September 30, 2009

Liberals, evil people & the politics of open records

I wasn’t going to tell you about this, because I know you’re sick of how I complain about the forums. But I was reading a really good post at O Solo Mama this morning that talks about the issue of international adoption search where she mentions her forum escapades, so I feel empowered.

Yeah, I got thumped again. Not saying when or where, because I only went there to read an post that came up in a google search. The post had to do with adoptive parent involvement in adoption reform, and I made a couple of points about the fact that APs should be involved in the effort to open birth records.

A guy responded to my comment with one entitled something like "liberals vs evil people" that basically said that adoptive parents who get involved in issues like open records are a) being PC, b) must have kids with no problems, or c) put their kids second.

Whoa, partner! Let’s talk about that.

It was pretty amazing to hear someone suggest that exercising one’s civil responsibility to be socially engaged was just being "PC." It is not. We ALL should be doing this, on all kinds of issues, and can if we try. Our life responsibilities may take precedence, but it takes very little time to become educated about an issue and to support it when the opportunity arises.

I also get really frustrated with the idea that you can carve up adoption and only associate with the bits that suit you. No prospective adoptive parent should approach the adoption of a child with the attitude that they can shield themselves from parts of it as will. When we adopt, whether it be a child from within our community or from a country far away, we accept responsibility for all the issues that make up adoption today. We may try to be selective, and some of us even succeed – but at the end of the day, every adoptive parent is responsible for all of adoption, whether it touches them directly or not.

Example: I may not be an expert in attachment disorder, nor may my children have experienced this particular challenge. But I have an obligation to understand how attachment disorder weaves into adoption, and how this affects others in the adoption community. When the opportunity arises for me to use that knowledge and to direct people to the experts, I should do that. It’s part of the package.

Same with open records. Perhaps, if you’ve adopted an older child from care, you have the child’s birth information and maybe even a relationship with his or her first family. It could be easy for you to dismiss efforts to change closed records laws as unimportant. But you shouldn’t. By remaining silent on this issue, you send as strong a message as those who are working hard in the trenches, and that holds the entire effort back.

Now let’s talk about that "liberals vs evil people.” My thumper seemed to be saying that working for open birth records for adopted people was a liberal activity, and it was pretty clear he wasn’t paying me a compliment.

But think about this for a moment. We typically define conservatives as individuals who believe the government should stay out of the lives of individuals as possible, right? Now think about what happens when birth records are sealed. I'm pretty sure you can call it government intervention. Go a little further and try to think of a way in which the government intervenes in a person’s life on a more personal or fundamental level. Bet you can’t think of one, and anyway if think you do I’ll argue with you.

A person’s birth identity is about as personal as it gets. Conservatives should be all over the open records issue, and should be SCREAMING for closed records laws to be overturned.

(Wait, sorry – forgot about the disproven-a-gazillion-times-over notion that opening adoptee birth records leads to more abortions. Never mind.)

All kidding aside: Open records is an issue all adoptive parents should understand and should support.
  • If you believe in truth and transparency in adoption, open records is your issue.
  • If you believe in keeping government out of our personal business, open records is your issue.
  • If you believe in the right of individuals to manage their own relationships, open records is your issue.
  • But most of all, if you have adopted a child, open records is your issue. Because it’s simply the right thing to do for your child.

September 28, 2009

Something I wish I'd understood about adoption

I've been trying to catch up on about a month's worth of posts, which is pretty much impossible. In the process, I found a blog carnival at Grown in My Heart from a week ago Thursday that you should check out, although I think pretty much the entire adoption blogger community has already found it and posted. If you are with me in the .05% who haven't yet jumped in, go on over and then write your thoughts. Don't forget to link the carnival here, where you can also find links to the 50+ posts that have been added. All good stuff, I might add, every one has an insight we all should listen to.

The topic: What No One Told Me about Adoption.

I'm sure the reflective mood I'm in following The Girl's departure for college is the reason this topic is hitting so close to home. I haven't wanted to write about what I've been feeling; I said yesterday that I wanted to experience it privately, which is true. But private from whom? I've been resisting thinking and writing about that, because the answer bothers me.

I really haven't wanted to share my feelings because, for once in my parenting life, I wanted them to belong to me and my husband alone. In spite of everything I've written here about truth and transparency in adoption, I wanted The Girl all to myself.

I didn't spare a thought for her mother all weekend. I didn't think about the good-bye she was missing, or the hundreds of other hellos and good-byes she's missed throughout the years. The fact that she might have been wondering where The Girl would be going to school didn't cross my mind. I wanted this experience for me and me alone, and those feelings were powerful.

Adoption allows us to create our own truths. It makes it possible for what we know in our heads to be un-true to become real. The fortunate realize the lunacy of this and create families that include everyone in the adoptee's life, no matter the challenge of finding family members and maintaining relationships with them. Some reject reality outright and fabricate worlds that exclude even the mention of their children's parents and families.

Then there are people like me. I accept and respect and welcome the presence of my children's parents in their lives and ours; I wish we had been able to open our adoptions, in spite of the challenges I know that would have brought. But the fact that these men and women have only existed in our imaginations has led to a powerful alternate reality that we've been able to control at will. Out of sight, out of mind, out of reality, whenever we want.

Our daughter's mother may be aware of the fact that American colleges start classes in the fall, and she could very well be wondering where her daughter is going to school. Every milestone we've passed is one she may have lived through in her own imagination, though without the celebration. Yet as much as I understand this and have wanted to know this woman, I really didn't want her around as I watched my daughter take her place at college. I wanted that experience all to myself.

It was too easy. I simply didn't think about her, so she didn't exist. I could blame all kinds of influences for thinking this way, but really it comes down to me. I can conjure up a new truth whenever I need it, and last weekend I needed one that only included The Girl, Third Dad and me. I made it happen with ease. But now, with life returning to our new normal, I'd like to bring our daughter's mother back again and wish her into our family. How convenient - for me - to have that kind of control over her. But not right.

Everything I wish I'd known about adoption comes down to truth. I've always thought of the telling of truth as the accurate delivery of information; it's certainly part of the equation, but not all of it. Truth also exists in our desire to make our children's parents real to them, which takes more heart than head. In spite of the very real desire I have for my kids to know their parents, I learned with The Girl's departure just how easy it is for me to push their parents away, and claim the kids for myself. My head may have understood that all along, but clearly, my heart has its own agenda.

September 9, 2009

Don't Misses 9-9-09

Couldn't pass the opportunity to blog on this auspicious date. At least I hope it's auspicious.

I'm totally disconnected from my online life - just too much happening in real life at the moment, notably final preparation for bringing The Girl out to college next week. Between the unbearable thought of an empty nest, the torture of the unending paperwork, and a few other emotional speed bumps (mostly related to my recent age milestone and the realization that my baby is joining her big brother and flying the coop), I just don't have the energy to write. All it would be is whining. Maybe I'll whine a little over at the other blog, but not here.

Instead of writing, I've had the energy to clean. It's really strange, actually, kind of like the intersection of a desire to start fresh and one that wants to turn the clock back (although I didn't give in to the overwhelming urge to watch old videos of this kids over the long holiday weekend). I spent all day Thursday thinking it was 2007 - seriously, couldn't figure out why a 6-year contract that started last month wasn't expiring in 2013. That has alternated with a desire to clean house. I started in the garage, then our bedroom, and ended yesterday by shredding three trash-bag-fulls of old paper.

The only recent blog reading I've done recently brought me to an interesting Newsweek article on September 5: See Baby Discriminate. It's about a 2006 University of Texas study into whether or not multicultural videos had an effect on children's racial attitudes. The results are fascinating, as are many of the reactions to the article. A blog search of researcher Birgitte Vittrup's name will give you lots of reading to do on the subject.

While you're thinking about the development of racial attitudes during childhood, be sure to follow the series on race and education that's on this month at Anti-Racist Parent - topics so far include:
Check ARP throughout the month for more.