Monthly Archives: April 2015

Listening To Adult Adoptees

I’ve noticed that there is a strict divide in the adoption blogs I read.  Those written by non-religious parents often write much more about race, culture, and attachment.  Those written by evangelical Christian adoptive parents talk often about how adoption perfectly model’s God’s redemptive plan for us, a little bit about attachment and culture, and are generally silent on race.  The former are more likely to have read some books or essays from the point of view of an adult adoptee, but really, if you read any adoption blog you’d think that interracial adoption is a fairly recent phenomenon.

Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 12.48.20 PMInternational adoption began after the Korean War.  Anyone remember when that took place?  Let me give you a hint, long enough that there are people who are adopting through my agency who are themselves Korean adoptees.  Adult adoptees grew up to share their experiences, and they have highly influenced the required education that today’s adoptive parents receive.  It is because of them that social workers stress the importance of trying to keep an adoptee in touch with their cultural heritage.  Adoptees such as Barb Lee, who directed the documentary Adopted, which she co-produced with another adult adoptee.  I watched Adopted on Amazon, but you can view the entire movie on YouTube here.  It was a very uncomfortable documentary to watch, and I assume that is why most adoptive parents prefer to pretend that adult adoptees don’t exist.  We don’t like to feel uncomfortable, and we don’t want to think that our children could grow up with any negative, or even conflicted, feelings about their adoption.

Adopted follows 30-something year old Jennifer Fero, who was adopted from Korea.  When she learned that her (adoptive) mother has terminal brain cancer, it spurs her to seek the relationship with her parents that she has been tip-toeing around for years.  Jen falls into the stereotype of an “angry adoptee.”  I remember hearing Steve Kalb say in an interview that if you’ve met one adoptee then you know one adoptee.  Jen’s feelings are common for some adoptees.  Other adoptees will go through life never struggling with these issues.

On Jen’s visits back home, she repeatedly pushes her parents beyond their comfort zone.  When Jen asks her mother why she thinks Jen’s birth mother left her at the police station, her mother immediately answers “Some people just aren’t meant to be mothers.”  Jen challenges her to think about more possibilities, what if she wanted to keep Jen but couldn’t because of poverty.  Jen’s mom plays along for a minute or two but then abruptly shuts down the conversation with “I don’t think about her at all.  I don’t want to think about her.  You’re my daughter now, not hers.”

Jen’s father tells the story of how they decided to adopt her.  He said that after having a son, they tried for a few years to have another child.  When that didn’t work out, “I said we should go get a baby girl from Holt, the adoption agency here in Oregon.”  Just like ordering up a product.  Later in the documentary, Jen goes on a trip to New York with her father and uncle because her father is very interested in genealogy.  Jen proudly explains to her father that because of his research he is eligible to join the Sons of the Revolution because he is a direct descendent of a man who fought in the Revolutionary War.  Moments later in the film, the man at the Son of the Revolution museum explains that only Jen’s father’s “linear children” are eligible to join.  As Jen’s father clearly isn’t catching his meaning, he is forced to explicitly state “only your biological children are eligible, not adopted children.”  Jen politely smiles and follows along on the tour but later ducks out to wipe away her tears.

Jen’s parents are older working class folks who live in a double-wide and are trying hard to copeScreen Shot 2015-04-30 at 10.06.27 AM with her mother’s terminal diagnosis.  They try really hard to understand Jen’s feelings, but clearly none of it makes sense to them.  Jen’s older brother, who seemed to be the hero of the film to me, lives with his parents to take care of them.  He is eternally patient with Jen, always validating her feelings while trying to gently suggest that she be a little easier on their parents because of their age.  Frankly, while I could understand all of Jen’s feelings, I didn’t like her much.  It was extremely painful to watch her railing about her feelings to her mother, knowing this was her last few months of life.  While I wouldn’t have chosen that moment to suddenly spring an adoptive parent educational course on them, I think today’s adoptive parents would benefit from listening to Jenn and other adoptees.

During the New York trip, Jen drags her father and uncle to eat at a Korean restaurant.  They are clearly unhappy about being there, and it is painful to watch.  At another point in the movie we see Jen telling him that it isn’t fair that she has to make all of the accommodations.  She has to be white.  Despite the fact that he has chosen to have an interracial family, there is no acknowledgement that she is Asian.  She must always adapt to them, they won’t do any adapting to her.  The fact that is family his interracial is clearly news to Jen’s dad.  Throughout the film, both he and his wife make statements typical for people of their age.  “I never see Jenn as Asian–she’s just my daughter” or “I was taught to never see race.”

As I watched Jen’s dad and uncle sit sullenly picking at their Korean food, I was reminded of a fairly recent conversation I had with another adoptive parent.  When we moved to a larger city, my husband learned from from a Chinese-American coworker about a Chinese school in the area.  Founded by Chinese immigrants for their children, it offers a variety of classes in Chinese language, dance, martial arts, and music.  When I met another parent of a Chinese adoptee, I asked if she had heard about the school.  She responded that all of the adoptive parents in the area put their kids in language class with a white guy who has a college degree in Chinese.  She felt it was really great because their daughters were able to be friends with other adoptees and the parents can all talk while their children are in class.

I think it’s wonderful for adoptees to have friends who are also adoptees, but I reflected that the Chinese school was a great opportunity for a Chinese adoptee to become a part of the Chinese community in our city.  We ended up signing up Vincent (who is not adopted) for Chinese language classes.  At the Chinese New Year celebration our family one of a handful of non-Chinese.  The building was full of Chinese people, speaking Mandarin and eating Chinese food.  My daughter commented that it was like being back in China again.  I wondered if the adoptive parents avoided the school for just this occasion.  When you realize you don’t belong and that you’re the one who is different.  I had a sudden flash of sympathy for the one black kid who attended school with me in the rural area where I grew up.  This is what so many of us ask of our adopted children–to be the only non-white person in the area, while trying to avoid being in that situation ourselves.  I always appreciate the opportunity to connect with other adoptive parents, but there is something to be said for the opportunity to connect with Chinese-Americans as well.

Right after watching Adopted, I watched Approved For Adoption, a film by Jung, a Belgian-Screen Shot 2015-04-30 at 10.02.59 AMKorean adoptee.  I believe this movie is currently only available on Amazon.  Approved For Adoption is Jung’s memoir, mostly in cartoon form although there are home movies and video footage from his trip to Korea interspersed.  It is in French with English subtitles and it is a little European-earthy with some PG-13 moments.

Jung is much more personable than Jennifer and I think the cartoon format makes this film more approachable for the adoptive parent than the documentary format of Adopted.  Yet, Jung’s story has many of the same themes.  He talks about how he shunned the other Korean adoptees in the village and resented his Korean sister because he didn’t want to face being Korean.  In one humorous episode, he becomes obsessed with Japanese culture and starts to pretend he is Japanese.  Because he was older when he was adopted and had lived on the streets for a time, he acts out in many ways common to children from that scenario.  This causes friction with his adoptive family.  Towards the end he discusses the depression and self-destructive behavior common among adoptees.

I think many adoptive parents avoid listening anything by the “angry adoptees” because we don’t want to deal with the uncomfortable feelings that come from listening to their point of view.  Adoptive parents love “Gotcha Day” because that was the day that WE got our child.  But some adoptees think of it as the day they lost their culture.  They don’t want to be told that they should be grateful they didn’t grow up in an orphanage.  Surely you can love your family while still feeling that it’s unfair you couldn’t grown up with your first family in your country of birth.  Humans are complicated–we can feel all sorts of conflicting emotions.  We need to be prepared to support our children throughout their lives, and even when their feelings make us uncomfortable.  If you avoid adult adoptees because you think that they only feel that way because their parents did it all wrong raising them, so your kids are never going to have those feelings then you will be completely unprepared if you one day find yourself in that place.

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Why You Should Adopt A Boy

 

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 You know I keep a few boys around my house.  We’ve talked about the adoptive parent preference for girls already, so you know my feelings on that topic.  I thought with this post I might keep it light for once, and I’ll just tell you what I’ve learned from being a mom of boys.  Here is why you should open your heart to a boy.

1. Boys are nurturing and affectionate

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Maybe it’s because my husband is a hands-on father. Maybe it’s because I let my boys have access to dolls and kitchen toys.  But all of my boys love to nurture their toys, pets, and younger siblings.

 

 

 

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Many years ago, I was a La Leche League leader.  Mothers used to sit around during the meeting comparing notes on nursing our babies, and repeatedly mothers mentioned that their daughters wanted to eat and run while sons would gaze lovingly into their eyes and want to snuggle.  Despite their rough and tumble reputation, boys can cuddle like nobody’s business!

 

 

 

2. Boys love to read

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Sure, there is a growing literacy gap.  But if you have a home with both mom AND dad love to read, if you enjoy read alouds as a family, and set reasonable limits on electronics, then your sons will love to read.

 

 

 

 

 

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They might not want to walk with you down memory lane with your beloved Anne of Green Gables, and they not prefer to read sitting motionless on a couch, but they will love to read.

 

 

 

 

 

3. They play with dolls, too

imageedit_7_6698441974If boys don’t play with dolls, how will they learn how to be a good father?  I have always kept a few dolls around the house and my sons all voluntarily played with them.  Sure, there was a lot more games involving dolly rolling down the stairs in a dump truck than fashion shows.  But they also took them for walks in the stroller, cooked them meals, and tucked them into bed with a hug and a kiss.  Adopting a boy doesn’t mean you have to miss out on dolls.

 

4. Sports are not required

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I remember a man once commenting that he wasn’t sure about adopting a son because he did not enjoy sports, himself.  Do you know what all boys really like to do?  Whatever you like to do!  

 

 

 

 

imageedit_11_7524455886We are not a very sporty family, despite having four boys.  We’ve never done any team sports, unless you count marching band.  We have enjoyed physical activities such as swimming, biking, and martial arts.  My husband has also done stereotypical father/son things like camping, model rockets, and watching games on tv.  Not ball games, video games.

 

 

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Kids just want to spend time with you.  If you have family hobbies, they will enjoy those hobbies too, regardless of whether a sport is involved.

 

 

 

 

5. However, they do like dogs

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I mean, I’m not saying it’s guaranteed or anything.  But if you have a son then he might talk you into getting him a dog after giving you many sad longing looks while batting his eyelashes and pleading.  Even though you don’t like dogs.  But if he likes dogs and likes to read then he might begin a quest to find a “boy and his dog” book where the dog doesn’t die in the end.  Just theoretically, mind you.

 

 

 

6. And dirt

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I’m not saying that boys are naturally dirty.  Let’s just call it a love of nature.

 

 

 

 

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Or an inability to leave a good puddle  unappreciated.   

 

 

 

 

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And, quite frankly, an opportunity for you to make your future daughter-in-law love you by making sure your son knows how to clean up after himself and work a washing machine.

 

 

 

 

7. And that whole “boys can make a weapon out of anything” stereotype is true, too

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Perhaps you, like me, learned in school that gender is determined by societal norms.  You will soon learn that even if you ban toy guns, they will make them anyway, even out of things like a giant flower balloon.

 

 

 

 

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Or play dough and a random piece of plastic.  You can learn to appreciate a good battle scene, right?  You might even find yourself with a large collection of foam swords and Nerf guns one day despite your original intentions.

 

 

 

8.  Boys will give you a great reason for blurry pictures

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Never been the best photographer?  Non-stop action will give you a great excuse for those less than stellar pictures.

 

 

 

 

 

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In fact, I would say that they’re generally a great reason to relax and enjoy all the fun that life brings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

9.  A boy needs a brother

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I’ve heard so many people say that they prefer to adopt a girl because their daughter needs a sister.

 

 

 

 

 

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Let’s not forget that boys need brothers, too.

 

 

 

 

10. Boys need fathers, and fathers need sons

imageedit_25_3814144302We live in a time when boys are being overmedicated,  failing in schools, and less likely to earn a college degree.  It’s hard being a boy today, and nothing will help boys to meet these challenges more than a loving family with a father (or father figure, in the case of single moms) who can be a strong role model. While I’ve heard a lot of women talk about their yearning for a daughter as a primary motivation for adopting a girl, do men not yearn to be father to a son?

 

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Not for macho “carry on the family name” reasons, but because they have the same sort of feelings that women have, although it isn’t as acceptable to say it.  There are so many boys out there who are in need of a good father.  And I know your husband would make a wonderful father to a son.  Don’t you think so, too?  Why not give it a try!

 

 

 

 

 

Thinking About My Blog

I started this blog to write a few posts to family and friends about our adoption and to keep a record of our adoption trip to China as a family.  I didn’t plan on continuing past a few updates after we returned home.  And that’s pretty much it for the first year of blogging.  In the second year, I had a few things on my mind and I started writing some posts on adoption in general.  We moved, we attended to Leo’s medical needs, and I concentrated on finishing up a graduate degree that I’ve been working on since before we began Leo’s adoption.  Blogging has been thin as I neared the end of that, but I did write a number of substantial posts sporadically during my second year of blogging.

Now that I have a little bit more extra time, I’ve been considering–do I continue to blog?  Posting the What I’m Reading posts were me dipping my toes back into blogging.  I am happy that many of you seem to like reading my posts.  I must warn you that I will never become a regular blogger.  I’m not interested in promoting the blog, keeping track of my stats, writing filler posts to keep my readers interest up, or dabbling in amateur photography.  But if you don’t mind my posting nothing until I have something to say, then I think I’ll keep it up.  I have several more topics I think I’d like to write about.

I was discussing this a bit with a friend who is a more regular blogger than myself and she suggested that I start a Facebook page for the blog.  Being not very internet savvy, I have not considered doing that previously because first, I don’t follow the blogs I read on Facebook myself so I wasn’t aware that’s a thing, and secondly, because in my head I was always done blogging until I had an idea for just one more post.  I have since realized that blog commenting has really moved to Facebook and I do generally get more comments on posts via my personal Facebook account than I do on posts.  So I have started a Facebook page for Mine In China.  There is a widget on the sidebar of the blog, or you can click here to go there directly if you are like me and prefer following blogs by a reader.

To summarize–new content will continue at my irregular schedule and now there’s a Facebook page for the blog if you’re into that.  Thanks for reading!