April 20, 2012

Hypocrite: guilty as charged

I received a comment on this post that deserves a serious answer. The topic is important, one to which readers of this blog deserve a response. Here it is, verbatim; the commenter was anonymous, so I don’t know how he or she is affected by adoption:

Oh please!
Thirdmom you talk now because all of your children are grown and have their loyalties in place to you. Also, let’s not forget that you possibly adopted from Korea because at that time there were no "open adoptions" holding you hostage.
It never amazes me how aparents sing the "evils of adoption" but yet adopt from overseas to avoid bparents/open adoptions...seems hypocritical to me.

I’ve talked about and danced around hypocrisy before. This comment gives a good reason to talk about it straight on. So here goes.

Guilty as charged

The adoption path my husband and I chose is a result of what we knew about adoption, but more about what we didn’t know. The pre-adoption view isn't pretty.

We knew what we saw in the media (mostly sensational and wrong), what we learned from the very few people we talked to about adoption before we moved forward, and then from our agency and the adoptive parent organizations we found. Every source of information was adoptive-parent-centric. The internet was in its infancy, never mind the fact that the only PC I had access to, for work, only had modem access to company systems. We got our information from people and print media. It was most definitely skewed.

Our criteria were simple: we sought a program that we believed was ethical (as I understood “ethical adoption“ back then) and would accept PAPs in our age bracket.

We were pulled to intercountry adoption from Korea, for several reasons: we met a local program’s requirements, particularly age; as a couple made up of an immigrant and the child of immigrants, we understood at least a little of what it meant to be an “other” and felt we could be effective parents for a child of a different race and ethnicity.

We believed what we were told about our children's mothers, which is that they had absolutely no choices but abortion and adoption because Korean society would never allow them to parent and would discriminate against their children throughout their lives. The possibility that their families might be intact didn't come into any discussions. We understood that the loss of family would be a serious loss for our children, were open to contact from the start and did what we could to leave a trail in our children's files. Conversely, perversely, we viewed the ability to parent without interference as a positive.

Before we completed our homestudy to adopt from Korea, we were presented with the opportunity to adopt twin girls, the daughters by another father of the significant other of an acquaintance of my husband’s. They were beautiful, adorable, and we seriously considered adopting them. We met their mother, liked her and were fine with continuing an open relationship with her. But we learned along the way that their foster mother, with whom they had lived for over a year, was hoping to adopt them. We believed that the best thing for those girls was to stay with her, which is ultimately what happened.

It is therefore correct that we saw the ability to parent on our own as a good outcome of adopting from Korea. It is also correct to say that our minds were open to other possibilities and we were open to contact. It is what it is.

So what next?

My hypocrisy is clear: I adopted from Korea knowing that the likelihood of first family interference was slim to none, but I'm here and elsewhere working on adoption reform and hoping for my children's reunions with their Korean families. Why?

Because I have learned a lot since those pre- and early adoption days: about the issues, and about how easy it is for group-think to make you believe things that are simply wrong. Most of all, I realized early on that lies are more common in adoption than we want to believe, and that being a continent away doesn't make my children's mothers and families invisible.

When presented with adoption injustice, there are several paths an adopter can take. We can pull away from the entire discussion and live our lives as far away from adoption as possible. Or we can build our own universe, so to speak, and surround ourselves with people who think and say things that make us feel better.

We can also face the bad stuff and our role in it, and do something about it. Our adoption choices will rightfully be called out, but we just need to accept it. It’s a better route to go than silence.

April 19, 2012

Adoption blog hoppin'

Sometimes fear, assumptions, and the unknown can make us feel threatened.

Oh, yes indeed.

I read this line on a blog that's new to me, Adoption Magazine.  As I don't know the blog, I can't comment on the author's point of view, but I like the post that announces a blog hop for anyone living adoption, regardless of your role or point of view. MUCH better than exclusive contests that push a particular perspective and capriciously and unjustly disqualify participants.

How my blog ended up on the list is unknown to me because I didn't add it, but I'm actually glad it's there. I know that some of the commenters on yesterday's post came over from there, and I'm grateful to meet new people. I'm also glad to see blogs that represent really strong opinions about adoption.

I don't know how long it will take, but I'm going to try to visit all the blogs in the list and leave a comment; expect that to take a couple of weeks. After all, if someone shows a willingness to enter a conversation that is very likely to include points of view that differ from theirs, they deserve acknowledgement for it.

Even though public scrutiny comes with blogging territory, it hurts to be criticized or dismissed, and I've seen plenty of that: much if not all deserved, I don't dispute that, but it still hurts. So I'm going to try to find a little of the bloggity fun I used to have. Sometimes you just have to do that.

April 18, 2012

The superfluous adoptive parent

superfluous [suːˈpɜːflʊəs]
adj
1. exceeding what is sufficient or required
2. not necessary or relevant; uncalled-for
3. Obsolete extravagant in expenditure or oversupplied with possessions
[from Latin superfluus overflowing, from super- + fluere to flow]
superfluously adv
superfluousness n

I’ve been busy these days – work, travel, house, volunteer stuff, it just goes on and on. I therefore missed what appears to have been a bit of a fracas in adoption blogland over a best mom blogger contest run amok. The page is down, but you can get to the cached page for the apology that followed the fray.

I wouldn’t have know about it except for stumbling onto it in a post at Joy’s blog, which sent me on to Linda, who connected the dots back to the woman who posted the pix of her Chinese daughter making "Chinese eyes" last year. I'm not entirely sure of her role in the whole thing, but apparently she was a player in one way or another, a sad example of an adoptive parent who just can't seem to hand the mike to anyone else.

Blessedly, I missed it all. I love a good free-for-all, but in all honesty, they're beginning to scare me. Not scary in the sense of vicious or threatening, but because they are such a distraction from the boatloads of work that are begging to be done to get adoption ethical.

That work includes balancing the imbalanced adoption dynamic as seen in this latest blog debacle: the fact that adoptive parents control so much of the experience, from the surrender of children down to their children's identities. Adoptive parents need to remember that we exist in our role because bad things happen to other people. In a perfect world, we wouldn't exist at all because children wouldn't need us: they would be with the parents who gave birth to them, and those parents would have the means and desire to parent them. And that would be a good thing, a very good thing indeed.

We need to embrace our superfluousness, not fear it.

Maybe the fact that both of my kids are now officially adults and living a continent away allows me to step back and view my role in their lives this way. I haven’t forgotten what it feels like to hold a sleeping toddler in my arms, and the pure bliss it brings. But at the end of the day, that toddler should have been sleeping in someone else's arms. I simply do not understand why people feel the need to say this isn't true.

I don’t need to be the only parent in my kids’ lives to love them as I do. I don’t need to be the God-ordained parent to treasure, protect and support them. I can be the second mom or third mom or mom-that-shouldn’t-have-been, and it doesn’t change a thing in our relationship, which is as strong and tight and loving as any parent-child relationship can be.

It does, however, change my relationship with their mothers and fathers. It reminds me that there are women like me and men like my husband on the other side of the planet who really should be in my place. That thought is humbling, it really is.

Yes, I'm superfluous, and I'm fine with it.

April 16, 2012

Support the 2nd Annual Korean Single Moms' Day

On May 11, 2011, Truth and Reconciliation for the Adoption Community of Korea (TRACK) created Single Moms' Day to coincide with Korea's National Adoption Day to remind Koreans that there is another way that children born to unmarried mothers can have families: support the mothers so they can raise their children themselves.

The first Single Mom's Day included a conference hosted by Miss Mamma Mia (KUMFA)Korean Single Parent AllianceTRACK, and KoRoot, who are working together again this year to again host the conference:


Hosted by:
TRACK (Truth and Reconciliation for the Adoption Community of Korea)
KoRoot
KUMFA (Korean Unwed Mothers and Family Association, Web site “Miss Mamma Mia”)
Korean Single Parents Association
Date: Friday, May 11, 2012. 10 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Venue: The National Assembly (Parliament) 국회위원회관Seoul, South Korea

If you need proof that grassroots effort can yield incredible results, take a look at the list of guests:
  • The National Assembly Women’s and Family Committee
  • The Korean Women Entrepreneurs Association
  • Korean Women United
  • Women’s Foundation
  • Korean Womenlink
  • The Ministry of Gender Equality
  • Korean Women’s Development Institute
  • The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child Committee
This is how real change starts. And you can help. Please share this information on your blogs, websites and Facebook pages.  You can also support the conference with your donation, easily made via Paypal. Western Union or wire transfer to TRACK's Korean bank.

To get an idea of what the conference is all about, download the booklet from last year's Single Moms’ Day and read a news report about the event in the Korean press.

I have been asked why I care about this issue (more like dismissed and criticizized when the asker is an adoptive parent). Why, people wonder, would I support a cause that gives approval to irreponsible behavior on the part of women and puts children into sub-optimal family situations?

That's adoption-speak, my friends, judgmental adoption-speak. When married women lose a spouse through death or divorce, we don't immediately jump to adoption in response. We only do so when the woman is young and unmarried, and we do it not because we know for sure that she won't be able to parent, but because we've been conditioned to this response. She's too young. Her life will be ruined. She'll be a lousy mother. She doesn't deserve to be a mother. Children need mothers AND fathers.

For every one of these, reality provides a different lesson, but in spite of this we never seem to stop to think that just a few years of support - financial, child care and employment - would get many women who are pushed to adoption to a point at which they could parent independently. I also think we spend a lot less time than we should challenging family pressure, which in my opinion drives a woman's decision to place a child at least as much as the desire of prospective adoptive parents to find one. Maybe more. Because at the end of the day, if babies weren't there, infertiles like me would be far more likely to foster parent or live without children than move to illegal trafficking and baby-buying.

Women are strong, they will and do survive as single parents. Helping them see that strength in themselves and giving them a helping hand is one of the most important things we who parent their children can do to restore justice to adoption. I encourage you to support this conference and the organizations who have made it happen.

April 10, 2012

Joyce Maynard's cautionary tale

I stumbled onto this today - Joyce Maynard Announces Failure of Her Adoptive Family.  I then followed the link provided to her website, and read this.

My head isn't really able to wrap itself around it all yet. Suffice it to say that no one wins in this story, no one. I wonder if those girls will ever be able to live without fearing the loss of people they love. Who could, after so much of it?

Everything that frustrates me about adoption as we know it is here, most of all a poor country's lack of support for its people, the resources of the rich to the rescue. I don't know if anything could have been done in Ethiopia to help keep this family together, which in Maynard's letter turns out to have a living father (health unclear) and older brothers. But I do know that we have to stop looking to adoption as the best solution. Our material wealth should never be held in balance against a poor family.

The voices that are missing are those of the girls. They're too young to be speaking about their experiences, and may never wish to do so - after all, they owe nothing to the system that has further disrupted their difficult lives.  I just hope they are able to come through this experience whole. If maybe someday they share their thoughts with the world, I'm sure everyone would learn from them, no matter our personal views on the rightness or wrongness of what was done to them.

There were a slew of comments, I only read a few and found the good ones outweighed the eye-rollers for a change. I'd be interested in your thoughts, too./


April 5, 2012

Bittersweet

When my husband and I decided we wanted to become parents, which happened to be quite a few years before our children arrived, I really didn’t know what to expect, apart from the experience of being part of a family with kids, which I knew from my own childhood experience.

I knew I’d love my children, and also knew I wanted to be an active, involved parent. I didn’t know, however, just how deep the parenting experience would affect me, and how it would push everything else I do to the perimeter of my life. If I had been able to quit my job to be home with the kids full-time, I would certainly have done it. I just plain love being their mom.

Which makes the events of the past couple of weeks all the more challenging. Blessedly, given the current job market, our son found a job on the west coast and moved out there a little over a week ago. Honestly, it’s surreal to think that within a two week period, he found himself roommates with a great apartment, started a new job and is settling into his new life.

My husband and I are thrilled for him, because we know how hard it is for young adults to find work these days. There is no way either of us would have tried to get him to stay closer to home – after all, watching our kids launch themselves into life is what we raise them for.

That doesn’t make the separation any easier, though, particularly today: it’s their birthdays. Yes, they share the date, a strange coincidence that has been both delightful and a pain in the neck, especially during those “theme party” years when big brother refused to share his party with little sis. I don’t think there’s any kind of tired that can match throwing a little girl party, complete with games and piñata, and a big boy sleepover on the same day. Also no better way to cover your kitchen floor in cake crumbs and orange soda.

But now that they’re grown, especially now that they’re both on the other coast, it eases our sadness to know they can celebrate together. Before he moved, The Boy talked about wanting to buy The Girl her first legal drink, which I’m sure he will do. And I’m sure they’ll text us some photos of the milestone. Still, I wish we could be with them, even though I know it's now our job to let them go.

There’s nothing new about what my husband and I are experiencing; parents have felt this pain for millenia as they've watched their children take their places in the world. But you’d think our experience was the first, given how unprepared we are for the feelings and emotions. It’s a little surreal, a little lonely, and very bittersweet.

Those of you whose children are babies or school-aged or even entering their teens may think this day is way off in your future, but it's not - it’s right around the corner. You will blink one day and your kids will be gone, off working or in school. And you’ll be left looking at their empty rooms and wondering how it all went by so fast.

No matter where life takes them, and it’s taken them pretty far already, I hope my beautiful grown-up children will always know how deeply they’re embedded in my heart. Always.