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Tuesday, August 15, 2006
Are They Worth a Penny?

My thoughts, that is.

I’ve had a lot of going through my mind about our adoption process that I haven’t blogged about. It’s been hibernating in there while I read and think.

These thoughts have led me in different directions. The most obvious one to others would be the change in name and focus of this blog. When I began it, it was going to be a tool to update friends and family on our status. It was also meant to serve the adoption community. I’ve spent many hours reading others’ stories. They’ve helped me along the way. Now, I realize it’s for me. It’s about my thoughts and interests. It gives me an outlet. It’s introduced me to a different world out there. I’m learning from people that I would never have met in my daily life. Even more importantly, it’s exposing me to people and ideas I might never have reached out to in real life. People I might have pre-judged or who might have pre-judged me and not shared their thoughts. I will update our adoption status for those following along for that reason, but the focus will be on my thoughts. My child, whether living in my home or not here yet, does have the right to some privacy.

Most adoption blogs are filled with the fantasy of adoption. Our language is filled with red threads and ladybugs. Most of us, however, know that this is the fluff, the fun stuff. We stamp ladybugs on cards and swap gifts with our Yahoo groups as an outward positive symbol of the path we’ve all chosen to walk. There is a darker side. There are issues that we must learn about and prepare for, and most of us do. One does not negate the other. It’s easy to disparage the pre-adoptive parent based on the superfluous fluff, but that would be as wrong as it would be to judge anyone on any surface issue. I don’t go overboard with these symbols, but I knew I was being affected by the attitudes when I almost asked that ladybugs not be included in my nursery theme. Helloooo??? It was a garden theme. I was mad at myself for even considering leaving them out. I love ladybugs. Always have; always will. Should I pretend now that I don’t because some consider them to be a symbol for all that is wrong with adoptive parents of Chinese children? That would be as wrong as believing that adoption truly was about ladybugs and red threads instead of flesh and blood children.

Through these blogs and boards, I’ve also read about the less than happy side of adoption. Adoption is as much about loss as it is about gain. As wanna-be parents, we had to address and grieve our inability to give birth. In all honesty, we didn’t grieve very much. I’ve known most of my adult life that becoming pregnant would be extremely difficult. Any grieving I had for that aspect occurred back in my twenties. Jim was previously married to a woman who didn’t want children. He gave up the dream at that time. It was after we experienced a temporary parenting situation (almost 2 years), that we acknowledged that even though we were fine with the idea of not giving birth to children, we really wanted to raise a child.

We discussed and researched various ways of making this happen. The path we choose was to adopt from China. The reasons were many and they matter only to us. The bottom line is we are parents without a child waiting for a child without parents.

It is my hope that though adoption is a journey born in loss, it becomes a path filled with promise.

We are not naively going into this situation. We are both trained educators and have seen for ourselves the children who struggle. We’re further educating ourselves on the issues of becoming a multi-cultural family. We’ve read the attachment books, learned the stories of adoptions that didn’t go as planned, and researched local options for early intervention services. We’ve attended Chinese school and branched out of our routine to learn the culture as best we can. I’ll admit it. We’ve barely scratched the surface. We will not be perfect parents. We will, however, do everything we can to be the best parents we can be. I guarantee that I will never speak Mandarin without sounding like a fool. Our teacher was kind and generous in his praise, but even he was shocked that we got through our end of school year recital without totally humiliating ourselves. We will, however, continue to embrace this community that has opened their arms to us. Our child will attend this language school. She or he will learn Mandarin from native speakers, participate in the New Year festivities, eat Moon cakes, and watch the Dragon Boat Parade. We will do what we can to expose our child to the culture of her native land. He may have lost his birth parents, but she will not lose her country. We’ve already agreed and will plan on a trip back to China when he is around 12 years old - an age where our children are old enough to appreciate and remember, yet young enough to be interested. We want to go before the teen age years kick in.

In some of our preparations, we’ve read about the disrupted adoptions. The parents who went expecting the Asian version of a Gerber baby and freaked when they received a child who was not what they expected. A child who may have been ill or in shock and didn’t react the way the warm and fuzzy stories led them to believe. They believed the fairy tales without preparing for realism.

When we made the decision to adopt, we saw the lists of children and learned of the requests we could make. We made the decision to not make requests. We both felt uncomfortable with the idea of choosing a child or saying we wanted a girl or a boy. Parents don’t normally get to make those types of choices, so we decided not to either. I respect and understand why others choose to do so. It just wasn’t right for us. We did make one request, and to be perfectly honest, I regret that request now. We requested as young as possible. At that early stage in the process, we believed that a younger child would be less likely to suffer from attachment issues. I don’t believe that to be the case any more. We will accept the child that is matched to us. This will be our child just as if we’d given birth. You can’t give the child back because of unexpected difficulties – be they emotional, physical, medical, etc…

I doubt anyone is still reading this, and that’s okay. I’m writing this for me. Sometimes you need to get those thoughts out of your head and out on virtual paper.

The wait is hard. It’s just past 10 months that our dossier was logged in. It’s been over three years since we decided to adopt from China. The path has been neither quick nor easy. And I don’t think it should be. Our child’s path sure hasn’t been. Our child is not out there waiting for me. Our child is living her life. He is learning to do what he needs to do to survive in an orphanage with well-meaning, overworked aunties. She is living with a foster family who loves her and is missing nothing. His world will be turned topsy-turvy when these two strange people show up. We won’t look, sound, or smell like anyone she’s ever known. If we do our jobs right, he will blossom with our love. She will grow to be kind and inquisitive. He will treasure his history: the country of her birthparents, his Hungarian grandfather, her Irish grandmother, his Midwestern grandparents, including the grandfather who liberally embraces his Native American heritage.

I teach high school and often have students who question the point of education. They give me examples of parents or relatives or friends who are doing just fine and never finished high school. I agree with them that it is possible to be successful without a diploma. Graduating from high school guarantees you absolutely nothing. But it opens a door. The more education you have, the more doors will open. It is still up to them to go through the doors. If my child learns to open those doors, I will consider us to have been successful parents.

That is what I wish my child – many open doors.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

magi- even if no one else did, i read your post :). i guess i'm an observer of adoptions... i've seen all kinds- kids of all ages and personalities- and parents of much of the same. it's always good to find a parent who realizes that it might not be all it's cracked up to be. many go into it- like my parents did- with this warm, fuzzy idea of what it'll be like. let me tell you, the first year was anything but warm or fuzzy. it was awful. i want to say thanks on behalf your child for reading the books and being prepared...
best wishes, kelsey (your floundering mandrain classmate)

Blogger Magi said...

Hi Kelsey,

Thanks for visiting. I enjoyed following along on the blog of your recent visit to China. It sounds like you all had a great time!

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