The Olympics was full ON in my house. To which, the TV has been awfully quiet this week. My big guy has already mourned the loss even though it meant his TV watching repetoire has resumed. It’s been a little over a week since the Summer Olympics in London has ended. Michael Phelps has won back my USA spirit but Oscar Pestorius of South Africa took my heart. There was great debate when the US Women’s Volleyball team played South Korea. Who do we root for? Even more, why was I cheering for an athlete who was not from either of those countries? Greatness, sportsmanship, grace, victory was sweet no matter who was playing. This is the first year my boys are old enough to tolerate the epic nature of the Olympics. It was great fun.
Now that it is all over, I can only imagine what the athletes must be feeling. Is there a letdown after the euphoria of being a part of THE international arena? Phelps said of the last Olympics, he went through a slump afterwards, a bit of a depression. I can relate.
A great athlete? I am not. But I can appreciate the work up to a great conference, an audience with a national representative, speaking in front of the President of South Korea. When you have but minutes to persuade and look informed enough to be called upon again, it is a marathon preparing for these mental feats of public speaking. So my silence these last few weeks have been just that, a bit of a letdown, a decompressing.
Day to day, I live a rather ordinary existence. Sweatpants, tee shirt, barefeet existence of a mother breading chicken for lunch, yelling to get off the IPAD and the perpetual plea to stop tormenting the dog. So, when the time comes for me to clean up and choose the right non-suit thing to wear it is nerve wracking. To mobilize the family into “Mommy has to go on a business trip”-mode is a marathon all unto itself. I don’t know how other Mothers do this on a regular basis. I will need to color even more white hairs on my head. A hot mess is what comes to mind during the preparation process.
Then come the moments, the times when I forget that I am anything but a social worker. Singularly focused on not messing up, my heart starts pumping so hard and my hands start to shake. To get a chance to speak about adoption in the context of the work I do is the 100M dash! The first of two events, meeting with the Special Advisor to Children’s Issues, Susan Jacobs. Make no mistake, this is a smart woman who is brilliant at the craft of disarming any adversary, diplomatic enough to hear your perspective and straight forward to let you know she is a human being above all else. No notes, she spoke and responded to the issues. I like her. I especially like her proclivity for a well made handbag. I like her because she is real, she does not pretend to be more important and does not let you feel like you were just patted on the hand and pushed along. Still, she did not say all that the participants in the room had wished. She made no excuse that her task at hand right now is Universal Accreditation and getting other nation states to work on full ascension to the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption.
What I appreciated most about the meeting was that every one of us invited to come and speak on adoption issues was an adopted person. But it was not that identity that walked into the room first. It was our credentials as professionals that were acknowledged. We were not there to talk about our stories, our challenges or our families. It might have been disappointing for the others in the room waiting to hear a great tale, but it was wonderful for me to be seen for what I do, not who I am. What I got out of that meeting was that this was the beginning. An odd concept really that this is the first time such a meeting happened at all. It is perhaps my biggest bone of contention that this continues to occur – the adopted person is the last to be heard from. What were we waiting for? We are citizens of this country just like everyone else. Adoptive parents and agency representatives come demanding facetime with the Ambassador. It is not lost on me that it took an adopted person on staff to make this a reality. This shouldn’t be. We were invited to call, to email, to stay in touch. Time waits for no man. I intend to stay in touch.
Second event, the meeting with CCAI – The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute. Declassified Adoptee said it all when it comes to this meeting. Again, the same reality from my point of view. This would never have happened had it not been an adoptee agitating, blasting and being downright pestering to get us an audience. I am left with the same thought, what’s wrong with us? Why do we wait? What are we waiting for? We are not children anymore, why do we wait to be called upon?
I learned a new word in this process. Stakeholder. Thus far, the stakeholders are the ones who get invited to the meetings, are privy to the updates of changes in policy and bend the ear of legislators. In order to be at the table, you must be a stakeholder in the form of an organization, group or collective. The only adopted people who customarily attend are those representing organizations that support international adoption and want to see it continue. I have no issue on this representation, just because we are adopted does not mean we are the same, believe the same nor have the same agenda. But it was curious that it takes an adoptee to be a bee in a bonnet, unwelcome at first, to give voice to others who have a different stake in the adoption process. The rest of the stakeholders are adoptive parents either in the form of directors of trade organizations or actual legislators. I don’t think there are any Congressional representatives who are a part of CCAI who are also adopted. This truly baffles me. And during this lull, I have been ruminating over just why that continues to be so.
Perhaps it is part of that narrative burden we adoptees carry around with us? The part where we are identified by the moment we, as children, come into our families. Adoptive parents get their wish, they become parents and are forever the parents regardless of whether we adoptees stay connected to them. Our birthparents remain too, as parents to us, regardless of whether we reunite or not. So, while they are stakeholders in this adoption world, it seems to me, we should be the major stakeholders. We have the most at stake. If an adoption goes well, we are the success story. If not, we are the victims or the damaged ones.
That is as far as my brain got before shutting down. I got into a slump. Being home makes it so easy to forget what just happened. Within hours, I am back in my sweatpants and getting down to the business of running a household, walking the puppy for the tenth time and trying to read Harry Potter to keep up with P. My euphoria of “change maker!” has to be put on hold for a bit. Perhaps that is the real reason we adoptees have not mobilized in the same way. It is hard to live life and change life at the same time. Resetting my compass means that at times advocacy, adoption, work is not number one on the list. Harry Potter is far too exciting to put down just yet!
This time it feels different though. My trip to Washington was amazing and fruitful. Things are moving forward with new players in the mix. I am glad I got invited to the party.