A friendly reminder: just because your teenager is not telling you that they are hearing the same hateful things they heard in elementary school around adoption doesn’t mean it stopped. Negative adoption talk (and even more so with the transracial adoptee) potentially becomes even more prevalent in middle school when the notion of difference is so deeply amplified.
I learned from my younger son that my older son was asked if he was; “Left in a box by his real mother?” last week. What the child added after that was too ugly for me to leave on this blog.
How my son handled these comments from the other child (who was, it has been suggested, jealous of my son for his performance on the basketball court), was completely justified in my opinion.
My younger son chose to connect with the child who made the comments and let him know that an apology was necessary. Because of my younger son’s social capital that apology was delivered. (My younger son said he could not be friends with someone who could hurt his brother that way.) As a family we talked about how we can help create a deeper understanding of what adoption really looks like in the moments that follow. For example did this young man know that my son spends time every summer with his family in Washington State? Did this young man consider how fortunate my son is to have so many parents and grandparents and siblings love him as family?While that is helpful and informative for next time it does not address the pain and discomfort my son experiences every time this happens.
As a transracial adoptive parent is our job to be vigilant and aware that these types of attacks are ongoing and impactful. Thankfully I was given a reminder to check in and let him know that I still want to hear all of it, and at the very least be able to offer my compassion and understanding, to the best of my ability. At thus age, that’s likely all I can do. But, if he needs something more, he’ll let me know.
Being in a moment of expansion and contraction simultaneously is a complicated and thoughtful space to be. I find myself turning to the camera to capture and chronicle our world- even if I always see it as clearly as I may appear to from the photographic capture I share with you here.
With tenacity and fervor I have been writing more and more poetry with greater ease and clarity as well as submitting often to journals, contests and the like. I participated in my first public poetry reading this week. After the poem, a woman in the audience came up to me, tearful. “I am a birth-mother, ” she said. “I placed my daughter for adoption when I was 17. Your poem gave voice to my experience with a truth I have never heard in a poem before.”
I left the reading, racing home, tearful too and in the dark reminded that art heals, enlightens, bridges, sustains, and connects all at once.
Just your everyday family vacation snapshots…when your family is ALL THIS and MORE
We arrived back in Maine around 10:00AM yesterday after the red-eye from Washington State Monday night. Leaving Sam’s family was all kinds of hard, for so many reasons. For me the hard was because my own visit with them was so short compared to last year. I dropped so easily back into flow with his mom, his grandmother and his sibs that I felt cheated from the brevity of the one and a half day visit this time.
I also wanted every opportunity to see Sammy in his new flow with them with me there. Of course it is going to be immediately different once I show up, as evidenced by the “Instagram Live” broadcast from inside the car with his brothers and cousins on their way to shoot hoops mid week. (Talk about being allowed insight into a world you are not part of!) Finally, due to the dramatically declining health of his grandfather, there was a layer to this the leaving that felt very very hard. Not only is he very ill, but the care-taking demands on his Nahnah were exhaustive. I so wanted to be there to help her in ways that I am equipped and able to do.
When I asked Sam if he was sad about leaving he said that he was fine. When pushed a little bit, he said that he got what he needed from the trip. I could go on and on about what I think that means, but that is not my place. Sammy gets to take that one out and unpack it in his memoir one day. What I can tell you is that he stayed up till 4:00am every night in a room with three boys who claim him as their own. He never opened the new toothbrush I put in his back pack. As in still in the packaging!
Leaving California was another kind of hard. Until I have had more time to integrate that into my experience of being back on the East Coast I need to hold off on saying too much here. I will say that being grounded and supported where I was staying by my dearest friend and Sam’s namesake Samantha was critical to my ability to stay healthy, focused, and in my body for the duration of the journey. From mediation, to long foggy walks, to laying on the bed and laughing and crying to eating home made soup I felt totally held.
So when Marcel’s donor and family came to pick him up for their adventuring the day after we landed they came in and stayed at Samantha’s for an hour for coffee and bagels and ease. This was normalizing and perfect for everyone. Kids coming and going, many conversations happening at once. Samantha and Tree have known of each other for a decade, so their meeting was so important too. Marcel found his footing with his new one year old brother (pictured above, and yes there is some kind of resemblance) and his feels-like-a-half-brother as well. I felt as if I had known Tree’s wife (who we will just call “Gorgeous” here) for a lifetime within six seconds. It was Gorgeous who said; “this visit is energizing for all of our souls.” Indeed. Sending them all off for the day and a half was like sending your child to the favorite uncle and auntie for an overnight. Clearly we are sill trying to find the language for all of these new relationships. More on that soon.
Leaving California was not immediately hard on Marcel, as he really missed his big brother, and was eager to meet Sam’s family too. (And as you can see above, he was quite a hit!) But clearly figuring out how to stay in deeper connect with all of the love he discovered is hugely important. That Marcel came back from his time with them, and his half day alone with Tree more eager than ever for the world to know him as a young Black man is important to mention. He is so deeply curious about how people see him and know him right now.
What I keep telling Marcel is how important it is that he know himself first. Pretty much we checked that box as a big YES for all of us in the last week. One of my favorite parts of all of this, is that now is when we all get to really reap the benefits that this trip could begin to mean for all of us.
The journey has just begun.
Birth-family Reunion Travel Fund
We have just completed our cross country trip, and still hopeful to raise the expense of the airfare through crowd sourcing. We are only $200.00 away from that attainable $2100.00 reach! Will you please consider a $10.00 contribution? Each donation adds up and truly helps. Thank you!!!!
Mama C and the Boys Patronage
Love what you read here? Are you a first time reader, or a long time fan? Do you look forward to opening the email announcing a new post? Has your own understanding of Open Adoption, transracial parenting, or known donor family connection shifted in a helpful way? If so will you please consider showing your support with a ten dollar fandom contribution? This allows me to be "paid" here, instead of needing to farm the stories out elsewhere. This will also help me keep Mama C add free and content full all year round! Bisous!
Adoption is very often a story of disappearance and erasure. To not hold this truth from the very beginning of the adopted child’s journey can contribute to a harmful fantasy that may impact that child’s identity formation.
In open adoption, a child may temporarily disappear from one family, and then reappear “magically” in another. But what happens when the child returns? How they are welcomed back and how space is created for them is something both families co-create.
What will happen when they steps into a space that belongs to them, but that their family, extended family and community of origin did not know existed?
The child could then experience invisibility in the very space they thought or fantasized that they would always belong. This could be an extremely painful realization. Integration of themselves at that moment is deeply layered and will take lots of time and facilitation.
I am reunited with both my sons. We stayed the night in a little Airbnb with a view of that mountain. We have all shifted and measurable ways. We are all going to leave a part of ourselves on the West Coast when we return home tonight.
I have so many thoughts to share here. But I wanted to get this out as perhaps a placeholder to return to. I am still Gathering a great deal of information about everything that’s happened in the last few days. It will probably take weeks and months if not years.
In my next post I will include a series of pictures that I receive permission to share here.
Thank you for all your love, prayers, consideration, messages, and support. Every moment of it has been felt.
The family has just arrived home from a whirlwind trip to Delaware to visit and celebrate various birthdays with my side of the family. We drove over 1,000 miles between Thursday night and this yesterday morning. Well, Shrek did the lion’s share there, and I book ended the trip. Driving that many miles amounted to saving that many dollars and then some in airfare. By driving through the night the boys were able to sleep allowing for minimal management and discomfort, not to mention the almost total absence of negotiations involved since they were asleep. Marcel slept for almost eleven hours strait, waking only once when we stopped for a break. Sammy watched the Empire State from the Tappan Zee and then fell back into his book for half an hour before crashing again.
Of course Shrek takes a big hit physically the next day, but bounces back with a little TLC. He kept telling me he was cranky. I was thinking to myself, “if this is your best cranky, we’re in good shape.” Having a day to recover is something we always do after a trip, never taking “vacation” to the last possible day. Writing this post helps me to ground in my home self again. Blogging always balances me somehow. It becomes a conduit for my own arrival in ways.
It has been lovely to notice, two years after we started dating how genuinely Shrek has become woven into the fabric of the larger family. He takes on the cooking of a dinner, or the interception of the pass at the family football game with ease, and something akin to grace even! What I witnessed more than anything on this trip, was how much he saw me within the larger family portrait. By “seeing” I mean seeing all of me within the family dynamic, and really knowing how to support, joke with, listen to and be with me and not to hover on the margins looking in.
Of course this is also about my showing him and them how integral to our happiness he is- with the easy hug here, or the cozy up on next to him at the bench while we are all at the beach. Marcel tossed the “my daddy” phrase out there as easy as he kicked his cousin’s football across the field over and over again. A ten hour car trip completed with ease is clearly another indication that we have deepened in our seeing ourselves as a family unit, and not as two adults and two kids making the best of it. There is an ocean of difference there. We have paddled some seriously rough waters to get here. Both of us taking our little dinghy in circles over and over again insisting our paddle was going the right way… On land for the moment anyway, we are digging the view from year two.
Speaking of accomplishments, I have a new piece published in Adoptive Families Magazine this month. I’m very pleased with the piece, an opinion piece titled; “Certificate of Live Birth and Parentage” where I weigh in on the question of what a birth certificate really should say. The link just went live last night, so feel free to be the first to chime in, and get the conversation going. I very much appreciated my exchange with the editor about this piece, and felt like the magazine is working hard to represent a broader range of voices in the triad. There are moments when my experience as both an adoptive and biological parent offer me a lens that seem to complement each other, and this is definitely one of them.
Like Sammy on his unicycle above balance is by no means a given, but an elusive goal that requires practice, practice, and more practice. In my relationship, parenting, transracial mind evolving, and part time working for starters I am feeling as if getting a few solid rotations moving forward before the wheel goes flying out from under me, is indeed an accomplishment. I’ll see if I can get Sam to volunteer a few lines on mastering the unicycle in less than two weeks to inspire all of us to keep on keeping on. In the meantime, hold on to something, or someone steady as you launch, and have a great week.
We are in the clear. It was a long ten weeks though. Let’s call it a really long virus. Let’s call it frightening. Let’s call it another reminder in how much perseverance a parent must have to parent, period. In this particular photo, Sam was waiting for a series of scopes to explore the possibility that he had any number of colon or stomach related abnormalities. Prior to this moment he had to be on a clear liquid fast for thirty-six hours. Prior to that were at least four doctor visits, two blood draws, and a series of other tests. He lost about thirteen pounds, lost his appetite almost entirely, missed several days of school, and if you ask me, became somewhat depressed. All during the mystery illness he kept trust in the medical profession, in me, and most importantly he kept faith in his body.
I am not really too caught up in the “so what was it?” story thankfully. Some wise doctor told me once that the body is still a mystery you know, and has many unexplainable pings and pains, that will always remain unknown.
I am caught up in all the decisions that are involved in the health care maze, and how it becomes another full time job for the parent at times. First there is all the advocating–for this test, and that specialist. For us to consider the stress of that on his body, and the aftermath of that procedure. The dance we do between is it really necessary, and what if we wait and there is a something-something we could have “caught” sooner.What happened to letting our body tell us what it needs? Where does that fit in?
There is the scheduling, the directions, the various lab locations and times, and methodology of collecting this or that. There are all the pre-certs, and forms to not lose, and file here, and send later. There are doctors who are not talking to other doctors.There are the nice nurses, and the ones who say things like; “We’ll be using the same medicine that killed Michael Jackson to put you to sleep today…”. There are the follow up calls to the head of nursing to discuss the traumatizing comments by the nurses. There are all the uncomfortable moments where I wish his first mother was still talking to me, so I could call her up and ask her point blank about any family history of….. But, instead I just leave that line blank.
At this moment there is a kid who is finally eating and gaining weight again, and a few more follow up tests to check out one more this and two more thats. There is a little brother who has decided not to run away after all, since he was able to tell me that; “I just want someone to be as excited about my poops too! Don’t I matter Mommy?” At this moment there is a Mama filled with gratitude for Sam’s health, and for our unlimited access to more than adequate health care, and an insurance policy that allows us to pursue the doctor’s suggestions with ease overall. There is that silver lining where Sam and I are given all this unexpected and gentle alone time waiting for appointments, or recovering from procedures.
To all of you who are dealing with a sick child on a larger scale I have a little bit deeper appreciation for all that you must do every day, in a system that is so often not geared towards a pro family-child-medical profession team approach yet. The unknown when your wee one is sick is unlike any kind of powerlessness I have every known. Parenthood seems to have a lot of that going on though don’t it? When was the last time I ever really had any control? Oh dear.
A fist curled tight
a foot stomped harder
three chairs pulled over
and a blankie ripped right down the middle.
It is common she said for our children to experience rage on a deeper level to relive their loss in every loss
it is common she said for our children to need more reassurance that we are going nowhere
Cannonball after cannonball you launch
into the deep end.
The splashes reach up over the edge
and dissolve over the concrete.
Here at the pool we can scream
and rage, and launch and submerge
and to everyone else it is perfectly normal.
I climb in beside you,
cold and uncomfortable.
Yet certain that you won’t go under
again in this lifetime.
That night you arrive in my room
and crawl into bed
with your eyes closed.
Then you reach
underneath the pillow
in your sleep
to find my hand-
you grab on with a fierce grip
until like the water on the concrete
your uncertainty evaporates.
This poem is one I am revisiting. It originally showed up on the first incarnation of the blog in August, 2009. It is part of a handful that have a “counselor” voice too, as I was getting lots of help at that moment.
It is almost completely different. I sort of love that. Last night the boys and fell asleep in my old bed, having a Mother’s Day extended cuddle. Marcel’s hand, not Sam’s found mine in his sleep and grabbed me. Feeling his fingers slowly open as he fell back asleep brought me back to this poem today.
I wanted to call all of your attention to the GREAT news that Hip Mama Magazine, where yours truly has had many a mamahood piece published, and a photo credit or two is relaunching back under the helm of it’s fearless and talented originator Ariel Gore(How to Become a Famous Writer Before You’re Dead,Atlas of the Human Heart). There is a fantastic kick starter project underway to make sure that “PRINT LIVES” (the mag was going to turn digital apparently which is in part why she decided to save it, and reclaim it). I contributed what I could and would love to encourage you to do so as well, if even a dollar is something you could hand over. There are several great incentives, (Dad there is one that involves all the pie you can eat on September 1sr in Santa Fe) so please consider. They have reached more than 50% of goal already which is super encouraging. Parenting on the fringe, and writers who may not make the mainstream cut, have always found a home in this high quality zine.
I’ve been dangling along the eye wall of a mothering hurricane of sorts this week. What I can share is that I’m uncomfortable. Uncomfortable because this mothering thing is so damn hard and this is my kid, and don’t you all see that we just have to dig in deeper and believe in a different outcome?
I can say that sending a Mother’s Day card to your first mom who you haven’t heard from in two years does not fall under the “no sweat” column of Sam’s heart. Although, with Sam it may sometimes appears that way. And then when his amazing 2nd grade teacher leaves school for the rest of the year on a maternity leave the chances are pretty good as we predicted that he would not transition smoothly to the new teacher no matter what rewards or consequences were in place. Leaving is leaving. Left is left. Period.
Combine race, adoption, single parenting, coupled parenting with all that is my dynamic, intelligent, loving, eager, curious, super social, and wildly movement oriented Sam and you have several high pressure systems, cold fronts and warm fronts converging at once both at school and at home. When I was asked to consider if Sam’s aftercare arrangement was indeed the best fit for him, my internal storm tracker went into a category five. Suddenly we are all asking ourselves a million questions again. Is it this? Is it that? What if this, and maybe not that. Would this work better? Would that? What if we all just joined the circus?
Then Marcel saunters in, with a poem about what a great mom I am, to put next to the letter about all the ways I could be a better mom from Sam. Oh, hi Marcel. I remember you.
Shrek has been an incredible support, after we both survived our own fault line dance last week. My mantra during that time was simply, “I am OK. He is OK. The kids are OK.” Over and over I just kept reminding myself of those three statements. At the end, we were more than OK, we were stronger, closer, and further in, instead of heading in opposite directions. His steadfastness, courage, and “I’m IN” mentality was nothing short of heroic to me. We were and are amazing really. He took several calls this week from distraught me. He has been such a rock.
When I indulged a little and posted something to that degree on my Facebook page, my friend Glenn replied;
We are all broken; it’s harder to try again than it was to begin. Courage.
Love to all of our broken bits, and courage in finding the pieces we know can go back together with a little patience, and trust. A special shout out to all the women and men in our lives who not only support and bolster this mothering (or semblance there of this week) but who in many cases are not themselves recognized as mothers/fathers, even though that is EXACTLY what they are to me and my family and many others I am sure. So to Debbie, Sage, Tia, Weezie, Eddie, Alex, Esther and Paul a very Hip Mama and Papa shout out to you too. You deserve all the praise, breakfast in beds, and cards we all do and then some. Thank you again.
This was the extent of our back to school shopping last week:
new sneakers and the hat.
Honestly, that sums things up over here.
We just don’t have room for much else that is new.
Uncle (my oldest brother) has moved out,
after living with, and loving on us
for almost five full on years.
He’s not gone too far but he’s not that near.
We’ve been preparing for this dreaded-
exciting transition for several months.
Celebrating all that is Uncle in one hand,
and grieving all that is his leaving in the other.
But rage doesn’t RVSP to an invitation.
It just crashes the party
whenever he needs to remind the world
that he is both the pinata, and the bat.
Swinging blindfolded into the unknown
like an infant wailing for his mother,
wrapped in a blanket of confusion and fear
hush hush hushed into a stranger’s promising arms.
Eight years later, and a very quiet part of you
may still remember her soft hands caressing your very small head
and for a moment maybe you are still able to hold her hand there,
woven in the flair and the tilt of your very fine hat.