Friday, July 31, 2009
So I hit referrals, to see how all these folks are finding the blog. Every other one seems to be a Google search for "adopt talk" or "china adopt talk." China Adopt Talk is Rumor Queen's blog, and she is very popular for keeping track of all the rumors about what's going on in China adoption. Her url is "chinaadopttalk.com." I did not know that when I started AdoptionTalk, and folks looking for her do sometimes find me, but it is pretty rare. Because it used to be if you did a search for "china adopt talk," Rumor Queen's blog would come up first, and mine second. Now, for whatever reason, her blog doesn't even come up on the first page of search results. I don't know the mysteries of how Google ranks things, but something has definitely changed.
So if you've found me by accident, welcome! I hope you'll stick around. You're obviously interested in adoption, and that's pretty much all we talk about here! So look to the right and click to be a follower, and blog updates will be automatically posted on your blogger profile page. Or bookmark us and visit as you have time.
But if you're lost and need to find Rumor Queen right now, click here! You can always come back later and look around (make it easy on yourself and do that follower/favorites thing!).
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Thanks, WB, for telling us about this documentary in the comments to the vacation post! I'm putting the info here so you don't have to cut and paste!
Here's the description of the documentary, Zhang Empresses:
Growing up surrounded by blond, blue-eyed children in Sweden, Chinese adoptees Alice, Mimmi, Nanna and Linnéa always felt different. The girls were adopted on the same day from the same orphanage but – having moved abroad as babies – they don’t speak Mandarin and have no concept of their native country. Now ten years old, they are returning to China for the first time. What will they make of their homeland? A moving look at identity.
It's on the Documentary Channel's schedule for Saturday, August 1 at 10 p.m., and Sunday, August 2 at 1:00 a.m. You can also click here and watch it for 1 British Pound (about $1.65). If you watch it, comment here to let us know what you think!
P.S. If you've seen this documentary AND Found in China, I'd be interested in knowing how they compare. I'm wondering which might be better, how they might be different.
Vacation means a blogging slow-down -- unless it rains the whole time! I'll still try to post, but no promises!
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Dr. Harry Miron, the Israeli owner of the Sabyc Fertility Clinic in Bucharest, claimed Monday that his actions were never motivated by greed, but rather based on "personal drama," namely his wife's experience with IVF. Harry Miron, along with his son and 30 of their employees were arrested by Romanian authorities last week on suspicion of human egg and stem cell trafficking. According to reports in the Romanian media, Sabyc Clinic is said to have grossed nearly €20 million in its years of operation.So how does this line of defense work exactly? We weren't able to conceive and so we had to adopt, and we started a fertility clinic so other families wouldn't have to settle for adoption like we did? And son, why don't you go into the business with us?!
Miron's attorney told the court that his client's wife was unable to conceive a child naturally, and that their private experience prompted him to specialize in in-vitro fertilization (IVF) and start the clinic. The couple eventually adopted their son Yair, who was also arrested.
Monday, July 27, 2009
I am SO glad I went to this presentation. It was incredibly powerful and emotional. (That emotion was the cause of the exhaustion, in fact!). The two birth mothers spoke very honestly about their experiences, and as the friend who accompanied me said, the wounds were so obvious on them.
One birth mother was 25, and is now in college studying social work and working with the Eastern Social Welfare Society (ESWS) in Seoul, S. Korea, the same organization through which she placed her child. She looked like a typical college student, except that she looked 16! She had long hair and was wearing a pink flowing skirt, a sparkly tee, multiple necklaces and earrings, cool glasses, and a completely closed expression. She said she had broken up with her boyfriend before she knew she was pregnant. When she contacted him to tell him, he said he didn’t want a baby and she should get rid of it. She went to get an abortion, but couldn’t go through with it when she heard the baby’s heartbeat. She intended to keep the baby, but with morning sickness she couldn’t work, and asked a social worker friend for help. The friend told her about Eastern, and she went to their unwed mothers home. She saw women there who had kept their babies, which gave her hope that she could do the same. She wrote her mother to tell her of the pregnancy and that she wanted to keep the baby. Her mom was completely opposed to her keeping the baby. After much thought and counseling and input from her mother, she made the hard decision to place her baby. She wanted the baby to have two parents, since she was raised by her mom alone. She wanted international adoption, because it would be “semi-open,” meaning that she would get information about the baby once a year. After deciding to relinquish her child for adoption, she was able to visit the baby once a month until the child left Korea.
She said the hardest part of adoption was once she had made the decision. She couldn’t handle seeing babies the same age as hers. She would be in despair, thinking, “Why me? Why can’t I have my baby when these other people have their babies? Why did I only get to hold my baby for a few hours?” She said at times she thought of suicide, and felt she had nothing to live for. She blamed her mother, she blamed herself. She tried suicide once. And another time when she thought she couldn’t live another minute, she heard from the agency that they had received an update about the baby from the adoptive parents. That was and is her greatest joy, getting updates about the baby. She decided that she wanted to improve herself, and live a good life, for her baby, whom she described as “my joy, hope, and life.” She said she knows the most joyous day will be when she can see her baby again.
One reason the updates about the baby were so important to her is that she drank at the beginning of her pregnancy and is so sorry about that, and worries about the effects on the baby’s health.
The older birth mother was 33, and had placed her baby for adoption 2 years ago. She was a little plump, and simply dressed in a blouse and khaki capris. She was single and pregnant, and she told us about going into labor at home, and not being able to make it to the hospital. She was alone, and had to cut the umbilical cord herself. The baby was fine at first, but became sick. She took him to the hospital, where he had to stay for a week. She didn’t know what to do, planned to raise her child, but contacted Eastern for help. She stayed at the home for unwed mothers with her baby. Every day she changed her mind about what to do. First she wanted to raise her baby, then she’d think what was best for the baby would be to place him for adoption, and then she’d change her mind again. She worried that she wouldn’t be able to give her baby opportunities, was worried about the social stigma of unwed birth that would attach to the baby. She said that when the baby was inside her, it was possible to think of them together as just one person, but when he was born and became another person, she had to think more about what would be in his best interest. Six weeks after the baby was born, she decided to place him for adoption. At first she wanted domestic adoption in Korea, but there was no possibility of an open adoption in Korea. With international adoption, she would be able to hear about the baby through the agency, and could perhaps see the baby again one day.
The worst day was when she took the baby to the agency for placement. She bathed and dressed him, and he was very, very fussy. He was usually a happy baby, so she thought he knew what was about to happen. At the agency, she felt cut in half, holding the baby with one hand and signing him away with the other. Going home alone, she could still hear his cries and smell baby smells. She would find her body still rocking him when he wasn’t in her arms any more. Once the baby was gone, she had so much free time and nothing to do but think of him and eat and eat and eat. She began drinking as well to deal with her grief. She changed from an optimistic person to someone mired in grief. She drank for 1.5 years, and is better now. She wants to do well for her baby. She has a new job, and they know about her baby, and they have been very supportive, even letting her take time to come to America to make this presentation.
She also was able to visit her baby before he left Korea. It was wonderful to see him each month, but hard to leave each time and hard to wait for the next visit. She wanted to make the visits, though, because she never wanted him to think she had abandoned him. And on his first birthday, the agency had a birthday party for him and she attended. She was so happy to see him there – he walked! And she loved to see that he liked to eat, just like her. She was very happy to see something of herself in her baby.
After the birth mothers and others talked (more about that in another post), there was a Q & A period. We were asked to write our questions on an index card and pass them up, and the moderator asked the questions.
The first question was, “Why did you come to talk to us and are you glad you did?”
They both answered that they wanted to puncture stereotypes adoptive parents might have about birth mothers. They wanted to stand up for the unwed mothers of Korea. And one said she wanted to know what life in America was like so she could see what life for her baby was like.
The question I asked was, true to AdoptionTalk, “What do you want adoptive parents to tell their kids about birth mothers?” I was almost sorry I asked, because it brought the younger birth mother to tears. But she said that before she was a birth mother, she had a very negative impression of adoption and birth mothers. She had watched TV shows where Korean adoptees said that their birth mothers abandoned them, and she thought that was how babies were adopted – they were all abandoned. She spoke forcefully and said, “I did not abandon my child.” She said she loved her baby and made the best decision she could for her child. She wanted adoptive parents to tell the children that their birth mothers loved them and did not abandon them. The older birth mother said the same, and added, “Sometimes love isn’t enough. I wanted my baby to have a better life. Tell them we love the babies, but we made a decision for their life.”
I also asked about how many women who are served by Eastern decide to parent rather than relinquish their children, and what services are offered to them. The social worker from Eastern said that currently 30% of the women at the unwed mother’s home decide to parent their children. She said that in the past it used to be very rare, but the trend is for more women to parent. She says that Eastern helps with counseling, short-term help with diapers and clothing, and help finding long-term housing. She also said the Korean government offers some support for single parents, but that it is not adequate.
There were an adoptive parent and an adult adoptee on the panel as well, I’ll post more about what they had to say later.
The birth mothers cried, the social workers cried, the adoptive mother on the panel cried, the audience cried, I cried. And it was so worth going!
Saturday, July 25, 2009
Dear every adoptive parents,
We are Chinese parents with kids born in the U.S. Thank you for your love in adopting helpless orphans and nurtur them to be happy kids of yours. I have viewed the video of the camp for adoptees. My suggestion to you is to try to seek out Chinese American families and let your kids befriend their kids. The reason? I think these Chinese American families are more normal in the sense that they are emotionally balanced. You can also learn from Chinese parents about their culture and they from you about American culture. It's a good way to help each other out. As a Chinese, I feel these camps for adoptees from China are weird. Real Chinese kids don't do dragon dance or kungfu. To us, the Chinese heritage is nothing more than Chinese food, the language, delayed gratification (with money and material things) and hard work. Be careful with your child's encounter of racism. Some kids don't even tell their parents but racist incidents will scare their life and affect their self esteem big time. Worst yet, they may affect your child't relationship with you. Racism is real and ugly and kids aren't old enough to handle them. Make sure you check on your child when s/he comes back from play time with other kids. I hope you can find some good American Chinese families around to befriend with. God bless you all.
Friday, July 24, 2009
I've been brooding on this for a while -- how can we help adoptive parents gain respect for their child's birth mother? Notice, I'm not talking love (been there, done that, got the burn marks to prove it!), but simple respect. And I admit I'm starting from the position that we want to be respectful so we can convey that respect to our children. It's important for adopted children to see their birth parents as positively as possible -- they really see it as the GIGO principal, garbage in, garbage out. If their birth parents are bad people, then they themselves must be bad people.
I was talking to an adoptive mom a while ago, with a child adopted from a Southeast Asian country, not China. The story she told me was that her child's birth mother was 14 years old, showed up at a hospital seeking an abortion, and was persuaded to carry the child to term. She gave birth and then just vanished from the hospital, leaving the baby behind. The tone in which the story was told was generally scornful, conveying the impression that the birth mother was promiscuous, irresponsible, and generally unworthy.
You know me, I wanted to go immediately into "teacher"mode! I think I showed a little restraint -- I phrased it as a question, instead of a comment: "Oh, dear. I wonder how a 14-year-old in that culture could have gotten pregnant. No mixed dating at that age in that country. I wonder if it was rape, incest -- or rape AND incest -- or prostitution?"
The amom was shocked, and we talked more about it. Of course, I told her I had no more way of knowing what actually happened than she did, but that the cultural background painted a picture of different possibilities than she had considered before. She really was seeing the birth mom in Western terms, dating and getting involved in sex too early (we'll leave aside for a moment whether that kind of judgment is appropriate!). She didn't see it with any non-Western cultural overlay. She hadn't thought about HOW a 14-year-old in that country would have gotten pregnant. Or HOW she could have stayed at the hospital without being missed by family (I suspect the birth mom was a street child who got pregnant through prostitution).
So far, the amom doesn't hate me for suggesting these other possibilities. She has a better understanding of what MIGHT have happened, but also a harder job of explaining this to her child in the future.
With China adoption, we see that Western view, too. How many times have you heard an adoptive parent of Chinese children say, "They threw away the baby just like garbage?" No understanding of the cultural pressures, of the fact that the birth mother is pressured by family, including mother-in-law, to abandon the baby. No recognition that abandonment sites are usually carefully selected so that the baby will be quickly found. No knowledge, no understanding.
And that's where the respect comes from, I think -- from knowledge which leads to understanding. I'd like to see a whole lot more education on birth country culture for prospective adoptive parents seeking to adopt internationally.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
And most of all, this is for the young teen who left a comment recently at Birth Mother/First Mother Forum. She said she was crying inside because she doesn't know who she is. "I want to know if I have my dad's eyes and my mother's nose," she wrote. "Can anyone help me to start to search? My parents can't--actually won't...."
Breaks your heart, doesn't it?
She asked us to keep this confidential--but I think she thought we could reach her by email. We have no way to reach her because when someone posts a comment, we can not respond to her or him because we do not have access to his or her email address. So I'll leave her name off here, and no one will ever connect it to the young writer, whom I hope has come back to find this. We are thinking about you and we send you all the love we can through the air. And we wish from the bottom of our hearts that we could reach across the nether and somehow find your first mother for you.
But what can we say to stop the hurt, what can we realistically do to fix the problem? Though we have the power of the word and the communication offered by the Internet, we can't go in and shake up those adoptive parents, like we would like to, and tell them how much their daughter is in pain, and how much they could help by simply opening up the conversation.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
First of all, why tell? Openness and honesty are FUNDAMENTAL to healthy relationships, and that includes the relationship between parent and child. I'm sure you think your daughter is too young to understand, and you're right -- she won't understand completely at first. But I bet she's already overheard a conversation or two (we talked about it pretty openly, so I'm sure it's not a deep, dark secret, and I'm sure you've had to explain your relationship within her hearing more than once!) that makes her wonder and worry that there's some secret about her that no one is telling her. And if you wait too much longer, she's going to be hurt and angry at you for keeping it from her. She'll likely put a very negative connotation on it all, since things that are secret are usually thought of as things that are bad.
Second, how to tell? Take a look at these posts for some tips: Talking Adoption Tips and Ten Commandments of Telling. I hope they'll help to get you started. Opening up discussion with a story book is great, so here's an Adoption Book List for you. You might also want to read the book, Talking to Young Children About Adoption. And check out the links to the right, Resources for Adoption Talk. Quick tips -- be positive, be as casual as possible (don't make it a heavy family talk, I mean), and be prepared to give lots of reassurance.
Third, what to tell? Think about where your child is developmentally. Do you have a pregnant friend? Has she seen pregnant women and known there's a baby in there? I'd probably start with pregnancy at her age: "Remember Mrs. XXXX, who has a baby growing in her tummy? Giving birth to a baby is one way to add a child to a family. Adoption is another way. Do you know what adoption is? Adoption is when a child's birth family can't take care of her, so they make a plan for another family to take care of her and that other family becomes her family forever. Adoption is how you became a part of our family!" And then follow where it goes from there.
Best of luck! And I know it's always unbelievably cheeky when total strangers give parenting advice. Sorry about that. But this is really, really, really important for your daughter, who was a cute as can be, smart and engaging and outgoing, and deserves the best!
It is a very cool exhibit. Each video installation focuses on an art piece, bringing it to life on the screen. We saw Arhat Taming the Dragon (the link has a snippet of video and photos):
Arhat Taming the Dragon is vertical in format like the scroll that was its inspiration, and projected on a screen inside the same wooden shrine that appears in the film. We first see a diminutive Buddhist monk fishing in a river, which in his fantasy becomes the churning, stylized river in the scroll. He is indeed the artist engaged in painting the work. Returning to reality, he finds a shuttle (a wooden tool for holding yarn in weaving) and takes it with him. It turns out to be a magic shuttle that can move and transform itself. Walking home with his catch, through a world alive with the imagery of Chinese art, the little monk comes upon a pavilion in which a boy is playing with a toy, then the shrine, where he joins a pair of larger monks reciting an evening prayer. We see him finishing work on his painting, dotting in the eyes of a dragon––the moment of giving life. The mischievous shuttle sneaks under the scroll and becomes the dragon, clawing its way out into the real world. While making an offering to the scroll, now installed in the shrine, the little monk goes into a dream that is his own act of transformative magic. Suddenly the whole scene in his painting
comes to life. He is a guardian king and one of his fellow monks is an arhat, a Buddhist saint of great wisdom and supernatural powers. The other monk also appears, holding the boy who was playing with the toy. A great wind rushes through the scene as the arhat strains to will the dragon into his alms bowl, a symbol of triumph over the hostile forces of nature. The wind subsides and calm is restored.
We saw the scroll before watching the video, and the girls were mesmerized to see the characters from the scroll come to life to act out the scene from the scroll. We actually watched it twice, and then had lunch at the museum so we could see it again!
After lunch we poked through the gift shop, always a dangerous exercise! I was showing admirable restraint until we came upon this stuffed Buddha! Who would have expected that such a thing even exists!
The girls were delighted. Zoe has long had an interest in Buddha (probably living next door to a Buddhist temple when we were in Xiamen!), and while reading about him on the Internet (she's discovered Google. Be afraid, be very afraid!), she found that his mother was Queen Maya, so now Maya is also hooked on Buddha.
The Buddha is part of a series of dolls called "Little Thinkers." Too cute! They have Shakespeare and Freud and Jesus and Nietzsche and Van Gogh and Socrates and too many others to name. I love the idea, and couldn't resist the girls' entreaties to buy it. And I love that on the tag, the contact address is the Unemployed Philosophers Guild!
I highly recommend the Kimbell exhibit if you live in the Fort Worth area -- it's free, and it's a great way to give a dollop of culture, both Chinese culture and high art!
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Well, I never did. I can’t say why exactly – the trauma of my dad leaving for Korea and then Thailand when I was a child, incipient feminism, Murphy Brown (wait, I was already in my 30s when Dan Quayle blamed her unwed pregnancy for the moral decline of America!)?! Who knows? Who cares? I just DON’T want to get married! And for whatever reason, I never did.
Still, it was a little disconcerting when the “you’ll change your mind” answers became “whatever makes you happy” answers when I hit my 30s – it seemed a bit too easy an acceptance of my spinsterhood!
Though I never wanted to get married, I always wanted kids. Maybe Dan Quayle can blame this one on Murphy Brown, because I never thought I needed to be married to have kids. And it seemed China agreed, at least at first, when I started the process to adopt Zoe. Then the rumors started, a few single women were delayed for home study updates, and I started to get nervous. I remember being out of town for a conference and obsessively checking my agency yahoogroup list for rumors, and finally calling the agency to ask for advice.
We decided to be proactive and do a home study update attesting to the fact that I was heterosexual and actively seeking a husband. I had to explore my entire dating history with the social worker, and after compiling that list of losers, was it any wonder I DIDN’T want to marry any of them?! Still, the whole thing was completely humiliating, because of course like all other paperwork submitted to China, that home study update had to be notorized, authenticated by the Texas Department of State, and apostilled by the Chinese Consulate. Sigh.
I also had to do a letter saying I was heterosexual and actively seeking a husband, and I emailed Bonnie at "Greatwall dot com" to ask her exactly what I had to say in my “I am a heterosexual” letter, and how fervently did I have to state I was “actively seeking a husband.” Too bad Bonnie’s email address was Bonnie at "Greatwall dot ORG!" Because I got a reply from some guy named Liam at Greatwall dot com saying, “Bonnie doesn’t work here. AND WILL YOU PLEASE STOP EMAILING ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” Which is how I learned that “I am a heterosexual and actively seeking a husband” is not a great internet pickup line!
One of the reason China changed the rules and blocked adoption by singles is because they were afraid people were lying about being heterosexual. I wasn’t. But I was lying about actively seeking a husband! And I was conscious of that lie throughout the wait for Zoe. One time, I got a call from a dating service – “We are looking for attractive, interesting singles in the DFW area who are interested in long-term relationships.” I immediately responded, “No, thanks, I’m not interested,” and hung up. And suddenly I was worried that the CCAA was calling to check if I was really actively seeking a husband! I wanted to call them and say, “Don’t worry, I’m looking for a husband in a more traditional way – I’m hanging out in bars!”
So why am I revisiting this ancient history?
Yesterday morning the girls tell me they want a baby sister. I explain that China won’t allow single women to adopt, and they suggest other countries, and I explain again that there are really very few countries that allow single women to adopt. So of course they suggest I get married.
And I find myself stamping my foot and saying, “I don’t WANT to get married!” And imagine, this time the audience is my KIDS! How weird is that?!
Friday, July 17, 2009
A rare and unique opportunity for the adoption circle! Two birth mothers from Eastern Social Welfare Society (ESWS) in Seoul, S. Korea, will come to the U.S. to share their compelling story. The international adoption community has been able to hear from adoptive families and adult adoptees, but this educational workshop allows adoptive parents, adoptees, and professionals to hear from the international birth mother’s perspective for the first time.
The workshop will also include the voices from an ESWS staff member, an adoptee, and an adoptive family, who is part of a semi-open adoption through Dillon’s Korea Program.
Workshop is open to everyone (regardless of country) - adoptive parents, adoptees, & adoption professionals
Anyone planning to attend?
Tonight, Zoe asked, "Will I still miss my birth parents when I'm a grownup?"
I answered, "I don't know, sweetie. But even when we're grownups we miss the people we love when we can't be with them. You miss Aunt Kim, right? Well, I do too."
But she still wondered, since Aunt Kim isn't like a birth parent! So I tried, "Remember the workshop I went to when you were at Camp, with three grownup adoptees talking? Well, they each had different feelings about their birth parents. [I summed up what they said -- two had little interest, and one had a strong interest] .
Zoe was shocked to hear that there were adult adoptees who wouldn't be interested in their birth parents. "How could they not be interested?! That doesn't make any sense!"
I reminded her that not everyone feels the same way about things, and that was OK. She finally accepted that. "So," I concluded, "there's no one way to feel about adoption or your birth parents. And you might feel one way at one time and a different way at another time."
I don't think I convinced her, though, that her feelings about her birth parents will ever change. And I have to say, I'm not so sure they will on a fundamental level. Yes, she will change and grow in understanding and acceptance, but at bottom, I expect Zoe will miss her birth parents even when she's a grownup.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
On the list above, about temperament, the speaker asked us to mark where we were on the continuum above the line and where our child(ren) were below the line. On just about every measure, Zoe was on one extreme, Maya was on the other extreme, and I was in the middle (My mom did us all, too, and her answers aligned with mine pretty well).
Yep, that's pretty much how we live! Consider something as simple as a walk in the park -- there's Zoe, way ahead, and Maya, lagging way behind, and there's me in the middle, saying, "Zoe, slow down! Maya, speed up!" Sigh.
So where do you and your child(ren) fall?
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
It reminded me of my favorite "not a box" poem:
Your Chinese Mama
I kiss your pudgy cheek every night when you sleep.
I smell you and breathe you.
My heart and soul ache for her.
I know I am not as courageous as she.
So much love and hope for you,
she swaddled you and placed you in a box.
A manger to me.
I talk to her every night when I kiss your cheek.
I breathe your smell, and her soul.
-- Lynne Curran
Zoe's box, the box she was found in, isn't just resonant with her, it's meaningful to me, too. It is the picture of a swaddled babe in a manger, a mother doing the best she can in the circumstances she finds herself in.
My usual answer is two-fold -- I bet the idea is already there, and why not?
The idea is already there
ALL adopted kids think about their birth parents. If you've told them they are adopted, and explained that that means they had a family before yours, they are thinking of that first family. I don't know what they are thinking about that family, but I'm willing to guarantee that by age 4 (if not earlier) they ARE thinking about that family. That's what the research says. And yes, I said ALL adopted kids!
Once they're between the ages of 7 & 12, they are thinking A LOT about that first family. For some kids, they are mildly curious and for others they are obsessively curious. Some kids are going to be avoidant -- NOT wanting to think about or know anything about birth family. But guess what? NOT thinking about birth family in this way is thinking about birth family! [DON'T think about the elephant in the living room!]
We are often asked, "What percent of adoptees search for their birth parents?" And our answer surprises people: "One hundred percent." In our experience, all adoptees engage in a search process. It may not be a literal search, but it is a meaningful search nonetheless. It begins when the child first asks, "Why did ithappen?" "Who are they?" "Where are they now?" These questions may be asked out loud, or they may constitute a more private form of searching -- questions that are examined only in the solitute of self-reflection. This universal search begins during the early school years, prompted by the child's growing awareness of adoption issues.
So the idea is there -- what are you going to do about it?!
Why don't we want to plant ideas about adoption/birth family in our kids' heads? We're ALWAYS planting ideas in our kids heads -- God loves you, math is fun, honesty is the best policy, be kind to others, recycle, whatever! We're parents, planting ideas in our kids' heads is what we do!
Do you know one single parent who'd say, "I'm going to wait until she's an adult to suggest she never steal -- I don't want to put ideas in her head!" Part of a parent's job -- perhaps the most important part of a parent's job -- is to pass on our values to our kids. Why is adoption exempt from this rule?
Now, sometimes when parents say, "I don't want to put ideas in her head," they mean, "I don't want to cram adoption down her throat." Great! I don't want you to do that, either! But there is a great divide between waiting for her to mention it to show that the idea is already planted through no fault of your own, and harping on adoption all the time. And the danger of waiting and doing no planting of our own is that our child will get the ideas elsewhere, from less informed and caring people (like kids on the playground -- "Your real mother didn't love you, that's why she dumped you like garbage!"); or they'll get the idea that you don't want to talk about it, so they'll seek out information from someone else, which means that SOMEONE ELSE will be passing on THEIR values to your child, not your values. And if they can't talk to you about it, it becomes this THING that stands between you, impairing your relationship. There was an IMMEDIATE improvement of our relationship when Zoe and I started talking about the hard things in adoption.
Sometimes parents say, "I don't want to put ideas in her head," when it comes to FEELINGS about adoption and birth family. Parents will willingly share facts about adoption/birth family, but don't want to suggest any particular emotions that might be associated with it for fear of convincing a child to feel a particular way. So you'll say, "You have a birth mother," but won't say, "Do you sometimes miss your birth mother?"
Again, I have two answers. First, exactly how malleable is your child?! I have a dickens of a time convincing mine to feel a particular way! You've seen the video of Maya saying she's not at all interested in knowing about her birth parents, and you have some idea of how much we talk about adoption and birth parents, including feelings and thoughts, in this house! Second, is that how you convey values about other things? "There is a God." Next! Of course not! We tell our kids how they should feel about things -- "Love God" -- and why they should do certain things -- "Recycle to save the Earth." We even tell them how other people feel, even when we don't know -- "Your teacher doesn't hate you!" Why, then is adoption/birth family off-limits? It shouldn't be. It's something that will always be enormously influential in your child's life, in your life, in the life of your whole family. No, it doesn't define us, but it will always be there.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Monday, July 13, 2009
I really think that camp is mostly about hanging out with a LOT of kids who are there due to similar circumstances and heritage. My girls didn't learn a whole lot new about Chinese culture, because they attend Chinese school and learned similar things there. Some of the new things they can't remember (like new songs, words, etc.) But what they don't articulate, but I really think they feel at some level, is that this is the one place where they are among a LOT of kids who are like them... born in one culture and raised in another. Which, in a way is a culture in an of itself.
Maya clearly feels that sense of belonging, of sameness. I posted the first part of this video already, and noted how surprised I was that at age 5 Maya could already realize that being Chinese in an Anglo world felt "different." In the second half, she tries to articulate the feeling of being in a place where she is one of 238Chinese girls under one roof.
And again, let me say, I LOVE my Flip! Maya usually won't talk to me about hard issues (not like Zoe will!), but she'll talk to the camera about them. . . .
Sunday, July 12, 2009
In the last link are videos of the closing ceremony, and the dance one is Zoe's class -- she's an umbrella girl! I was amazed at what the dance teacher could do with each group in only 3 sessions, including getting the three boys, who insisted they were NOT going to dance, to cooperate. Pretty impressive!
As I mentioned before the panel consisted of 3 sisters from the same family, and they also had 3 brothers. There were two sets of sibling groups of two among the six. Five of the six were adopted from Korea, and the sixth was half Asian, half Hispanic, and a domestic adoptee. They all grew up in Tulsa, OK.
All three who spoke to us were in their 30s, beautiful, well-spoken, and seemed very happy and successful.
The domestic adoptee said she had had non-identifying information about her birth family for as long as she could remember, and she wasn't at all interested in finding out who her birth parents were. Some of that reluctance came from the circumstances -- her birth father was 55 and her birth mother 16, and worked for him. The one who was adopted from Korea at age 5 also had a brother adopted with her at 9 months of age. She said she had always wanted to find her birth parents, and was successful in doing so. She said she felt like there was an empty space inside her until she returned to Korea and met her birth family.
The third, adopted from Korea at 18 months old, said she had no information since she was found abandoned at a police station with no identifying information. She said she had no interest at all in finding her birth family, but said maybe that was because she knew it would be impossible to do so. [Afterwards, I mentioned to her that many Korean adoptees were given that same story of abandonment but then found that the adoption agency had made it up "to protect the unwed mother." I suggested that if she was interested she might contact the adoption agency. . . .] Though she said she wasn't really interested in her birth parents, because her adoptive mom and dad were her "mom and dad," she said it was really meaningful for her to have children who were biologically related to her -- it was the first time she saw someone who looked like her.
Two of the three said that they had experienced racial teasing as children -- the eye-pulling gesture and ching-chong speech. They didn't tell their parents about it. One said that such teasing made them stronger. Of the six siblings who are married, they are all married to Caucasian spouses. The sister who had actually traveled to Korea talked about feeling more comfortable with Caucasians, and feeling out of place in groups of Koreans. Another sister said she considered herself an Okie (not a derogatory term when used by an Oklahoman, I understand!) and a proud American.
One adoptive parent asked what their favorite foods were (?), and all answered with American favorites like Mom's Spaghetti and PB & banana sandwiches. The sister who had traveled to Korea said Korean foods were her favorite
They all said that their parents had offered cultural opportunities, and that their parents had always been supportive of any interest they had in searching for birth parents. Their parents had shared with them the information they had about their life before adoption. All praised their parents for what a good job they had done raising them. And all said they felt blessed to have been adopted.
I think that adoptive parents who were looking to ignore anything negative they had heard from adopted adults were pretty satisfied by the presentation. There were, however, some troubling things: the fact that they didn't tell their parents about racial teasing and their discomfort in being among Koreans, for example. This is pretty typical for Korean adoptees of that era, I think. Adoptive parents were told to raise them as [white] Americans, so many have not formed any racial identity that matches their ethnicity. I hope that my kids can feel comfortable in both cultures, though that is going to be a tall order, and probably not completely doable, Still, we'll try!
I also thought it was telling that the sister who expressed no interest in meeting biological relatives nonetheless expressed wonder at seeing her children for the first time. Perhaps she is more interested than she thinks!
The women were so gracious to come talk to us, and I learned a lot hearing about their experiences and attitudes. We always say that adoptees have a variety of attitudes toward adoption, that no one can claim to speak for all adoptees, and we had the perfect illustration of that fact in these three sisters.
Saturday, July 11, 2009
1. The adult adoptee panel this morning was really interesting -- three sisters, two adopted from Korea and one domestically but transracially. Each seemed to have very different attitudes toward birth parents.
2. One mom told me that when they drove up to the building the first day, her daughter, who is the only Chinese child at her school, said with awe in her voice, "Look, mom, at all the brown girls!"
3. A panel of doctors from Gansu Province answered questions in one session for adults; my mom ran into one of them afterwards, and he was bemused: "Are ALL of these girls from China?!" He seemed stunned by the sheer number.
4. Whatever you do, never eat at the New World Chinese Buffet on 71st Street in Tulsa, OK!
Thursday, July 9, 2009
The dragon dance was a big hit, but it didn't make the list of Zoe's and Maya's favorite things at camp. For Maya it was the dance session. She liked dancing with a paper umbrella, but much preferred when they could dance any way they wanted. Her second favorite was kung fu. Zoe's favorite was arts & crafts, making a panda out of clay. Her second favorite was working on a China scrapbook in her home room. Maya also planted a flower seed in a paper cup, with which she gifted me (no idea what the Chinese heritage significance of that was -- maybe the same as the bounce house and snow cones they enjoyed during recreation period?!). Zoe's class also did a cooking session, and learned about century eggs and the Chinese version of funnel cakes (which they made and got to eat).
I expect my happy campers will sleep well tonight!
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Couple of funny things on the drive:
First, I was explaining to my mom why one of our friends, who had attended the Chinese Language/Culture Camp with Zoe, wasn't coming, and said something like, "Well, she got plenty of culture at that camp, so I guess she didn't want to come to this one." Zoe was indignant -- "There's LOTS of Chinese culture to learn! This camp will be very different!" So much for worrying about foisting TOO much Chinese culture on her this summer!
Second, Maya was saying that if she has a boy child, she'll name him Hercules (she still likes that movie!). Zoe replied, "But, Maya, you can't name your son Hercules because you don't know if he'll be a god, because you don't know who your birth parents are so you don't know if your birth parents are gods." There's logic for you!
I'll try to post as Camp goes on, but no promises -- we'll be pretty busy! There are a few adult sessions I'm particularly looking forward to -- an adult adoptee panel and a Chinese cooking demonstration. Should be fun for me as well as the kids at camp!
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Margie of Third Mom and Komapseumnida (I told Margie that every time I see the name of her new blog I think of Mae West ("Come up and see me sometime!"), though I have no idea how it's actually pronounced in Korean!) has started a group at Adoption Voices: Adoptive Parents for Open Records. If you believe as I do, and as Margie does, that "an adopted person's right to their original birth certificate. . . . is a human and civil right," then please join the group.
Monday, July 6, 2009
I laughed because I had JUST used that expression to describe a recent issue raised by Maya. We were driving in the car (it's always in the car?!) and she says apropos of nothing, "I wish I had a daddy." She tells me, in response to my "why?", that a daddy could give her piggy-back rides. Ooooookay.
It wasn't until a few hours later that I started to think maybe this conversational gambit wasn't so "out of the blue" after all. We were driving my mom to the doctor for a minor outpatient procedure (which turned out great, no worries!) -- she would be under anesthesia and wasn't allowed to drive after, which is why I was driving her.
The last time my kids were heavily into the "I want a daddy" thing was when I had brain surgery. They were worried then about who would take care of them if anything happened to me. I occurred to me that this latest "I want a daddy" episode was related -- a second-degrees of separation from what if something happened to Mama -- what if something happened to Mimi?
Sure enough, when I talked to Maya about it later, she was worried about Mimi, and like all center-of-the-universe kids, worried about what would happen to her if something happened to Mimi AND me. I told her that as the mom it was my job to take care of her, and that part of that was making plans for other people to care for her if I can't. Then we went through the long detailed list of people who would take care of her -- "If Mama can't, then Mimi & GP will, and if Mimi & Grandpa can't, then A will, and if A can't, then B will, and if B can't, then C will, and if C can't, then D will . . . ." She felt much better about it after that, but I'm sure it will arise again. I guess the biggest side-effect of the brain surgery is that both girls feel insecure about my dying, and being a single parent adds to that insecurity it seems.
So, that "I want a daddy for piggy-back rides" conversation wasn't about piggy-back rides, and wasn't really about wanting a daddy, either, I think. And the conversation CERTAINLY wasn't out of the blue! We might not know exactly what triggers one of these "out of the blue" conversations, but they are only "out of the blue" to us! Our kids have a reason for why that conversation has to be had, and has to be had now.
P.S. I don't mean to minimize Maya's daddy-need -- I know it is genuine. It's just usually on the back burner until something brings it to the forefront, like Mimi's procedure did. I'm going to be posting more about the whole single adoption/single parenting thing in the weeks to come.
Sunday, July 5, 2009
It took an identity crisis for Joy Hoffman to fully realize she’s Korean.
Hoffman, a graduate student at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, was adopted by white, conservative, Lutheran parents as a baby and grew up in Orange County, immersed in white culture. It wasn’t until she was in her 30s that she came to terms with her Korean identity.
Now Hoffman has taken that identity crisis and turned it into research studying how Asians like her, adopted by white parents, form their ethnic identity.
“I can be open about my adoptee identity, but not always about my Asian, even within my own family,” said Hoffman, 41, who also works as director of the Cultural Center at Whittier College. “It’s been kind of fun to do the research but also hard.”
* * *
Based on those interviews [with 3 Asian adoptees (is that possibly a typo? she only interviewed 3?)], she found that adopted Asians fare better if their white parents encourage them to explore their ethnicity, rather than ignore it in an effort to be colorblind. She also found that adopted children identify themselves as adoptees before any ethnic identity.
“There’s this sense of loss. You have to understand someone gave you up,” she said. “I was left in a police station. I probably will never find my birth parents. My daughter and my son are my first biological connection.”
Because so many people figure out who they are in college, Hoffman’s research also offers recommendations on how colleges can help Asian students adopted by white parents.
Her recommendations include encouraging adoptees to join Asian student organizations and study abroad in Asia. She also suggests counselors be trained to understand the unique circumstances of Asian adoptees. In addition, schools should connect students with Asian faculty and staff members who can serve as mentors, she said.
Shane Carlin, a Korean-American who was adopted by white parents and raised in Kentucky, agrees those measures could help students. But he also warns that Asian-American organizations need to be sensitive to newcomers, embracing them and not being judgmental. If they suggest that people are truly Korean only if they speak the language or know the culture, they can unwittingly alienate adoptees who grew up in white households, he said. That’s because Asian adoptees live in two worlds, he said.
Read the whole thing -- Hoffman discusses her personal struggle in forming a racial identity.
OK, I'm not at all into beauty pageants, but I found this interesting:
Miss Indiana, Courtni Hall, an international adoptee, is using her title to promote adoption awareness by being a spokesperson for Children's Hope International. Abandoned in Calcutta, India, at birth, weighing only 2 pounds 2 ounces, Hall was adopted at five months of age by an American couple and raised in Indiana.
Now 22 years old, Hall is the current Miss Indiana USA 2009 and the
former Miss Indiana Teen USA 2004. She was named Miss Photogenic in the Miss Indiana USA 2009 competition and went on to compete at the annual Miss USA Pageant in April. Hall hopes to earn her Master's degree in Communications and eventually work as a television personality in the entertainment industry.
Saturday, July 4, 2009
When I bought the house just before sending my dossier to China, I had no idea the parade went right by it. I was delighted, though, and had all these visions of having Zoe home before the next parade. It didn't happen -- referral times increased to 12 months (which we thought unconscionable until we started to see the 3+ year delays now). But the first 4th of July after adopting Zoe in October 2001, we had all our friends and their new children over to celebrate. We walked the parade route that year, pushing our decorated strollers.
The group has gotten much larger over the past 8 years, with now just about all of us having two (or more!) kids. We now decorate 2 pickup trucks and everyone rides (a testament to the group getting bigger or the parents getting older, I'll leave you to figure!).
As you can see in the video, it's not a very high-falutin' parade -- the video shows the Rolling Elvi, a group of grown men who dress up like Elvis and ride tiny motorcycles; and the new "marching" band, which used to be a guy in a super-hero cape playing a saxophone, but is now a trailered garage band! After the parade, the hot and sweaty kids (it is July in Texas, after all!) return to my house for watermelon and lemonade.
Friday, July 3, 2009
Zoe has been squirreling away fortune cookie fortunes in the cup holder of her booster seat for a while without me realizing it. When we drove to the store this morning, she pulled them out and entertained us with them:
"Endurance and perseverance will be rewarded."
"You will take a long journey and find your fortune."
"Someone is speaking well of you right now."
Is it my imagination, or is there a bit of a theme here?
Then the last one --
"Your dearest wish will come true."
Of course I asked: "Zoe, what's your dearest wish?"
Zoe replies, in that duh-mom's-dumb voice, "To meet my birth parents."
Thursday, July 2, 2009
I was surprised at how much everyone learned in just three weeks. Our friend, L., who had not had ANY Chinese language instruction before camp knew all seven of the songs the group sang, can introduce herself, say her age and date of birth and Zodiac sign, describe the members of her family, give her nationality, say what foods she likes to eat, name body parts. . . . Pretty impressive! (L. is not pictured in the photo above, though. Her feelings got hurt because she was not in the group of top students who were awarded a certificate. It's a very Chinese thing, giving these awards without thinking about the kids who are left out. I really felt bad for her, and she wasn't consoled by all of our compliments of her hard work and bravery. It didn't help that Zoe and Syd got certificates. Sigh. Maya took L.'s place in the photo; she insisted on wearing her Chinese dress, and also dressed her American Girl doll in HER Chinese dress!)
Zoe gained a lot of confidence, and had a great time. Here she is telling me about her "All About Me" poster, which each child had to make.
An interesting point about Zoe's poster -- she wrote "I'm not an American, I am Chinese." Hmmmm.
I hope the federal funding continues for next year!
An orphanage in southwest China has been accused of taking children away from parents who can't afford fines for violating family planning policy and sending the kids overseas for adoption.The orphanage was reportedly earning US$3,000 for each child placed with a foreign family.
The allegations involve family planning officials in Zhenyuan County, Guizhou Province. They demanded that parents who violated childbirth regulations pay 10,000 yuan (US$1,460) for each extra offspring, according to Nanfang Metropolis Daily. Those who couldn't afford the fine were ordered to give their child to a local orphanage, the paper said.
Lu Xiande, a farmer in Zhenyuan, had his fourth daughter taken by the orphanage in June 2004, according to the report.Lu's daughter was born in February 2003. A family planning official identified as Shi Guangying approached Lu's wife, Yang Shuiying, and told her that the government would take her daughter because she couldn't pay the fine, the paper said.
Shi told the newspaper that the taking of the child was in line with county policies. Several other local residents reported similar experiences, the newspaper said.The orphanage was funneling the children into China's system for foreign adoptions, the paper reported.
The fact that this is reported in a Chinese newspaper seems HUGE. Shanghai Daily is "supervised by the Foreign Publicity Office of the Shanghai CPC Committee and the Press Office of the Shanghai Municipal Government," so this is Chinese Government-sanctioned news. I wonder why they are willing to publish to the world this story. . . .
UPDATE 7/02, 7:50 p.m.: Brian Stuy has a post up at research-china.org with some additional information, including info about the adoptive parent who helped uncover the story, and links to a variety of media reports. Brian also says he's hopeful that an English translation of the original, lengthy article quoted in the Shanghai Daily report will be available soon. I found this blog last night (early this morning!) when I was trying to check out the Shanghai Daily report, and it appears to be a bad English translation of a lengthy article, if you want to pick through it to try to understand!
Brian also reports the only potential bright spot here: "[T]he orphanage made no attempt to disguise the origin of these children -- the adoption paperwork lists the finding location as the birth parent's home. Thus many of Zhenyuan's adoptive parents have been given a direct line to their child's birth family."