The Right Perspective?

“For what you see and hear depends a good deal on where you are standing: it also depends on what sort of person you are.” 
― C.S. LewisThe Magician’s Nephew

I have been thinking a lot about perspectives as I begin to really listen to the voices of adult adoptees.  As an adoptive parent, it is sometimes difficult for me to discern how I should translate the experiences and opinions of this invaluable resource into my parenting.  Each adoption is a unique situation and each child adopted into any family has their own unique personality and perspective.  While most adult adoptees that I have listened to seem to share a universal feeling of deep loss and a strong urge to know where they come from, it is reactions to more specific adoption situations that seems to vary from adoptee to adoptee.

One of these specific situations is celebrating “Adoption Day”.  I have read that many adoptees wish that their parents had not celebrated this day, that it only reminded them of the multiple losses they have experienced as a result of their adoption.  On the other hand, a few adoptees wrote that they were glad their parents celebrated “Adoption Day” and they continue to acknowledge it in their own small ways as adults.  This is where it becomes tricky as an adoptive parent, how do we know which perspective is the right one for our child?  Both of these opinions are valid.  To further complicate things, I feel that the voice of the adult adoptee who was adopted as an older child tends to be missing from some of the adoption discussions.

Our son was with us in court when he officially became a member of our family.  The judge prepared a special letter for him that states how on that date he entered our family.  It goes on to explain that as his parents it is our responsibility to care for him physically and emotionally while respecting his rights and recognizing his feelings and his history before he joined our family.  Our son cherishes this letter and asked me to frame it and hang it on the wall in his room.  Another adoptee may see this letter as a reminder that they are different from the rest of the family and not ever want to see it.  It is all about perspective.  I have a feeling JMan will want to celebrate (acknowledge might be a better word) that date because it was important to HIM.  I think that is the key to gaining the right perspective in parenting our children.  We need to insure that we are making decisions, after looking at all perspectives, in the best interest of what is right for our child (not what is right for us, as adoptive parents).

This dilemma of perspective also came up when reading comments on an adoptee web site I was reading.  A father who adopted his daughter after she spent years growing up in the foster care system, posted a message about collecting backpacks and suitcases for children living in foster care.  Many of the adoptees who commented were appalled that he would choose to focus his attention on something as trivial as suitcases when the problems with foster care are so much bigger.  It is absolutely true that the problems with foster care are way bigger than suitcases but the discussion ended with this….

“I do know something about this very issue. I grew up in foster care. I lived in fourteen different foster homes, and two group homes before I was emmancipated at the age of 16. Out of those sixteen places, I moved to only one place with my things packed in anything but a black plastic trash bag. I am not sure what has changed in the system now. I have been out for eleven years. But one thing I do know, giving foster children luggage is a VERY good gesture. This is coming from someone who GREW UP in this system.

When my things were packed in trash bags, it sent a very clear message. That my things were not valuable, and I figured, if my things were not valuable than neither was I. I obviously do not see it that way now, but as a child, I didn’t have clarity in my thoughts. I literally thought that trash was about what my life amounted to and that is what the trash bags reinforced.

I am not saying that a duffle bag will fix a childs life. The trash message is sent to these children long before it is reinforced by trash bags. That is the truth. But dont underestimate what a small kind gesture can do. and on a last note, the trash bags hold such a connotation in my heart that I dont use them now. I use paper bags or put my trash directly in the dumpster because the trash bags remind me of that pain. Make fun of me or not, but that is the reality.

Just thought I would give the input of someone who has actually been through what you all are arguing about in a kind of a stupid manner considering you were not foster children yourselves. Don’t presume to know how someone feels unless you actually do.

And to the person who wrote the original post. Thank you for caring.”

What’s the right perspective?  For the big issues, this is a much easier question.  As an adoptive parent, we should listen to the voices of the adult adoptees to help guide us in insuring our children grow up confident as equal members of our family and society and to feel that they cannot only voice their opinions about being adopted but also that those opinions are valued.  In my day to day parenting I hope to keep this overriding perspective in mind while also remembering that perspective changes depending on where you are standing and adoptive parents need to try to always keep focus on what is most important, the needs of their individual child.

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About Me and This Blog

About Me

Well, as far as labels go…I’ve been a mom of multiples, a mom of all girls and now an adoptive mom of our son from Colombia.  I’ve been married for 15 years and have 5 kids.  Our oldest are 13 year old identical twin girls.  For the sake of privacy, we’ll call them Bird and BoBass.  Bird loves lacrosse and science while BoBass prefers soccer and art.  They are both turning into teenagers right before my eyes (yikes!) and both have an empathy for others that makes me think maybe we are doing something right (or at least more right than wrong).  Next comes 12 year old JMan, our only son, adopted from Colombia at age 11.  He loves soccer and school (thank goodness!) and his inner joy is contagious.  He is confident and fun-loving, constantly making us laugh with his sharp wit.  Close behind is Boo, our 11 year old daughter.  She loves dance and is a serious student.  She is an old soul but has found her silly side, entertaining the family by dressing up and directing her little sister and sometimes her brother ;) .  And little sister, she’s 6. We’ll call her The Diva (that’s what her sisters and brother would say).  The Diva loves everything and everyone (seriously!).  She sings and dances her way through life while trying to keep up with Big Sisters and Big Brother.  I’m Mom and along with Dad, I am guiding these littles through their childhood (without a map, but not afraid to ask for directions) and trying to teach them to….be kind, be silly and be honest.

About this Blog

This is my second blog endeavor.  My first blog began as an advocacy tool for older children who needed families.  It than became a place for me to document our adoption journey and trip to Colombia to adopt our son.  During the adoption process, I did a lot of reading (books, blogs and whatever I could get my hands on).  Looking back, almost everything I read was written from the perspective of adoptive parents or professionals, not adult adoptees.  I’ve just begun to delve into reading the experiences, opinions and advice of adult adoptees and I’m excited to share what I’m learning and how I am trying to keep these perspectives in mind while raising our son.

I have also been thinking more about the issues that come along with being a transracial family.  When our son first joined our family, it was more about making sure he was comfortable and adjusting to this unfathomable (for me!) change for him and how he was attaching to us and his sisters.   At that time, my thoughts were consumed with our family’s adjustment.  Our social worker once described adding a child to a family (by birth or adoption, in or out of birth order) as adding another piece to a mobile.  The mobile will shift and turn until it finds its balance again.  I love this imagery because right now we have a pretty nice balance going on but at any moment a breeze could blow and the shifting and moving affects the whole family.

While the air is calm, I’m trying to learn all I can about raising children in a transracial family, respecting the rights and feelings of our son and educating those around us about these same issues.  I’m by no means an expert.  This blog is just a place for me to write about my experiences and thoughts…use at your own risk ;) .

A Change of Focus

Those of you who found this blog because you visited my previous blog may be wondering why the change.  There are two main reasons for this change of focus.  First, my previous blog began as a tool to advocate for specific older children growing up without families by sharing pictures and glimpses of their personalities, making a point to insure that they were seen as individuals and not just an “orphan”.  Both of these children have since been adopted, one of them into our family.  While I didn’t share any of their history on the blog, I still feel that part of their lives is for them to share when and if they chose to.  So, the first reason for the change is privacy.  I will still share my thoughts and some stories from my perspective but I will not be using my children’s names or pictures of their faces (but trust me….they are all adorable!).  This is a personal decision and I am not making a statement about what others should do.

The second reason is as simple as, life changes.  Our family is in a different place now and therefore my focus needs to shift as well.  I have been reading a lot about transracial adoption and the perspectives of adult adoptees on the many issues surrounding adoption.  I will be honest and admit that I did not read the blogs of adult adoptees before our adoption, but now I believe it should be mandatory to read through some of them if you are a prospective adoptive parent, especially when adopting trans-racially. As with anything in life, it is important to look at issues from all perspectives available.  I will elaborate on this more on the “About” page.

One thing that will not change is my focus on advocating for older children growing up without families.  While my eyes have been opened to the need to put more focus on programs and changes that will help to avoid children leaving their families in the first place, I still believe there is a place for adoption and that children should not have to grow up without a family.