July 27, 2010

Open Adoption Roundtable #18

The Open Adoption Roundtable is a series of occasional writing prompts about open adoption. It's designed to showcase of the diversity of thought and experience in the open adoption community. You don't need to be part of the Open Adoption Bloggers list to participate, or even be in a traditional open adoption. If you're thinking about openness in adoption, you have a place at the table. The prompts are meant to be starting points--feel free to adapt or expand on them.

Publish your response--linking back here so your readers can browse other participating blogs--and leave a link to your post in the comments. Using a previously published post is perfectly fine; I'd appreciate it if you'd add a link back to the roundtable. If you don't blog, you can always leave your thoughts directly in the comments.

A quick note before we dig in: you can follow @OpenAdoptBlogs on Twitter to find out when new roundtable prompts go up. You can also browse all of the old roundtable prompts on this handy page.

I try to find prompts that are broad enough for the whole adoption constellation to participate. I'm afraid this one is very parent (first and adoptive) focused. As always, please feel free to adapt it to fit your own experience if you're in a different role.

We each interacted with at least one professional during the adoption process (agency, lawyer, facilitator, consultant, hospital social worker, etc.). What was one thing that they did that was most supportive of open adoption? What one thing was least supportive?


The responses:

July 23, 2010

Assorted Things Internet

  • Did you know I have a veggie blog? Because I totally have a veggie blog. Not just vegetables--it's more of a seasonal produce/recipe sort of thing. Feel free to come tell me what to do with the overwhelming contents of our weekly produce box!

  • Thanks to the very helpful Alyssa, our Open Adoption Bloggers list/roundtable will soon have a Facebook presence. Apparently some people (you know who you are) prefer to do all their talking over there instead of on a blog, so I'm caving. We need your help before it can go live, though. This Facebook group needs a name. Part of the point of setting up shop over there is to bring non-bloggers into the conversation, so the name Open Adoption Bloggers doesn't fit. But what to call it instead? It's important to me that it be broad enough include a wide variety of experiences (so nothing like "We Love Open Adoption"). Any ideas?

  • The Open Adoption Bloggers list has a shiny new web address! Click on OpenAdoptionBloggers.com and see what happens...don't we seem official now? The old (looooooong) address exists, too, so if you have a button on your blog it still works. But now we have something easy to pass on to anyone who wants to check it out.

  • I've also gathered the open adoption roundtable prompts and links to the responses on one page. Hopefully it will be an easy way to browse through the different topics we've discussed in our seventeen rounds.
Don't forget to help us brainstorm a Facebook group name in the comments...

July 16, 2010

Seven Links

Via Carolyn comes a fun Friday timewaster: The 7 Link Challenge. It's harder than it looks!

1) Your first post: Like Mother, Like Daughter
This is from 2005! Puppy was a mere two months old. Don't be fooled into thinking I've been blogging since then, though. I didn't really start in earnest until 2007. Five years ago, the blog was called Unproductive Reproduction and I thought I would have a lot to say about (in)fertility. Turns out, not so much. Then I discovered I could prattle on for quite awhile about adoption (and actually needed to get some things out to stay sane). Production, Not Reproduction was born.

2) A post you enjoyed writing the most: 25 Things I Said Today
I wavered between most fun and most cathartic. Fun won. (Oh, look at that. I snuck in an eighth link. One of my all-time favorite posts.)

3) A post which had a great discussion: My T-shirt Today is a Solid Grey
Commenters building on one another, folks offering opposing viewpoints. Good times.

4) A post on someone else's blog that you wish you'd written: Before Sleep at Journey Mama
"I sit and think about small regrettable things."

5) Your most helpful post: Supporting Family Members Who Are Adopting
Self-explanatory, yes? I'm curious what post all of you would have answered is post most helpful.

6) A post with a title of which you are proud: Doing Some Unpacking
Not that the title itself is anything to write home about. (I very much dislike thinking up post titles. Ugh.) But it captures exactly what I was doing in that post: beginning to tease apart my privilege as a non-adopted person, in order to be a better adoptive parent. I don't know if proud is quite the right word, but that post means something to me.

7) A post that you wish more people had read: What's Your Damage?
Pretty much anything from 2007? Go read the archives! I have a soft spot for that particular bit, though.

July 15, 2010

Different Perspectives

Beth's new apartment is decorated in a style she and I affectionately dubbed Firefly Shrine. Pictures of Firefly are everywhere you turn and there is a small bookshelf filled with framed photos and mementos. Personally, I can't understand why anyone wouldn't want to surround themselves the faces of either of my fantastic children. (I may be a wee bit biased.)

Firefly typically takes a long time to warm up in unfamiliar places. But she settled in on Sunday in no time at all, kicking off one shoe, climbing up and down the couch, and testing how far her demands for crackers would get her. I wouldn't be surprised if all the photos that she very seriously observed when we first toured the apartment played a part in her comfort level. What better way to win over a two-year old than to surround them with themselves?

It's been interesting to observe the differences in how Firefly and Puppy organize their thinking about adoption and family. At their tender ages they are both still very much concrete thinkers, of course. But by the age Firefly is now, Puppy had a definite, strong sense of Ray and Kelly as his people (and Beth as Firefly's). He already paired Kelly and Ray with each other in his mind, even though we interacted with them separately. And he paired them with himself, talking about my dad, my birth mom, my Ray. Firefly's birth and adoption, in particular, marked some steps ahead in his adoption processing when he was just two.

Firefly, on the other hand, is hyper-focused on the people who live with her. We are her world at the moment.  Her favorite person is her brother; she always needs to know where he is and what he's doing. While she talks about other key people in our life, if she views them as connected to her in any special way she hasn't articulated it yet. I've yet to hear her talk about adoption or use any adoption language. And she doesn't display the sort of regard for Beth that Puppy shows his birth parents. (I know that has been hard for Beth, as much as she understands that every child is different.)

All that to say that when Beth asked Firefly at the end of they day if she liked visiting the apartment, she just sleepily said that there should be some pictures of her brother, too.

July 13, 2010

At the Intersection of Transracial and Open Adoption

We'd been saying that we needed to get together again with Beth, Firefly's first mom, for ages. This past Saturday we finally all said let's just do it already. And so on Sunday we did.

This recession has been the proverbial wolf at Beth's door. It has been an incredibly hard year for her, especially the past several months, and while we've stayed connected by phone she hasn't always felt up to seeing Firefly in person. So while there was nothing particularly significant about our day together, it felt significant in a way to know that enough good has re-entered her life that she felt eager and able to meet up.

Beth brought up the question of a younger sibling for Firefly, which sent us sent us tumbling through a whole conversation about transracial adoption. It's a topic we visit a lot: the ethics of transracial adoption in our particular locale, the racism of so many race-based adoption programs, her own life experience. Beth was herself adopted by white parents, growing up here in the Northwest after being born in the South. (Beth identifies as biracial; Firefly's birth dad is African-American.) She is the youngest in her family, adopted so that her sister wouldn't be the only brown face in the family. (They also have two white, non-adopted brothers.) Her parents embraced colorblind parenting with a passion, something her stepfather once talked to us about with a certain amount of regret. She shares often about some of her anger and sadness about how her childhood unfolded.

Beth keeps us honest in our transracial parenting and I love her for that. If ever we're tempted to slip on the rose-colored glasses, even just for a spell, I know she would be there with a seemingly casual observation or a telling anecdote. We were talking about some pictures from Firefly's birthday, a party attended by three white, blue-eyed two-year olds.  "That was one blond party," she observed with a laugh and a raised brow. "I know, I know," I groaned, biting back the excuses my mind immediately wanted to toss out. (I'm biting them back now!) "The next one will look much different, I promise."

Becoming a mother to a Black child has changed her, too. (I've heard her talk about this with people she just met, so I think it's okay for me to share it here.) She loves her daughter unconditionally, sees beauty in every inch of her. And over the past two years she's begun to turn that love back on herself. For the first time in her life, she says, she's embracing the curl in her hair and the hue of her skin. I overheard her telling Firefly at lunch, as she held her tanned arm up to hers, "Look, our arms are the same brown color in the summer! I used to try to wash this off when I was little because I wanted to be white like my family. But we're such a pretty color."

I'm humbled that Beth has been chosen to open herself up to us like she has; she's under no obligation to be a resource to us, after all. And I'm grateful that she's committed to being there for Firefly, too, as she grows. There is nothing tidy or simple or even commendable about the choices the three of us have made, and continue to make every day, on Firefly's behalf. But if Firefly is ever able to consider Todd and me as allies as she grows (when she's not rolling her teenage eyes at the whole lot of us, of course), she'll have Beth to thank in part for that.

July 07, 2010

Wordless(ish) Wednesday

The photo quality is terrible and I'll password protect this tomorrow, but I couldn't resist sharing Puppy's absolute joy at the fireworks show Sunday night. Oh, to be four years old again.

July 04, 2010

Of Bananas Past and Present

Puppy and I made chocolate covered frozen bananas for the first time yesterday during Firefly's nap. He took the initiative to cover his with sprinkles of many colors. When I gave Firefly hers after dinner was finished, she eyed it warily for quite some time, then turned it horizontally and nibbled at it like an ear of corn.

I went to college a thousand miles from where I grew up. Same time zone, but far enough to experience a different part of the country. After my first year I stayed at school for most of the summer with some of my friends and worked in an office on campus instead of going home. I was glad I stayed, but also missed the familiar summers of home, a little homesick for the quiet shade on my parents' patio, my mom's cooking, and, I suppose, for childhood in general.

The campus was very different in those hot, hot months. Empty and subdued. There were no classes; the students on campus were either working or doing research. Nothing was ever crowded. Walking into the uncrowded dining hall one day I spotted a small suggestions box on the wall I had never noticed before. It looked little used and a tad incongruous; the kitchen rarely strayed from a fairly set rotation of dishes in its quest to feed a couple thousand folks three times a day. But figuring I had nothing to lose, I fished out a pen and scribbled a request. If it is possible, could we please have frozen chocolate covered bananas? I had loved them since I was very small and hardly ever got to eat them; they reminded me of Disneyland and the state fair, sundresses and lazy days. They were the quintessential summer treat to me.

The next day--the very next day--I walked into the dining hall and there they were. Frozen chocolate covered bananas. In my memory, they are laying out on the line on a tray in tidy rows, but that can't be right. They must have been in the creaky chest freezer that we passed on our way out the door, tucked in next to the paletas and push-up pops. Clearly made there in the kitchen and slipped into wax paper envelopes, not purchased from a supplier. I remember turning to my friends with a gasp, saying, "These are for me! They made these for me!"

I was surprised at the time by how moved I was by those bananas, what an emotional impact they made on me. Some real person had read my scrap of paper and taken the time to make them. I am sure they didn't know that it would make me feel rooted in a way I hadn't felt in months. That I would remember these bananas, those silly little bananas, sixteen summers later when so much else from that time has been forgotten.

As Puppy and I made a chocolate mess yesterday afternoon I was thinking (clumsy Carrie Bradshaw segue alert!) back to that moment in the dining hall and how much it meant to feel noticed and heard. The fact that it was for something so seemingly inconsequential was what made it meaningful, I think. We expect people to respond what we say something important or do something significant. But the small things, the mundane things seem less worthy of sharing or noticing.  People sometimes mock personal blogs and general social media for feeding on life's minutiae. But I think they're wrong. I write about my inappropriate feelings for my books or my love of frozen bananas and perhaps some of you respond, "Me, too!" and I smile. And maybe several weeks later a friend tweets to say, "Saw frozen chocolate covered bananas today and thought of @hedra" and I smile again. Does any of it need to be said? Not really. But those tiny sensations of being heard, the wee threads it creates between us each time are real. And I think it makes the serious things we say to each other in between the frippery all the more meaningful.
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