The decision to go visit and then not visit Sam’s first family last summer, is one I am working through today.
We’re all still working out way through this one. Perhaps the hardest part for me is the not knowing how this impacted Tea*, and her relationship with him. I sense she may still feel angry at me–hurt–frustrated? I did not tend to our relationship in the aftermath in the way I should have. I retreated so hard and so fast after it happened, because I felt like I had done something so wrong–publicly and privately by putting so much energy into that trip. And, although I am certain (because of things I have chosen not to talk about here-those moments in our childrens lives we must protect) that I made the right choice for Sammy**-I sense I made a very wrong choice for her and her other kids, and her parents. All of this wondering is coming up for me so hard because for the first year in Sam’s life we have not heard from her at his birthday or Christmas. Everyday I race to the mailbox and feel my heart sink when there is nothing there. Continue reading “An end of the year ache-and a call for wisdom from first/birth parents”→
My son will be starting a new school in the new (calendar) year.
Updated post as of December 21st. 2011:
He stepped out of the old building with his head held high, and his pack full of artifacts and fabulous memories. Before he left-he hugged his amazingly caring, and dear to all of us teacher after giving her her favorite thing: a pink rose. Then he presented his class with a bag of sweet tangerines for their snack that day. He found other adults in the building he had formed important connections with–and had appropriate good-byes. In the car he announced to me; “That was easy Mom!” I cried a few hidden tears, and headed us out of the driveway to our next destination-some new school new clothes, and then a visit to the new school (saving this for another post).
So why did we leave? I described it to him this way; “You were at an amazing school, that was just the right place for you, while you were there. And now you are going to a school that can see all of you the way you and I do. A school that can see you as a scientist, a writer, an athlete, a musician, a diplomat, a great friend, a wonderer, a mover, an explorer, and a brown skin chocolatey boy in all his big glory!” Sam’s eyes got so wide. This landed with him in important ways. His largess in the world, and the physical largess of the building we are transitioning to are in sync. He feels this on many levels.
Translation: my son loves to move in so many ways. We have found a school that has programming and structures in place that can give him the space and encouragement to do that (physically, emotionally, socially and academically) in ways that as his mother, and as an educator I see are a better fit over all then where he was. It is not important to me to talk about how we came to this discovery–but to celebrate how right a move it was for our family. Marcel is part of the story too–as several of his dearest friends already attend, and will attend next year in kindergarten the same school with him. It is quite possible that we will also move into the “neighborhood “that the school serves at some point in the not so distant future. We need a back yard, neighbors to play ball with, and a street to ride our bikes on. We are all shifting in other ways too. The move seems to welcome and encourage these shifts in unexpected and magnificent ways.
He will be deeply missed. I will deeply miss so much of what I cherished and valued there. But, with even a few days out, I see that all of that good stays with us, and just builds on what we are coming into. I will be writing about the new, in the new year. For now it is about honoring the space between the two.
I will be on LIVE radio tonight! (7:30PM Eastern time) the guest on Dr. Anne’s; “Safe Space Radio“. If you follow the link to the station you can link up to it on the internet I believe. But that is way above my head. (I’ll post the link to the recording of the show next week.) It’s all of half an hour on the subject of transracial adoption.
After hanging up the phone with the host last night, during our pre-interview talk, I felt confident, and competent on so many matters in this arena from my point of view. Meaning, after almost seven years in the role as adoptive transracial Mama, I can claim with ease and semi-clarity my views on the joyous messiness of it all. I understand that these beliefs and understandings shift, and are meant to. It is a relief to finally understand that there is no absolute best way to do any of this adoptive/transracial/parenting dance we are permanently on the floor trying to get right. On the floor is a wildly appropriate metaphor no?
One last departure and arrival of note: I am dropping off the photobook to mail to Sam’s birth father (care of the agency) this afternoon. We had to arrive safely as a family first in a place where the decision to put it out there, and to release control over the outcome was quietly agreed upon.
The photo book for Sam’s birth father arrived Thursday from Shutterfly.* Two copies: one to send and one to keep. (It’s the 5×7 soft cover, and it came out GORGEOUS.) Sam and I read it together that night. It’s about twenty four pages, back and front. Great photos and captions describing Sam, his passions, accomplishments, and things he has in common with the few things we do know about his birth father. I’m reaching out to him and his parents. All this movement on my part was inspired by an interview I read last week, as part of the Adoption Bloggers Interview Project.
I haven’t shared so much as a photo with him in five years. I promised to update him yearly, and didn’t. I was stuck in my fear around him, which I have hinted at, but that I am not comfortable talking about at length to protect him mainly. An interview I read from a birth mom got me moving into the vault of my memory to excavate a hard copy of our last email connect. Upon rereading his words, I decided it was time to try and reach out again. All of the contact with Marcel’s donor is another reason I felt like I needed to shake things up a bit, with both the birth father, and Sam’s first mom. We had so much important connection, and it all started with effort, love and trust in the best outcome. It’s almost like I feel an inequity in where I am placing my relational energy on my kids behalf. I wanted to right that balance.
After we read the book Sam said; “Either he’ll write back right away…or I’ll never hear from him ever.” Then he asked if he had our phone number. I explained that years ago he made it clear to me that he was not ready to be in relationship with either of us. But, perhaps today that had changed. I then added that maybe I was also part of the reason we were no longer in contact, and I wanted to extend an invitation to him to be in touch with us if he was ready, willing and able.
After some thought Sam offered this wisdom; “Either he’s ready now or he’s not.”
I suggested that the pictures, and my letter might serve to help heal any hurt or hesitation he felt from the process we were all involved in years ago. I explained that he had chosen not to reach out to us with the address he had (the agency) but that that didn’t mean he might not now or at some point.
Sam looked at me and said; “Well if you tell him I like remote control helicopters, and ask him if he does too, he’ll write you back.” I hugged Sam gently, and whispered, “Sweetheart, who wouldn’t want to know you?” Then my heart imploded .
And now we just wait, and send out love, and pray.
Last week I read a very moving post about adoption guilt at See Theo Run. I have been thinking about the post since then, and returned to the site to leave this response:
I’ve been thinking about this post for some time. I feel both inspired and eased by your honesty. Guilt is perhaps not the word I would embrace for me. Perhaps the word has some limitations. Let’s come up with another? A word that can capture all this guilt: about having our family come together in direct relation to another family coming apart. Our-this is my family guilt–built on a world where there is no social justice if a woman/man must choose for a certain handful of reasons (economic based often–and not always by any means) that she does not have the support to be able to parent. Guilt that the child we have chosen to parent had no choice in his or her story being written this way. Guilt that we are not allowed to ever forget that these two factors collide so that we could realize our deep and unwavering desire and longing to love and parent this child for the next fifty or so years. Continue reading “Adoption guilt, safe kid gratitude and birth father surprises (a Mama C mixed bag)”→
Me: writing a poem about what it might be like to not have a dad.
Me: Does it suck today?
Sam: A little bit.
Me: I can’t imagine.
Sam: It’s kind of OK though too. Because we have you. And I like having you all to myself with my brother.
Me: It’s OK for it to suck. What can be hard about it?
Sam: Because a daddy can’t play with me.
Me: Do kids ever give you a hard time about not having a daddy?
Sam: They ask me sometimes why I don’t have one.
Me: What do you tell them?
Sam: I don’t know.
Me: You don’t know why you don’t have a daddy?
Me: It’s kind of like you don’t have a daddy twice isn’t it? Once because I’m not married, and once because your birth father wasn’t ready or able to be a parent when you were born.
Sam: That’s what I should tell them?
Me: You don’t have to tell them anything. Or you can say; My family has an Uncle, a Mommy, and lots and lots of other people who love me too.
Sam: OK. Can I go play my guitar now?
While I was writing a poem (that’s not ready for the world) trying to imagine an older Sam and what this might look like to him, the conversation above happened.
We have amazing men in our life. I write about them all the time: older ones, younger ones, Black ones, and creamy ones. Constant ones, sporadic ones. Sporty ones, and bookish ones. There are the theatrical ones, and the serious ones. The stop your foolishness ones, and the foolish ones. And there will always be the missing one. Marcel’s story is different, and deserving of his own poem. Which I actually wrote a year ago. I’ll re post it another day. His connection with his “donor” is more accessible, closer.
To all our many papas we cherish you. To the one we don’t really know, we hold you close always too. We honor all the magnificent talent,charisma and love you brought into our lives today.
Please don’t forget to vote for more great dialogues like this one. THANK YOU
Hand eye coordination doesn’t begin to explain it, either. He aligns the speed of the ball, and the contact with the bat, with every muscle in his arms, legs, and eyes in harmonic syncopation. This has been going on for years, and with his first coach pitch game only two weeks away, I am getting ready.
I received an invitation to review Adam Pertman’s updated Adoption Nation last month. They wanted a transracial adoptive single mother’s point of view added to the mix. In exchange for my promise to participate in the blog tour of the book (a new concept for me-where have I been?) on a given date (today) I received my own copy, and two to give away.
The amount of work that went into this book, is rather mind blowing to me. I am sure you can scour the net for countless reviews lauding it’s comprehensive scope and broad historical focus. I felt a rather ominous pressure while reading the book as “reviewer” and not just as consumer. (My previous reviews here of books have always been after the fact of books I read and was charmed by. Now I realize that is just a sales pitch, not a review!) I wanted to make sure that I was reading the book through the lens that my audience have come to expect of me (even if I am not sure what exactly that means). I wrote down moments in the book that caused me pause for one reason or another, and asked Mr. Pertman to address them directly.
Words that will be yours alone:
who helped make me
who chose to make me
this brown skin
an older brother
who watches over me
Words that will be his alone:
grabbed me up
my darker skin
as dark as the man
who I don’t know and
darker than a younger brother
who adores me
Words that you will never know:
No Black man will ever be elected president…
Words that we will share:
Words that I look forward to:
I love you too
Remember at your graduation when…
It doesn’t snow here
*In honor of giving myself a little freedom from all the new content on my blog this week, I went back into the archives of the first Mama C and the Boys and found this poem I wrote to Marcel in late January, 2009.
One of my favorite adoptive parent bloggers, as you may know, is Harriet, the mama force behind See Theo Run. Her posts are always succinct, beautifully crafted, and appealing to a wide audience. I am almost always shaking my head in the ah-ha way, over there. Their family’s full immersion in an open adoption is a continuous source of deep learning for her and this avid reader of their journey. She always manages to flavor her posts with a dash of education, a pinch of insight, and a splash of humor. Her most recent post; Top Three Things Never to Say to an Adoptive Parent, took the wind out of me with this exchange at a recent gathering she was savoring until this moment;
An acquaintance turned around and asked me how my son was doing. I said, “Great, he’s running around like a madman into everything – really hilarious.” She replied, “Where is he from?” <…pause… sigh…>. “We adopted him locally,” I said flatly. “Oh,” she said, “I thought he was from Korea or Vietnam or something.” The whole exchange whooshed by in a matter of minutes making no impression on the asker as my ‘festive, out-on-the-town’ mood temporarily evaporated.
Join her, Theo, and her husband on their relatively new journey (Theo just turned one) and you will be in for a delightful sink in the blog-o-sphere couch, with toddler shrieks, and extended birth parent family celebrations to keep you company, along with vlogs, vidoes, and Harriet’s unique and upbeat voice narrating the tour!
A chapter book, with an adoptee from China telling her story who is being raised by a single mom, breast cancer survivor, and who has two dads, in a small town in Maine, who has her own blog? Did I dream this up?
Meet India Mcallister in her first book, via this blog post from The Accidental Adventures of India McAllister, by Charlotte Agell. In this passage, the infinitely likable, strong, and insightful India talks about her birth mother in China:
I have a birth mom but I don’t know her. She’s like a flower whose seed blew away in the wind, and it grew. That seed is me. But my Mommy Mom, she’s like the sun and the rain. That’s what we used to play, when I was little.
In the interest of full disclosure, the book was introduced to me by the fabulous Kirsten Cappy who had the idea to design the blog as a way of introducing new readers to the book in a new way, and as a way to appeal to the young and upwardly technologically savvy readership India would no doubt attract.
When I had the opportunity to meet with Kirsten and the author over iced coffee last summer we had a rich conversation around best practices in talking to children about adoption, and language usage around birth families and adoption. One of the truly satisfying outcomes of that afternoon was this post, where India invites her readers into thoughts about her birth father as well;
My dad is a good hugger. I love hugging him. He smells like old books, garlic, clean laundry, and sometimes toothpaste…I have no clue what my Chinese birth father smells like. There are some things you can never know and there are some things you can’t even imagine. This makes me mad and scared sometimes, but it’s okay.
In a recent review of the book, it is aptly noted that; What gives this book strength and validity is that these topics are never discussed; they are simply part of India’s quotidian existence, presented in her authentic voice. The book may not reflect best practice in the adoption language cannon at all times; like in this line from India; where the words “gave me away” seemed almost archaic to me; “What if my birth mom wants to talk to me and I can’t say anything? Not that my birth mother would want to talk to me. She gave me away.” Then I imagined myself reading this book with my child, and realized that India might provide an amazing opportunity for the teachable moments, as well as simply the; “wow, didn’t she say that beautifully?” moments. The accessibility of India, and the appeal of a young Chinese adoptee as the hero of her own story, make this book, and blog a must have for the upper elementary, early middle school reader in your life-adopted or not.
What are you reading out there in the land of adoption that deserves a hand? Shout it out. Let us know. And spread the word if you like what you see here. It’s the good work, and we all deserve a hand now and then!
Five years ago today Sam’s adoption was finalized. For many, this moment is quite honestly more a of a formality than much else. A potent, and long awaited one, but normally, it is a given. We give it meaning. We invite others to join us in noting the event. We hand over our understanding of family, by definition, to the state for the day. (We grieve the omission of the birth parent’s name from the new birth certificate, and also welcome the appearance of our own.) We pop corks. We grab tissues. We exhale. We create ritual, or avoid it. We are surrounded by so much love.
We wake up the next day, and say; Was that it?
In our case, there was something more. But, because I am becoming increasingly aware of how Sam’s story and my story, are not one in the same, I am reluctant to say much more. He may feel rather resentful that not one part of his story, was his to reveal one day. (He knows that his mother is a writer, and that one of her favorite topics is him. But when will that stop being exciting, and start being intrusive?) One day, if he chooses to write about the story I told him, or his first mom shared, or maybe even his birth father, then he can tell you why our finalization was something more than just a forgone conclusion.
Last night we were reading our night night story. It happened to be a borrowed book, an ABC’s of Maine. The very last page, featured a pristine Maine scene of a line of skiers, all white, zooming down a pine dotted mountain. Under the heavy type set letter Z were the words Zip and Zoom. It was Sam’s turn to guess the picture, and the words (Chipper Chickadee, Jovial Jellyfish) and Sam touched the page and said; “zzzzzzzip and zzzzzzzzoooooooooommmm.” And just like that, my son read his first two words, without a damn bit of help from me. Almost five years to the day, that a probate judge read his new name out loud for all to hear, my son read two words on his own.