The month of celebrating adoptions. Of every other feed in my FB account mentioning adoption somehow. It is a bit overwhelming to me as an adoptive parent. I feel like the out of step mom when I read some of the feeds. I remember being a 20 something and loving "you didn't grow under my heart but in it," a phrase common in adoption circles.
Part of me does still relate to that. There is a part that has grown in my heart for each of my beloved children. Not physically obviously, but there would be a hole that nothing could ever fill if something happened to any one of my brood.
But way back in the early 80s and I started this journey to building our family, there was so much I didn't know. I tried. I really tried. I read books out the wazoo. I went to conferences. I took classes. But something that I didn't realize then was that all of that? It was from the adoptive parent's perspective. None of the panels then had adoptive adults on the Q and A times.There were lots of folks who had brought a child into their home talking about how they helped their child adjust--how they themselves adjusted. How they took a family vacation to country X and went to culture camps.
It wasn't all that different when I took classes to foster adopt. Again, panels of experiences foster parents, caseworkers and professionals. No kids who had been adopted from foster care. No kids who had opted NOT to be adopted or who aged out. It was a given in every situation that adoption was the best choice and that the kids would universally embrace their new family. And trust me, there was zero talk about unscrupulous adoption agencies working in developing nations.
I can say my kids and I are very bonded and connected. But the scenarios I describe ignore the fact that I am not their only family. It ignores the loss they experienced. The questions that they will have throughout their life. It totally ignores what I consider my biggest parenting responsibility which is facilitating first family bonds and answering their questions if I can.
The holidays always bring things to the forefront for all my kids. This morning while we were shopping, KC mused that he wished he could have a conversation with Mom Y. Lissa asked me a couple days ago if I knew what her Mom T had named her. (thankfully I have saved the real birth certificates for my kids and could answer that) KC has decided he might like to make Mom Y a card and mail it out.
We love the holidays and don't get me wrong. We celebrate HARD! LOL But there are also reflective moments, pauses of poignant pain and those are expected and those feelings have to be honored. Above all, I need my kids to know that their pain and their questions are not things they need to hide from me. It also helps our family dynamic that I am estranged from my father. He has not contacted me for over 25 years and the kids know that I too experience pain around that lost relationship.
What I wish adoption month talked more about were these kinds of things. I have good friends who think I am a tad nuts for embracing first families. People, they are part of my children! If I love my children, and they love my children and they are safe together, why would I be upset? I wish adoption month talked about finding ways to make that happen. I wish adoption month talked about flexibility. When we adopted through the state there was a mantra drilled into our heads at trainings and from our social worker. "start as you mean to go on." Can we all say epic fail?
This denied the fact that my kids had experiences before me. Things they were used to, things that rightly or wrongly, were part and parcel of who they were. Even behaviors we want to change have to be approached gradually. My wife and I disagreed about this profoundly. She really felt we should follow the words from all the professionals. I just had a gut feeling that this wasn't working but no science or experience to back up my assertion. Ultimately, she agreed to give it a go and our family I think, was the better for it. People change, kids change and learn, but it is a life long and sometimes a very gradual process. It doesn't have to all be worked on at once and the change doesn't have to be and shouldn't be, all the child.
I guess I wish that this month was a time for really thinking about how we can do this better and make sure that we are all putting the kids first.