Conventional Wisdom

It’s the holiday season and a time to be merry.  It’s the time of year when we show the best sides of ourselves – the compassionate, the generous, the religious, the holy side of us.  Our tree is up in our home and this year, I managed to put up a wreath on the door too.  I am not a big decorator, simple and plain is my way.  My big boy was my assistant holding the lights and ribbon while I placed them on the tree.  Round and round we went.  It is those golden moments when our hands are busy that conversations are the most profound.

“Mommy? Is there any place in the world that there are no christians?”….”Why are there so many christians?”  I never knew stringing lights could be such an intellectual exercise!

We live in an area where I can actually name a person, a friend who practices a different religion.  What’s great about that is the sense of inclusion that such intimacy provides.  All kids want a sense of belonging.  Isn’t that what religion is supposed to provide after all?

I grew up being raised Catholic with a Catholic mom and a Jewish dad.  We celebrated everything.  One sister would wear both a cross and Star of David.  My parents were amused by this.  I thought it just made sense.  I find my son now saying we should celebrate Hanukkah because of my adoptive family’s roots, so their menorah of wood and metal washers glued atop made at a nursery school based in a Christian Church is on our table next to the evergreen holly candelabra.  While the motivation is to say we celebrate everything, I like the nonchalance of the mixing of the traditions and beliefs.

Conventional wisdom says that adults know better, we are supposed to be wiser then.  But the kids have it right on this point, I believe. There is no proper way to celebrate, no one way to doing things.  It is more important to acknowledge and choose it all.

Which brings me to adoption, OF COURSE.  There is no one way to define adoption and make sense of it.  It is in the acknowledgement of a truth adoption means – transplanting and mixing of blood, heritage, history, loss, gain, grief, joy, family.  There are those who simply and plainly define adoption as a way for a child to gain legitimacy – to adopt is to give a child is a name, citizenship, acknowledgement of birth.  I accept that my adoption has given me that.  To have faith is simple and plain too.  It sets the foundation to what we acknowledge is our relationship with an alternate being.  It is in the translation of such simplicity that makes it all too complicated.

So, here is to the complicated, the grey and the in-between.  I wish you a wonderful holiday season to you and hope that the adventure of discovering the middle ground continues in the new year!

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Boxes

Boxes.  I have been thinking alot about boxes these past few weeks.  Boxes to transport my food so I won’t lose it with a loss of power.  Boxes for toys, diapers and sheets to give to others.  Boxes to store my boys’ treasures.  Boxes (rather circles) to pick the next President.  Been a busy few weeks.

The box that has been staying with me though, has been Pandora’s.  Her box has been quite troublesome lately.  It is so bittersweet to realize that without the pain, there can be little in the way of true joy and I struggle to make sense of the idea that oftentimes in adoption, this paradox exists time and time again. Opening the adoption box opens up a mine of ills, loss, grief, black holes, unexplainables and endless questions.  It can open up the inner workings of our mind that remained dormant for decades, open our eyes to an alternate reality that we cannot ever make sense of and disease our heart with pining.  I would love to think that having my birthmother in my life has quelled the pinings, but most of the time, I am reminded of all I missed, quelling little of all of the above.

More personally, my big boy had a school project that involved putting his short history on this earth into a box to show his classmates from whence he came.  In the creating of this history box, we went through a bunch of pictures and artifacts for his choosing.  I had his birth certificate and was acutely aware that mine was missing in the collective.  There are thousands of his baby photos and of mine, there are none.  He had a tangible face to view going back three generations that I could not contribute to.  And yet, I am grateful for what I was able to give him.  I loved doing this project with him.  He was making his history box, I was making history for myself along with him.

You see, the history of a child used to be based on a tree concept.  A linear concept with roots that an adopted child could not fill and branches that remained nameless.  Very frustrating, humiliating and extremely lacking.  I am thrilled my son’s school is progressive enough to think out of the box instead.  P did a poetic job of choosing photos of his brother, parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins all to be pasted on the outside of his box.  Inside, he saved it for himself – sonogram photo, newborn hat, baby pictures among other things.  He surrounded himself with love from family and nestled himself inside.  Lovely.  I cried. Among the photos were my Umma, my brother, my referral photo and me in Korea way back when.  There was one photo he chose to include that stopped me a bit short.  It was of me with my orphanage siblings outside of the orphanage in 1976.  I don’t know why he chose to include it, but it was amazing to see it there.  My history was included, embedded into his.

While Pandora’s box created ills for generations to come, my legacy of loss ends with me but not my history.  P honored my past in such a beautiful subtle way, as one of many things that make him HIM.  The joy of creating my family has given me immeasurable happiness, something I treasure and never take for granted given the empty box I have been holding onto all these years.  P will have his own loss and will grief aplenty in his soon to be full life.  I am glad it doesn’t involve loss that undercuts his sense of self too.  P’s Korean name means “broad foundation.”  In looking at his box, I am grateful I could be a part of giving him that foundation.

“Getting it” in two conversations

There is a moment whenever my child gets sick that I say that little prayer to the nebulous, “Please give me his pain. Let me go through the suffering so he won’t have to.”  When I think about mothering, I often find myself in a state of worry.  I worry for my kid in hopes he won’t have to.  That sense of sacrifice feels instinctual, the ultimate show of parental love.  It got me thinking about a conversation with my friend M.  There are times we fill in the spaces of the emotional pie for our children, but it is not our right to inhabit it forever.  Anger, pain, fear are all emotions we hope our children will never feel, but feel they must.  It is our job as the adults in the relationship to be strong enough to absorb those feelings not inhabit them or take up the space where it belongs.  So naturally, my head goes to adoption and how adoption complicates everything, even an innocuous thought about mothering.  M is an adoptive mother and someone I enjoy talking to as she uses great big words with so much enthusiasm I find myself compelled to understand just to keep up my end of the conversation.  Actually, what I love most about M is that she gets me, my rage and translates them into manageable words.  She is even gracious enough to apply theory to my words and feelings making me feel far more educated.  She listens and cheers me on encouraging my words to come out.  So, I guess I would say she gets adoption, my sense of being adopted.  She gives me permission to be mad.  I hope I do that for her too.

Back to the conversation where we get to the occupation of the emotional pie.  Cycling in my head is this thought – I don’t get it when some adoptive parents jump on the advocacy train toward the abolition of adoption or when I see them align themselves with adoptees in order to make amends for their decision to become adoptive parents.  I feel they are taking up space, adoptee space, holding it so their kid won’t.  In my imagination, I find myself elbowing them out of the way objecting to their indignation that adoptions should be done differently.

Fast forward.  Relaying this conversation to a mommy friend and fellow adoptee evolves into the inevitable question, “what do you mean, she gets it?  what does “it” mean when an adoptee lauds an adoptive parent for getting it?”  It feels like there is a certain way to get adoption for adoptive parents.  It is an emotional mine that I praise them for trying to navigate at the same time I am totally calling them out on it.  If adoptive parents get into the anti-adoption movement or get into the self deprecation mode of apologizing for adoption and the industry they benefited from, does that mean they get it?  Or are they just inhabiting that angry place so their child won’t be able to, making no room for the child to be enraged and turn on his adoptive parents like every other child must in order to be free to become his own person? When an adoptive parent “gets it”, what does that entail?  How do we know?  What does that look like?

Does getting adoption mean there needs to be an act of contrition?  Are we waiting for an apology for doing THE DEED?   I know I am oversimplifying the complicated, but it is precisely the complicated I wish more people would sit with when talking about adoption once you spend a moment to ponder all the moving parts.  When I see adoptive parents taking the helm to stop corruption in adoption, there are times I feel like it is a step into the place of the adopted.  I take issue with the idea that to adopt and fully embrace the complicated means regret and remorse that leads to placating those of us who are angry with our situation.  I have to be frank, it does nothing for me.  I am ok with adoption as a choice and I celebrate with those who decide adoption is how they will create their family.  But something happens when an adoptive parent chooses to see the complicated.  It seems that to embrace the sadness and the loss means they must abandon their personal joy in being an adoptive parent and that is not ok with me.

If I had a fantasy script for what I have been waiting to hear, it would sort of go like this:

After adopting, I gained a different understanding of the nuances of adoption and the many losses that are suffered by adoptees, birth parents and me.  It was only after the aodption did I realize what I never wanted to admit, that adoption was never about you, but it was about me. 

So, while I get the urge to take away the pain, joining me in it all the time can feel equally oppressive.  The reality is that becoming a parent, no matter how, is a great thrill.  To say yes to adoption, is a great leap of faith.  I get that much and I am the adopted one.

PS. if you are seeing links in the post, it is not from me, it’s wordpress.  my apologies if it offends, can’t figure out how to turn it off

Tuesday

A typical morning dropping off the kids.  Ping!  My phone goes off.  Friend forwards me an article…

“My parents have moved on, but I am living in the past.”

Pause. Do I want to read this right now?  Will I just get pissy?  It is a special day, my sister is coming for a visit.  It’s a celebratory day.  A day that has become only for us to share as the date pushes further behind me.  A made up day to acknowledge I was born just like everyone else.

READ.  I hope you do too.  It is a good, truthful, raw read and I want to reach out this adoptee.  I am not often compelled to do that.  Sometimes, the media does it just right.  My friend and I each got something different out of it.  The feeling that one is without a home either in Korea or in America, the missing of the past, the inability to graft in the future.

“I look at how my father interacts with my half-siblings and it’s a relationship I will never understand. And to fully comprehend the fact that I will never have a relationship like they do is just devastating. I can’t do it anymore.”

I am reminded of my Umma and brother.  They have a relationship.  While I am not deluded into thinking they have an ordinary relationship, it is something I will never have with Umma.  I am her fantasy child, lost and found again.  She can’t come close to me and feel entitled to chastise, joke, tease or demand.  I am getting better at pulling her in.  I am hopeful she will follow my lead.

practice makes permanent

My little one has gone off to first grade!  I thought I would be used to this leaving and growing up thing, but it still tugs at my heart.  No tears this year, so I must be growing up.  After all, I did this before a couple of years ago.  But the thoughts are still there.  I cannot imagine my G going off to another country at this age let alone to his own big boy bed next door to sleep through the night!  From the second G was born, he didn’t know a single day without Mommy right by his side and well within his sight.  Like his big brother, G went to work with me often and only after a pair of Buzz Lightyear wings years afterwards did he finally feel ready to leave my bed!

My boys love being home.  Even when they are having the time of their life, they need little encouragement when it’s time to go home.  They have yet to agree to a sleepover to a friend’s, even Grandma and Grandpa’s house.  They have no qualms about letting me know they want to go home.  They have no need to adjust their ways.  They have no reason to adapt to a new situation no matter how impermanent.

I realize comparing what my children are living and what I have lived is like comparing apples and oranges.  By the time I was almost six years old, I had been in the care of at least three different strangers, an orphanage and a Buddhist temple.  There is still the question as to who they all were, I have no memory of names or faces.  By the time I came to America, my birthmother was gone, out of my head.  I made her dead a long time ago.  At what point did she die?  I have no idea.  It pained me to tell her that I thought she no longer existed.  She seemed to get it though.  “You were only a baby, what else were you going to think if you never saw me again?”  It’s not like someone sat me down to tell me what would happen next, where I would go, who I would see or how many sleeps it would be.  I was told to be good, to be caring.  That is all I could remember.

By the time I was almost six years old, I had a lot of practice taking care of my inner thoughts.  I had relegated my fears to dreams.  With practice my smile became permanent.  So by six, I had the wearwithall to take that crazy plane ride and embark on a new journey, no questions asked.  Like many others, I walked into my new home and never looked back.

It continues to be a personal journey to figure out just what I am entitled to.  I had somehow parsed out “entitlement” from the definition of “right” as if they were different.  I keep thinking I have a right to know my past, my absent years.  But I stop just at the point of saying I am entitled as if that is too much to ask, too wrong to desire.  As if I could alter the English langauge on my own!

Practice makes permanent.  Still practicing.

Legitimacy

I love blue eyes.  I love hazel eyes.  I even love brown eyes.  But mine are so dark, you can’t even see the pupil.  I became aware of this during 8th grade science class when we had to watch how light effects our pupils, my partner couldn’t see anything.  No change was visible.  Yet another reason I didn’t love my eyes.  We always want what we don’t have.

If you asked me who I wanted to marry when I was a senior in high school, he was tall, blonde and blue eyed.  I wanted that sort of American look and a slim percentage of a chance my child will have light eyes and wavy hair.  Never in a million years could you have convinced me that I would ever fall in love, let alone marry, a Korean man.  Ok, for those who know him, his hair is uncannily curly! But alas, my boys have straight dark hair and the darkest of eyes.  I adore that about them now…but back then, they were but a glimmer in the darkest recesses of my mind’s eye.

Fast forward to my life as a post-adoption social worker organizing workshops for adoptive parents.  I was growing weary of the panels of adoptees coming to share their stories.  I loved the stories and so did the audience.  It seems a room full of adopted parents are ravenous for our stories and even more ravenous for our accolades afterwards that they are doing just the right thing because they can check off their list all the things our parents didn’t do for us way back when.  In wanting some focus, I thought of themes adoptees could come, speak and share about.  Dating and relationships was just such a topic and I knew it was by far the most personal of personal.  I wanted to do this for many reason, notwithstanding the many times I have had to field such ridiculous comments like – We are Jewish, it is important she find a nice Jewish boy, but she keeps bringing home those other Latino boys from across the tracks.  Yes.  you read correctly.  Finding adoptees willing to share such a personal experiences as how and whom they found to love was a huge ask.  But find I did and I think I was more changed than anyone.

I know I am showing my age with what I write here.  I hope I am.  There was a panelist, an Asian adoptee, who shared her experiences of dating Asian men.  She was married to a Caucasian man.  I rightfully guessed that the bone of contention in those past relationships was her being adopted.  It usually was and it usually was the demise of the relationship as no good Asian boy would date, let alone think about marrying, an adoptee.  One guy’s mother accused her of trying to gain legitimacy as an Asian person through her son.  That statement struck me dumb for a minute.

By the time this panel came into my life, I had already gone through the heartache of dating a few Korean boys whose mothers refused to let me in their homes because of my being adopted.  And, I was already married to that wavy haired, dark eyed Korean man.  Our very long courtship was over and the main sticking point of my adoption status was water under the bridge.  After all, I was self sufficient, went to a good college, had a couple of degrees after my name and was taller than my father-in-law. I kid.  I seemed to have found one of the few guys who really had no worry that his parents would come around to accepting me.

Honestly, it was never lost on me that my relationship was a mixed raced relationship of sorts.  Everything I learned about being Korean was either from a book or my year in Korea.  Even now, I work diligently to maintain my Korean and bring things into my home that is Korean.  The consequences of my shortsightedness as far as being a Korean daughter-in-law took quite a few more years of misunderstandings, confusion, tears and wrinkled foreheads of wonder.  Tales of Korean Mothers-In-Law are infamous.  Just look at the blog – Kimchi Mamas – there is a whole section just on Mothers-In-Law!  While I was frustrated that I wasn’t cut a little more slack for not having been raised in a Korean home, it never dawned on me that my Korean identity was legitimized by having a Korean husband.  I was not more Korean because of whom I married.  If that was the case, I missed that “How-To” book.

I always knew I was Korean.  The whole world knew it too.  It is that very part of me that caused such derision growing up. Instead, being married to a Korean man has forced me to be far more vigilant in how I identify myself so I don’t lose the hyphenated aspect of my identity.  The American and Adopted part of me are equally essential to determine what box to put me in.

What my truth really was back then was this…  As an adolescent girl wanting so desperately to fit in, I believed an All American blonde haired, blue eyed boy would legitimize ME as an American.  He would make my Korean face disappear.  No one would look at me strangely and wonder if I spoke English, if I was American enough.  He would be my proof that I belonged here.  How youthfully superficial is that?  I see that now.  I can also now see my very Korean looking sister and her tall, fair complected, light haired husband and only see love.  I love hearing my nephew declare that he looks more Korean than his sister.  And I can now see that I found love in the form of a person who looks just like me, legitimately.

Boyland…Alienland

I am surrounded by boys in my home and it is my other obsession to better understand the way their brains work.  They can relay an entire story using sounds instead of words, I can’t even rewrite what they say.  It would make no sense.  I am finding myself more and more silent at the dinner table not able to appreciate the incredible fascination with ‘how to create the next great room in Minecraft’.  My boys are by and large gentle souls, but the inner warriors have been unleashed this summer!

I borrowed a 12 year old boy.  To be clear, my stepbrother has a son who was gracious enough to spend a week with us.  I sold it as downtime for his parents and a trip to NY for him.  Truthfully, he was THE entertainment for my two boys in a way I could not even have imagined.  N liberated my ordinarily subdued P and G with hours and hours of all the things boys stereotypically adore – battles, lego, hero factory, video games, butt jokes and more.  This was especially fun for my lovely P, who is known on the playground to be an adoring big brother to all the little siblings around holding their hands and catering to their needs.  I am more certain, every first born needs a big sib.

The mornings began with water gun fights and my gentle P all strapped up with Nerf battle gear leaving our house set for war!  A quick, “Bye Mom!” and he was out the door not to be seen from again for a good hour.  Who knew my little guy had so much power and roar!  He came back sweaty with a huge grin on his face.  Typically, three’s a crowd, one always feels left out.  Not this time.  N deftly handled my two with such ease and care, narry a squabble or a whine.

We painted the town red together.  Three hours into the Natural History Museum!  The next day was a trip  all the way to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.  No one asked to be picked up or carried.  This is a feat.  We usually can’t get one city block without someone asking for a piggyback ride!  No one dared to complain, not in front of an almost teenager!  I almost entertained the idea that I could have more children if life was this easy.

With the children occupied, I even got to enjoy Ellis Island.  I was astounded by how much Asian American history there was.  I planted P in front of an entire wall dedicated to the Chinese Exclusion Act.  I learned that there were Filipino ship workers in America in 1765!  I always considered Lady Liberty as history for all those other Americans.  I found that there was much that connected me to it.

Since this is mostly an adoption blog, adoption was not far from my mind.  First the visual.  My dear N is a beautiful fair skinned Caucasian boy with the bluest of eyes.  But he quickly fit into our mostly Asian palate loving all things sushi, fish and soy sauce related.  He loved all the Korean food and tried everything.  We made kimbap together and he declared it one of the best meals he ever had.  I was thrilled.  But it was an innocuous incident waiting on line that opened his big blue eyes to a snippet of my world.  We had to go through security by family to get on the ferry to the Statue of Liberty.  In front of my brood was a family of four, all Caucasian, blonde and blue eyed.  The security guard wisked the family through and scooped up N along with them.  His fair face went red and his eyes grew big with a slight embarrassed panick as I quickly declared, “No!, he is with us!”  An honest mistake, a funny happenstance and source of great amusement for me later on.  Of course, no one would think he belongs with me!  I didn’t know this till later, but N relayed the story to his mother.  “Now I know how Joy must feel being adopted.”  For him, it was a glimpse into my world and an understanding has begun to brew in his young mind.  An education for sure.  I could not have planned that one if I tried.

Unloveyitis

I am reading a parenting book I picked up at CVS, about nurturing the boys in my life.  This book identifies five year olds as the Loverstage.  I have a lover in my home.  My little guy is all love.  The day cannot end without a cuddle in bed with his little arms and legs wrapped tightly around me.  He demands it, no matter the time.  He has a stuffed brown bear he calls Little Crumb.  Great name don’t you think?  Little Crumb got sick.  He had a case of the unloveyitis (a la Doc McStuffins)…and with that his Daddy hugged him hard and walked around patting him on his back.

I have been recuperating from an outpatient procedure that took me over 20 years to get remedied.  The grumpy adoptee in me sat stuck for a long bit about the whole prospect of taking care of a childhood issue at such a late stage in my life.  The grown up in me is grateful to have insurance, a great surgeon and a husband who can just look at my face and know I need more pain meds even when I beg him off.  It has felt like I caught what Little Crumb had, a bad case of unloveyitis.  To show dependency is weak in my book.  I stubbornly insisted on going grocery shopping last night just to prove I am in no way slowed by the fact that I keep losing my balance, can’t hear for crap in my surgeried ear, can’t taste anything and scared to shower off the single piece of white tape that is holding my ear in place.  I am reminded of that hand that comes up as a child fending off gestures of kindness, assistance or love.

Why do I do this?  I have the innate ability to fend off any show of assistance.  It took a friend who wouldn’t take no for an answer to show up at my door with flowers, my favorite chocolate and wisk my children away for the day to realize how much I needed quiet, silence and rest.  In my head this is a debt owed.  I am in debt and mildly uncomfortable with the notion that I may not get the chance to repay.  A long time ago, a therapist gently suggested to me that perhaps I need to stop the accounting in my head.  In there, there is a list of pluses and minuses.  The list is endless and never balances out.  Too often, I feel I got shortchanged making me crazy with envy of those who can blissfully accept and move on.  Even more often, I kill myself to exhaustion trying to overdo so as not to feel indebted.  A good day is a day I was self sufficient.

I am not an island counting the number of boats docked at my shores.  But growing up feeling compelled to be grateful infinitely, it is hard to not keep tally.   Collateral damage of the ‘orphan syndrome’?  Sometimes I think I do this on purpose to not rest too comfortably on my laurels of wonderful things and people around me.  It could go away!  One day I could be happy, the next I could be miserably alone.  One day I could be with my Umma, the next I could be in a strange home, a strange land.  These moments cause me whiplash, and I need to move slowly.  My balance is precarious at best this week.

There is nothing about this week that caused me to think about being adopted personally.  There is nothing that happened that hasn’t happened to thousands before me.  But the child in me is uneasy.  My history tells me so.  Tomorrow could turn out to be a disaster, I need to stay vigilant and remain calm.  But, I need to remind myself after all, unloveyitis is imaginary.  It is mere child’s play and I am no longer a child.

Moving forward

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.

Five

We are officially five in our family.  My new charge is of the four legged persuasion and the closest I will get to having a daughter in my life.  C is a lovely brindle labradoodle.  Like any new gushing parent, I think she is smart, quick to learn, cute, gentle, good sleeper, good eater and smells good.  The kids adore her and I have had so many offers for dogsitters, I wish I had as many for babysitters!

C came by way of adoption, I suppose.  It felt very much like a business transaction, like purchasing a car – deposit, describe what kind we want, wait in line, pick one out, pick her up.  We always say adoption in regard to getting a pet.  I am still uncomfortable with adoption being used in so many other contexts.  We went with a breeder in our own state and after months and months of trying to figure out what kind of dog would be ideal for our family, C came into our life.  Like any new adoptive parent, I admit, she is perfect for us.

This breeder was interesting in that it really was just business, no application, no vetting.  I didn’t know it could be so easy.  We had plans to use a different breeder and that process felt more like adoption – application, deposit, phone conversation, invitation to visit the facility and travel to pick up the dog.  In the end, we realized that waiting indefinitely, traveling several states, the expense of it all…we could sidestep all of that and find a reputable breeder here in our own state if we just thought of a different type of dog.  For some reason, writing this reads just like things I have heard some adoptive parents say…We wanted to adopt from the United States, but the process is so long and dealing with ICPC and different state laws of how long a birthmother might change her mind, we decided to adopt from Korea.  It’s faster, the babies come younger and healthier and I don’t have to travel.  The adoption analogies keep coming to mind and continue to make me cringe.

After being with her litter siblings and having only been weaned for two weeks, C was cleared for pick up.  We went the one day George and I both had the day off.  The process may not have felt like an adoption, but I still had the idea that I was adopting a pet in my head.  I spoke with the breeder several times, inquired about the mothers of the puppies and kept asking him, don’t you have questions for us?  The preparation was exciting – hiding shoes so they won’t get chewed, closets closed for the same reason and all the lego had to disappear from the living room!  Oh rapture!  I got my living room back.  The boys were none too happy to have to put away their toys for fear of teeth marks, drool and holes.  There was a crate to purchase, food, bowls, shampoo, napping bed, leash, collar and treats.  All fun.

The first day was a marathon drive up and down to get our puppy.  The meet was cute, the boys were super excited and I went inside to get the lowdown on puppy care and go over the paperwork.  C was in the shade, under the house, calm, quiet.  She is pretty much the same, sleeping under the bed, calm and pretty quiet.  I found out she was weaned at 6 weeks, but the breeder still brought her mother over to nurse the puppies in their 7th week.  It struck me wonderful to hear this.

The ride home was harder than expected.  I earned a fair amount of scratch marks on my arms trying to hold C on my lap.  She had never been away from her litter and surely never in a car.  It took some time to figure out she was not a fan of the sun.  Sitting on the sunny side passenger seat, no wonder she was not having my lap.  But of course, like a new mother, I took it that she was rejecting me.  C ultimately landed on P’s lap in the backseat.  Lovely.  He was beaming and it has been love for him since then.

It’s been a week now since C has been home.  Her personality is emerging.  We don’t need to sleep on the floor by her crate anymore and already, she is sleeping five hours in the night.  She has learned her name and has found her favorite napping spots in the apartment.

Adoption has not been too far from my mind watching my new puppy get used to us.  The courtship dance has been in full swing – treats to entice bonding, lots of smiles, kisses, hugs and tenderness to show and teach love, the invitation to eat, sleep, go outside, come closer.  It took a few days before C got the idea that this was all good.  So, if it took at least three days for C to get it, and she IS a dog, what does that translate to in human time?  Just how long do we wait for a baby or child to bond and connect with us?  In examining this past week, it was we humans that did all the work – calling the dog’s name, teaching her the right places to sleep, eat and poop. It has been our connection and love for C that has moved her closer and more connected to us.  It never occured to me that she wouldn’t come to me, I just needed to be consistent, present, observant, vigilant and the initiator.

To equate adopting a pet to adopting a child still feels ludicrous to me.  But I am struck by some of the similarities I felt becoming an owner of a dog and my anticipation in becoming a parent.  I wonder what I would be like if I was adopting a child.