Archive for April, 2008

Bathroom tales

Me: Squirt what’s taking so long in the bathroom?

Squirt: Ummm…  I’m just looking at my vulva.

Me: Alrighty then.


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For the LOVE of Pete

It’s snowing. Lots. Like a blizzard. In April. Almost May.

Mara ~ will this winter NEVER end????

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It’s a stupid course I have to take to get licensed for foster care. The thing is, I wanted to like it. I wanted to learn from it. Really, I did! But I struggle every single session trying to find something I’ve learned.   Foster parents need to be well trained. Dude, I get it. But this is not the way. Not for me.

Maybe I have some crazy perspective but it’s just really not that relevant to me. At all. Not a fan of how ‘birth mothers’ are portrayed. Not a fan that the majority of the class is there to adopt and they seriously have no clue what they are getting into. And this class is supposed to give people a clue. Not so much.  I mean we watched a vignette where the foster kid was saying things like :’Jamie is a shit head. Joey is a shit head too. And Robert, he’s a fucker!’   Some potential parents gasped. Man, it was all I could do to stiffle my giggles. What do people expect? And maybe Robert really is a fucker

And our province, in all it’s wisdom (ha ha ha ha ha, you can hear me laughing in Denmark can’t you Uncle Kaj?) has decided all adoptive parents MUST take this course, even if you are adopting internationally. In the six weeks I’ve been? The Hague Convention was mentioned for about 2 mins in session three. And the information was INNACURATE! By the way, YES YOU CAN adopt from countries that are not signatories of the Hague, but I digress.

This would have done NOTHING to prepare me for Squirt’s arrival. The information on attachment (quite important wouldn’t you think?) was lacking. I could have taught that class for f*ck sakes. Sorry, but there was not one stategy mentioned. NOTHING. Not even simple things. Don’t let the baby cry, as much skin on skin contact as possible, have only parents meet needs initially, don’t force eye contact, play engaging reciprocal games…  Nope. Nothing about signs that your child may be struggling with attachment. Lack of and resistance to eye contact, night terrors, anxious attachment, wanting everyone but mom, innapropriate affection with strangers. Would this not be good basic knowledge? Wouldn’t it?

Last night we learned about discipline and that was pretty cool. Though I really question the inclusion of time-outs as a tool of discipline.  They did mention it was an inappropriate tool for children with attachment issues, but WTF? Aren’t foster care kids, by definition at risk for attachment challenges. Anyways…. 

The good stuff last night? I loved that we talked about spanking, and how it’s not ‘allowed’. Yay!  We were asked to counter common arguments about spanking. For example, “Spanking is alright if the parent is calm and under control”. Dude, if you have to resort to spanking you have already lost control. And it doesn’t matter how calm you are the emotional effects are still the same. And seriously, if you have a child that has come from an abusive background, how are they ever going to feel safe? Other arguments we debunked were “I don’t want my child to be spoiled”, “They asked for it!” and my all time favourite “I was spanked and I turned out fine.” So I liked that, though technically I didn’t learn anything.

Enough venting! Off to continue renovations for our future placement. It’s exciting. And scary.

Mara ~ do you need a spanking?

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Growing Pains

My “She’s four” post has generated a lot of traffic. Some comments have been supportive, some comments have been challenging and some comments haven’t been published, either because they are disrespectful to Squirt’s first family (and then by extension disrespectful of Squirt) or disrespectful to first-moms, or disrespectful to me personally.

And that’s okay.

I just wanted to see if maybe I could add a few words, and then we can all move on.  I write this blog so I can learn about myself, my daughter and hopefully grow through other people’s perspectives.  And I’m trying to be honest. I need to be able to talk about my personal growth, even if it characterizes me in a light that is not favourable to everyone.  Did I choose international adoption partly because I would not have to worry about a first mom? Yes I did. When I look back on it now, I can identify that reaction as one based out of fear and ignorance. In my post I wanted to be able to express that my love for Squirt changed me. Parenting became about her and not about me. The truth is that now I would do anything to find Squirt’s first family. The improbability of that happening does not change the fact that I want it.  If I am derided for my past thoughts and mistakes how can I continue to grow? How do I work towards reform if I am characterized solely by one past action. One thought that I admit was based on ignorance and mostly fear? My one act of adopting through a ‘closed’ adoption does not define who I am.  And for those who are questioning their own thoughts on adoption, it may make them fearful of expressing their feelings if they think they will be subjected to a backlash.

It’s okay to be angry at my post. I want people to tell me what makes them angry, what they think my mistakes are and to call me on it. But please, deriding Squirt’s culture and family does not accomplish this. How exactly is saying that Squirt is better off now not an example of harmful adoption language? This is not supportive of my position. How can you feel you are being supportive by dismissing and criticizing the country of my child’s birth? And conversely, how is calling me a thief or a liar or a hypocrite going to serve my child and other adoptive families? How can I work for reform and yet be called names by the same people I am trying to work with in partnership for an ethical transparent process here and abroad?

I also want to make it clear that I am fully aware that I am a fifth choice for what would have been best for Squirt.

  1. Ideally she should have stayed with her birthfamily (though I do not know all the circumstances so it may not be true in her particular case, but in the vast majority of cases I think children should stay with their family of origin).
  2. She would be raised by extended family in a kinship care situation.
  3. She would be adopted domestically (in China).
  4. She would be adopted internationally by ethnically Chinese individuals.
  5. She would be adopted into a family of another race that would value her cultural identity.

And with that all being said, she deserves a family that loves her unconditionally. I am never going to be able to replace anything that she has lost, but I am better than the alternative of nothing at all. All children deserve a family, and I can give that to Squirt, regardless of my past mistakes.

I just want to be given the opportunity to grow and for others to realize that we all come to the table with our own biases and experiences whether we are adoptive parents, adoptees, first families or a combination of the above. None of us are perfect. We’ve all made mistakes.  All of us have done things of which we are not proud. But please, let’s make a safe place somewhere where we can all talk about these issues. And where all our stories can be respectfully heard, and we can all move forward,

Mara ~ personal growth, it’s not easy 🙂

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Lighting a candle

Squirt and I lit a candle for her first mom. I told Squirt her adoption story. Everything I knew, in an age appropriate way. She asked me to tell and retell it. I did. 

Then she asked; “Mama, what her name?”

Mara ~ it’s the simple questions that bring you to your knees

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This morning, snuggled in bed.

Squirt: “Mama I free?”

Me: “No baby. Remember yesterday when you were the birthday girl and we sang ‘Happy Birthday’, and you ate two pieces of cake? You turned 4 yesterday!”

Squirt (in complete disbelief): “Mama, I really four? Really?” 

Me: “Yes baby, you really are 4.”

Squirt: “Yay! I so essited (excited)! Umm…  Can I have chocolate for supper?”

Mara ~ she’s so smooth

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She’s four

My daughter turned four today. How did that happen? I am constantly telling her to STOP GROWING UP SO FAST BECAUSE IT IS FREAKING YOUR MOTHER OUT! And, DO YOU HEAR ME? STOP IT!! To which she so sweetly says, “Mama, I growing every single day. I gunna be big like you and Baba, and then I will have chocolate for supper.”

And just like any joyful milestone, there is the sadness from the shadows. I love Squirt and I bristle when someone asks me about her ‘real mom’. The truth is I am her real mother. The truth is also that her first mom is her real mom too. We’re both real. And though Squirt may always long to see her first mom, she may never have the opportunity to do that. I wish I could give that to her.

I am going to be very honest here, please be kind as I bare my soul. A large part (though not all, but still, large part) of the reason international adoption appealed to me was that I knew a birthmother would not come walking up to the door. There, I said it. I had some vague sense that she was in circumstances I could not begin to even imagine and her life must be very different from mine. I also completely agreed that birthmothers should most definitly have the right to change their mind about relinquishing their child. I just didn’t want it to happen to me.  See, my desire for children was all about ME. I thought I could be a good parent, I thought I could provide a child with a home, education, something she may not have without me. And then something amazing happened when Squirt came to our family.

I fell madly in love with her instantaneously, between one breath and the next. And I felt my heart explode with these intense, huge feelings. And when you hear parents say they’d step in front of a bus for their kid? Well, it’s TRUE.  Not in some metaphoric, figurative way to explain such depth of emotion. But in a very concrete, literal way, I would put one foot in front of the other into oncoming traffic to keep her safe. When I realized these things were not hyperbole, I realized that being a mother is at once the most amazing and the most painful thing one can live through.  But the heartbreak is that I get the joy and Squirt’s first mom gets the pain.

Time went on and something else amazing happened.

That love that I felt for my child changed everything. Parenting was no longer about me. And I realised on some fundamental level that all the losses are my daughter’s. She has lost everything. Her language, her country, her culture, her history. It’s everything that shapes identity. Gone. And she had no choice.   I realized how amazing she was and how she came to me as this wonderful little person. A differentiated human being with her own personality and experiences and this whole little life before I knew who she was.  And because I am now a mother, I would do anything to spare her pain. And yet, I can’t even do that.

But, I’ve learned. I’ve learned about my white privilege and how I was able to become a parent to my daughter and her first mother was not afforded that right through no fault or failing of her own. I’ve learned about adoption reform. And I’ve learned about race, and identity and culture. I’ve learned about the pain many transracial adult adoptees have, and issues that they struggle with as a community and as individuals. And I’ve learned that love is the purest emotion, and yet it is still not enough. And I’ve learned that, though I can’t say for certain, Squirt’s mom is just like me. She is me.

And that birthmother I didn’t want knocking at my door? If she showed up on my doorstep today, I would embrace her and welcome her in. Because she is my family too. And Squirt deserves to know who she is. And hopefully she could see that Squirt is happy and loved and safe and cherished. Plus, there’s that whole stepping in front of a bus thing. You gotta love someone who’d lay it ALL down for your kid right? 

We’re lighting a candle for her tonight.  

Mara ~ a very fortunate mama to an amazing child through the paradox that is adoption

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