Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Just when you thought you knew me.

I was going to title this post "Epilogue" but the idea of this being the end was too unnerving.

I mean, really. I am not going to close the door and turn the key and then walk away forever. You know I could never do that. I haven't got the willpower.

This is my 1000th post here. Isn't that something? And I have been thinking quite a bit about what I wanted to write for this milestone. Want I wanted to share. But really, what's left to discuss? There's not a lot that you don't know, gentle reader.

We have talked about self image and stretch marks and the infamous 11's that I Botoxed to kingdom come (several times).
We have talked about miscarriage and infertility and menopause.
We have talked about loving men and loving women and having sex and not having sex and how all of it was okay.
We have talked about giving birth and adopting and fostering.
We have talked about raising other people's children, and deciding not to raise other people's children, and the fact that sometimes, I don't even LIKE other people's children.
We have talked about finally writing a book, and then not finding an agent or a publisher.
We have talked about waitressing and roller derby.
We have talked about traveling, and about not wanting to get out of bed.
We have talked about severe depression and extreme joy.

We have talked about my life, and the lives of my family and friends, and everyone has been a very good sport about the whole thing.

And we have talked about Life Lists.

A few months ago, Sarah gave me a Passion Planner. Her note inside reads: "Author Your Fate".
And I sat down, and turned to the page corresponding to the date, and I wrote "I want to start my own business." And in the box labeled This Week's Focus I wrote: "Give notice at work."

So I did. Because I don't do shit halfway. I think we can all agree about that. I am an ALL IN kind of girl. And I knew that something in my life had to shift. I had to get control over my attention-deficit approach to life, dabbling in a million things and investing whole-heartedly in very little.

CPS had just called to see if I was ready for a new placement, so at first, I thought maybe I was about to get another foster case. They called again a week later while we were away on vacation, and when I didn't answer the call (I was on an airplane over the Pacific) they left a message assuring me that I was next on the list, and would get a call the next time they had a baby that needed fostering. So I sat around, very unemployed, the vision of a domestic goddess - cooking dinner and washing baby clothes and organizing things and waiting for the phone to ring.

When it finally did, it was not a social worker on the other end of the line. It was my destiny calling.

I don't really understand it myself, but I am buying a food truck and hitting the road.
I'll send a postcard when I have an update.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Talking about Adoption - a basic primer

I had an interesting experience recently, answering a child's questions about adoption.

It occurred to me that your child (or you yourself) might also have questions about adoption. Questions are good! But sometimes children are not equipped to give the answers, or are not ready to discuss their own adoption. Some adults are not comfortable discussing their experiences with adoption either. And that is okay. So the first most important thing I want to say is:

Pay Attention when Discussing Adoption. It is important to say from the start: it's okay to talk about adoption. Adoption is a wonderful amazing thing. BUT some people don't want to discuss it. And that is okay too. If you are getting signals that the subject is off limits - even subtle ones like avoiding eye contact or seeming nervous or attempts to change the subject... you need to drop it. There are lots of reasons why people might not want to talk about adoption. And there are just as many reasons why they want to tell you all about it. So looking for the cues is key.

Let's break it down:

Every Adoption is Different
There is no blanket statement or answer that actually covers every adoption scenario. And every adoptive parent has explained their child's adoption to them in their own way. Asking one person about their adoption will probably not answer questions about another person's adoption. Which means that every time you learn someone is adopted, you might have a lot of questions. And that is okay - but that does not mean you should ask them. Not everyone wants to discuss their adoption. Especially kids. Proceed with caution, and perhaps start by asking an adult rather than a child if you have questions.

Every Person who has had a Personal Experience with Adoption Feels Differently About It
It's true. Just as every person has their own special unique take on everything, the same goes for adoption. Some people are thrilled that they were adopted, some people are not. Some people are in touch with biological relatives, some are not. Some people feel comfortable discussing it, others don't. Some people know the story behind their adoption but a lot of people have no idea. Some people are in therapy to deal with issues surrounding their adoption, and for other people even bringing it up is a trigger.

Adoption is Private
The fact that someone is adopted, or that someone has given birth to a child who was then adopted, is none of anyone else's business until they make it your business. So asking prying or persistent questions is really inappropriate. I want to be clear: asking questions is not inappropriate - I am always down for a good talk about adoption - but if your questions are not being answered chances are that is intentional, and you should drop the subject altogether.

The Concept of Adoption can be Scary
For children, adoption can be a scary subject. The idea that anyone other than your parents could be your parents? Scary. The thought that you could be living in a totally different house with a completely different family in another country speaking a foreign language? Terrifying. So for children in particular, it might be best to keep the subject of adoption light and brief. Their imaginations can run wild and take them to a whole different place you never even considered. And if you leave them with unanswered questions, chances are good they will ask them at a totally inappropriate time. So remember to focus on love. Adoption is all about love.

You May Not Realize You Are Being Offensive
A year ago, I said something so totally insensitive and offensive that it still keeps me up at night and makes me feel terribly about myself. I assumed that someone's child was adopted, and I asked a question that was worded so badly that as soon as it was out of my mouth I wanted to reach over and grab it and shove it back inside me. I cannot even remember exactly what I said word for word, but I remember two things distinctly: what I asked was none of my business, and I - for some reason - thought that because I was an adoptive parent myself, I had the right to ask personal questions about their situation. I did not. It doesn't matter who you are - you could be the grandparent or the sibling or an aunt or uncle - adoptive or biological - but that does not mean you have any right to ask questions, or get answers.
Another time, I referred to someone's biological father as her "dad" and she corrected me - gently but firmly. Her dad was the man who had parented her for many years.

As I have said, every situation is different - so making assumptions, even one you think is totally politically correct and evolved - is wildly inappropriate.

Adoption is NOT SAD
It is not sad to be adopted. Adopting a child is like getting every single gift you will ever receive, all in one package. There can be sad circumstances surrounding the facts of the adoption (which is why it is private and some people may not want to discuss it) but being adopted is not sad. Being adopted is being loved just for being YOU. Being adopted means someone loved you so much that they wanted to take care of you forever. They didn't have to - they wanted to. That is a really big deal.

The best and most basic advice I can give you about adoption is this:
Adoption is all about love.
A parent does not become a parent because of anything they do with their reproductive system.
A mommy isn't a mommy with her tummy. A mommy is a mommy with her heart.
A daddy is not a daddy because of anything he did before the baby was born - a daddy is a daddy once that baby is in his arms.

Mommies and Daddies become Mommies and Daddies because of what they do for their child, with their child, and because of their child. And it takes all three of those, by the way. You can't just choose one of the above actions and label yourself a parent (or grandparent either.)
Family is not about genetics. Family is about love, and support and encouragement and acceptance and above all presence. Not presents. PRESENCE.

You have to be there, in the trenches, to be a mommy or a daddy.
And adoptive parents are ABSOLUTELY the child's "real parents" - they are the people loving and caring for and feeding and educating and otherwise PARENTING. Being a "real parent" has nothing to do with sperm and egg. Period.

And just because you have a personal connection to adoption does not give you any special permission to make blanket statements or ask personal questions. You do not speak for every adoptive parent, adopted child, or biological relative. And neither do I.

Please understand that all I have shared here is my personal take on adoption, and is merely written down to give you something to consider. I am simply adding my voice to what is, admittedly, a very crowded conversation.

If you have any questions that I have not addressed regarding adoption, or explaining adoption to your kids, please comment below or feel free to shoot me an email. I can try to find you an answer. :)