All about who? He’s amazing and it has (almost) nothing to do with me!

Grand Slammy!

Sam is at bat. Two outs. Two strikes. Three balls. Bases loaded. Sam’s team is losing 2-0. It is the bottom of the 2nd to last inning.

For this potentially final pitch I scrambled off the bleachers, and hid behind the storage shed.  I couldn’t watch.

Just writing about it makes my heart rate climb.

The crack of the bat, followed by the rapturous screams (and not the dreaded sighs) signaled that it was OK to look, to race around the corner and see his powerful hit bounce squarely in the outfield. To watch him clear first, second and miraculously arrive at third was exhilarating. My son had hit a triple.

His team was now winning 3-2.  The next player hit him home.

The game was over ten minutes later.

They won their first game of the season.

My son. My son was the hero.

But my genetics were not involved. And something about that makes it all the more glorious. Seeing a child you have raised, you have nurtured, you love deeply whack the crap-a-lap-a-ding-dong out of a ball is a moment of concentrated joy-pride-glory. When that child is not your biological offspring that moment, I would argue, might be even closer to pure magnificence-because your own ego is one tiny step removed from the event. He didn’t “get that arm from Grandpa Joe” or at least not my Grandpa Joe.  He just did it, and it is ALL HIM.

That is another amazing gift of adoption–you are creating opportunities for a child to realize their potential unencumbered (in a general way) by familial expectations for specifically chosen traits of excellence. (Or the opposite! There is also no worry that he’ll “turn out just like Grandpa Joe did after his arm gave out.”) I do know that Sam’s birth father played basketball really well.  But I have no idea if anyone played baseball. He might discover that story someday, or he might never know.

He will always know that feeling of marvel at his OWN skills, strength and glory that he achieved at the plate this week.  Perhaps it is just another way to look at the story of adoption, open or not. That there maybe something very freeing, on occasion, for a child to discover their talents by accident? Of course biological offspring do this all the time too. I am just suggesting that as a biological parent of Marcel, I know that I really think he should be good at, and love soccer like me. Sammy is OK at soccer, and not nearly as interested in it as I was. Of course I understand that by taking him to baseball, soccer, and basketball practices, and teams etc, I am helping to select which parts of his genetic story is being awakened and nurtured. He is also teaching himself the ukulele. I couldn’t even spell the word until three weeks ago. I have less musical inclination than s butter knife. Sam is clearly gifted there too. Marcel has shown little inclination at this point.

As adoptive parents, or adoptees, or birth parents–what is your take on this piece? How connected is pride and joy  for your kids connected or not connected to biology? As adoptees did you ever have that experience of success as unencumbered joy, or did it often have a “I wonder if my biological mom also loves to dance too.” component?  As birth parents/ first parents in an open adoption–what is it like to witness your child discovering a skill or talent you both share verses one you have no connection to what so ever? As always I look forward to your thoughts!

Significant males in our lives day

This morning we Skyped with my father in New Mexico, after making #1 Uncle blueberry pancakes.  Now the boys are off playing ball with him in the park. Bliss. We made a card for Shrek and are working on various messages and drawings for some of the other significant males in our lives that we like to acknowledge today.

The absence of a “father” per se, is not the curse or deficit some might attribute to the children of the single mama. In fact in our home, it is quite the contrary.

Neither Sam, nor Marcel have a dad. That is a fact. Both, have a biological father. In Marcel’s case that man is Tree his known donor. We emailed him a special message today. Marcel understands that Tree is not his dad, but is his biological father. Marcel has created a working definition of donor that meets his needs. This is not a sad thing, this is a very powerful act: to name and own your understanding of a relationship.  For today, that is a relationship that exists in it’s own container that the three of us are designing. It will evolve as Marcel gets older, and his needs change with that growth.  For Sam, there is a birth father, that he has seen pictures of, and whom he has reached out to with letters and pictures. He has not had any contact from him since he was about a year old.  .

What my sons do have is a super capable mom and an amazingly supportive village of co-parents which includes many, many, meaningful males. These men are among other things: Black, white, and many other hues. These men are adopted, married, transgendered, strait,unemployed, conventional, Jewish, free spirited, professional, spiritual, agnostic, political, Muslim, outgoing, independent, Christin, artistic, quiet, musical, single, immigrants, wealthy, athletic, young, middle aged, and older who all have one thing in common; a meaningful connection and commitment to participating in Sam and Marcel’s expansive walk in the world. These men model what maleness is: multifaceted, magnificent, and theirs to design.

A few weeks ago I asked Sam if he ever get’s any flack, or teasing from friends who know he doesn’t have a dad. He immediately answered; “No. My friends think it’s cool that I have a mom who does so much stuff with me, and that I don’t have to worry when my parents don’t get along.”  So, that is clearly a commentary on what first graders were talking about and taking in that day.  On another day I imagine Sam might have answered that differently–as he is surrounded by so many loving coupled  people, who have highly functional and successful relationships.  But when I pushed a little more that day he continued; “Mom, I think it’s cool that you do what you do. I don’t know, I just think we are really good just like we are. My friends like me, not me because I have a dad or don’t have a dad.”

This is also possibly a reflection of Sam taking in that marriage could be in my future one day, and that will mean a large shift in the family dynamic. But, for today we cherish all the many generous and gifted men in our lives, and all the ways you enrich all of our lives. Of course, this post would not be complete without acknowledging the two males who are probably the most significant in both their lives: each other. Years ago I read a quote from a young man, raised by a single mom, who also had a brother. In it he said;

“I learned how to be in relationship, by having relationship with my brother and my mother, and watching them do the same thing. I learned how to be a loving and relational man by watching what made a relationship successful.”

I was pregnant with Marcel when I read that.  To learning how to be in relationship, and honoring the men who show us over and over and over how that looks when it works, and modeling for us, how to arrive there-hearts and souls in tact.

Reading to my brother.

I’d love to hear about your experience with this day–what it means to you, or doesn’t. What books you read to your kids if Father’s Day is difficult, or challenging, that have helped your family find words to normalize and embrace all the great you do have. Who the most significant males are in your family dynamic, or how you see your children impacted by any of it. To read more about Father’s Day from all sides of the adoption constellation there is an Open Adoption Round Table discussion on the topic here.

Safe Space(s): Departures and arrivals

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.

Helicopters and birth fathers

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.


Adoption guilt, safe kid gratitude and birth father surprises (a Mama C mixed bag)

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)”

Fatherless on Father’s day (dialogue)

Sam: What are you doing?

Me: writing a poem about what it might be like to not have a dad.

Sam: Oh.

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?

Sam: Yes.

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?

Me: Yes.

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

In the fall I love

In the fall I love.

Crisp round orange and red.

Lingering on that cool edge

pre knit hats, thick sweaters, and heavy blankets on the bed.

In the fall I love.

Apples picked crisp from orchard trees

white and blue herons in the marsh yellow reads

and the memory of Marcel’s birth.

Joining me, Sam, (and parenthetical Dixie D) into a robust

choice blended multi everything family.

And in the fall I love

to be reminded of the missing father men

who chose then knowing or not to father boys

mine now. Crowning me queen

in brown yellow and red

leaves of a disparate

but thriving and falling

and falling and falling

in love with you tribe.

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Significant Males in our Lives Day

Last night we celebrated; “Day of Meaningful Adult Males in Our Lives-Day.” Not the name that was agreed upon 100 years ago, when Father’s Day was first celebrated in this country. But then again, donors and adoptive families were not likely whom  our forefather’s had in mind when designing the scope of the day.

This was marked by a handsome freshly caught piece of salmon, local corn, a salad and peas from our own container garden-and a bakery blueberry pie. This was the  menu requested by the one and only Uncle Buncle, the most present and meaningful adult male in our life today.  Having been apart from each other for a few days (insert golden lake water, loons, bullfrogs, kayaks, canoes, the great friends who hosted us and Sam at the helm of a Boston Whaler here), the reunion energy around here last night was something akin to popcorn on a sugar buzz.

The presentation of the #1 Uncle gifts after dinner was a sweet reminder of what an amazing job of normalizing the holiday our preschool does.  I basked in what a great thing we have going here, and how damn near perfect a meal I can cook if I want to.

Then I tripped over the elephants asleep on the kitchen floor this morning.  The birth father and the donor take up a lot of room in the kitchen, and in my heart. I meant to address you last night, I wanted to tell them but they were not listening as they rolled over, and knocked over the sink. I wanted to thank you for the wonderful men you helped to create, and all of the ways in which I have fallen in love with the traits that you have clearly bestowed on them including charm, musical ability, athletic genius and must figure out how to take it apart and put it back together-ness. Those snoring elephants, wanted no part of my-next-day-if-I-had-only-thought-to-mention thinking.

After making a cup of coffee, I tried another approach: honesty. Last night, I just wanted it to be about what they have in their lives. By have I mean-who they can reach out and high five, and kiss, and hug, and climb all over-and not who they can’t. The elephants began to stir.  You are both here all the time, I whispered, as I scratched them behind the ears, in pictures, and stories, and the ways I tell them how you must have gotten that move from your donor, or that smile from your birth father, because it sure is suave and will level a room in about five years… The more I explained all the ways that we do honor them here, and can honor them more the smaller my elephants seemed to become. Now one is the soft plush elephant under Marcel’s arm, and the other has crawled back into the picture of Sam’s birth father on the shelf.

For me another close call, a reminder that what I don’t have (a relationship with my son’s biological fathers) is not the same as what they don’t have (a relationship with their biological fathers).  My work is to honor what they do have- deep and meaningful relationship with many men in their lives (several of whom are pictured below), and the certain grief and confusion of not knowing the two amazing men without whom I wouldn’t be Mama C.

To all the significant males in our lives we love and cherish you. A slideshow to honor those of you unlucky enough to come in contact with my camera in the last few years:

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Our open adoption part II: the birth father (+ Ghost Story poem)

The first five paragraphs of this post just got transferred to a bus waiting to depart the Mama C terminal at a date to be determined.  I have too many unresolved feelings around a story that is far too biased from my point of view to post it here.

The “open” part of my relationship with Sam’s birth father lasted for about two months after the termination of his parental rights when Sam was eight months old.  In that open period, he and I did have a couple of written exchanges, which, thankfully included an exchange of photos, from here to there, and from there to here.  Then, for reasons I am not going to elaborate on here (more on my part then his), our contact ended. It is my understanding that he is still able to contact us, through our agency, should he wish to do so.  It is my intention, and responsibility to renew that offer. This  is something I haven’t been willing or able to go about yet.  It feels as if it will soon be that time again, in a good way.

Shifting my feelings about things that transpired in between Sam’s birth, and the termination of the birth father’s parental rights eight month’s later  is work that I still have to do.  I’m not ready to tell the story until then.

In the meantime I will say that I keep imagining a positive outcome for Sam and him one day, and hope that I know how to facilitate it, when and if I am asked to. Until then, I’ll keep writing poems, and praying for guidance. In honor of poetry month, and the fact that tomorrow night I am reading two poems (Black Enough, and Crazy Hair Day) to an audience of over 300 at our faculty talent show, I’ll close this post with a poem I wrote about all of this last July. Wild how much has already changed in me, and in Sam since then.

Ghost story

Mom there is a man creeping up right behind you
Sammy says to me after dinner the other night.
I turn around slowly
trying to pretend I am scared.
Noticing I am actually scared.
I get wide eyed and ask him
if he saw a ghost?
No and yes.

He is learning about ghosts.
They like the dark, not the light.
He asks me to talk like they do–make the wooo-wooo sound.
No, not like that! Like this, WOOOO WOOOO.
He wants to be afraid-
he doesn’t want to be afraid.

He won’t go into the little bathroom at night now
since he decided it was the perfect place for one.
This has resulted in several accidents.
I am planning on hosting a tea party
in the dark and inviting this ghost
so we can befriend it.
This will reduce the amount of laundry I have to do.

His ghosts seem so small now-
still wary of the light.

He doesn’t have the ghost of his birth mother’s
to contend with yet.
The ghost of wondering what it would have been like
to have been raised by her,
to have been raised by the beautiful black woman
that shares your blood
and has your eyes
and all the what-else-ghosts
instead of me.

Or is she my ghost, still?

What about his birth father,
what will that ghost look like to Sam?
Will he be the kind that haunts him all of his life
from just behind the door to his identity
as a man,
as a father one day?

Or will that be the ghost Sam meets head on
in his dreams,
or over the phone
when he asks him
how come he didn’t want to be his dad-
when he could have been?