Welcome back to Blogville, nice to see you again. I’m sipping a chai latte today as I find it comforting. What is your beverage of choice today as you visit?
I was walking in my neighbourhood one day this summer and I came upon a big evergreen tree and I recalled that its owners light it up every Christmas season. Then I noticed that the string of lights was still there even though it was June and I felt the urge to take a picture for some reason. I guess I just felt drawn to the image.
At first I thought I was affected by that pre-decorated tree as a symbol, or marker of the passage of time for us all, when we get to an age where it is too cumbersome or too dangerous to put up and take down decorative lights every year. Ironically, as trees age they grow taller, and stronger, while as home owners age, they often lose strength and dexterity and should maybe reconsider climbing an icy ladder leaning against a tree in a snow bank. Noticing that they were leaving the lights up all year, hidden among those prickly branches, was indeed a stark reminder of the passage of time, and it made me a little sad. For some reason, instead of deleting it, I simply filed away that picture.
Some weeks later I was waiting for some of my grandchildren at their school bus stop and I noticed a second big evergreen tree, also with lights hidden in the branches, disconnected from any power, but there, waiting. So when I came home I started scrolling through my photos looking for the tree picture I had taken earlier this summer. Suddenly I knew what the trees actually meant to me! I realized that they were more symbolic to me than I initially realized. Those trees, with their hidden lights reminded me of children and youth currently in, or from, foster care. Suddenly I became aware that this symbolism may be important and relatable when talking about fostering, adopting, providing kinship, and customary care, or any alternative care really.
Children and youth in care often develop a thick skin, like the bark of a tree, to protect themselves. They develop attitudes, not unlike prickly needles of trees, in order to protect the softer, more easily bent branches, like their feelings. Just like some saplings, children and youth in care may have suddenly been pulled out of one environment and placed in another. This may have been an unexpected, emergency kinship or foster care placement. Attempts to thicken their skin and bring forth protective attitudes is usually a coping mechanism for helpless children or youth to help them feel like they have some control in the chaos. After all, the more prickly the needles on the tree, the harder it will be for you to see through to the unplugged, powerless string of lights woven around the tree trunk.
Beneath those prickly branches, if given a chance, is something beautiful and magical, just like a string of lights hidden in a Christmas tree. I sometimes feel that helping a child or youth fit into a foster family and/or adoptive family can be like trudging through deep snow, (navigating the child welfare system), trying to find the best Christmas tree. One must move the branches slowly and carefully as some trees have layers of ice and snow protecting them that will drop on you in an effort to make you leave them alone. Please, do not let that tough exterior deceive you. Once you put that tree on your sleigh, take it home and let its branches begin to thaw, you will usually find that one teeny, tiny, sparkle that lets you know there are more beautiful lights inside to be discovered. You are just going to have to work really hard to find them.
I believe that sometimes, in the beginning of new relationships, it is enough just to stand side by side, ‘batten the hatches’, and protect children and youth as much as one can through the storm of being in care, or having been in care. So, to begin with, simply bring that tree in, put it in a sturdy stand, and start looking for why the tree lights are hidden and disconnected from their power. Sometimes it seems that for every light you find, another layer of ice thickens, or a needle grows bigger and sharper to try to keep you out. Don’t let that stop you from finding those shining lights! Trust me, it will be worth it!
Children and youth often respond more to actions than words and the best action is always in being there and your willingness to listen. Sometimes, saplings are planted and replanted so many times it makes it difficult for the roots to accept the nutrients from the new soil and will require a little more planning and effort. Sometimes you have to drag your belief in the child or youth’s worthiness around with you like a pile of soil, and a bucket of water, always ready to nurture! Many times that child or youth will stomp on that pile of soil and dump the bucket of water because they don’t feel worthy of nurturing. You must be ready to accept the child or youth, if not their behaviour, for who they are, what they mean to your family, who you believe they can be, and what they can accomplish.
Along with your pile of soil, your bucket of water, and your belief in the child or youth’s ability to cope and accept your nurturing, there are many tools that can help you to safely empower the beautiful lights inside of that tree. However, sometimes you do not have all those tools at hand. You many need to trudge and trudge through very deep snow until you find just the right tools. You may need someone to help guide you safely through the snow, someone to help you uncover the right tools, or even someone to just help you pull the sleigh. You can help children and youth reconnect their power by plugging in the right services, after all, not all of us are electricians!
As I said, my experience has shown that, as a defence mechanism, children and youth in or from foster care are often trying to make themselves appear bigger and stronger than they might be feeling, so they may present a prickly front just like those big evergreen trees! These children and youth have usually been through a trauma and are likely to be in self-protection mode, fight or flight. Foster parents are often the first to notice the little lights buried deep inside the children or youth in their care. Workers and counsellors can sometimes see through the branches as well and find more of those little lights. Looking past the prickly front, the thick branches, and the gnarly bark one can usually find the lights hidden within! The next step is recognizing that these little lights need to be attached to a power source, usually by belonging to a family, often an adoptive family, in order to fully shine!
If you are a fostering family, you will have many children and youth come through your doors. Some will fit the exact spot you hope for them, while others cannot fit, no matter how hard everyone tries. People struggle to admit it, but sometimes the reality is that this person just doesn’t fit with that specific foster or adoptive family despite all the supportive efforts but, given the chance, may be able to find the perfect spot in another family. Have you ever had a plant that looked wilted and sad no matter how much water you gave it or how much soil you added? Then you discovered that the plant just needed to be moved to where it would get the best light to meet its needs and it began to grow and thrive. Turns out, it just needed to find the right spot.
If you are considering adoption, make sure that you do your research, and that you take courses about trauma and attachment! In fact, take all the courses you can get about merging a child or youth into your family, and becoming their ‘right spot’. In addition, inform yourself about your community resources and how to refer yourself or be referred. Your future as a parent is worth it!
Thank you for your visit to read this blog. As always, I look forward to reading your comments about the blog. I continue to welcome emails for those who might prefer a less public forum. Please send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
Hello friends! Welcome back to Blogville. Today I’m having a quiet herbal tea as I relax and chat with you. As I write this opening greeting I’m reminded that I finished my Wordle puzzle in three steps today. Makes me smile.
Just thinking about puzzles makes me smile. I LOVE doing puzzles! There is something magical about opening that sealed jigsaw puzzle box and pouring those pieces onto the table. There they lie, a mystery to be solved. I’m amazed at the fact that, though the goal is already known as the picture is right there on the box, we delve wholeheartedly into its re-creation. Everyone has their preferred technique, some complete the edges first, while others sort the pieces into piles of a specific pattern, like all the red pieces, all the pieces of one shape, and so forth. We have a family friend, Julie, whom my grandchildren and I agree, is a jigsaw puzzle magician. We watch in awe how she solves a puzzle section in five minutes that we have been struggling with all afternoon.
I have to share this puzzle story with you. One Christmas Julie drew my name in our group gift exchange. She gave me a 500 piece puzzle, no real surprise there. The puzzle was of medium difficulty (after all I’m no puzzle magician). ‘Open it, open it’ she said. Curious, I thought I was mistaken and maybe she just reused an old puzzle box for my actual gift. Nope, turns out she had individually wrapped each puzzle piece in the box! Now that is dedication to gift giving! Julie also noted that as she was finishing wrapping the last few pieces of the puzzle, the dog grabbed a piece and took off with it. Among the 500 wrapped puzzle pieces in the box was one misshapen, formerly soggy, carefully wrapped puzzle piece. Seriously?
While writing about this little story I was reminded of that gifted puzzle and found it in my closet. I grabbed a small knife, ironically also a previous gift from Julie, and began unwrapping the puzzle pieces. Initially I was sorting as I was unwrapping. I started by forming piles of amplifier pieces, guitar pieces, the edge pieces, but then, except for the edges, unwrapping and sorting quickly became an overwhelming task. So I focused instead on the task of just unwrapping these tiny pieces. Wow! I don’t know how long it took Julie to wrap these but unwrapping them was proving to be a lengthy project, but hey, I’m retired.
At one point I sent Julie a photo of the project. The photo included some unwrapped pieces, a pile of wrapping paper, and still so many more pieces to unwrap. I added the following text message, “omg JULIE!” to which she responded, “Hahahahaha omg. Didn’t think you’d actually make the puzzle!” Well, that sounded like a challenge to me. 3 HOURS LATER . . . all unwrapped. I thought to myself, ‘maybe tomorrow I’ll start completing the actual puzzle’ and went for a walk.
I also enjoy a good word search or crossword puzzle. For years all I could find were small clues to my birth history, like a challenging life puzzle. My mom would have a little clue, adoption disclosure workers gave little clues, but despite these clues I could never solve the whole puzzle. As you know, my greatest word search was my quest to finally access all those words in my historical files, and from there, to understand the true story of my pre-adoption journey. Adoption disclosure workers could sometimes provide me with a word list, but never the page that contained the puzzle, and for certain, never the answer page. I was left with the clues but no words to circle, therefore I was unable to solve the puzzle.
I think all members of the adoption constellation strive to solve their own unique 3D puzzles. I feel that adopted persons are trying to solve a life puzzle called, “What Happened Before I Was Born?” Often these include a bonus puzzle called, “What Happened Between Being Born and Being Adopted?” Birth parents and other birth relatives, meanwhile, may be trying to solve a life puzzle called, “What Happened Next?” With a bonus puzzle, themed, “Are They Being Loved And Cared For?” Finally, I feel that adoptive parents spend every day trying to solve adoption-themed life puzzles called, “What I Do Not Know.” Their bonus puzzle is likely called, “Things No One Told Me”.
I think adoptive parents have the puzzles with the most pieces (often wrapped in their own layers), with the least number of clues, and yet, the most pressure to solve the puzzle. Information sharing is much better today than when I was adopted, but it still lacks many details and facts, like a puzzle that is missing some pieces. An adoptive parent needs to be a puzzle solver, also known as a dissectologist. Adoptive parents sometimes start a puzzle and do not immediately know that some pieces are missing, or that they were not given the full picture as shown on the box. But somehow, they work around it. First they search the box, the table and the floor for the missing pieces. Then they might stand up and brush themselves off to make sure the pieces are not hidden on their person. When they realize that they were never given all the pieces in the first place, they turn their attention to working with the pieces they have and begin solving the puzzle to its fullest potential. Adoptive parents seem to have a special talent for that, even though there is a great deal of work involved.
When you pick up a variety puzzle magazine there are so many types of puzzles in them. Each puzzle needs a different approach, a different solution, and has different clues. There are Pictograms, Crypto-grams, and many other puzzles to solve. I found that the social and medical histories I received over the years reminded me of Rebus puzzles; where the information is clear to the writer but often a riddle to the reader.
Negotiating the Adoption Disclosure site in Ontario is often like a Brain-Teaser or a Maze for many people. To complicate things further, the people trying to negotiate the details of adoption disclosure rights to information already feel like they should not be there in the first place. Many people feel that they are being disloyal to their adoptive parents for even looking at the site. Many birth parents feel like they are breaking a promise to someone that they made when they swore that they would forget about that baby and move on. People trying to solve the government access to information puzzles are often looking over their shoulders already, so to call someone and ask for help is almost impossible for them. Therefore, if you know someone wanting to start an adoption disclosure journey, offer to travel it with them, journeys are always more exciting and less frightening when you are not alone.
My adoption disclosure journey was much like the task I recently did with the 500 piece puzzle, unwrapping each tiny piece to be able to see the whole picture. It was not three hours work though, I have been at this in some way for over 60 years, as soon as I could start asking questions. The encyclopedia (or perhaps more like National Geographic) of my life and adoption journey was often missing pages or even full volumes/issues despite the fact I was paying my subscription fees almost every day.
My subscription fees were paid when I was pregnant, and did not know of any genetic conditions I might be passing on to the baby developing inside me. My fees were paid when I looked in a mirror and knew no one I could say I looked like (except for people always telling me I look like Jamie-Lee Curtis lol). I paid my fees every time a medical professional asked if there was any family history of this, or that condition, and I could not answer.
The single most difficult moment in my adoption disclosure journey was learning of my birth mother’s passing. This would now be the biggest puzzle piece that I would never find, and never be able to unwrap. Irreplaceable, just like the puzzle piece in my musical instruments puzzle that the dog ate. It was the end of my hope of ever completing my adoption puzzle fully. I cannot completely describe that loss, it was too big for any words. But I can tell you that it was the end of my hope that she would one day welcome me into her heart.
However, the loss of my birth mother brought me new puzzle pieces to unwrap. Through her passing and subsequent published obituary, my sister and I found four half-sisters, the daughters our birth mother raised. Through them, and their acceptance of us, we began putting together a picture of who our birth mother was, the daughter, the wife, the mother and the grandmother. Though it isn’t a perfect picture of my life puzzle, each of the pieces that my new sisters bring to the table fill in some of the gaps where my birth mother’s pieces should be. For this, I am truly and eternally grateful.
As ever, I would love for you to share your comments with me. If you prefer a less public forum please feel free to email me at email@example.com. See you next time, thanks for reading.
Maybe my book can help your family talk about adoption, kinship, customary care, or other alternative care scenarios! The book is called, What Is Your Story? Let’s talk about adoption and kinship. Look for it on Amazon, Friesen Press, Coles Timmins Square, Altered Reality on Third Avenue in Timmins, Barnes and Noble, and Chapters Indigo on-line stores!
Welcome back to Blogville, my place for tea and stories. I have made myself a cup of chamomile for your visit, I’m so glad you are reading ❤️
As many of you know I began this journey to help children and families talk with each other about their stories of adoption, kinship, or alternative care. What started out as a retirement project, to develop a handout for the agency I retired from, turned into a book called What Is Your Story? Let’s talk about adoption and kinship. Now my journey is to help the book get into the hands of families. One way I have been doing this is by donating books to public libraries where they will accept them (this is harder than you think). Since the book contains activities between the chapters, libraries are rightfully concerned that patrons might complete the activities in the book and ruin it for the next patron. As one solution, the activities are available, at no cost, in a downloadable/printable format in the activities section of my website, www.whatisyourstorybook.com
If you might be interested, I would appreciate it if you can check with your local library to see if they would accept a donated copy of the book for their shelves- the librarians can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank You!
I was inspired to ask you this by an experience I recently had at a library. Let me tell you about it . . .
This is a story about my belief in the idea that things happen for a reason. For a couple of months I had been trying to reach the librarian of a public library in a community that I visit several times per year. I was inquiring if they would accept a donation of my book. I hope to have the book available in as many community libraries as I can so that families who cannot afford to purchase the book would be able to access it. So, when I am going to communities I often try to reach their public libraries and offer to stop in and donate a copy of the book.
In this particular case I had previously tried to reach the library via email on two upcoming occasions when I would be visiting that community. I did not receive any responses from the library. However, not be be deterred, as you can imagine that I am not easily deterred, I decided to personally visit the library when I was there recently. I spoke to a staff member and asked about donating my book to the library and she graciously went to get the head librarian.
I gave my, ‘please accept this donation’ speech to the librarian and explained that the goal of the book is to help families travelling adoption, kinship, or alternative care journeys. I explained that, though there are activities in the book, the activities can be downloaded at no cost, and printed from my website. I also explained that the activities are in the book in order to help pace the emotions that readers may be feeling when working through each chapter of the book. If the emotions are too high, the activities are a great natural break in the book and a great ‘excuse’ to stop reading the content at that time. The librarian was very pleased to accept the donation of the book and even inquired if the library may print the activities to accompany the book. I responded that this would be wonderful, especially for families with multiple children.
The librarian and I were then chatting about a finger puppet cut-out activity that my birth sister, Krista Donnelly, the book’s illustrator, had designed as a supportive activity for families reading the book. I gave the librarian some copies of the puppet activity pages so that they might be able to copy them to provide to families borrowing the book. I explained that these copies had been generously donated to me so that I could provide them to families.
We also talked about the potential for me to attend the library at a future date and make a presentation for the public. I was explaining the frequency of my visits to the community and that I would be in touch prior to a future visit so we could plan something. The librarian seemed very interested in the idea. I was explaining that I live in Timmins, Ontario when a voice suddenly chimed in with, “I’ve been there!”
The voice belonged to one of my cousins whom I had not seen in several years. He was accompanied by his young grandson, a shy little guy that I will call H. So while my husband was talking with his grandfather I was chatting to the little guy about school, sports, and other things. Since I have some grandchildren around his age I took out my phone and we were looking at their pictures. H spotted a portable gaming device in one of the pictures and began telling me all about what games he plays on his. His system is yellow though, he patiently explained, not orange like the one in the picture but H quickly assured me that it still does the same things. While we were chatting I found out it was this child’s very first visit to this library and I told him it was mine too! He was a little shy and wearing masks made things even a bit more uncomfortable, but I think we established a little common ground.
His grandfather then began updating me about himself, his siblings and his wife, as well as his adult children, including H’s mother. It turns out that H and his mother are living with them in a blended household.” I looked up at the grandfather and asked if I could give H a copy of my book (by coincidence, or perhaps not, I happened to have an extra copy in my bag because of the library donation). The grandfather explained to H that I had written a book for children and H’s eyes got pretty big. I took the book out, opened it to the page that contains my picture and stepped far enough back that I could safely remove my mask to show him that was me in the picture. H consulted the picture very seriously, looked up at my maskless face, and his little face lit up. I asked if he would like me to give him a copy of my book he shyly nodded yes. So I signed the copy and handed the book to H. For some unknown reason, I had also held back a copy of the puppet handout when I gave the rest of the activity pages to the librarian so I handed that to H too. He hugged that book and the puppet activity pack to his chest and smiled broadly. The grandfather was very appreciative and offered to pay for the book but I asked if I could please gift it to H and he accepted.
There are no words. I honestly cannot describe how it felt to hand that little boy a copy of the book I created for families like his, and for children travelling journeys like he is. He and his mom live in a different family scenario where the two of them are a team surrounded by a supportive family and network of friends. I suppose I never really expected to knowingly be able to personally hand a copy to a child who will hopefully benefit from some aspects of the book. Especially a child whom I am related to. If a heart can burst with emotion, mine was as close as possible to bursting. I knew then without a shadow of a doubt, that this book was meant to be!
Suddenly I began to look at the whole scenario. Maybe it was meant to be that the librarian did not have an opportunity to answer my emails, maybe it was meant to be that I and H would be at that library that day, each of us for our “very first time”. Maybe H was meant to receive a copy of the book, and I was meant to be the one to give it to him. Maybe my book will reach its goal of making a difference. We will never know for sure, but my tummy does flips when I think about it. Things do happen for a reason.
As always, I look so forward to reading your comments and if you prefer a less public forum, please email your comments to me at email@example.com
Welcome back to Blogville. I’m so glad you are here. I’ve poured myself a delicate hibiscus tea blend that reminds me of my mom’s perfume when I was a child.
I had to separate the ‘Momma Says’ blog into two parts because it is very emotional and I tend to jump around when I’m feeling emotional. (Of course I mean jump from topic to topic, not actually getting up and literally jumping lol.) So I decided to talk in this blog about when I had questions for mom as I was growing up, and then, for part 2, fill you in on a wonderful adoption discussion she and I had just last month when I was visiting her.
When I was growing up, discussing adoption with my mom felt very taboo. I mean, when any doctor asked about family medical history she would give him a scathing look and gesture that they needed to leave the room for any further discussion. Adopted people of my generation understand that ‘fight or flight’ feeling when trying to ask questions about adoption. For those of you not adopted, think about trying to ask your parents about sex or puberty in the 1960s. You remember that look of dread right? Well, in response to an adoption question, my mom would sometimes give me short or curt answers, and other times she would just look at me until it was so uncomfortable I said, ‘never mind’ and took off. Last month I returned to that uncharted territory and found that my interpretation of her reaction was not completely on point. Starting this conversation with my about to turn 97 year old mother was like walking on thin ice across Cochrane Ontario’s Lake Commando in springtime.
Since my mother brought it up, I have to mention my dad’s role in any adoption discussion or Q&A. How can I describe to you what it was like talking to my dad about adoption? Well, let’s just say I wasn’t sure he knew I was adopted. My mom would often tell me a story about how my dad once came home from a fall hunting trip and when I stood on my own he started to rush over to protect me from falling. My mom gleefully told him, “It’s OK, she can walk now!” That story inspired me to think that maybe my dad had been hunting when I was placed with them and he didn’t know I had arrived until he got home. I could almost hear my mom gleefully telling him, “We have a daughter now!” Not what happened of course, but truly don’t ever remember him even saying the word adoption’. As I got older I learned that I actually arrived into the family in June of 1959 on the Friday before Father’s Day. How special was that? Daddy’s little girl arriving in time for Father’s Day. I have seen the home movies and photos, he looked pretty excited and proud.
I honestly don’t think I ever really thought to ask my dad any adoption questions as my mom seemed to have been in charge of that. Last month when talking to mom about adoption she actually said she noticed that children all seemed to go to their mothers with their adoption questions. As a result she felt that, “The fathers were off the hook”. I could tell she was none too pleased about it, even in hindsight.
When we were kids we always seemed to be hanging out with other families who had also adopted children. Mom always seemed calmer when we were playing with those kids. I never really questioned why, I just noticed it. When I asked her about that last week, mom explained that she was just so happy that there were other children ‘in the same boat’ in Cochrane. It’s true, our families seemed drawn to each other and we kids played very well together. My mom said she could relax when my brother and I were playing with these other kids as they would never ‘say anything bad to you’ simply because all of us were adopted. Mom said that all the parents felt the same way, “You were our children and that was that.” but apparently not everyone in Cochrane felt the same way. As we continued to chat about spending time with those other children who were also on adoption journeys mom and I agreed that we kids were like cousins through adoption. It was like a special club where adoptive parents could send their children who were adopted and know they could just be regular kids. (I’m sure our dear friend Billy would wholeheartedly agree.)
Mom then observed, “We also noticed that you kids (cousins through adoption) would ask each other questions about adoption. Everyone seemed ok with the answers or explanations you told each other. “We parents never initiated that” she pointed out, “but sometimes we would overhear you kids talking. I think it was good for all of you.”
Sadly, my mom always behaved as if having to adopt children was her ‘fault’ and not my dad’s ‘fault’. It was as if she wanted to clear him of some shame that she carried. My mother would talk about back problems she had that caused her to have to leave school very young. She eventually needed surgery on her back when she was a young woman living in Toronto. My mother always felt that her ‘back issues’ were to blame for her inability to carry a baby to term. It was on the rare occasion that she would even talk about this so I hung on to her every word. But then the sadness in her eyes always travelled right to my heart and I would drop the subject. In hindsight, I was unknowingly leaving her all alone with her grief.
I feel that mom must have implied that her bad back was why she and my dad had to adopt because I remember, as a small child, witnessing my mother trip over a suitcase at the train station and fall to the ground. I recall being terrified that she would die, or that she might never be able to have a baby stay in her tummy. My mother was mortified when I told her that was the reason I was crying so hard. I’m 63 years old and if I close my eyes, I can still see her fall over that suitcase.
As we chatted Mom opened up about the early days of parenting children placed on adoption. She talked about how afraid she was to hire a babysitter and go for a drink with my dad at a ‘beverage house’ because they might take her children away. She spoke about how she felt that she had to ask her adoption worker if that behaviour would be ok. The worker reassured her that she should do whatever she would normally do if she had her ‘own’ children (oh that hurts me just to say it).
When I was young and I would ask about my birth mother my mom would usually tense up and visibly run some kind of check-list about what she should say. She was always clear that my birth mother’s father had made her give up her parental rights and allow me to be adopted. Mom always said that the birth mother’s family had been ashamed of my birth mother and sent her away to give birth to me. She was always very careful that I understood my birth mother was forced into making an adoption plan by her own father, (my birth grandfather). Mom always looked sad when I would ask about my birth mother, and given her explanation, I always felt sad that I made my birth mother and her family feel ashamed. So, I asked about it less and less.
Last month mom talked about how she felt that Children’s Aid workers would try to ‘trick her’ into taking foster children that she would likely have to give back one day. That made me feel sad until mom grinned at me, leaned in and disclosed that they ‘couldn’t fool her once she was on to them’. That made the former Children’s Aid worker part of me smile. She talked about her feeling of betrayal by the Children’s Aid workers when they would call and profile a child but not say for fostering until they had her interest. She related a story of how once she was called about a brand new baby girl and thought they meant for adoption but her heart broke when they said for fostering. As revenge, mom called all of her adoptive applicant friends in Cochrane to warn them of what the call was really about. The former worker in me almost defended the workers because of how much foster parents were, and are still, needed, but the daughter in me said, “Way to stand up for yourself mom!”
Well my thin ice conversation went pretty good. So I decided to take a bigger risk. Instead of just walking on thin ice, my next line of questions felt like the risk all the kids took after the annual Cochrane Carnival fishing derby; when we would run across the lake dodging the abandoned fishing holes. You might make across unscathed, or you might break a leg, but the thrill was worth the risk. So, with my heart pounding, I asked, “Mom, would you have any advice for people who want to adopt children?”
Pour yourself a tea, maybe a nice Chai, and come back to Blogville in two weeks to hear her advice in Part 2 of Momma Says . . .
As usual, please know that I would love to hear your thoughts, stories and comments. If you prefer a less public forum, feel free to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Well as I said in ‘Momma Says . . .Part 1’, my conversation with my mom about growing up adopted went pretty good. So, welcome back to Blogville for Part 2 of this amazing conversation. I have just brewed a lovely cinnamon apple tea for your visit.
Let’s focus for a minute on my mom.
My conversation took place last month when I was with my mother to celebrate her upcoming birthday. As well, she needed refills on her supply of her favourite GF carrot muffins and cookies, and we often chat while she watches me bake. Realizing the golden moment that I was presented with, I asked her, “So, mom, how does it feel to turn 97 years old?” She thought for a moment and said, “You don’t really think about it until someone asks you a question and you stop and realize it is getting harder and harder to figure out the answer to their question. Also, I can no longer do so many of the things I used to easily do.” She expanded by saying, “I feel weaker and less able to do things but I’m definitely smarter.” I asked why she thinks she is smarter now and, without missing a beat, she grinned and said, “well, I don’t have to do so many things anymore, everyone does it for me”. Well, that is smart. So I handed her the muffin tin liners and put her to work!
Back when it was mom’s 90th birthday I suggested we get her an IPad. People thought that was a bit of a ridiculous idea but I prevailed. She has loved it from the beginning and still loves it seven years later. So when she was talking about being smarter now she said, “Its kind of like my machine here (referring to her IPad). I can play cards all day and my machine has to do all the shuffling and count the points. I don’t even have to pick up the cards when I’m done. Grinning, she turned her screen to show me the cribbage game that she was currently winning.
Her memory is failing for sure. It bothers me the most when I’m visiting and she’ll suddenly just stare at me. I know at that moment that she isn’t quite sure who I am. There was a time late last year when my mother sat across the table from me and proceeded to tell me a story about how she and her had husband adopted a little girl. I realized that I was listening to the story of my own arrival into the family from a perspective I had never heard it told from before. Sadly, in my heart, I knew it was because she had no idea that, sitting across from her, was the aged version of the little girl they had adopted.
As I explained earlier, given her age, and mom’s memory issues I decided it was the time to talk to her about adoption in general and my adoption specifically. This was the conversation I had started so many times in my life but quickly retreated because I sensed her pain or discomfort. Since, at that moment, she thought she was telling a stranger about her experience, she seemed very comfortable talking about it. So as bittersweet as it was, during this conversation I learned about her heartache at not being able to carry a baby to term, and how she and my dad learned about adoption from a visiting missionary at mass one Sunday, and how she called for information on adoption the following day. She talked of wanting a baby girl but reminisced about when they called about a 2 1/2 year old boy and how she called my dad and excitedly told him, “We are getting a little boy!” I learned how afraid she was to hire a babysitter and go for a drink with my dad at a ‘beverage house’ because they might take her child away. How she felt that she had to ask her social worker if that behaviour would be ok. Though I asked about it, she didn’t remember the application process or other pre-adoption steps specifically. Her response? “You just did what they said if you wanted to get children.”
Suddenly, Mom surprised me by asking, “Did you know about the woman who had you? Her father did not want her to bring you home and he wouldn’t let her, so we got you instead.” She looked sad when she added, “I always felt sorry for her because she could have a baby and was not allowed to keep it, and I got to keep it instead.” Mom then blew my mind by asking, “Did you ever get to meet her?” (Definitely a topic for a different blog, but I finally told my mom what happened regarding my birth mother because she doesn’t read my blogs, and she’s 97 years old. I’m afraid you will have to wait.)
Getting back to my first ever real heart to heart conversation about adoption with my mom. I asked her, “Was it hard to tell people that you were going to adopt?” “I forget”, she said, “we just brought you home and said you were our children. Nobody ever gave us a hard time.” She qualified that with, “It was just what families did. If you couldn’t have children you adopted. Simple as that.”
So, I asked her how her siblings, and her mother, my Granny, took the news that she and my dad were adopting. Mom looked at me like I had suddenly grown a beard and said, “Granny didn’t think anything of it as it was something that always was. I mean, adoption.” She added, “Like in the old days when parents died and their families would take care of the children. If there was no family then a family that knew the children would take them in.” She looked me in the eye and said, “Lynn, children need a family to take care of them and that was that.” Here is where I start bawling again from simply typing the words that she added, “You and your brother needed a home and that was that, you were part of the family.” Keeping the tissues close as I write that, I remember how she concluded with, “You were such good children. I think you were so glad you had a brother when you came to us, and he was so glad to get a sister. You were never strange with each other when you came to us, it was like you both knew you were home now.”
I am being honest when I tell you that I have never had a conversation like this with my mom. She always looked so hurt when I would ask, or would just stare at me like a ‘deer in the headlights’ and now I know that I was wrong not to have kept asking. But I was just a kid, and no kid wants to put that look of fear on the face of their parent.
As you know, I had decided to take a bigger risk by asking my mom if she had any advice for people who want to adopt. As I noted in Part 1, venturing into this topic felt like the risk we kids used to take after the annual Cochrane Carnival fishing derby. Usually on a dare, we would run across the lake dodging (we sincerely hoped) the abandoned fishing holes. You might make it across unscathed, or you might break a leg, but worth the risk.
It kind of felt like that when I asked, “Mom, would you have any advice for people who want to adopt children?” Without missing a beat she replied “I’d tell them to make sure that that is what they want”. Pushing aside the little girl in me begging me to stop talking, I asked what she meant by that and she replied, “I’d tell them that it’s not just like having your own” (I thought I had just figuratively fallen into one of those fishing holes- I could almost hear my leg snap). Well folks, since I have two legs, I decided to continue to ignore the little girl in me and pursue the concept. Metaphorically, I felt mom putting a cast on my leg when she said, “They need to be sure because sometimes children have questions about adoption that you can’t answer. You can’t just tell them about the birds and the bees.” I was in it now, why not keep going? I leaned forward asking, “Why couldn’t you answer?” She replied, “Well, lots of times I didn’t know the answer because they didn’t tell me much” (meaning the adoption workers). “Other times I didn’t know the answer because I wasn't adopted.” Well I sure did not see that one coming! I flashed back to some questions I had as a child when she would give me that ‘deer in the headlights’ look. Honestly, until that moment it had never occurred to me that adoptive parents sometimes struggle to answer their children’s questions because they have never experienced what their children were experiencing. Wow! What an enlightening moment for me, and hopefully for you.
But, since opportunity was knocking! Something I have always been curious about but was too afraid to ask my mom was why, when a doctor would ask about family medical history, my mom would give him a look and the two of them would leave the room. I remember thinking that she was sharing some magical secret about my biology with the doctor, or revealing some terrible medical facts about my birth family history. So today, I took the plunge, I worked up the nerve to finally ask, “Mom, I’ve always been curious why, whenever family medical history questions would come up, you and the doctor would always leave the room to talk?” In response, my beautiful 97 year old mother looked me straight in the eye and said, “I have no idea.”
Are you KIDDING ME RIGHT NOW???
Nope, no clue, not even a twinkle in her eye. Sigh.
I love you mom!
As usual, please know that I would love to hear your thoughts, stories and comments. If you prefer a less public forum, feel free to send me an email at email@example.com
Hey there! Good to see you back at Blogville. Today I’m having a steeped tea with a splash of milk.
Remember when you were a kid, selling tickets at Stedmans, or chocolate bars, or seeking sponsorships? Remember trying to raise money so you could go on a school trip, or to camp, or to a Boy Scout Jamboree? Remember standing in the rain or snow or high humidity trying to get sponsorships for a walk-a-thon, skip-a-thon, or some kind of thon, raising money to support your hockey team, or ringette, or baseball, and other teams or organized activities that existed to keep us all busy and out of trouble?
Well, if you remember that, you will also remember the people crossing the road, or suddenly becoming very interested in their jacket’s zipper, or deciding they did not need that item after all, the one found only in the store where they would have to cross your path to get to. You would remember the lack of eye contact from the same people who, on a normal day, would stop you and bore you with a hundred questions about your parents, your siblings, your progress in school, and your latest bowel movements. People and their money were not easily parted, even with the plea “hey Mrs. Etmanski, wanna sponsor me for . . .”
If you have ever tried to fund raise or sell something in a mall then you have been where I was very recently, during my first public book signing. The book signing took place at our local shopping mall. It was well organized by a very enthusiastic bookstore employee who had many wonderful plans but, to her dismay, more and more technical challenges as the event loomed closer. Murphy’s Law applied to many of the event details (some of you will need to look up the concept of Murphy’s Law) but despite everything that had been, or was currently going wrong, this young woman pasted a smile on her face and the event moved forward driven by her heart and determination.
I was in the company of some wonderful author colleagues and we introduced ourselves and got to know each other a little. Our books were an eclectic collection of words on pages with our hearts inserted as bookmarks. We were all local authors in the North from Sudbury to Moosonee, ergo the creative and appropriate name of the event, billed as ‘Northern Pages’. Among us were an author with a TV series deal in the works, and an Indigenous Order of Canada recipient, a poet, a lover of fantasy writing, a thrilling mystery storyteller, a fun loving children’s author, and me, with my book for families travelling an adoption, kinship or other alternative care journey.
There was the usual ‘newness factor’ discomfort that comes with mixing people who have never met, people with experience and those without, as well as differing personalities. We all turned a comparative eye to each other’s works and were both intimidated and encouraged. Many of us were new to book signing events such as we found ourselves in, while others had been there, done that. Some of us were equipped only with our books (proudly labeled with stickers that said, “Local Author” and “Signed by Author”) to stack on on tables covered with green tablecloths. We lovingly placed our books next to the supplied bottle of water, pens, and a plastic book stand. Other, more experienced authors got busy setting up retractable banners and promotional display monitors. I noted that the mall IT guy seemed less than enthusiastic when trying to find a working outlet in the temporarily repurposed, otherwise empty, storefront. IT folks really are unsung heroes aren’t they? He made it work.
The bookstore and the mall had promoted the event, paper flyers evident at each entrance as well as invitations on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok. Each author attending had promoted the event on our social media, some of us even doing Facebook live feeds at the book signing itself. We had told our friends and family where and what time the event would be taking place and exactly at noon, we overcame the tummy butterflies some of us had, put on our best and most confident smiles, and sat or stood filled with pride in showing our books!
We were authors, ready to meet the public!
So, getting back to the fundraising/sponsorship experiences from our youth, I was transported back in time while at this event. People would glance in at us wondering who we were and what was going on in the normally empty storefront. We, holding our breath in anticipation that they might cross the threshold and look at our books, patiently waited. Some folks would look around outside the storefront for signage and discover that we were “local authors”, most then turned and took a sudden interest in what a phantom friend, just out of our site, wanted. Duck and run! Evidently disappointed that it wasn’t a comic-con preview, or some kind of give-away free sample event, off they went. People we knew and called greetings to by name turned red and walked faster in the other direction. Those same people were the ones that would, in this very same mall, normally bend your ear for 30 minutes about nothing in particular and everything in general.
I know, I have felt it too, the pinching obligation to buy tickets or sponsor someone you know for whatever they are raising money to do. I get it, I have felt the same obligation to go look at the quilt or earrings or baby outfit someone I know has crafted (but if I’m honest, only if they made eye contact with me). I know that I too have been guilty of faking that I see an invisible friend just out of sight that I must talk with right away, or of quickly turning away so I don’t make eye contact. I have done it too. But suddenly the shoe was on the other foot (another expression to look up) and I felt invisible.
The bookstore manager popped by to introduce herself and helped me feel visible again. Then one of us would welcome a friend or acquaintance who had come out to support them, some even had one or two fans arrive, so again we felt seen. We welcomed chatting with the bored partners of shoppers, even though we knew they were just killing time. Many of us, almost in tandem, would half rise from our seats in anticipation, eternally hopeful that someone coming through the door may be coming to see us. Maybe they had even heard of our book(s).
Unexpectedly, I had two friends come in with their previously purchased books for my signature. They could have easily come to my house or gone out for coffee/tea with me to the same end, but they didn’t, they came to my first ever book signing! I know I’m an author but there are no words to describe what that meant. I won’t name names to avoid embarrassing them, they know who they are. Thank you for coming.
Let me tell you what else happened at this book signing. I got to know six other authors. I met these other kindred souls who want to make a difference in society, whether by entertaining or by teaching. I learned about, and could relate to, their writing challenges and successes. In differing ways each author I met that day helped me through my very first book signing so that I can approach the next one with infinitely more confidence.
Oh and this happened at my very first book signing . . . my husband, who originally planned to poke around the mall’s stores and maybe go home for a bit and come back later for me, pulled up an empty chair and sat with me instead. He’s obviously already read the book and doesn’t need my signature on anything but the occasional form or cheque, but he takes our partnership seriously. When someone would approach my table he would stand and wander casually off, maybe get a tea refill for me, and let me do what I do best . . .talk. Thank you for staying with me at my very first book signing, one in a number of firsts we have been through together.
Through this event I have been reminded of the talent that residents living in Northern Ontario possess; an often overlooked natural resource. In this life there are many opportunities open to us and what we do with them is a choice. This experience has taught me to never again purposefully avoid artisan vendors when I am somewhere that they are. To give your attention to the work someone else has poured their heart and soul into costs you nothing, they really want to hear your thoughts about their work more than anything. No artist wants their work purchased out of obligation and stored away never to be seen again; though they will of course gratefully take your money if you find something you honestly like.
Finally, I have also learned that a rare and beautiful sunny July afternoon on a weekend in Northern Ontario is probably not the best time to draw people to the mall for a book signing.
But, thanks for trying Gina. Well done!
As usual I would love to read your comments and if you prefer a less public forum than commenting here, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Welcome back to my little Blogville. Today I am enjoying a ginger tea with a wedge of lemon, what is your tea of choice?
Special note: Before you begin reading this blog I want to you to take note that I am not referring to Hoarding Disorders (HD) as defined in the DSM-5. That is a condition that should be diagnosed and treated by mental health professionals.
What I will be talking about is the concept of ‘Decluttering’. Unlike most people I know, the need to declutter our lives literally baffles me. I can’t be the only person who asks why? “It’s just stuff”, they say, “they are just things” they tell me, “they don’t matter…”
When I explore my reaction to the concept of decluttering, I wonder if my response is impacted by being an adopted person. Throughout my childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood, I was a person without a birth family history. Until I found and met my birth father and his children (when I was around 32 years old), and until I met my maternal birth half-sisters (when I was about 59 years old), my history was confined to the contents of an 8 1/2 X 11 inch business envelope and a clear bag containing the clothes I was was wearing when I was delivered to my parents at 9 months of age. When I was a child I remember asking my mom how come those clothes looked so sad and she responded with, “Oh honey, they keep the good clothes for the next foster children because they know adoptive parents can buy nice things.” My child mind processed that to mean, “Your foster parents did not buy you anything, everything you had when you were there was used.” I was 62 years old when I finally found out that I did get new clothes as needed, as well as gifts (actual new things) for my first Christmas in my foster home; something I had always wondered about.
I acknowledge that those little baby shoes collecting dust on my bookshelf are not important every day, nor do they impact on my daily life. But when I pick them up intending to discard them I am flooded with memories of the little baby feet that they once protected, and the first steps that they once supported…if I throw them out, what will inspire those memories?
Those aren’t just baby shoes, they are mini transporters that turn me into a time traveller. As soon as I touch them I am transported back in time. I can hear her giggle, I can see her little feet, I can even see my young hands tying up the laces. If the shoes are gone, what will make me think of those moments?
“Throw it out mom, I don’t want that junk anymore.” That junk!The book we waited in line for at 6 a.m. so you could be the first to buy and read it. That Lego set that lit up your little face on your birthday just when you had given up all hope that it might be one of your gifts. . . junk? Throw it out mom, its just junk, that toy you HAD to have, life or death . . .“ppppuuuuulllleeeeaaaaassssseeeee mom!”
When all of my children moved out what if I HAD thrown out all those toys? When that baby grandchild came to visit what would have inspired that giggle as they reached out for that indestructible telephone, or stacking toy, giggling just like the baby, my baby/their parent had done while playing with that same toy. Chubby hands placing the farm animals just so, sitting on the floor with the parent whose now strong and capable hands once placed the farm animals the same way. Why does this not matter?
I believe that grandparents keep special toys to inspire in their adult children, now parents themselves, the same joy they felt. The next thing you know your adult child is making the cow moo, helping their baby to stack the next ring, and reverting back to play, leaving the adult stressors aside for just a moment. Now that grandparents have time to sit back and watch, it is a special moment when the child of your child plays with those old toys, that junk.
I need these mini time machines to help jog my memory now that I am at an age where every day feels the same. I love being transported back to the special moments that I spontaneously relive when my memory is jogged by photographs, certain smells, conversations, and that ‘junk’.
I can be transported to a time when I mattered as my parents’ daughter, my brother’s sister, my friends’ friend as I was growing up. I am reminded of those times when I look at faces in old photographs, or when I open my mother’s cedar chest and look at my first mittens, or some art projects, or the ‘used’ outfit I was wearing when my social worker delivered me to my parents. When I open that cedar chest, I can smell my childhood.
I mattered as a young woman making a life of my own. I remember this when I look at my husband’s pressed boutonniere from our wedding day, or when sipping wine from glasses that transport me to a warm sunny day on our honeymoon when we watched a young artist etch our names onto them. I mattered to employers in those first jobs. They trusted me to do my best and I trusted them to let me learn, to teach me. I know I mattered when I look at my resumé and the attached letters of recommendation.
I mattered as a young wife and mother, in the days when I looked down and my hands were young. I was once someone’s whole universe, the most important human being in the life of another human being. I know I mattered when I look at my poorly crafted-more-beautiful-than-anything-else-in-the-world special occasion (popsicle stick picture frame, pot holder, candy dish…) gifts. When I touch those gifts I am immediately transported back to looking at the pride on my child’s face as they handed it to me.
I think my father-in-law started to understand this just before he passed away. When he retired he started a project. He began taking the family vacation photos and other family adventure photos and trimming them into collages. I now feel that he was doing two things. First, he was reliving these events as he went through hundreds of photos. Second, consciously or unconsciously, I feel he began to understand the old adage about the journey not being as important as who you take the journey with. He was cutting away much of the scenery and focusing on the people with him, because their expressions became the most important memory for him. (This is a “decluttering” I understand lol.)
When I met my birth father’s adult children, two of my (then quite young) new nieces presented me with home crafted gifts, a book mark and a popsicle-stick keepsake box. (These items actually appear in one of the instagram posts promoting this blog.) When I look at these gifts, I am reminded of those children expressing such unconditional acceptance of a new person in their world. How do I chuck those?
I have a box that I keep the things my birth father sent me in. He would send me letters, postcards, and even the odd book. The greatest gift he sent me was in the beginning when he sent a card, created like a birth announcement. It said, “Mr. Scott *** is delighted to announce the Discovery of his charming daughter, Lynn Deiulis. A sister for Leslie, Craig & Beth. In the card he included a tiny little cigar wrapped with a tiny pink ribbon bow on which he had handwritten “Its A Girl”.
I waited 32 years to begin learning about my birth roots. Is it too much to ask to keep this box when/if I “declutter”?
When my older maternal half-sister (Lynne) and I met our younger half-sisters we all brought each other little gifts, tokens to say hello. I feel like Lynne’s and mine meant, “nice to meet you” while theirs said, “welcome to the family”. An example of being welcomed is a tiny family tree with all six of our birthstones on it, and another was a gift of bracelets for each of us with our name and birth order number. They resembled the hospital baby bracelets of the past. We took a very neat photo of each of our hands/arms wearing these bracelets. I usually wear my bracelet when I’m making presentations as it reminds me that I represent many people when I talk about my adoption journey, and to be respectful as all of our journeys are different. One person’s clutter, I suppose.
When we met our maternal birth half sisters we all went together to meet their father. He is a lovely man, and judging by his daughters, was a good father. It was a very emotional meeting. But, in a gesture that makes me weep every time I remember it, our new sisters offered Lynne and I each a ring that had belonged to ‘our’ mother. Apparently, when she passed, there were six rings and the sisters had each chosen their favourites and put the other two away. I wear this gifted ring every day, right beside my family ring, where it also belongs. Cluttering up my hand.
My grandchildren call me, “Meemaw”. They give me great works of art for the coveted fridge spots. There are two refrigerators in our home. Sadly, I still only have so many fridge magnets, and so much room. My grandchildren notice when their works of art are moved by me but accept it when I tell them that even great works of art in museums are moved occasionally. Sometimes, my grandchildren secretly place their works of art over their cousins’ pieces. It does my heart proud the times when I see that the cousin noticed and did not say a thing. Though impossible to keep it all, there will always be cherished pieces. These works of art clutter up my heart.
I understand the need to get rid of 5 of your 6 roast pans, or 8 of your 10 sprinklers, but I cannot bring myself to get rid of what I call, “linked” items. These are the things that link me to my roles in life, a birth child, a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother, an aunt, a grandmother, a friend, even a work colleague. I started my life without an attachment, and I know I will leave this life without those trinkets, but in the meantime I am very attached to the tiny time machines my clutter represents to me, and hope you understand me, and people like me, just a little bit better.
Thanks for reading!
(Whatever you do, don’t print this blog and clutter up any space with it!)
As always, I would love to hear from you. If you prefer to comment using a less public forum feel free to email me at email@example.com
Welcome back to Blogville. I think a nice camomile tea will suit this chat but you can decide. Maybe make a pot, this is going to take a while.
I want to talk to prospective adoptive parents a little about my professional experience with matching children and families, and what birth parents have taught me about the matching process. I hope that this will help you to prepare for the roller-coaster ride known as “approved adoptive family” awaiting a placement. I wish to note that my experience is limited to domestic (Ontario) public adoptions specifically.
If you are adopting due to an infertility issue then you have learned from ovulation monitoring, fertility drugs, intercourse on demand, medical procedures, and other attempts to conceive that there is no actual stork. If you are adopting as a single parent, or as a member of the LGBTQ2s+ community, you know there is no actual stork.
So, now that we have acknowledged all of that, I have to inform you that there is no adoption stork either (no matter how tall or slender your adoption worker might be, lol).
We simply need to acknowledge that, instead, there is an adoption “system” that comes with guidelines, rules, procedures, and what feels like a hundred other hoops and/or barriers for you. What I want to focus on in this blog is the matching/selection process.
I think it is important to state that (typically but not always) adoption workers review selected approved home studies and usually narrow the candidates down to three families that they feel best match with the child or youth’s needs and the wishes of the birth parent(s) where applicable.
Adoption workers present your profile to birth parent(s) to help them to choose a family for their child. If the birth parent(s) are not involved, then a selection committee will review your profile instead. My point is that the people who may be selecting you to parent a child or youth will be making their selection based primarily on the profile you created, and follow up questions they ask your adoption worker.
But I get ahead of myself. As an adoption worker, this is how I saw the practice of adoption matching in Ontario. Others may not see it the same way, but this is my personal view after 25 years of experience. (It is also my view as an adopted person.)
Once you are an approved adoptive applicant, a “check list” profile can be placed on the AdoptOntario website. I used to describe this as the ‘Plenty ‘O Fish’ of adoption. The website provides quick facts about you that workers can consider when they are looking to match a child with a family, while also providing quick facts about a child that workers are looking to match with a family. This website profile has prescribed descriptors about you that do not require any creativity, just the facts. Workers can then follow up if it looks like there might be a match.
As part of the search for your child, you may attend adoption conferences, such as the Adoption Resource Exchange (A.R.E.) that takes place in Toronto, Ontario usually twice per year. If you plan to attend, your worker will recommend that you prepare a profile to present to the workers at the conference. In many cases you can preview children’s profiles on the AdoptOntario website prior to the conference. You will likely make note of which agencies you will want to speak to at the conference regarding children who caught your eye.
I cannot reinforce enough how important it is for you to leave the fantasy version of your ‘perfect child’ at the A.R.E. door before you enter. Bring an open mind with you instead. Falling in love with a child or youth’s photo can actually impair your hearing. Don’t just listen for the things you want to hear, make sure you listen actively, even if you may not like what the worker is saying. I call this ‘future heartbreak prevention’.
The A.R.E. Conference looks a little bit like a science fair when you arrive, with booths and displays everywhere. I used to describe the conference as being similar to ‘speed dating’. Often there are lineups of families waiting to introduce themselves to the workers representing children available for adoption. Prospective parents moving from booth to booth to booth, armed with multiple copies of their profiles, and filling out expression of interest forms, or not. A good pre-conference exercise I recommend is to imagine which agency’s booth you would go to, to find out more about a child or sibling set, if you could only go to one.
At the A.R.E. you will usually find workers representing older children and youth, children with special needs, and/or sibling sets. Be aware that the longer the line, the less time the worker will have to meet you, so be ready to make an impression. What impresses workers? Honesty. Have an honest list of what special needs, behaviours, medical conditions, you feel you can truly manage (not necessarily what you originally told the home study worker). Children need you to be sure. I call this ‘future heartbreak prevention’.
As always I would love to hear your comments. If you are not comfortable sharing them on a public site, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The tea for this blog must be strong. This visit to Blogville might be hard. You might not be able to finish reading it all at once, and that is ok.
I never had the chance to celebrate even one of my birth mother’s birthdays with her. When I look at the family photos my birth half-sisters have of her 80th year celebration I immediately feel the absence of my older birth half-sister and I. We never met her, and she passed away. Do I even have the right to grieve?
I have started and restarted this blog so many times because the topic is difficult. On the one hand, I’m so afraid of offending or even triggering anyone, but on the other hand, I think it needs to be talked about. It may validate, or even make sense, for so many other people when they are feeling their feelings.
Maybe I am meant to be their voice.
I am reminded of seeing an old black and white picture my birth father sent to me once I had found him. He was posing with his small children after a visit to the ice cream store. Each of them had a cone, and I distinctly remember strongly feeling, “Where is my ice cream?” I felt a great loss at that moment. Grief at not being a part of my birth father’s family, and sadness that I met him so late in life that we had so little time to get to know each other. I felt a loss that his other children, my paternal half-siblings, were already adults.
I want to talk about rejection in this blog. I want to qualify that this is my experience, and mine alone, however, I feel there may be meaning in here for others. Rejection in adoption can be a bit of a theme.
Loss for birth parents is it’s own journey. When the pregnancy was discovered, they may have felt rejection from each other, from their families and friends, and even from their community. The mere fact that there were homes for unwed mothers to hide or be hidden in supports this concept. Many pregnant girls were rejected by their immediate circle and sent off to live with a ‘sick aunt’ in another community. For birth fathers who wanted to make a plan to take responsibility for the pregnancy, their thoughts and ideas were often rejected as their own future needed to be ‘protected’ in the bigger picture. The theme for birth parents? Rejection and powerlessness.
Fact: Did you know that birth mothers did not, and do not, somehow rob their boyfriends of their sperm just to impregnate themselves? Something to think about.
Loss for many adoptive parents begins when their own bodies rejected the idea of creating a biological child. For people struggling with infertility it may be a lonely journey, friends becoming uncomfortable sharing pregnancy news, baby shower invitations dwindling, society’s awkwardness apparent. Hormone therapy, temperature taking, intimate moments becoming clinical, all in an attempt to achieve what seems to come easy to everyone but them. Smiling through advice about relaxing and letting nature take its course. Listening to stories of people just having to ‘look at each other’ and finding themselves pregnant. More rejection by what feels like everyone around them, and by their own bodies.
That is just the beginning for adoptive parents. Then they faced fear of being rejected during the adoption home study process or never being selected to parent a child. Loss of a dream. They fear that their family may not accept their adopted child. Then they fear that the adopted child might reject them as parents.
Step-parent adoptions are not immune from feelings of loss and fears of rejection either.
For the adopted child, rejection comes in many forms. Adoptees can only assume that the news of their existence was not a welcome experience for their birth parents. To be rejected before you are even born may not be felt in those critical nine months of gestation (that we know of anyway), but it is felt for life. How does one cope with their accidental existence?
So, I was a ‘chosen child’. My point of view? That someone had to reject and release me, so that I could be chosen. For international adoptees I feel that they may experience even more levels of abandonment: first by their birth parents; then by their extended family; then by their community; and finally, by their whole country. Did no one value them enough to make a plan to keep them home?
It is a lot of work to find value in yourself when your existence was and is surrounded by so much grief and loss . But adopted persons do it every, single, day. With or without support.
So I want to talk to you about interacting with adopted people. This may not apply to all adopted people, but I believe it applies to many of us. Again, these are my own feelings and reactions, however, I don’t feel they are unique to me. In our interactions, if you reject me, or if I perceive you are rejecting me, I accept that I deserve it. After all, if my own birth parents did not want me, why would you? These types of feelings may be what you are facing from deep within the adopted person you love, and they cannot tell you because this sense of abandonment is buried so very, very deep.
Some examples? When you look at your phone when I am talking to you, and then you don’t pick our conversation back up, I feel that what I had to say did not matter. I will likely never bring that topic up again. When you say you will help me with something, I trust you, and then if you forget, or make other plans, I feel I deserve your abandonment. I will figure out a way to get it done myself. When you spend time with other friends instead of me, I understand, but at the same time I feel that they are better friends than me. You value them more. Given that I was not valued by my own birth family, how can I expect anyone to really, truly, value me? In my case, if these things happen, you should picture a small blonde child covering her head with blankets, or pouting and stamping her foot, because she is my ‘child-me’ reacting. Please do not mistake this blog sharing as self-pity. I have already had so much loss. Losing people I care about is my greatest fear, and the fear of many adoptees, so I just wanted you to know. Why do you think I, and many adoptees, are such people-pleasers?
If you ever meet me, you will meet a strong, confident person who appears to be very self-assured. But if you don’t return my call, cancel a lunch date with me, criticize me (constructive or otherwise), or ignore me in some way . . . inside me a child hides and cries. I withdraw, not to punish you, but to punish me for thinking I deserved your attention, your friendship, your love. The people who were supposed to love me the most, did not value my existence, why should I expect you to love me or care about me?
Oh and let’s not forget society’s obsession with the term “real parents”. Ironically, birth parents grieve the loss of their parental rights when society never seems to fully transfer them to the parenting parents. Side note, when people talk to birth parents about searching, do you think they ask if they want to find their ‘real child’?
People used to ask if I wanted to find my real parents, and I continue to acknowledge my mom and dad as my real parents, and I not only met them, I grew up as their daughter. But, did I want to find the birth parents who created and then rejected me? YES!!! Unequivocally YES! But maybe not for the reasons society thinks. I needed to know why? What had I done that made them abandon me? I was just a tiny baby. Maybe if they can explain this to me I can forgive myself for having been created and causing them so much pain. But then, I am afraid. What if I find them and they reject me again? What if they tell me it really was my fault?
From the birth parents’ perspective, I believe they are thinking, ‘what if my birth child finds me and hates me for what I did? What will my other children think of me if they know I had, and relinquished my rights to parent their sibling (half or full). What will my friends, coworkers, and extended family think of me? Will they still value me?’ For my birth mother, who declined the opportunity to meet my birth sister and I, I believe it was fear of this rejection that caused her to say no. I don’t need to tell you that accepting her decision to relinquish her parental rights to me as an infant was one thing, but her rejection of the adult me (no matter how valid her reasons) really left a mark. She has four beautiful daughters whom she raised with her husband in the way it ‘should’ be done. I think she feared what would happen to her relationship with them, and her grandchildren, if they learned about us. Would they no longer respect her? Would they think less of her? The sad truth is, when we met our birth sisters following her passing, they honestly wished that she had told them, and wished that she could have met us too. My birth sisters do not believe they would have felt any different about their beloved mother as a result of learning about us.
I believe that what truly matters in adoption is: Do I have value? The answer is YES. You have and are living a life path. You matter to so many people and to yourself.
Birth parents, your child is living a valued life because you allowed that to happen for them. Birth children, you are living your best life because of all the parents that you have or had. Adoptive parents, your child is living a valued life because you allow that to happen for them. Step-parents, your child is living a valued life because you allow that to happen for them. Kinship parents, your child is living a valued life because you allow that to happen for them. Whomever you are to a child, if you value them, you matter to them, no matter who or where you are.
You know what my take away is from this? I am valued. Equally important is that I value others. I value them enough to hurt when they don’t have time for me, or when I feel rejected by them. I value them enough to keep trying and to keep working on the self-image of that little blonde girl in me so that she feels valued too, because in my heart, I know she truly matters to you!
In my heart, I know that I matter to you, and to me, and that I am valued. Thanks for reading.
As always, I would love to hear your comments. If you would prefer a less public forum, please email your comments to me at email@example.com.
Welcome back to Blogville! Thank you for joining me. The tea of choice today is Red Raspberry or ginger. The reason may, or may not, become apparent as you read on.
If you aren’t comfortable with the word puberty, you should probably stop reading now and move on to another blog.
I was with some friends today and for some reason, the discussion turned to puberty. Weird right? After all, we are more menopausal than pubescent. As you can imagine, my friends are a bit odd, just like me. That’s how I keep them! Anyway, it seems puberty developmental events were different for me than my friends who were raised by their birth parents. I had not really thought of that. Not knowing when my birth mother, or any of her sisters started their period was a bit of an issue, a mystery, a game of chance, (not that I knew whether or not she had sisters). In today’s world, when you adopt a child who identifies as female, her social and medical history should contain the approximate ages when others in her family began their menses. This is to give adoptive parents at least some idea of when to prepare their daughter for this life event. (Not so in my day.)
So, this is how it went, to the best of my recollection. When I was around 10 or 11 years old my mother dutifully bought me the pads and belt (remember I was raised in the 1960s) to put/hide in my closet for “that day”. She told me that I could not use tampons before I got married because I wouldn’t be a virgin (Oh, that is a topic for another blog . . . Or not lol). My mom had apparently started her period, or got her “monthly visitor” quite young. So into the closet these secret supplies stayed, gathering dust, for what seemed like a very long time. I think I even once took the belt out of the closet only to find it had lost most of its elasticity. My mother kept trotting me to the doctor to ask what the holdup was, why was I not starting my menses? I felt like I was doing something wrong, but not exactly what.
During today’s visit, my friends and I started figuring out how old we were when we each actually started ours. One of them was around 10 or 11 years old and the other was slightly older. I had still not started by those ages. By those ages girls were usually busy figuring out how they could go swimming, or if they could wear short shorts, for fear that people would notice they had their “monthly visitor”. I was busy reading pamphlets and books and using a mirror to see if I could figure out what was going on down there that was preventing me from starting my menses. So, my mom decided that I was not humiliated enough with being 14, 15, 16 years old and still not having my period, so she took me to the doctor AGAIN for a reasonable explanation. Essentially he told her that I was too busy growing tall and when my body stopped doing that, it would begin to develop.
You are going to love this bit. Keep in mind that I was adopted. I honestly remember being afraid that I’d be like my mom and would not be able to have biological children. How many of you just re-read that sentence? Yep, I was afraid that I had inherited my mom’s infertility. So don’t tell me that adopted children don’t feel like their adoptive parents are their parents. Having lived that herself, I believe my mother was afraid of the same thing. By the way, I’m no doctor but I’m pretty sure infertility cannot be genetically transmitted. Just a guess.
Oh, I’m also pretty sure that teen pregnancy is not genetic either. So many adopting folks I have met were not sure if they should tell their children that the birth parents were teen parents. Or they extra supervised adopted children in their teen years. Pregnancy is caused by the same thing no matter how old the birth parents are. Again, I’m no doctor, but I am pretty sure that pregnancy is caused by the fertilization of an egg by a sperm cell. I do not think that people are genetically predisposed to having that happen at a particular age. So, adoptive parents, please stop worrying that your adopted child is at any greater risk of teen pregnancy than birth children are.
If you are interested, my adoptive mother, who loves me and has always been dedicated to caring for my brother and I used an unusual method of birth control, or preventative tactic with me. When I was of dating age, she would warn me that should I become pregnant, I would be making adoption plans for the baby. I was very confused by how she made it seem like a bad thing? I will admit, given that she was speaking to an adoptee, she was really kind of making an empty threat. I thought adoption was a good plan. I was living that same exact plan. (Plus, I still didn’t even have my period yet so it was rather a moot point.)
So, back to the present, sitting with my friends talking about menstruation. One of them asked me if I knew when my birth sisters started their periods. Nah, I never thought to ask them that. By the time I met my birth sisters I was closer to menopause than puberty and my daughters were all adults by then so I guess I just didn’t think about it.
Instead my friends and I began talking about the horrors of puberty.
Remember, my family doctor said I was too busy growing tall than developing? I must say that I paid the price for that in grades nine and ten. There was a toy made by the Ideal Toy Company from 1969 until 1973 called Flatsy Dolls. By the way, these are valuable collectors’ items now, but for me they were an instrument of torture. If you look up ‘Flatsy Dolls Jingle’ on YouTube, you will hear a song that some of my loving peer group would sing to me as I walked down the hall in grade 9, or when I was at my locker. The chorus went like this:
They’re flat and that’s that
I think you get the picture. Those dolls and their jingle, plus the fact that I was taller than most of the boys I knew, combined to make a miserable start to high school. I started signing out using the excuse of “cramps” to either go lie down in the nurses room or go home, hoping that people signing out after me would believe I had my period. It was really a cover story for the fact I did not start until I was almost 16 1/2 years old. I could drive a car before I had to go to the store to finally replace that elastic belt in my closet.
So, my advice to social workers completing social and medical histories today, please don’t skip the question of when birth family members began their menses. I know it is an uncomfortable question but it is less uncomfortable than it will be for a child or adoptive parent later on. My advice to adoptive parents, please ask the question if it is not readily apparent on the social and medical history. Even if you are adopting a child identified as male, one day this information may be important for his daughters. Maybe you should consider asking for a family history of when facial hair and changing voices began in the birth family? Puberty is tough to begin with, knowing when to expect changes can make it easier!
As always, I welcome you to share your thoughts here or more privately via my email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lynn Deiulis' personal and professional journey sparked a passion to write a book that offers an opportunity for children to learn about how they came to be living together as a family or living with another family.