Thursday, June 27, 2013

end of June

  • Last week I finished the first summer session at the university where I am now an adjunct. It's not my dream job - I don't know what my dream job is - but there are a lot of things I like about it. I like the people I work with. I learned quite a bit about a new aspect of linguistics. I remembered I love to teach.
  • I have a week off now. A finished first grade (!). T has a break from work while waiting for some grant money to come in. So that makes our 5-year-old the only one who has somewhere to be in the morning.  :)
  • My transition to working was hard for D. It wasn't just me going to work; it was also him going to preK five mornings a week. We had several weeks of screaming and crying and labeling things as "NOT FUN" (Among the things that were NOT FUN: nice days, fun. Logic does not enter into this). Now that we're all home, he's the happiest little boy in the world. I start back up again next week. I hope it's easier for him the second time around.
  • A was one of three kids on his baseball team to be invited to try out for the summer tournament team. He made it on to the "B" team and the game has stepped up a notch. Practices involve actual strategy now. He's loving it.
  • I have mixed feelings about this team. Part of it is that A is the only black kid. Part of it is that about half his team came from the same spring season team, so they all knew each other and he didn't know any of them (Can seven-year-olds have an old boys' club?). Part of it is that the coaches don't seem to give him the attention they give some of the other kids. I've scouted out another nearby team, where he'd be among mostly black kids; maybe we'll put him on that team next year.
  • Prompted in part by my feelings about this baseball team, I've been reading the boys a lot of books about African American people and history and have taken A to a couple of museums to learn more about our country's racial history. I want to be sure I get out ahead of the racial prejudice they may encounter down the road; I keep in mind that the best defense against racism is strong racial pride.

Monday, June 17, 2013

start of summer

Two weekends ago, we began what I hope will be a weekly tradition, a long family bike ride. D is our limiting factor, of course, but he has done amazingly well. Our first time out, at the state park, he rode 4.5 miles, including a long uphill, and our second time out, on the river trail, he rode 7 miles. This coming Thursday is A's first day of summer vacation, and since D will still be in preK all morning, we're planning a long ride at his pace. His goal is 15 miles. I'm excited!

We've also done some other fun weekend stuff, like the Odunde African American festival and boating at Lums Pond State Park. This is just the start - I'm really looking forward to the summer!

June 20 Biking Update:
A did 15 miles like it was nothing. One minute after finishing, he set 
a new goal of 20 miles.  

June 24 Biking Update:
6 miles yesterday at the wildlife refuge, and 18 miles today on the river trail.  

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

D's challenges at one year

People say, It'll be easier on him, he's still young,  he doesn't remember, he doesn't understand. It is so much harder on you. None of it makes sense. You do have memories, but they are flashes. You do understand, but you understand now, not how now fits in with before and after. You have no cohesive narrative. Everyone needs a narrative to tell themselves of their lives. You have these puzzle pieces, and you has no idea how they fit together and what picture they're making. How can that be easier?

Friday, June 7, 2013

Finally! From the U.S. State Department

Click the link for this long-awaited announcement:

Implementation of Pre-Adoption Immigration Review (PAIR) Program in Ethiopia

Why this is a good thing:

Before -  American adoptive parents receive a final adoption decree from the Ethiopian government. Then the case goes to the U.S. embassy, which does an orphan status investigation to determine whether the child meets the legal definition of "orphan." If the embassy decides it cannot issue a visa, the child is stuck - legally the child of American parents, but can't come to the U.S. Obviously there is a lot of pressure on the embassy to approve shaky cases, which may lead to children who are not orphans being adopted to the United States.

After - The U.S. embassy does its orphan status investigation before the Ethiopian court issues its final adoption decree. If there is a problem with the case, it is found before the child has been adopted, and the adoption can be halted. One downside is that there is a longer wait between referral and court date, but I think it's very worth it.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

The language of adoption

I've seen many lists of things you're not supposed to say to adoptive families. Don't say "is adopted" because it implies that adoption defines our relationship; say "was adopted" instead. Don't ask if our boys are brothers, because even if they weren't biologically related, the adoption would have made them legally related. Don't ask me if I have or want "my own kids" because these are my kids even if I didn't birth them. Don't ask about their "real family" because it implies that our family is not real.

Honestly, none of these phrases and questions bother me. I don't expect the general public to have given that much consideration to the language of adoption. And I understand the thought behind the words. When you ask about our children's "real family," you are not passing judgment on the realness of our family, you're just asking about the family they came from and you lack the approved vocabulary. More importantly, these words don't do any harm to our boys. Their "real family" i.e. their family in Ethiopia is after all a real family, too. So you're not insulting them by calling them "real" and that's really what matters to me - that our boys' history and family is respected.

I also feel that if you're going to adopt transracially, you need to expect these phrases and questions. You can't let yourself get upset every time a little kid asks, "Why are you different colors?" Why not just have an answer ready, use it, and move on. When very young children ask me why I'm "pink," I tell them that mommies come in all different colors. Some mommies have brown skin and are called "black," some mommies have skin like mine and are called "white," and some mommies have blue fur and eyes on the top of their heads and like to eat cookies - wait, that's Cookie Monster! See what I did there, I gave them the basic message that families come in different colors and then I changed the topic to a silly, preschool level and from there we can talk about Sesame Street characters. And really, this is not about the child who is asking; this is about the child who is listening, my child. He heard me affirm our family, heard me take the question in stride, and heard me start a much more interesting (in his opinion) topic. I'm modeling for him what he can do - answer the question in a way that shows pride in our family and then move on.  I've practiced this with him, too.

If an older child asks me why we're different colors, I may give a variation of "mommies come in all different colors," or I may say that I adopted my children and that I'm white because I came from Europe and they're black because they came from Africa. Then I'll ask the child a question, again to move on to another topic. I have witnessed A giving much more information about his personal history, and I've told him it's fine if he wants to do that, and it's also fine if he wants to answer like I do. My point is that we don't need to let these questions bother us.

But. There are some words that do bother me. One is when adoptive families say "coming home." First of all, it doesn't make any sense. If you ask me when we moved to Pennsylvania, you say, "When did you move to Pennsylvania?" not "When did you come home to Pennsylvania?" I didn't live here before, so how could it have been my home? Same with our boys coming to the U.S. Secondly, there is the implication that they should have been with our family all along. They belonged with us, and finally, after some unfortunate delay, they made their way "home." That is backwards. They belonged with their first family - you know, their real family - and then because of almost unimaginable loss, they came to us. Don't dismiss their history by saying they came home. (I also have a little bit of an issue with "birthparents," "birthmother," and "birthfather." If a child's first parents truly ended their involvement with the child's birth, then the phrase makes sense. Our children's family had, and continues to have, a much bigger role than just birthing them. Just say "father," "dad," "mother," "mom," "grandma" etc. I can figure out who you're talking about.)

The other thing that bothers me is when people ask what happened to the boys' family. I don't mind if the person asking is a close friend, or someone offering a resource, or an Ethiopian showing concern for their fellow Ethiopians. It's when people ask out of morbid curiosity. I had a woman at one of A's baseball practices ask me if my kids had experienced any trauma, "because my friend adopted two children from Chad and their mother was raped and murdered in front of them... Did anything like that happen to your kids?" Seriously? In what possible scenario would that question be OK? Do you approach people and ask them if their loved ones are being abused or dying of cancer just to, you know, make conversation and get a juicy bit of gossip for the next game? (And why did this friend share this information about her children? And does she know that it's being casually passed on?) This question bothers me because the thought behind the words is unkind. The thought is that our children deserve less respect and less privacy because they came from somewhere else. That their lives are weird and sensational. That you and I are on the same team so we can share this gossip, but my children are the other, so they can be gossiped about.

This post has turned out much longer than planned. What I meant to say was that the words people use don't really matter. If you ask me how long ago our kids left their "birthparent" to "come home" I might tell you the words I prefer, but I won't be offended. But if you treat my kids as something other than two real children with complicated lives that include families and history in two countries, then I'm going to walk away from you, and I'm not going to bother explaining why. Because while I am willing to teach you the words, it is not my job to teach you to be kind.