptees trying to express online. We sometimes find ourselves in discussions in which non-adopted people are talking about the adoptive family's ability to provide sunshine and water and Miracle-Gro, and we are saying yes, that is all well and good, but what about the soil? Can't you see that we need the soil? Can't you see our bare roots hanging there? And it can feel rather surreal at times, like we are pointing out the emperor's lack of clothes but nobody can hear us.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Visit Backlash, Part Two

I want to share a bit more about what happened here this weekend, because it was difficult, but it wasn't, and isn't, all bad. In fact, all in all, it was probably an important step in Ashley's development and healing.

Erica and Ashley had a visit on Saturday, and during that visit Ashley asked some difficult questions about why Ashley and her siblings had been removed from Erica and why they didn't go back. Erica answered honestly, in age appropriate language, and an important conversation about addiction and recovery ensued. Ashley was reassured that nothing that had happened was her fault. She got to hear that Erica had always wanted her but just hadn't been able to get well in time.

It was a good conversation. As Ashley's other mother, I am OK with everything that Erica shared. More than OK, in fact. These are all things that I wanted Ashley to hear from her.

But it was a lot to process. And when an adopted child is processing difficult stuff, guess who usually bears the brunt of it? You guessed it -- the adoptive mom. So Ashley pushed me away, and then she reconnected. For whatever reason, that was something that she needed to do as she walked through this.

She needed me to be her punching bag for a while, and to see that I loved her anyway. She needed to push, and see that I respected her boundaries but wasn't going to disappear. She needed to take out her emotions on someone, and I was the safest person to be the recipient.

And then, bit by bit, she made her way back to me. She sought me out and found little ways of reconnecting. We are back on track ... for now. It seems inevitable that more stuff will come up for her through the years as she makes sense of her journey through foster care to adoption. When that happens, her dad and I and Erica will all do our best to guide her through.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Visit Backlash: Not Our Best Day

In general, I tend to paint a pretty rosy picture of open adoption on this blog. That's because my experience really has been mostly positive. Adoption isn't all roses and sunshine -- it involves grieving and loss -- but the openness part, for me, has been rewarding.

So, in the spirit of honesty, I want to share that we have struggled today. Or at least, I have struggled. I've written previously about visit backlash, the period following a visit with the biological family in which the adoptive family deals with the fallout, but it's something we haven't personally experienced in a long while. Until today.

We had a visit this weekend that stirred up some things in Ashley. She's processing, and, unfortunately for me, a big part of that processing has involved distancing herself from me. Ouch.

I understand that visit backlash is part of the process. I know that it's temporary and it's something you walk through with your child. We've gotten through it before, and we will get through it this time. But that doesn't mean it's easy.

Open adoption isn't about easy. I've been lucky; as an adoptive parent I've found that it has had many benefits for me. But that isn't why I do it. I do it because it benefits my child. It may be hard to see it in this moment, but I know that it does. What's happening now isn't about me. She's making sense of things. She's finding her way. And though she may seem to be pushing me away, she actually needs me, and my commitment to this process, now more than ever.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Adoption Bloggers Interview Project 2011

Adoption Bloggers Interview Project 2011
I am very excited to be participating in this year's Adoption Bloggers Interview Project, along with 119 other bloggers whose lives have been touched by adoption. The concept behind the project is simple: the participants were paired off at random and then spent some time getting to know each other's blogs before interviewing each other by email. Today is the day that we are all publishing the results, and I am honored to introduce you to Brittani of Loved_BE. Brittani is an adoptee, foster care alumna, a birth mom, a scrap booker, and much, much more. She has a beautiful son named Isaac. She also has great insights to share, and I hope you will not only enjoy getting to know her through this interview but will stop by her blog as well. And I hope you'll check out the other pairings, too. I know I can't wait to do so! Many thanks to Heather of Production, Not Reproduction for organizing all of this. And now, here is Brittani in her own words: 

1) Can you tell me a little bit about your history as an foster alumni and adoptee?

The first time that is documented of us being taken away from my mom was when I was 4. However, there were several times before that as the problems began when I was born addicted to methamphetamine. We were moved every 2 to 3 months from the time I was 4 to the day my mom signed the TPR when I was 7. I moved 16+ times in those three years. I was adopted and moved out of state shortly thereafter and I lived with them for three years. My amom was diagnosed with lupus and the circumstances led to me being placed back into foster care when I was 10. Between the ages of 10 and 18 I moved another 7 times before finally aging out of care. I lived with Bruce and Karman for my junior and senior year of high school and I consider them to be my "forever family". I continue to have a relationship with them and go "home" for holidays and family gatherings.

2) Did you later reunite with your birth family or part of it?

I found my birthmom when I was 12 but I did not have a relationship with her until I was 15. When I reconnected with her the second time, I also found my older brother and sister. I found one of my younger sisters when I was 18 and the youngest is yet to be located. I found my birthfather when I was 18 and learned that I have two biological brothers and two step-brothers all who I still have not met in person (I also have not seen my dad, although I am in touch with all of them).

3) On your blog you write that you could never have done a closed adoption as a birth mother. Was this something that you felt certain about right from the start or did you come to this realization gradually?

I decided to place my son for adoption when I was just over 3 months along. From the time that I made that decision I was sure I wanted a closed adoption. Then around month 7 I started to realize there was no way I could survive placement if I did not know how he was doing. By the time he was born I was confident I had to have an open adoption agreement. 

4) Was your decision to place and/or your determination to have an open adoption in any way influenced by your own history as a foster alumni and adoptee?

Growing up in a cycle of poverty, instability, and largely without either parent, I have always known I wanted more for my family. Growing up I made it my mission in life to be everything my mother couldn't. I recognize that is not the healthiest way to deal with grief, unfortunately my attitude toward my pregnancy was no different. I wasn't about to bring a child into my life if I couldn't offer him health insurance, a college fund, a father, and a white picket fence. My opinions on all of those things are drastically different now that I'm on the other side of it but unfortunately there is no going back.

I know firsthand what it is like to "need" to know where you came from and who gave you life. I always wanted my son to have the security of knowing his roots, even when I didn't think I wanted contact with him - there was never a time when I didn't want him to know who I was. 

5) Can you tell me, and my readers, a little bit about what your open adoption looks like. How often do you visit with your son and how do you keep in touch in between visits?

This one is tough because he is just over a year old. Before he was born we met with a lawyer and set up a contact agreement that stipulates we should have one visit per year for the first two years. Initially we had updates every month and that went to every other month after his first birthday. I believe after his 3rd birthday it goes to once every 6 months and once he is in school it is just once a year. I'm a little fuzzy about what we agreed on for those last few though as they are still so far away. The important part though is that we are in contact far more than that. We have only had one in person visit since his birth because they live out of state and visits are challenging. But, his mom sends me photos a few times a month sometimes, we are friends on Facebook, and have Skype'd with them several times. She frequently sends me videos and picture messages throughout the month and we have a relatively close relationship. I do not necessarily have a direct relationship with him yet but come on, he's only one :). 

6) What thing do you most appreciate about having an open adoption?

The photos and videos. I love that I not only get to hear how he is doing but I get to see it too. 
I also love the relationship that has formed between his mom and myself. I treasure her and greatly respect her. 

7) What has been the hardest part for you about having an open adoption?

The distance. The fact that we live in two different states is very hard for me, although in choosing them it was a determining factor. Initially I did not want a local family. My perspective has changed on so many things post-placement.

8) How has becoming a birth mom affected your relationships with other people in your life?

My relationship with my parents (Bruce and Karman) is significantly better and significantly worse because I placed my son for adoption. During my pregnancy my dad and I became very close for the first time ever in our relationship. We have remained close since I placed Isaac. However, I have struggled with accepting the fact that they refused to support me had I decided to keep Isaac. For them, me keeping him was never an acceptable choice. They told me they would not help me if I decided to keep him and I'm not sure I will ever be able to forgive them for that.
It has also negatively impacted my relationship with several members of my birth family.
The only place it has really had a positive impact on relationships is online. It has allowed me to form relationships with other birthmoms as well as adoptive moms through blogging. 

9) If you were having a conversation with an stranger or an acquaintance and happen to reveal that you are a birth mother, what is the one thing they could say to you that would be most supportive?

"I'm sorry for your loss." And leave it at that. Following it up with, "But you are so unselfish and he is so loved..." or something to that affect, just adds insult to injury.  Acknowledging that it is the most painful thing I've ever done means far more than anything else that could be said.

10) On your personal blog, you mentioned impact of your job as a nanny on your healing process post placement. Can you tell me a little more about that?

I basically just talked about how it was challenging to care for an infant who is just one month younger than Isaac and how watching her go through various developmental stages was painful because it was a constant reminder of all that I was missing with Isaac. I wrote that post in May and I think now, 6 months later, I can also acknowledge that having this job has helped with the healing process. I am far more aware of my parenting inadequacies, as I spend 10 hours a day caring for an infant, than I probably would be if I didn't have a nanny job. I am also more aware that I could have done it. As I've said many times on my blog :)

11) Are there other things that have contributed to healing since your son's birth?

Scrapbooking is like really fun therapy for me. It is probably close to the same price (*wink wink) but you have the benefit of working through the emotions when you are alone in the comfort of your own home. And you end up with a wonderful keepsake of your child's life at the end of the book. 

12) You recently spent time in Africa and you have written about some of the different cultural attitudes towards adoption and unplanned pregnancy. What do you see as some of the advantages and disadvantages of the different cultural approaches?

As a birthmom I am very fond of the East African cultural attitude towards parenting. They strongly encourage mothers to care for their own children and when a child is abandoned/orphaned the child will either go to live with biological relatives or close family friends. One of the advantages to their approach is that family bonds are highly valued as is maintaining cultural ties. One of the disadvantages to this approach is that there is no infrastructure in place to care for the overwhelming number of abandoned/orphaned children. There are more children in need than there are willing caregivers. Often times leaving children starving and alone living on the streets. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Unadoptable Is Unacceptable: Adopting From Foster Care

There are more than 100,000 youth waiting for permanent families in the U.S. foster care system. Children often wait five years or more to be adopted, have multiple foster homes, and are frequently separated from siblings. And tragically, tens of thousands of children of "age out" of the system each year without finding permanency.

In a guest post on the blog Foster2Forever, Rita L. Soronen, President & CEO of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, wrote "there are … many challenges that anyone jumping into the child welfare system faces -- unresponsive agencies, paperwork, system delays, and lack of post-adoption resources, to name just a few.... But we cannot give up."

If you are considering adoption as a way to grow your family, please watch the following video and consider if you might be the right family for a child who really needs one.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Adoptive Families and the Internet

Another topic that was discussed during Karen Cheyney's presentation at ACONE's Adoption Conference this Saturday was the problematic issue of tech-savvy adopted kids making contact with biological families without the adoptive parents' knowledge. In today's world of social networking, it is often fairly easy for tweens and teens to find biological parents online. For me, this is one more reason why it is important for adoptive parents to build real-life, positive relationships with birth parents whenever possible, and as early as possible. It also highlights the importance of creating an atmosphere of acceptance in the home so that the adoptee will feel comfortable talking to the adoptive parents about the first family.

Because here's the thing: most adoptees are going to have a desire to reach out to the biological family at some point. It is natural for adopted children to desire a connection to their roots and sooner or later they are likely to seek that connection ... with or without the adoptive parents' support. If you are an adoptive parent, wouldn't you rather be involved?

Open adoption allows the connection to biological family to occur in a safe, supervised manner, with the involvement of the adoptive parents. It can help to demystify the birth family, rather than positioning them as the forbidden fruit. An adopted teen won't need to sneak away to try to meet up with her birth mother if that birth mother is already a regular part of her life.

Yes, you should monitor your child's online activity and teach about internet safety, but as your child gets older, he or she will have opportunities to access the internet outside of your home and it will become increasingly difficult to monitor all social-networking activity. Keeping the lines of communication open between adoptees and adoptive parents, and, when possible, between adoptive parents and birth parents, can also be an important part of creating safety. 

Related Posts:
Being "Emotionally Open" to First Families
Let's Get Real: Embracing Duality in Adoptive Families
Are You an Attuned Adoptive Parent?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Adoption Conference

Today I attended the Adoption Community of New England's November Adoption Conference. My favorite speaker was Karen Cheyney of Bright Futures Adoption Center who presented a workshop entitled "Healthy Relationships with Birth Families." I found myself nodding in agreement through much of her presentation.

Here are a few of the points she made that resonated with me:

*When adoptive parents show a willingness to be connected to the child's birth family, that communicates acceptance to child.

*Children in open adoptions can get answers to normal questions about their histories, which allows them to move onto other developmental tasks without getting stuck on adoption-related issues.

*It is important for adopted children to be able to talk freely about adoption without worrying about loyalty issues. It is important that they be allowed to care about both sets of parents without feeling guilty.

I'm hoping to write more about this conferences and some of the things that came up for me at it in the coming days.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Shattered Families

My (biological) brother and his team at the Applied Research Center made this heartbreaking video about the separation of children from undocumented parents. Please watch:

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Rambling Post Containing an Old Poem and a Lot of Love

While I was digging through my old writing looking for the sea glass piece, I found a poem that I wrote a few years back about Mackenzie, the older of my two daughters:

"Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body." -- Elizabeth Stone

Last night we cuddled, watching TV,
through the mouth of a tent pitched in our living room,
her adoration wrapped around me like a down sleeping bag.
She drank in my love, filling up.
Tonight she said, “oh hi,” and turned back
to her art project.
I celebrate both.
Lately, she’s taken to carrying around my heart
in the pocket of her winter coat,
with the collection of bouncy balls
that she buys for a quarter
from the machine at the Chinese restaurant.
And that’s okay.
In fact, it is precisely where my heart wants to be.

Mackenzie still has that collection of bouncy balls. (When Tornado Tyler was at our house recently he dumped them all out on the living room floor and then jumped onto them. Feet up; Tyler down. No injuries, thankfully.) She doesn't carry them around in her pocket anymore, but you know my heart is still there.

People often ask me how Mackenzie adjusted to having Ashley come into her life. The answer is "not well at, at least initially." Mackenzie wanted a sister. She really, really wanted a sister. Until that sister moved into our house. And then she really, really did not want a sister. The addition of a sibling to a family can be challenging even when the child joins in the more usual way as a infant, but when that sibling is an older child with a trauma history, the situation is likely to be even more problematic. Mackenzie had been the only child, wrapped in that cocoon of my love, and suddenly there was someone else around whom she perceived as competition.

I am happy to report that these days Mackenzie and Ashley get along better than the average siblings. The bond between them is actually very heartwarming to observe. And my heart ... well, they both walk around with it now. I know that metaphor doesn't quite make sense, but try not to get too caught up in the physics of it. Love is not a pie. When you have two children, they both get your whole heart. You don't take half of your heart from the one child and give it to the other.

It doesn't matter if a child comes to you by birth or adoption; the effect is the same. It's a love that cracks you wide open, leaving you forever raw and vulnerable.

But in adoption, there's another layer to things. The birth parent's heart not only goes walking around outside of her body, it goes walking around outside of her life. I urge adoptive parents to keep this in mind. As much as you love your child (and believe me, I know how much you love your child), always remember there is someone else who loves them too, with an equal amount of rawness and intensity, plus an additional element of grief. Please hold them always with care in your heart.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Adoption Reunions and the Magical Number 18

The other night at a school-sponsored Halloween party, I had a conversation with the adoptive father of one the schoolmates of my daughters. I had shared a bit of the story of my open adoption, and he responded by sharing that the biological parents of his daughter had recently sent a letter and photos. His daughter hadn't seen the letter or the photos yet, but he and the adoptive mother were planning to show them to her soon. He seemed pleased about the letter but went on to say that he didn't think his daughter would meet her biological family at any point -- well, not until she was 18, at least. When she was 18, if she wanted to make contact, they would support her.

I like and admire this man, I know he has his daughter's best interest at heart, and I'll be the first to admit that I don't know all of the details of his daughter's situation. Also, on the surface, his statement seems perfectly reasonable, even child-centered. He is saying he will support his daughter in whatever decision she makes once she is old enough to make that decision. What could be wrong with that?

So why did his statement make me slightly uncomfortable?

One reason is that, somewhere along the line, I received the same message from my own adoptive parents, and it proved problematic for me in the long run. I don't have a clear memory of the exact conversations, but I know that I heard from them in some way that if I wanted to search for my biological family, I could do so when I was 18. What I didn't hear from them was that they understood the reasons why it might be important for me to do so. I also didn't hear that my decision to search or not had no bearing on their love for me, which was unconditional. Although they didn't add "but we kind of hope you won't" to "you can search when you are 18," it hung in the air between us nevertheless.

I didn't search until I was 30, and the main reason for the delay was that, on some level, I believed searching for my biological family would be a betrayal of my adoptive one. I thought my adoptive parents would not approve, not really, and the child in me equated disapproval with  rejection and rejection with annihilation. Even as I grew to understand that I needed to reconnect to my biological roots to be whole, I could not take that chance. I chose security over wholeness.

In the end, I got them both. Ultimately, my adoptive parents were not only supportive, they were instrumental in my search. Their love for me is unconditional and they do understand my reasons for wanting a connection to the biological side of my family. So, why did it take me so long to come to this understanding?

Eighteen is the age at which the adopted person can technically search without the consent of his or her adoptive parents. And yet, I have often heard adoptive parents mention it as the age at which they will give consent and support, even in cases of semi-open adoptions like the one of my daughters' schoolmate. I have to admit, it's hard for me to interpret this message as anything but a stalling technique. An unspoken "but we kind of hope that won't be the case" still hangs in the air for me. If I'm hearing it, are their children hearing it too? And if so, what is the effect?

At what age is a child old enough to long for wholeness and to want the missing puzzle piece that biology can provide? At what age can they trust that their adoptive parents will hear them if they express such longings? Does something magical happen at age 18 in this regard?

If you've read my blog before you probably know how important I believe it is for adoptive parents to remain "emotionally open" to first families. I understand that actual contact with certain biological family members may be inadvisable in some cases. And I understand the reasons why some parents may wish to wait until their children are older, developmentally and emotionally, before bringing some relationships into their lives. But if you are an adoptive parent, please always remember that your child's biological family is a part of them. Biology isn't destiny, but it is a piece of the puzzle. Know that it is natural and normal for adopted children to long for a connection to their original family and an understanding of their genetic heritage. And most importantly, let them know, at every stage and every age, that you understand this. Sometimes adopted children will tell their adoptive parents that they don't have any desire to know their biological family; if this happens, I encourage you to take the child's word for it ... more or less. If that's where they are truly at, then fine. But I also encourage you to ask yourself one tough question: Is there any chance they are saying that because they believe it is what you want to hear?  Regardless of what your adopted child chooses to express, you can let them know that your love is unconditional, and that if the desire to know the biological family should come up, at 18 or any other age, it will have no bearing on the strength of your attachment to them.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Sea Glass

A few days ago, Erica wrote the following in a post about her toddler: "Tornado Tyler has taught me life doesn't always turn out the way you thought it would, it can be better than you ever imagined." That put me in mind of something I wrote some years ago. Actually, I wrote it when I myself was the mother of a toddler, and though my daughter doesn't appear in the piece, the messiness and unpredictability that swirl around young children were certainly a part of my life at that time. On the surface, the piece is about sea glass, bits of broken glass that have been transformed by the motion of the sea and the friction of tumbling rocks into soft, translucent gems:

But on a deeper level it is about accepting the messiness and unpredictability of life. Here is the piece: 

I sit on the pebbly part of the town beach at the end of the shore path, combing my hands through the damp loose stones looking for sea glass. I am looking for blue pieces, of course, but they are too rare and I’m not having any luck. I don’t want to go home empty handed, so I begin to gather the white, the brown, the green. I study the subtleties of each piece. I look at them the way some people must look at diamonds, noticing the unique way the light shines through each one. I am a connoisseur of sea glass. I rub my fingers over the edges, judging. Is it soft enough? Is it ready for plucking, or does it need more time with the sea?

Two children, a boy and a girl, about 10 years old, possibly twins, begin to hover nearby. They pat my dog, then stand, unselfconsciously, as 10-year-olds will do, watching, waiting for me to take the lead. I explain to them that I am looking for sea glass for two friends from Massachusetts who have been especially kind to me lately. I tell them that I want to bring these friends some little bits of Maine. I don’t know if they understand the last part or not, but they don’t question it. They sense that an important mission is at hand. Without a word, they begin to help. The girl, whose name I eventually learn is Krista, works beside me, putting the pieces in my hand one by one as she finds them. The boy, Cain, works a wider territory, wandering off on his own, returning periodically with his finds. We work quietly, with reverence almost, with only an occasional comment about the beauty or uniqueness of a particular piece. It feels almost as though the three of us are participants in some sacred ceremony.

The children do not adhere to my standards for the sea glass, and soon they are also adding small rock, shells, and even pieces of shell. My first impulse is to protest. “No, that’s not what I’m looking for.” But instead I relax. I decide to accept whatever gifts they have to give. I watch as the mixture in my hand grows increasingly messier, and richer. When my cupped hand is full, I tell them it’s time for me to go. I say my goodbyes, thank them for their help, and slip the collection into my jacket pocket. As I walk away, I look back at Krista and Cain. They sit, heads close together, still sifting through the rocks.

It's interesting to me to look back on this piece. It had been on my mind, even before Erica wrote that line about Tyler, because my friend Maureen recently started making and selling sea-glass jewelry: 

The images in this post were taken, with her permission, from her facebook page Tidal Gems.

Maureen and I met in a prenatal exercise class when we were both pregnant with our first children. Now our  kids are close in age to the two children in the story above. A lot has happened in the intervening years. Things have come into our lives that we would not have chosen or hand-picked, include a painful divorce on my part and an unexpected job loss on hers. Like me, Maureen is a "connoisseur of sea glass." She selects the most beautiful "gems" for her creations and even finds the occasional coveted blue piece: 

But when it comes to life, I suspect that neither of us would exchange the crazy, messy, beautiful jumble we've ended up with for anything different. Krista and Cain, two 10-year-olds who came into my life for a few moments one afternoon in Maine, taught me that sometimes you go looking for one thing and find something that is unexpectedly better. Or, as Erica put it, though life doesn't always turn out the way you thought it would, it can be better than you ever imagined. It's the simplest of lessons, but one that continues to resonate for me all these years later. 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Open Adoption Roundtable #31

Open Adoption Blogs

The current, Halloween-inspired, Open Adoption Roundtable prompts is: Write about open adoption and being scared. Here is my reply:

There is a monster that no one ever dresses up as for Halloween. She is a hateful creature who selfishly gave birth without caring about her offspring. She drank; she used drugs; she put her own interests above theirs. She was irresponsible and neglectful in countless ways. Her children have been rescued from her terrible clutches, but they are not safe, for she is always there, lurking dangerously on the edges of their lives, waiting for an opportunity to pounce and steal them back. She does not love her children; she is incapable of loving and unworthy of being loved.

I have never met one of these monsters, but I have encountered them on the Internet. I have read the descriptions of them that show up in such places as the comment sections on blogs. 

I have never met the monster, and, truth be told, I doubt she is any more real than the Loch Ness Monster or Big Foot. But I did meet a woman the other day who cried real tears and shared her pain with me, spoke of her heartbreak at being separated from her children, gave voice to her regret that she hadn't managed to overcome her addiction in time to keep her children with her. I also remember another woman who approached me in a parking lot years ago, identified herself outright as an addict, and poured out her anguish to me. Her children had been removed from her that morning, and she was beside herself with grief. "You must think I am a terrible person," she said, repeatedly. "No," I said, "I don't." And I meant it.

But here's the thing: as scary as the woman I described in the first paragraph may seem, there is something that can be even scarier to some parents who adopt from foster care, and that's the first mother who gets her life together. Why? Because it's easy to justify keeping a monster at arm's length. Surely no one would expect adoptive parents to interact with someone like that, or to invite her into their lives. But what if she ceases to fit the stereotype? What if she begins to emerge as human, capable, and even lovable?

The adoptive parents' fear of the first mother can take a variety of forms, but ultimately at the core of it is the deep fear that we will lose our children, that despite all our love and care and our insistence that raising the child makes us the only "real" parents, biology will trump all and we will be ousted. When fear rules us, we panic, cling to our children, and build up walls between them and their other family.

I am not immune to fear; I can be as insecure as the next person. But I refuse -- I simply refuse -- to let fear be the guiding force in my open-adoption relationship. I don't trust fear; it is a tricky master that sends me off track, away from my intentions. That's not to say that fear must be ignored completely for it often carries a message about something important that needs attention. I can let fear guide me to communicating things that are important to me, but I cannot let it trick me into building walls or running from relationship. My commitment to openness is foremost; whatever else comes up for me emotionally must be balanced against that. When fear flickers in me, it is usually because some small issue has come up, stimulating discomfort in me. But the small issues are resolvable. In my heart of hearts I know that openness is the right thing for me and for my daughter, and that is my guiding force. 

Links to other bloggers' replies to this prompt are available here.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Quick Update

Yikes! Has it really been more than a week since I last posted?

I've been busy off-line. Our open adoption continues to expand like a balloon as we gradually add more air in small increments. Since I last wrote, Erica and Ashley have engaged in a bit of texting, and Erica and Tyler (Ashley's little brother) came to our house for the first time. I want to write more about both of these developments, but right now I'm busy getting ready for a conference that Erica and I are speaking at tomorrow.

While I'm doing that, please read this post that I absolutely love by Tiruba Tuba. "There can never be too many people who love a child." My thoughts exactly. 

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Let's Get Real: Embracing Duality in Adoptive Families

In her book Journey of the Adopted Self, Betty Jean Lifton addresses the sticky issue of the word "real" in adoptive families:
The adoptive mother believes she is the real mother because she is the one who got up in the middle of the night and was there for the child in sickness and health. The birth mother believes she is the real mother because she went through nine months of sculpting the child within her body and labored to bring it forth into the the world. They are both right. The adoptive mother who loves and cares for the child is the real mother. And the birth mother who never forgets her child is the real mother.... By denying that adoptees have two real mothers, society denies them their reality.
These words are of particular importance to me as an adoptee because not only did "society" deny me my reality, I denied it to to myself. An important therapeutic moment happened the day I fully acknowledged myself as the child of two mothers, allowing myself to embrace that duality and all that it meant. I suspect I am not the only adoptee to internalize the struggle between two mothers. The day I gave up the belief that I needed to prioritize one definition of "real" over the other, something important shifted within me. I found wholeness. 

Lifton also writes, "For me, a real mother recognizes and respects the whole identity of her child and does not ask him to deny any part of himself." By this definition, I am happy to say that my daughter Ashley clearly has two real mothers. The acknowledgment and valuing of all that Ashley is, including those parts of her that come from the other mother -- this is the core, the very essence, of what her first mother and I are attempting to accomplish through our open adoption relationship. Acknowledgment of the whole of an adopted child's self, writes Lifton, "is difficult to do in a closed adoption system that requires the child be cut off from his heritage, and that pits the original mother against the replacement mother.

I don't want my daughter to have to wait until she is an adult in therapy to discover wholeness. In traditional family situations, nature and nurture come in one package. In adoption, they are split, but they don't have to be pitted against each other. The more that I am able to embrace my child's whole identity, the better equipped she is to embrace it herself. Like me, she a child of two mothers and is loved, wholeheartedly, by both of us. We are each a part of who she is, and we are both very, very real.

Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Confessions of a (Sort of) Slacker Mom

As a mom, I'm not a total slacker. In fact, in some ways, the opposite is true. I parent fairly intensively, giving each of my two daughters as much one-on-one attention as I can. (As I wrote in an earlier post, they are tweens and I still do a fairly extensive bedtime routing with them.) My husband and I each bend over backwards trying to give these two children the best start in life that we can provide. They are the center of our universe and everything in our lives pretty much revolves around them.

But some ways, I have to admit that I am a bit of a slacker. I'm not the kind of mother who believes she has to do everything for her kids, and lately I've become aware of some of the surprising benefits of slackerism. We tend to think of parenting in terms of what we do, but sometimes it's actually more about what we choose not to do. When children are infants, they are completely dependent on us and we do everything for them. But as children get older, effective parenting sometimes means hanging back to give children the chance to rise to the challenge of taking care of themselves. So I stopped packing lunches in the morning. And then I stopped putting my daughters' laundry away (I sort it into baskets and put the baskets in their rooms). And then I stopped cleaning their bedrooms. 

And in every case, these amazing children of mine have risen to the challenge. I mean really! Not immediately, but over time, with a little coaching and guidance, and, most importantly, my determination not to step in and take over, they got there. No, the jobs aren't done perfectly -- effective slacker parenting means letting go of perfectionism. The bedrooms are not quite as I might clean them and the laundry, well, let's just say we have a pretty loose definition of "folded." But for a 10- and 11-year-old, these kids are pretty darn neat. And we manage it without bribes, star charts, or threats of punishment. Not bad for a slacker mom!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Some Random Thoughts After Reading Various Adoption-Related Blogs

1) Human-beings are biologically programmed to reproduce, from puberty on.
2) Throughout much of human history, most mothers have been young mothers. Youth does not, in and of itself, make someone unqualified to be a mother.
3) Our current culture is not set up to support young mothers.
4) Adoption does not make a child disappear.
5) Adoption is not a convenient fix to the problem of unplanned pregnancy.
6) Adoption does not undo a pregnancy or make someone not a mother.
7) I'm tremendously grateful that my birth mother told others about me (especially my younger brother) before I reappeared in her life.
8) Secrecy is almost always harmful.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Being "Emotionally Open" to First Families

Back in July I wrote a post that included the following paragraph:

"I do believe that it's important for anyone who is considering adoption to understand that they are not bringing a single child into their life -- they are bringing an entire family. That's just a fact. The old adoption model, and even many current adoption arrangements, try to ignore this reality, but ignoring doesn't work. Even if the adoptive family has no contact with the biological family and rarely discusses them other than in vague, almost mythological ways (such as the 'your birth mother was someone who loved you very much' story), that family, and especially the birth mother, is still there, fully present in the child's psyche. They may exist primarily as an absence, as a longing (spoken or unspoken), but they are still there."

I'd like to to expand on that a bit today. For adoptive parents, the choice between closed, semi-open, and fully open adoption isn't really a choice between having the biological family in your life or not. The first family is a part of your life regardless because they are a part of your child; the question for adoptive parents is: "How are you going to respond to this reality?"

I really appreciated the many thoughtful comments I got last week in response to my Attuned Adoptive Parent post, and I especially liked the following words from Martha Crawford, LCSW:

"Even when families are forrmed through international adoption - emotional openness to the first families: ie listening to children's wishes to search, supporting that process when it feels age appropriate, inviting your child to communicate about their first parents and then accepting whatever feelings or language emerge, offering acceptance and support with out fear or defensiveness - this to me, is the primary sacred task of being an 'adoptive' parent."

I love her phrase "emotional openness to the first families," and I believe it represents a key factor. If an adoption is nominally open on paper but the parents are not emotionally open to the biological family, the openness of the adoption is likely to be perceived as a burden rather than a gift and is much less likely to succeed in the long term. This lack of emotional openness is detrimental to the relationship between the adoptive parents and the biological family, and, sadly, it is ultimately detrimental to the relationship between the adoptive parents and the adopted child. By contrast, there may be situations where circumstances preclude regular contact with the biological family but the adoptive parents are emotionally open and therefore able to hold space for the child's experience, whatever it may be. In such situations, the adoptive parents communicate acceptance to the child and able to help facilitate his or her growth and healing.

Some adoptive parents (including my own) like to say that adoptive families are no different than other families; they are just formed in a different way. This well-intentioned sentiment is meant to communicate that adoptive parents love their children as much as if they had given birth to them. As an adoptive (and biological) mother I can attest that this is true; I love my two daughters with equal intensity, though my relationship is different with each of them, just as it would be different if I had two biological children. But being an adoptive parent is not the same as being a biological parent. It is different because something more is asked of us, the "sacred task" that Marth Crawford mentions above. The adoptive parent is asked to open his or her heart to something more than just an individual, separate child. Loving and accepting an adopted child means loving and accepting all that the child is and holds within them, including the unbreakable thread that binds them to another family. 

Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

Friday, September 30, 2011

Returning to Normal ... Whatever That Is

Well, I did it. Or rather I will have done so when I click "publish" for this piece. Thirty days; thirty posts. I've enjoyed writing every day, but I've had to put off some other things while doing so. My "to do" list has grown. Though I intend to keep writing (just not quite so frequently), I'm also looking forward to getting back on track with some other projects; namely,, the website that Erica and I created as part of our efforts to promote open adoption. We've got plans for things we want to add to the website, and we're also looking forward to a speaking engagement we've got lined up for mid-October.

My blog readership has grown this month, and I have really, really appreciated the comments. You'll be hearing lots more from me, but unless I really happen to get smacked up the side of the head with inspiration tomorrow, I'm planning to take a day off. Enjoy you're weekend. I'll see you soon.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Return of the Bug

In August of 2004 a bug appeared on the wall in front of my computer at work. I opened a word document and composed the following:

There is a very large bug on the wall,
a spray of filament legs radiating
from a wormlike body.
Almost beautiful.
I can't think of a good enough reason to kill it
so instead I watch
as it worries itself precariously
up the smooth flat wall.

Today, all these years later, the same bug reappeared. Well, more likely it is one that is simply identical to it, presumably a descendant of the bug of the poem, owing its very existence to my reluctance to squash its ancestor. But it seems like the same bug. Is there a message here? Some deep meaning I am meant to take away? Or has the bug appeared today merely to prompt me to look back over the years since 2004, noting the things that have changed -- the people who have left my life or come into it -- and the things that have not changed. I'm still staring at the same wall at the same job, and is it really possible that so many years have passed and I still haven't pulled up that ugly rug on the stairs in my house?

Or maybe the bug is my muse ... giving me one more tie-in to NaBloPoMo's September theme of "return." I believe I have stretched this theme about as far as I can stretch it. Only one more day of this silliness. Thank you patient readers for sticking with me thus far.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Returning to Fun and Connection

We all get a little off track sometimes, gradually slipping away from our core-value intentions, like a car slipping out of alignment. I'm aware that I've gotten a little off track in terms of one aspect of my parenting.

This summer, the girls and I did a lot of fun things together, but since the return to school parenting has become more about driving them to activities, helping with homework, and pestering Ashley to do her eye exercises. Weekends have been taken up by the usual slog of laundry, plus a home-improvement project that my husband has been working hard to complete. There's nothing really wrong with any of this, but I'm aware that something is missing. This weekend, I want to do something that's just plain fun. It's time to put the joy back in joyful parenting.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Are You an Attuned Adoptive Parent?

When a baby cries, an attuned parent or caregiver recognizes this as a communication of an unmet need and subsequently tries to a) decipher the communication, and b) meet the need. Repetitions of this cycle facilitates attachment between the child and their caregiver.

When an older child comes into a family as a foster or foster-adopt placement, a similar scenario plays out. The child "cries out" -- sometimes with words, sometimes with actual tears, often with behavior. It's a more challenging situation because trauma scrambles the message. Fear masquerades as anger; anxiety as aggression. But a loving and attuned parent can learn to decode the message, to "hear" what the child is saying.

Most parents will bend over backwards to meet the needs of their children. Love, safety, a sense of belonging. Anything that is beneficial, we want them to have it. But what happens when an adoptive parent tunes in and hears the child asking for a connection, or more of a connection, to their biological family?

Here's where many adoptive parents panic and freeze. If they manage to hear the message at all. Sometimes the message doesn't even make it through because it is one that is so scary to adoptive parents that they can't even let it in. There are adoptive parents who would lay down their lives for the children, make any sacrifice, do anything and everything possible to increase their child's happiness and well-being ... anything, that is, but that.

There are a couple of issues here. One is that it is simply very difficult for some adoptive parents to understand that the longing for the biological family does not detract from the solidity of the adoptive family. The biological longing is often perceived as something dangerous and destructive, something that prevents the child from bonding in the new family and that must therefore be quashed.

A second issue is that a sense of connection to one's biological family is not simply recognized as a need. As an adoptee, I believe that it is one of the basic and primal of needs, but the entire adoption industry is based on the premise that it is not a need, or at the very least, not an important one. It's a premise that has benefited from a lot of PR over the years and is still very prevalent, in spite of the attempts on the part of many adoptees, first parents, and others to dismantle it.

As an adoptee, I was in a unique position to hear my daughter when she communicated her longing for more connection with her first family, as she did in many ways. If you've read my blog before you know that I consider open adoption to have contributed positively to my life in many ways. If you've read the new blog of my adopted daughter's first mother, Erica, you likewise know that our open arrangement benefits her as well. But the main reason we have an open adoption is because it benefits our daughter.

I know that some adoptive parents will say that their child doesn't communicate any longing for the biological  family. I have heard adoptive parents say with pride, "My child says they won't ever search for their biological family because we are their real family and we are all they need." I cringe a little when I hear this. Why? Because I was that adoptee -- the compliant adoptee saying what I knew would garner approval. No one ever told me I had to say that, but I picked it up somehow. I knew it was my expected line. For years I repeated it without questioning it, believing I believed it. Then one day, in my twenties, I found myself curled up in a ball on the floor of my apartment, weeping uncontrollably, knocked flat by grief and longing that came at me out of the blue.

I know a set of adoptive parents who have done everything in their power to squash their child's expression of longing for her first mother, including telling her outright that she shouldn't talk about her, or really even think about her, because they are her parents now. Those parents recently told me, without any sense of irony, that one of the reasons they are not pursuing visitation with the first mother is that the child "never asks about her." If you are an adoptive parent, I know that you have your child's best interest at heart. But I urge you to ask yourself the hard questions. Have you really made it safe for your child to express all that is in his or her heart? Does the child trust that you will be able to hear them if they speak their truth, or do you have blinders on in this one area? Is there any way that your own fears and anxieties may be getting in the way of your child's message getting through?

I understand that there are some biological parents who are not safe people for children to be around. Or in some cases the biological parent may be the one who has retreated and pulled back from contact. And then there are those situations in which distance makes regular contact with the biological family impossible. Meeting the longing in the child will look different in different families. In some cases, the best the parent can offer may be empathy and understanding -- acknowledgment of the child's loss. It may mean making space for mourning. (Even this can be challenging for some adoptive parents.) In other situations, creative solutions may be possible. If one or both biological parents are not accessible for whatever reason, is there another relative with whom a relationship might be formed? Can siblings be connected? (For example, there are summer camps devoted to bringing siblings back together for a week or two or reconnection.)

I tried to explain to a friend recently how my bond with my adopted daughter strengthened as I facilitated more contact with her biological family, and she looked at me in disbelief. But when viewed in terms of what I wrote above about attunement, it's not so surprising. My daughter communicated a need and her need was heard and met, by me, her attuned parent. I'm not a perfect parent. I get tired and cranky; I've got buttons and my kids know how to push them. I often look back on situations and wish I had handled them differently. But in this one area I am confident that I am on the right track.

Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

Monday, September 26, 2011

Looking Back: What I've Learned From NaBloPoMo

I still have a few more days, but I already have a pretty good sense of some of the lessons I'll be taking away from my experiment in blogging every day for one month.

1) Blogging every day is hard. 
This one is perhaps a little obvious. And no, I didn't think it would be easy. But I'm aware that there are some bloggers out there who do this regularly. Not just for a month, but all the time. And all I have to say is, wow! Kudos to them!

2) Sometimes I just need to sit down and do it. 
Before NaBloPoMo, I pretty much only sat down to write when I had an idea of something I wanted to say. This month, I often sat down with no idea in my head at all. Really. Nada. I learned that if I stared at the screen long enough, something would come out. It wasn't always brilliant or pretty, but it was something. And I like to think that there may even have been a few gems among the dross.

3) It's good to push beyond my comfort zone.
Blogging is a risky business. We put our raw selves out there. Sometimes I'd write something and think "I don't know if I can publish that." And if it wasn't for NaBloPoMo, maybe I wouldn't have. But the clock would be ticking and I'd be feeling the pressure to get something up, so I'd hit that "publish" button anyway. Some of those posts were the ones that readers most connected with.

4) It's not always about adoption, but often it is.
I started out with the goal of not just writing every day but of trying to tie each post to my focus on adoption issues and to the monthly theme of "return." I didn't quite accomplish that goal. Some days, I found I needed to widen my focus beyond adoption, and that's OK. In fact, it's something I may want to continue, though adoption will remain the dominant theme woven through most of my pieces. Also, even when my writing's not about adoption, it still kind of is.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A Quiet Sunday

Ashley has spent a lot of time in her room today. Her sister is at a friend's house, so Ashley has been entertaining herself. I've heard her singing, and I just went in and discovered that she had moved a number of her belongings (including her computer and her bean bag chair) into her closet. She explained that she was playing a game in which she was a teenager at high school, and the closet was her locker. (She obviously has no idea how tiny high school lockers are, but never mind that.)

This quiet alone-time play is not a bad thing. In fact, I see it as an important development for her. When she first came to us, it would have been unbearable -- nay, impossible -- for her to spend so much time alone. Too many fears and anxieties. Now she is comfortable with herself, and comfortable in our house, and she is developing a new skill, the ability to play alone.

Community is important; connection to others is important. But there's also something tremendously valuable in being able to enjoy your own company. She played by herself for a while, came out and connected with me for a while, then went back to the world of her imagining. I think she is striking a good balance.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Twitter Jealousy: The Open Adoption Symposium Happens Without Me

The 2011 Symposium Opening Adoption is taking place this weekend in Richmond, VA, and I'm not there. I really, really, really wish I was, but I'm not. Instead, I've been torturing myself all day by reading tweets by people who are. It's sweet torture. Here are a few of my favorites: 

We are still paying the price for the generations of secrecy. (Pertman) #OAsymposium

"Goal of adoption is to help kids feel 'at home'." To me, that means at home in adoptive family and in family of origin. #OAsymposium

Need to stop talking about forming families & start talking about forming successful families. Much broader, longer commitment. #OAsymposium

#Openadoption confuses child? JGritter responds: Is it your experience that when you're well-informed you're confused? #adoptionsymposium

J Gritter: Growing up in a closed #adoption is like coming into a mystery movie 15 min late. You've missed the connetions #adoptionsymposium

"Commercialism in adoption is as damaging as secrecy." - James Gritter at #OAsymposium

I'm glad this symposium is happening. I'm glad the conversation is taking place. Next time, I just need to make sure I find a way to get myself there. 

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