Thursday, July 29, 2010

What not to say re: adoption Part 2

I thought of a couple more ridiculous things people have said to us...

1. "Oh, IS he adopted?". This has 2 parts... First, actually, he IS my son. He WAS adopted. Again, it's semantics and people don't mean to be insensitive, but being adopted was how he came into our family, like being born is how many other children come into their families. Being born, being adopted, they're events that happened; they're not a perpetual state of being. Second, why do you need/want to know? If it's because you're interested in adoption, then I am happy to have a bigger conversation with you about that topic. However, if you don't have a real reason, please see my rant about how somethings are actually not your business.

2. "Does he know he's not really yours?". I generally respond, "I don't know what you mean". They'll usually say something to the effect (and in a hushed tone), "you know because he's black". The best response I've used for this one is, "aren't we all?". They don't know what the heck I'm talking about and just sit there confused. I don't know what it really means either, but it sure is effective in getting them to change the topic. However, this still falls into the category of not your business. How would you feel if I walked up to you IN FRONT OF YOUR KID and said, "oh, does he know he isn't yours?". I'm sure you're thinking, "well, that's different". Actually, it's not. My kid is as much mine as yours are yours (though, seeing kids as "possessions" is a whole different conversation/rant for another day).

That's all I can think of for now, though I'm sure there have been many more. I do want to share something I read on another blog last night (wish I could remember which one...). It's also today's lesson. This blogger was talking about how difficult her wait for her child was. She said a friend had told her that there are many threads of our lives all around us. All we see of the tapestry, however, is the underside, where the cut threads and knots are, and it looks kind of like a mess. The hope is that one day we will be able to see the top side of it, and know just how perfectly our lives are woven. The crazy colors, the broken threads, the haphazard placement of threads, they are what makes the tapestry beautiful. It was a good reminder for me that I am exactly where I am supposed to be.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Things not to ask re: adoption

So, I'm having a difficult-ish day. I'm already feeling kind if irritated so I thought I'd complain (and hopefully make myself laugh some) about some of the inconsiderate and just plain stupid things people have said to us about adoption. Okay, and to ward off anyone from saying it (and you know who you are), I KNOW that people don't usually say these stupid things meaning to be rude or inconsiderate. However, it would never be okay for me to walk up to someone and say, "wow, how'd you get so fat?" or "how much did that boob job cost ya?" or "how often do you and your partner have sex?". Those are socially unacceptable questions, so are the following...

1. "Where'd you get him?" or "Where did he come from?". First of all, you would never ask someone where their biological child came from, so why would anyone presume that this would be an okay question??! Sometimes I feign ignorance about what they mean, hoping to give them an opportunity to recognize their inappropriateness. Sometimes I ask them where their kids came from. Surprisingly, it rarely works. Actually, now that I think about it, it's never worked. It's a little bit funny to see the confused looks on their faces...

2. "How much did he cost?". Now, on occasion this one doesn't irritate me as much, because sometimes people are asking because they're interested in pursuing adoption themselves. If that's the case, I don't mind this one, if it's encased in a larger conversation. Otherwise, though, my kid is not like your neighbor's new car. If you're asking because you "just want to know", you're being nosey and should just stop.

3. "Is he really yours?". Um, yes. He is. I did get asked one time while I was nursing if he was hubby's. While this seems like a valid question (I get that really no one knows you can breastfeed a child to whom you didn't give birth), it still doesn't mean that it's an appropriate question. It goes back to that actually not being any of your business.

4. Last, but certainly not least, "where are his 'real' parents?". Hello? We're right here, you know the people to whom you just posed your question. Yeah, that's us. I realize that what people mean to ask is "where are his biological parents?". But, really, also none of your business. I would feel less irritated about that one if people would at least use the correct terminology.

Regardless, think how my child feels when someone asks him where his "real" parents are, (or any of these other questions, for that matter) how confusing and scary that could be. It's like insinuating that we're not his parents, and if we're not, and he's not really ours, then who is he and where does he belong? What's that like for a kid, for a 4yo who listens to everything and is really sensitive? He's standing right there most of the time when people say stupid things. So, yes, I will have a reaction and respond to people, sometimes in a snarky way (depending on my mood), but it's because it's my job to protect him.

So, the whole post was today's lesson! (And the while it took me to write this did help me feel less grouchy - a little - so that's good!)

Sunday, July 25, 2010


Several of you left me encouraging words of support on FB regarding the past post - thank you so much! I really appreciate that you take the time to read my ramblings, and give me thoughtful feedback.

I do have a funny follow-up, though. Hubby and I were out some some friends last night (Thanks J and JE for a great time!) and I was telling them about this incident. As we were discussing it, I remembered a detail I'd left out - that the creepy man had had his arm ALL THE WAY down his swim shorts, looking like he was holding his "junk-n-stuff, as the kid calls it, when he was walking back from the diving well. After I mentioned that, hubby said, "well, it might have looked like that, and his arm was down there really far, but he didn't have a hand so he wasn't holding anything". I burst out laughing, like tears in my eyes kind of laughing. Not that he was missing a hand (even though I think he's a jerk, I would never laugh at that), but that I somehow didn't notice it. I mean, really, how could I have totally not noticed something like that??! I'm pretty sure not noticing that is an epic fail of some kind on my part. Sometimes I am completely the antithesis of "the master of the obvious".

Today's lesson - let us all remember that we hold only one part of a story or experience. Others around us notice and experience different parts of it. And, sometimes, the parts they notice are fairly significant. Just because there are parts we didn't witness in the midst of the experience, doesn't mean they aren't important. (Seriously, how did I NOT notice that the guy had no hand??!)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Our First Closeup with Racism

I'm a social worker, right? So, I know racism exists. I guess I've just never been so personally affected as I was yesterday. Sexism? Sure...all the time. But racism, never. Not until yesterday at least. And now I'm just pissed.

Yesterday afternoon I left work a little early to meet hubby and the kid at the neighborhood pool to watch the kid at his swim lesson. I watched him play for a few minutes, then we went to have a little rest and snack before his lesson started. We were seated under an awning and a man came over and asked if he could sit down next to us. We were friendly and told him no one was there and the space was his. The kid, being the kid, went over and immediately started talking to him. This always makes me nervous because it hurts my heart when people don't respond to his efforts to be friendly. The man, I could tell, was a little...uh "off", for lack of a better term. He spoke briefly to the kid and I quickly asked the kid to sit back down and finish his snack. The man went over to swim and I thought the awkward encounter was over.

The man jumped off the diving board a few times then came back over. He walked right up to us and said, "What is it today, Nigerian day at the pool?". The kid started to say something friendly to the man again and I quickly told him to sit down and eat his snack. Hubby and I looked at each other and didn't respond to the man. You'd think that would have told him to shut up, but no. He then said, "what nobody has an answer for me about if today's Nigerian day?". Either hubby or I said, "uh, no" and left it at that. I then got the kid up and went over to wait near the pool for his lesson, mostly to get him away from the jack@ss. By the time the lesson was over, the man had thankfully left.

And the more I've thought about the incident, the angrier I've become. I'm not just angry with the ignorant, rude, racist man. I'm mostly angry with myself. I can't believe I just sat there and said nothing. I feel like I failed as a person, as a social worker, but most importantly, I failed as a mother. Not that I've come up with a better way to have handled it, but I certainly wish I'd done something.

My son knows that he's a different color than we are, but, at 4, he hasn't attached anything to that, other than color (like "Momma's dress is black, tomatoes are red, Poppa's shirt is blue, my skin is brown"). I know something like this is going to happen again, as much as we try to shelter and protect him. He will eventually know what these kinds of comments mean and it will hurt him. That about breaks my heart because I don't know how to prepare him, much less how to protect him. How do we insulate him and prepare him and love him enough that he can handle the racism that is bound to attack him??? I really don't know...

Today's lesson is something I learned about myself yesterday evening, though it's maybe more of a re-learning of a lesson. Here it is: never assume you know how you'll react in a particular situation. I've always assumed I would respond directly and immediately in situations such as what happened to us, but I didn't. I think we need to be gentle with ourselves (heck, it's not like this is the first of my parenting failings, and I'm sure it sadly won't be the last) and then figure out how to do better next time.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Funny things my kid says

So I promised a while ago to share some of the funny things my kid says. Here's a few...
At dinner, Hubby: "do you think we should have a family tradition of getting ice cream, at least 3 times during the summer?". Kid: "well, yeah, Poppa, that's a good idea. 3 times a week for sure.". Hubby, laughing: "I meant 3 times during the summer, not three times a week". Kid (serious): "Right, three times a day, Poppa. That should about cover it".

Kid: "Momma, momma. Jonah (dog) just tooted and scared himself. Isn't that hilarious?! Wouldn't it be funny if Poppa did that, too? Actually, that would scare me, and [our neighbors] because Poppa has really stinky toots".

Kid (seeing me just out of the shower): "Ahhhhhhh!!!!!!!! It's a naked girl!!!". Me: "yeah, yeah, you see me every morning naked." Kid: "I just said it for Poppa's benefit because he likes naked girls".

Kid (on couch reading book with my mom): "well, Gram. I've got to go get ready for my date." Gram: "Really, you've got a date? With whom?" Kid: "well, Gram, I don't actually know their names". Gram: "There's more than 1 girl? Okay, so where are you taking them? And how are you getting there?". Kid: "We'll we're gonna go eat and my sisters will drive me. And I've got to look good for them so I'll see you later". (jumped up off couch, went to his bedroom, and put on superman knit hat, frog boots, sun glasses, and backpack).

And last, but not least...Kid (sitting at dinner table): "Momma, we've got to do something about the Big Bad Wolf. He's really making some bad choices here". Me: "Okay, so what are we going to do? Are we going to use cognitive behavioral therapy with him?" (hey, I'm a social worker!). Kid (looking at me like I'm am the stupidest person on the earth): "Uh no, Momma. I'm going to use a big rope. Duh." Me (laughing hysterically): "Okay, so what then?" Kid (very logically): "I guess we'll put him in time out or something until he's ready to make some better choices. That makes sense. Or maybe I'll just leave him tied up for awhile. He probably needs it."

So today's lesson is that I think we should all try to laugh as much as possible throughout the day. Not only is it good for our overall mental health, it just makes us nicer people to be around. And, if for some crazy reason you didn't find the things my kid says funny, go find something in your own life that's worthy of a belly laugh.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Process

Lots of people have asked over the last several years about the "process" of our adoption. So, that's what I'm going to talk about today.

As I've mentioned before, we contacted our agency in the Spring of 2005 (it was the only one we ever talked to), met with them shortly thereafter and filled out some preliminary information. I think this was a screening to assure we met their basic requirements like having been married for a minimum of 3 years, etc.... They weren't scheduled to have any classes for another 9-10 months, but ended up calling us shortly thereafter, asking if we were open to transracial adoption. After we discussed this, deciding we were indeed interested, we signed up to attend our class that fall. And then we started waiting.

Our class coincided with my starting Graduate School, which was good in a few ways. First, we still hadn't told anyone other than my mom about our plans to adopt (a post for another day) so it was easy to just pretend that the class we were attending were graduate classes (hubby was also in grad school, just finishing up). Second, it just helped to keep my mind busy. Our class met once a week for approximately 8 weeks. We discussed topics such as open adoption, legal risks, dealing with our own losses due to infertility, etc... There were 3 other couples in the class (btw, all of us had our babies placed with us within 6 months of the end of the class). I have nothing but absolutely positive things to say about our classes. They were informative, supportive, and just exciting because I felt like we were actually making progress!

During the second to last class, our social workers handed out the paperwork. And, as you can imagine, it was a mountain. We had to answer questions about what kinds of "situations" we were open to (legal risks, health issues, openness, etc... ), our individual medical histories, our financial situation, stuff about work, our reasons for wanting to adopt, and so much more. Unless you've been through it yourself, you can hardly imagine all the flippin' paperwork we had to fill out, and all the seriously personal questions we had to respond to on paper. It felt like all the world would have access to everything about us, though I realized that wasn't true. It was still a lot to have out there. And, while I understand why all that info was needed, it kind of makes me a little bitter, all that we had to go through to become parents.

I just knew in my heart that the paperwork needed to be completed and turned in before Christmas (2005). And, though the personal nature of the paperwork sometimes bothered me, having to actually do it was fine. Really, it felt like something over which I FINALLY had control. After we'd turned in everything - including our photo album (the beginning of my scrapbooking obsession) - we had our home visit with both social workers. This was really nerve-wrecking and I don't remember the last time every corner and closet of our house was so clean. In the end, the social workers hardly even looked around the house and were so very kind and friendly, as they had - and have - been about everything else. But again, we were back to the waiting.

At this point, what we were really waiting for was our reference letters (from both of our jobs, neighbors, financial institutions, personal friends). On a Tuesday at the end of January 2006, at approximately 11am, one of the social workers called and said everything was "in" and we were "officially waiting". I was initially irritated when the other social worker called back about 45 minutes later. She promptly explained that we'd actually been chosen by birth parents that morning who wanted to meet us that weekend. The irritation quickly melted into hysterical excitement.

I think I've pretty much told you the rest of how the kid came to us. Though, I haven't yet included the "process" of once he was born and became legally ours. I'll do that another day.

Today's lesson is one hubby learned the hard way recently. And, if you're my FB friend, you probably read it on my status update a few days ago. However, it just cracks me up so I'm going to share it here, too. Here it is: you should never shake a peach tree while standing under it. This will likely result in your being hit in the head with peaches. Instead, consider standing to the side, you know, so the peaches fall on the ground, not your head. The visual is still making me giggle.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


You know how sometimes you just know you're exactly where you're supposed to be in the world, in your life? How you just know that whatever else may be going on, this is where I'm meant to be at his moment in time? It's the right time, the right place, the right people are there...everything is just right. You know those moments, right? We've all had them. At least I think we have, though they're often brief and fleeting and we're left wondering if they really happened. However, they're also often the moments we really remember even years later (at least I do). They're the moments we hold on to and pull back out when we don't know what the hell is going on around us, or where the heck we've ended up in our lives, or just WHY???

You know those moments? They're awesome, aren't they? So powerful and empowering to experience. Yeah, well I'm not having one right now. I really wish I was having one. I'm not. I maybe had a really short one last night, but I'm pretty sure I was wrong and didn't. Nope. I'm pretty much at the "where the heck have I ended up and how?!!" point. Good times.

Hope you're all having those moments, and treasure them. The lesson is that we should trust our guts when we have moments of knowing deep within ourselves that things are just right...they are how they should be, if even only for a brief, fleeting moment. Trust it. And treasure it. When you end up wondering what the hell is going on, remember those moments and trust that you will again come to a point where you feel that sure. That's what I'm trying to do...

Monday, July 12, 2010

Babies, babies everywhere...

Some days I struggle. I know I've said before that babies and pregnant women don't bother me, and that is certainly the case the vast majority of the time. Lately, though, I find myself surrounded. Surrounded by babies (the twins, the freaking monkeys, lol), but mostly surrounded by pregnant women. They seem to be everywhere in my life right now - at work (2 out of the 8 of the people I work with are pregnant), in my neighborhood (there are at least 2 I see regularly), in my family, in my outer social circle, etc.... I guess I'm just at that age where a lot of people in my world are pregnant. Or maybe I'm just noticing it more. Maybe, but really I do think it's just more people in my non-professional world are havin' babies right now. I went with someone to do her baby registry yesterday. I'm glad I was there to support her and wittiness her joy. It was really a bit torturous for me though. Maybe not the best call on my part, to offer to go with her.

And it's not that I want to be pregnant. I really have made peace with the fact that it isn't going to happen. I think it really has to do with this ridiculously long wait and just wanting my baby NOW. Most of the pregnant women in my life are due in a 3 month span, starting in about a month. I'm really not sure how I'll handle it if all those babies are born before our baby arrives. I feel like it may be ugly, like I may be ugly. I'm not sure how to prepare for this likelihood.

Today's lesson isn't related at all to all my drama (yay, right?). So, here it is...bananas are pretty effective at stopping the itching of mosquito bites. You just rub the inside of the peel on the bite. It stops the itching and even decreases the swelling. Yeah, you smell like a banana, but there are, in my opinion, a lot worse things you could smell like...

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

My Kid and Babies

This weekend was full of babies. It was full of my kid totally enjoying and loving babies. It was sweet. Actually, it was a little bitter sweet.

Friday night we went to see a relative who recently had twins. They are so very tiny (about 4lbs and 5lbs respectively - and they're almost 6 weeks old!) and their poor momma is completely overwhelmed. She wasn't able to admit that to us, though it was obvious. I really hope she is admitting it to other people who are closer to her. The kid, though, was so funny while we were there. From the moment we walked in the door, he repeatedly asked, "can I hold one? Can I hold one, please, momma???????!!!!". The babies' momma was very brave and not only let the kid hold the smallest one, she even let him feed the baby. That was a moment that my camera, of course, wouldn't freaking work (it always happens - must get new camera). He was so gentle and attentive. It was utterly adorable.

Then on Monday, we went to the zoo. Overall, it was a blast. However, my favorite part, and the kid's, too, was the Bonobo monkeys (what, you've never heard of them? Well, neither had I. They're super cute and very similar to chimps). There was a family group of about 6-8 females and I think all of them had babies. One had an 18month old, who was really causing havoc for the others; the rest were all relatively new mommies. The kid was fascinated with the Bonobos. I not only enjoyed watching the monkeys myself, I really enjoyed his enthrallment with them. He turned to me at one point and said, "look momma, that baby Bonobo monkey is drinking his momma milk. He's doing a good job". That's right, my kid is a monkey breastfeeding supporter. It's awesome.

The kid is so ready for his baby sister. Have I mentioned that he only wants a baby sister? He's completely unwilling to even entertain the possibility that our baby could be a boy. I'm not quite sure how he's going to handle it if God gives us a baby boy... I think he'll be ready. I think he'll be a great helper - bringing supplies, entertaining him or her, etc... I also know he'll struggle some with not getting as much attention as he's accustomed to receiving. But, he'll be okay, and it'll be good for him to learn that he's not the center of the world (as he asserted to me last week, "yes, I am, Momma. I am the center of the world, actually the center of the universe. I just am. That's how it is, Momma").

So today's lesson is this: Bonobo monkeys are really cool and you should go visit them at the zoo. No, I don't know if your zoo has them, but the Cincinnati Zoo does, and they're super cute. That, and my kid thinks he's the center of the universe. That's really a lesson more for me than for you, though. You check out the Bonobos. I'll check out refocusing my kid's egocentricity. Bet you'll get that taken care of faster than I will...

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Open Adoption

So, I've had a few people ask me "how does this open adoption thing work?" and "why'd you want to still have contact with them (the kid's birth parents)?". So, I thought I'd write a bit about that today (don't roll your eyes when I say "a bit". The last post wasn't all that long, was it? That's right! I'm due for a long one. Feel free to skip down to the bottom for the synopsis, if you must, but you'll miss the best of the ranting...).

So, when we started this whole thing we had no idea what open adoption was (probably like some of you) and assumed all kinds of things - the birth parents would still have some kind of parenting role in the baby's life; the birth parents would have a say-so in how we raised the child; the baby would be confused about who his/her "real" parents were; seeing the baby would make the birth parents want to take him/her back; etc... You see, we were thinking of this baby as just OURS, hubby's and mine, like a possession. But he's not. Way before he was part of our family, he was part of another family who loved (still does love) him. And, in my opinion, by having no further contact with that other family, we're trying to pretend that they didn't exist, or at least like they don't matter. But that other family, well,they're the only reason this phenomenal kid exists. And they know a part of his story that I don't know, a part that I think he has a right to know.

What we learned in our adoption classes is that continued contact (in some form) is actually beneficial in the child's development, and in helping the birth family heal. Kids do have questions as they get older - who do I look like, do other people in my family have certain characteristics or talents (or struggles with math, for example), does anyone else in my family have a history of asthma, and biggest of all, why did they choose to make an adoption plan? These are all huge questions that I can't answer for him. Well, some I can a little (you look just like the perfect mixture of your birth brother and sister), but for the most part I just don't know.

As far as the kid being confused about who's the parent, it's simply not an issue. I'm the one who nursed him. We changed all his diapers. We feed him. Hubby watches Dinosaur Train with him. We color together. I'm the one he calls for when he wakes up in the middle of the night, or when he's sick. He came out of L's belly. I am Momma. Hubby is Poppa. There is no confusion.

In regards o the birth parents, think how it would feel to put your baby in someone else's arms, walk away, and never know anything else about him/her. To look at the faces of kids as you walk down the sidewalk, and wonder "is that her?". To think, "I wonder what they've told him about me?". To want to know what your kid looks like. Some people have said to me that birth parents loose the right to those answers when they "give up their babies".

That's an important distinction - birth parents (in the vast majority of cases) don't "give up their babies", they make a plan for them. They choose whether they're ready/in the position to parent their children, or whether it would be in their/the baby's best interest for someone else to do it. And this is another benefit of an open adoption - the birth family chooses the family who will adopt their child. This is an active choice; it's not simply giving up. It's being a parent, in a different way, this decision. It's a heart-wrenching, difficult decision not made lightly. And, I think, if I can do anything to make it easier for them (like the simple act of visiting every once in awhile, calling, sending pictures, etc...), then I should. Because as a human being, it is my job to do what I can to ease others' suffering. And if I can't feel some empathy and love towards the people who gave my child life, then I am a poor excuse of a human being. It's about them knowing that their child is ok, is loved. They have a right to that.

Don't get me wrong, I absolutely do NOT believe in open adoption out of some sense of guilt. I don't feel guilty that I'm raising this amazing child and they aren't. They made an informed decision about what they thought was best. I AM absolutely and completely grateful for them. And I love them for the spectacular gift they've given me. I want to help and support them in whatever way I can.

So, today's lesson (the condensed version) is that open adoption rocks. That is just my opinion, but it's my blog so that's what I get to write. I'm interested if anyone has anything to add though (aka - bring on the comments, people).