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Archive for the ‘Adoption’ Category

Father’s Day collage

fathers day 2013

Fatherhood is … 

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Fatherhood is …

Fatherhood isn’t …

A new tie or golf balls, cheap beer and televised sports, kitchen blunders and parenting mishaps. Nor is it DNA, genes or a biological connection.

Fatherhood is …

  • walking half-way around Killarney Lake with a broken foot to show your son and his friends how to skip rocks – for three hours.
  • having the patience to sit with your son until he’s finished dinner even if it means feeding him bite by bite.
  • playing the games I won’t: fighting, wrestling, light sabers, and something I like to call “watching bad movies.”
  • trimming your son’s hair even if it takes four nights of full body contact to get it right.
  • teaching your son to ride a bike down the back alley.
  • holding your son when he’s scared, teaching him to man up when he needs courage, and carrying him when he’s too tired to cope.
  • inviting your son’s birthfather into your life without insecurity or hesitation.
  • recognizing fatherhood for the gift that it is.

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Just adopt

theojump

Just adopt!

“Just adopt.”

I often hear these words of advice given to people trying to conceive or going through yet another round of IVF.  Plus, let’s face it “there are so many kids in need of home, just adopt one!”

If only it were so simple. Here’s the thing: There’s no such thing as “just adopting.”

From the time Mark and I set foot in the adoption agency office to the time Theo was born was about a year and a half, which in adoptionland, is equal to: “We didn’t wait at all.” It’s a non-wait. It’s the stuff of envy.

People routinely wait anywhere from two to ten years to adopt and many give up part way. It’s too heartbreaking to ‘never get picked’ or be turned down by an expectant mother who rightly decides to parent. It’s frustrating to watch a country close its doors after you invested your heart and hopes in a faraway place and faraway dream of a child. The adoption rollercoaster if another dip on the rollercoaster of emotion for repeat miscarriage survivors.

There no such thing as just adopting.

And when you do adopt and your heart leaps over the moon and back and you think it was all worth it, until you realize your child is crying in the night from the shock of adjustment, the lingering ailments from the orphanage or trauma of an unknown past. Or you know the birth family, and you see their hurt when you take the baby in your arms as he joins your family. Or you see people stare and comment at your family formation and wonder when your child will clue in that not everyone accepts him and us for who we are.

There is no such thing as just adopting.

You craft a story of how you became a family, a story of love and sorrow, and you cry when you tell it: You cry for the crushing grief of the mother, and the motherland, that lost a child, a child whose smile lights up a room, whose skin glows with health and whose potential seems vast and limitless.

There is no such thing as just adopting.

And years pass, and you are a happy: Your family includes another family, whether real or imagined and maybe another country, and your child comes to understand adoption and what it means to him on his own terms because you never treated it like it was “just adoption.”

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StrocelReviewButtonDaily blogging is a great way to recapture the writing mojo. Sometimes my May posts were big and heavy –a real struggle– and some just emerged in a heartbeat, fully formed.

Parenthood makes me nostalgic for today – and nostalgic for things I never experienced .

Adoptees have much to teach us about adoption simply by sharing their stories and speaking their truth. Somewhere Between and Closure are must-sees for anyone in adoption but also stand on their own as captivating stories. The ballet doc, First Position also has a violent but ultimately uplifting adoption story to tell.

Adoption is heavy. Apparently, I need to start every adoption documentary by crying but that’s what adoption does. Watching two adoption docs and reading one adoption book (all excellent) was a bit of adoption overload.

Great photos are possible with an iPhone and a simple app that allows cropping and a filter (in this case Inkwell on Instagram).

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Three-and-a-half year olds can focus and play for long periods alone and with other kids with minimal intervention. Whether it’s evenings at the playground , light sabers on the sidewalk or solo play-fighting with Wolverine or a robot, hours can fly by.

Don't leave home without them.

Don’t leave home without them.

Mother’s Day continues to be a head trip. Isn’t it time to just let it go?

This microcosm of how trying things can be with a 3-year-old doesn’t eclipse the joys.

What did you learn or relearn last month?

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Closure is a captivating and quick-paced documentary about a young woman (the sparkling Angela Tucker AKA @angeieadoptee) who seeks and finds members of her birthfamily.

>> Filmmaker Bryan Tucker  is looking donations via KickStarter to help get Closure onto Netflix, Hulu and iTunes. (You can donate as little as $1 to help them.) <<

Like Somewhere Between, the documentary stands on its own as a thrilling and difficult journey full of revelations and discoveries, heartbreak, sadness and joy. For adoptees, birthmothers and adoptive families, of course, it has a deeper resonance.

It’s almost a ritual now for my husband and me to watch an adoption movie, cry immediately and then settle into the film, which is what we did for this one.

Right off the bat, as an adoptive mother, I was bowled over by Angela’s parents, who had one biological child in the 70s afterwhich the father promptly got a vasectomy and they adopted seven more children, all with some form of special needs.

The parents embody a kind of big love and down-to-earth attitude that rubbed off on their children. Interestingly, despite having so many kids, the mother still had a hard time figuring out (at the beginning) why Angela wanted to find her birthfamily (wasn’t she enough?). She quickly gets totally onboard; however; and the meat of the film kicks off.

I don’t want to give too much away because the surprises and details are too wonderful to reveal but Angela does meet various members of her family and once again, I learned a few things about adoption:

1) Birthfathers matter:  This doesn’t mean they necessarily make great parents but as a frequently missing part of the equation, their contribution to DNA and temperament can be significant. In the case of Angela, it’s clear that her biological father was a major contributor to her light-up-a-room personality as well as her physical appearance. Not that birthfathers are just about DNA but some of the similarities were striking.

2) An adoptee’s search for roots has nothing to do with the love they feel for their adoptive family. Loving your adoptive parents does not negate the need for answers, connections and love from your biological family. Those two seemingly disparate states can coexist.

3) Closed adoption leaves a trail of broken hearts. This isn’t news really but it was poignantly illustrated in the doc. The big downside of Angela’s adoption was secrecy, which  had serious repercussions on the birthmother in particular, who never even held her daughter and suffered severe lifelong depression. Obviously, for Angela, it meant a lifetime of wondering where she came from. It also resulted in lost culture, and lost relationships with birthaunties and uncles, and half-siblings. Loss even affected her first foster mother who never knew what happened to her after she was taken from their care to be adopted.

4) Sometimes adoption is the right choice. In the film, many family members talked about how they might have raised Angela including a foster mother but they all agreed in their own way and time that she had thrived in her adoptive family and that it was the right choice. By thrived, I mean this was a child that doctors said would never walk who turned out to be a phenomenal basketball player an effortless piano player and went on to get a social work degree.

5) Even when biological families are broken, reunion is still worthwhile. Angela’s birthfamily had some problems but they are warm, heart-on-the-sleeve people who were surprised, moved and thrilled to meet her. For Angela, none of that mattered: they were family.

Angela’s husband Bryan Tucker, who made the film, pieced together a complicated story  so that it moves quickly but slows down where needed to tell a truly moving and important story.

Donate any amount (over $1) to their Kickstarter campaign so they can get this wonderful doc screened and  shown!

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Somewhere Between (directed by Linda Goldstein Knowlton), which I saw on Netflix, follows four teenaged girls adopted from China into white families (one is mixed-race) in the US as babies or young children. On the surface it looks like a niche documentary that would ring true for Chinese adoptees and their families but it’s so much more.

It stands on its own as a fascinating journey that dips and veers in all kinds of unexpected directions. There is mystery, plenty of poignant moments, a thrilling ride, a good dose of heartbreak as well as growth and transformation.

Along the way, we  learn about what it’s like to be adopted from China (there are 80,000+ Chinese adoptees in the US) as well as a few universal truths about adoption.

I watch all adoption movies through a personal lens now and try to translate what I see to how it affects my life as an adoptive parent. Here are a few things I learned from the movie.

Transracial adoptees need a sense of cultural belonging

All four of the featured adoptees grew up in white communities where there were few if any visible minorities. All of them mentioned this as a major hurdle citing examples of racism, stereotyping and feelings of isolation at school and in the community. One adoptee seemed to overly adore her tall, blond beauty pageant-winning sister, another didn’t really feel complete until she met her Asian boyfriend at university, and another overcompensated through extreme A-type competence to cope with not fitting in.

One adoptee pointed out that racial difference becomes a huge factor as kids hit the identity formation years. Little kids are happy to be loved by their parents. Then one day, when all they want to do it fit in, they realize everyone is staring at them. This made a lot of sense. I find Theo is very comfortable and secure right now but he also doesn’t have a strong sense of racial identity yet.

Adoptees want to know their birthstories

Another point that came up repeatedly was that the young women all wondered about their birthfamilies and why they were ‘abandoned.’  A small part of them felt unwanted despite being deeply loved by their adoptive families. I had a light bulb moment when I realized that I need to be aware that our love as adoptive parents does not negate 1) a feeling of being unwanted and 2) the dual state of loving your adoptive parents/family but still wanting to know your biological family.

The truth is out there 

All of the girls were told they would never find their biological parents or any information on their history. But in the most unlikely and myth-busting scene, one of the adoptees meets her entire birthfamily in China. The upshot is that after meeting her ‘Chinese family,’ she stands a little taller and seems confident and secure in her ethnicity and in herself. There are many surprises in this storyline, which I won’t reveal. It’s documentary gold: exciting, heart-wrenching, revelatory. Side-learning, which I already knew: birthfathers care (but my lips are sealed).

Meeting other adoptees can be hugely healing

A world conference of Chinese adoptees spurs on huge changes in the adoptees including the aforementioned reunion. The overachiever also appears to undergo a transformation after meeting others like her. Suddenly able to express her feelings though moving poetry, she starts speaking to groups of adoptive parents about how she feels. Achieving a calmer state, she exchanges her type-A activities for quieter more introspective pursuits.

Meeting others like you is incredibly powerful. There is a sense of belonging that family and friends who weren’t adopted simply can’t provide. I’m glad that Theo has his posse of little adoptee friends, and I hope they will still be friends when they hit the teen years when their friendships will really count.

 

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Hands off his hair.

Hands off his hair.

I see her approach. She’s jogging. We recognize each other. We chat about running. I introduce Theo. She looks at him smiling, and then the gushing starts:

“Oh I love your hair! My hair is so straight. Look at it! Yours is so curly. You are so lucky! Can I put your hair on my head?”

Theo looks at her perplexed and slightly anxious.

Then it comes. So fast.

The hand moves in like a jetliner looking for a landing strip.

While in motion, her goal mere fingertips away, she asks him rhetorically, “Can I touch your hair?”

Theo recoils ducking, moving sideways and then backwards as her hand nimbly reaches its target.

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