Saturday, June 30, 2012

Adoptee Emotions: Don’t Be Frightened by my Anger, my Grief, or Even my Love -- It Only Means I’m Awake

If you are an adoptee who has spoken or written about the institution of adoption or about your experience of being adopted in a way that is at all critical, you have probably been labeled an “angry adoptee.” You may have been told that you should “get over it” or “seek help.” In fact, the experience is so common that some adoptees recently teamed up to form the facebook group “I’m an Angry Adoptee,” which aims to take back the angry adoptee stereotype by focusing on social justice issues that make adoptees legitimately angry.

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My sense is that adoptees often come across in the online world as angrier than we are in real life. If someone has a blog that focus on adoption issues, he or she may often be addressing matters that stir up anger, but that doesn’t mean that the person walks around angry all the time in real life.

Friday, June 29, 2012

The Invisible Adoptees

I've been thinking lately about all the invisible adoptees, both in the present day and throughout history.

I have also been considering all the people who are connected to these adoptees without knowing so. For example, think of the people who are walking around in the world today assuming that they have no connection to adoption, when in actuality they have an unknown sibling who was placed and kept secret.

Are you someone who is into genealogy? Are you confident that you have traced your genetic line back hundreds of years? Think again. All it takes is one adopteeone person who was publicly acknowledged as a child and heir though not genetically soto throw the whole thing off. And given that adoptions in the past were often hidden, there's a pretty good chance you've got such an adoptee in there somewhere.

My daughter Ashley and I were recently watching the third movie in the Chronicles of Narnia series. In it, one of the characters discovers and uses a "spell to make the unseen seen." Can you imagine what the world would be like if we had such a spell for adoption? What would we see if all of the invisible adoptees were suddenly made visible?

Five for Friday: Five Reminders for Older-Child Adoptions

1) Respond to your child's emotional age rather than the chronological age.
2) The child's biological family is always present. Whether they are physically in the child's life or not, they are a part of the child's history and psyche.
3) Your child likely experienced multiple parenting styles before you and thus has a complex attachment history.
4) Your child has a history that you weren't present for. Thus, there can be many emotional triggers of which you are not aware.
5) Educating yourself about trauma is essential!

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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Baby Steps

He called.
So, I'm in reunion again. Sort of. This time is so different from the first time, which was a headlong rush into relationship. My biological mother and I met each other with open arms. It was clear, from the very first contact, that she wanted to get to know me as much as I wanted to get to know her. And her family, too, greeted me warmly; it was as if a seat at the table had been kept open for me all those years and they had simply been waiting for me to arrive.

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Also, getting to know my original mother was easy because we are both comfortable in the same medium. This thing that I do, processing my life with my fingertips on the keyboard, making sense of my experiences by putting them into written words -- I get that from her. By the time we met each other in person six months after first contact, we had exchanged numerous lengthy letters and emails and already knew so much about each other.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Quick Update: The Email

For those who have been following the story of my attempt to make contact with my biological father, I have an update. He emailed! W00t!

The email was concise, light, and humorous, and included a current photo and a promise of a future phone call. I have experienced a range of emotions since receiving it on Thursday. The primary emotion is a mixture of happiness and relief, but there's also some anxiety about the phone call. (Will he really call? When will he call?) Also, I still have a lot of curiosity. His message revealed some things about his personality (and gave me a sense of "meeting" him for the first time) but was light on biographical detail.

I hope he really will call. I'm nervous but looking forward to the opportunity to learn more.

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Friday, June 22, 2012

Five for Friday: Five Bizarre Name-Related Coincidences

There are a lot of strange name coincidences in my life. Five, to be exact. A couple of them are new discoveries, so this seemed like a good topic for this week's Five for Friday. (Thanks to my first mom for the suggestion.)

1) My two mothers (adoptive and biological) turned out to be distantly related. The name "Hawkes," which I chose as my pen name when I began blogging, is the name that connects the two families.
2) My adopted daughter's biological mother's father's last name (got all that?) is the same as that of my biological father.
3) My adopted daughter's great grandmother's maiden name is the same as that of one of my biological great grandfathers.
4) A person who shares my real-life name (first and last) was born about 300 years ago in the area where my birth parents grew up and met.
5) My biological mother is currently in a relationship with a man whose last name is the same as that of my biological father.

Pretty weird, huh?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Exploring Right and Wrong in the Adoptive Context

Today my thoughts have been swirling around this post by Megan of Earth Stains about the dramatically different responses of her birth parents to the whole idea of whether or not her adoption was "the correct decision." 

(image credit)

There are probably few decisions that receive more after-the-fact analysis than the decision to place a child for adoption. I frequently encounter birth parents explaining that they remain confident that they made the right decision for their circumstances even though they live with the painful consequences everyday, whereas others reach the point of saying that the decision was the wrong one. "Given what I know now," they say, "I would make a different choice." Adopees, too, sometimes feel the need to weigh in on rightness or wrongness of the decision. And for both adoptees and original parents, the answer can change over time.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

More Thoughts on Adoptees Who Search and Those Who Don't

Some grown adoptees search. Some don't. Those are the facts. Neither course of action is the correct or preferable one.

When adoptees don't search, some adoptive parents and others offer this explanation:

They didn't search because they didn't need to. All of their needs were perfectly met within the context of the adoptive family.

I would like to put forth another possible explanation for why some adoptees choose not to search:

Because reaching out to someone who may not want, and may never have wanted, to have anything to do with you is freakin' terrifying!

That's just my opinion. You will have to form your own. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Scary Thing I Did

Yesterday I did something very brave. Or at least, it feels that way to me. I wrote to someone whom I believe does not want contact with me, and I asked for it anyway. I asked because it's something I want for myself. I asked because he is my father, biologically at least. Half of my genetic makeup comes from him, and I want to know that part of myself that I can only access through knowing him. I didn't demand contact, but I did ask for it -- clearly, directly, unequivocally. I didn't allow myself the protective wiggle room of pretending that I didn't care one way or the other. I made my preference for contact clear.

Now I wait. Now the matter is out of my hands entirely. The letter is on its way to him. I cannot call it back, nor can I control how he will respond when he receives it.

It's not an easy position to be in, but here I am. Nothing worth having comes without risk. That may be a cliche, but it's true. I have stepped into this place of vulnerability because there is no other way to get to the place I want to go.

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Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Letter to my Biological Father

Open Adoption Bloggers Roundtable #39: Father’s Day: Write to someone else in the adoption constellation (someone specific or a general group). What do you want to say to them on Father’s Day?

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[Note: I am an "open adoption blogger" because of my participation in an open adoption as an adoptive parent, but this prompt spoke more to the adoptee part of me so I am approaching it from that angle.]

Dear _______,

I have to admit, I'm sort of annoyed at this writing prompt for making me think of you on this day. Though I have thought of you occasionally over the years, and have been thinking of you increasingly lately, this is not a day that I associate with you. And yet, when I read the prompt, I knew you were the one I wanted to write to, even though I begin not knowing what it is specifically that I want to say.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Wordless Wednesday

Tyler, Erica, Tanner, Mackenzie, and Ashley

Friday, June 8, 2012

Five for Friday: My Week in 5 Bullet Points

Things are a little hectic in my offline life at the moment. I'm in the midst of a perfect storm of end-of-the-school-year scheduling madness. It's part of parenting -- and I wouldn't want it any other way -- but I'm stretched a bit thin and looking forward to the lower level of scheduled activity that will arrive with summer vacation. I'll be back to writing longer posts about my life as an adoptee and adoptive mom soon, but for now here's a list of some of the things that were on our schedule this past week:
  • Ashley's IEP (Individualized Education Program) meeting at the school she will attend next year
  • Ashley's play rehearsals and opening night
  • Ashley's birthday
  • Mackenzie's play rehearsals (different play; different location)
  • Track practice (both girls)
All this in addition to our regular routine of school and work. And I didn't even list the doctors appointments because that would have made six bullet points. I suppose I could have waited a day and done "Six for Saturday," but I'm a creature of habit. 

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Friday, June 1, 2012

Five For Friday: Dance Recital

There will be more than five family members watching Ashley dance in her recital tomorrow, but for some Five-for-Friday fun I have grouped them into five bullet points:

* Her first mom

* Her adoptive mom and dad

* Her former foster mom and foster sister

* Her adoptive grandparents

* Her adoptive sister


Mackenzie will also be dancing, and Ashley will be watching her. (Happily, they are in different sections of the show so each gets to sit in the audience when the other is on stage.)

Erica and I were also in the audience together last night as Ashley, Mackenzie, and my husband Paul (on bass ukulele) performed in the annual spring performance for the girls' school. So glad I get to share these moments with her!

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