Archive for the ‘General Discussion’ Category

“You probably don’t remember Me…” a Boy’s Letter to His Birth mother

Wednesday, November 15, 2017 @ 05:11 PM
Author: admin

Back in April I blogged about a letter which a now-adult adoptee had penned to her birth mother when she was ten years old. The poignant, heart-breaking note was also an example of a very common mindset of young adoptees in closed adoptions.

I received another, similar letter. Though very brief, it captures many aspects of adoption complexity. (The names have been redacted from the photocopy.) This note was written by a nine-year-old boy. Like the young lady I featured, he’s now an adult. As I read his letter, his yearning for connection leapt off the page, palpable, irrepressible. Sadly his ache–to know, to understand, to meet–remained unfulfilled until adulthood. Open adoption was still rare at that time when the “blank slate” mentality prevailed and the either/or mentality reigned supreme.

Like many adoptees he expressed a desire to see her face. Perhaps he wanted to see if he resembled her. Most adoptees say they fantasize about that. A lot. His letter is brave; he openly admits his need and he confides that he misses her. Something in his little-boy heart ached for his first mother, to know her, to see her and, to connect with her.

No one suggested that he write her this letter. It arose from his own need, a need that could not and, should not be repressed or denied. At the time, he shared the letter with his parents who reassured him that they would help him reconnect when he turned eighteen. (This was the only legal option available at the time. Fortunately, he felt safe in approaching his parents and trusted that they would support him and understand his situation AND that they would not themselves feel rejected by, disappointed in or, angry with him)

Pause for a moment and sit with that thought.

Imagine how that experience of rejection would shape your thoughts and beliefs about yourself, how it might influence your ability to create relationships. At some level, rejection is an adoptee’s constant companion. It factors into who and how he is as a person. He needs understanding and support. Unfortunately, often people castigate adoptees for daring to express a need for knowledge and connection to their roots. Adoptees “get” the societal message that their yearning is disloyal. Ungrateful.

But, in fact, “rootedness” is a fundamental human need.

Even at the tender age of nine, this young boy feels obligated to affirm his gratitude and connection to his adoptive family. It demonstrates his underlying compassion for his birth mother. He doesn’t want her to feel badly, rejected. He knows too well how that feels/hurts. The boy asserts that his adoptive family takes good care of him. Again, adult adoptees tell us that they feel a strong need to reassure people that their interest in their birth family co-exists with their connection to and love for their adoptive families. It’s almost as if they sense they must apologize for their need to know who they are and where they come from. But

Since November is National Adoption Month, I thought it appropriate to remind our readers, that adoption is complicated. We cannot allow ourselves to be blinded to these challenging realities. We must provide our children not only with all of our unconditional love but also, ensure that we validate and support our children in all aspects of their adoption journey. We must allow them to “own” all of their family relationships—birth and adopted—and help them understand and work through the jumble of feelings and thoughts which adoption causes.

National Adoption Month highlights family building through adoption. Too many children remain in foster care for far too long.

Every child also deserves their truth, their story—all of it.


Values in Action: Learning to Contribute

Wednesday, October 11, 2017 @ 05:10 PM
Author: admin

Values in Action: Learning to ContributeA recent Washington Post article:  Want your kids to be resilient? Here’s what not to do reviewed Amy Morin’s book  and includes some practical ideas for helping kids to grow up to be self-sufficient, capable and happy.  As intentional parents, we share this universal goal. We are also mindful that our kids benefit when we tweak parenting techniques meant for the non-adopted population. After reading the article, I considered how her thoughts might be distilled through a trauma-informed, adoption-attuned lens.

One of her points is that children must learn that they are not the center of the universe. This false expectation sets them up for disappointment and dependence. Instead, we can choose to teach them the pleasure of being a member of the family–a team of sorts–one in which everyone contributes and everyone benefits. Everyone has value and responsibilities.

A strong link exists between our values, beliefs and actions. Values shape beliefs. Beliefs generate actions. Actions yield results. We know our kids benefit from consistent reinforcement of their sense of capability and agency. This means resisting the inclination to do too much for them or to rescue them from struggles and failures. Our job as parents is to teach them how to cope; it is not to shelter them from problems. We must allow kids to learn through the logical consequences of their actions when the life-cost is small and easily survived.

The process of problem solving has inherent value. Each time a child faces a challenge, develops a strategy and solves a problem, they reinforce their own sense of competency. This in turn helps them trust in their ability to face future challenges. On the other hand, when parents intervene too soon, too often or, too broadly,  a child learns they lack capability, need to be rescued and, their world becomes a scarier place. Although the parental intention was to help the child, this tends to set up a dynamic of unhealthy co-dependence and simmering resentment.

But wait. We know that our kids have difficulty with rejection, abandonment and mistrust. Why not “rescue” them? An important distinction must guide us: what is best for our child in the long run? Resist the desire to avoid short-term discomfort and concentrate on the value of learning from these unpleasant experiences. What we choose not to do can be as important as what we choose to do. Let’s consider this question in regards to just one family issue. Chores.

When children are tots, they love to “help.” Admittedly, more often than not, their help is counter-productive. However, if we take the long-term perspective, we can see the value not only for tolerating their contribution, but also for encouraging it. Obviously our expectations must be age-appropriate and we should set the scene for success. For example, a toddler can take his plastic dish from the table to the sink. (If necessary, scrape any food from his plate to eliminate the possibility of spillage en route to the kitchen. Have them take their silverware in a separate trip.) Thank them for helping. Verbally express your family value about this. “in our family everybody helps.” Then be sure that this assertion is true.

Values in Action: Learning to Contribute: little ones can help tooTake advantage of a child’s desire to help when they still perceive of it as a privilege, this lays the groundwork for lifetime habits. One the other hand, if we do everything for them when they are little, when they are older and the intrinsic eagerness has faded, they will be much more resistant to the expectation to help.

Readers of this blog know that we recently faced a hurricane. Nominal damage occurred but we still had a lot of landscape debris to clear. My two-year-old grandson observed us hauling branches from the backyard to the curb. Without being asked to help, he grasped a broken branch and dragged it along. He wanted to contribute. (Already, he recognizes “helping” as a family value.) He experienced the pleasure of capability. This event becomes part of many  which will eventually engrave a sense of self-confidence and resilience.

He regularly observes his mom and dad being helpers. He sees this family value in action and hears it being reinforced. Through picking up storm debris, he had the pleasure of being a helper and enjoyed a shared family experience. It would have been easy to stop him from helping because he was struggling. What he’d chosen to do was hard. But the very fact that it was difficult, made his effort valuable. This is an important life lesson: things can be  hard, worth while and doable.

We teach our children most effectively through the small actions of daily life. It is not a once-and-done deal. We must articulate our family values clearly–our words count–but our actions bring them to life. (Or reveal them as empty platitudes.)

During this next week, focus your intentions on one of your family values. What choices will you make to embody that value? How will you help your children to notice this value in action. How will you invite them to participate?

Reweaving Connection: Think Globally. Work Locally.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017 @ 04:10 PM
Author: admin

Reweaving Connection: Think Globally. Work LocallyReweaving connection…so much of life depends on our ability to accomplish this. Families built via adoption live this reality in a unique life-redefining way! We understand the effort and importance involved.

Whether a relationship breach exists between spouses (or significant others,) between/among friends or, among larger social groups like classrooms, offices, communities and countries, repair is an essential part of keeping relationships alive and healthy. Relationship repair takes work, requires accountability, cooperation and, commitment. It is challenging to admit we’ve messed up, fallen short or, failed. While not easy, it is worth it.

The many horrific weather events that have confronted the world recently, remind us that working together smooths the pathway to rebuilding damage. It is impossible to do it alone. We need every skill set. Every contribution is valuable. None of us can sit back and do nothing. Each of us can contribute something.

Sunday night in Las Vegas redefined ghastly. Evil.

When moral and social values completely collapse–as in the case of this massacre–we reel with shock, despair, anger and helplessness. However, we must not succumb to these emotions. Yes, they have their place and time. We must move beyond the outrage and DO SOMETHING. Channel the anger and frustration into productive directions.

Contemporary society focuses too much on difference, division, and viewing other people as obstacles to our goals and happiness. While practical steps are essential, we must recast the conversation of negativity, disrespect, hate and “othering.” We must upend this destructive paradigm and embrace a world view built on respect, cooperation, empathy and common purpose. We must resist petty distractions and focus on doing what is right instead of what is easy or comfortable.

Reweaving Connection: Think Globally. Work Locally.How can we become part of the solutions? Sending donations and writing checks certainly helps, but we must do more. The adage “Think globally. Work locally.” must guide us. Family is the most “local” place on which to focus our attention. Do an honest gut check about how well we are exemplifying and teaching our children our values. Then, expand our assessments into other layers of our lives: work/school, community, country, etc. Let us be brave enough to ask the hard questions and acknowledge the reality. This allows us to identify shortfalls or disappointments and then focus on creating the change we desire.

Here are a few questions to consider.

Do I practice the “Golden Rule?”

Do I speak and interact with respect?

Do I welcome and absorb feedback without arguing why it is wrong?

When I offer feedback, is it free of any hidden agenda or petty emotions?

Do I encourage and acknowledge the efforts of others without tacking on criticism?

Do I respect differing viewpoints?

Do I listen to understand without formulating a rebuttal?

When expressing my own viewpoints do I allow space for divergent positions?

Can I disagree without making it a personal attack on the other person?

Do I work to improve the inequities around me?

Do I feed conversations that inspire and encourage?

Do I disparage and complain, dismiss the struggles of others as their fault or not my concern?

Do I look beyond overt differences to see the common humanity of others?

Am I amplifying convesations that reinforce hate and anger?

Am I advancing conversations that build solutions instead of simply venting anger?





Family Values Come Alive in Our Actions

Wednesday, September 27, 2017 @ 02:09 PM
Author: admin

Family Values Come Alive in Our ActionsLately it feels like disaster looms everywhere. Wildfires burn in the west. Hurricanes assault our coasts. Earthquakes shake the continent. Floodwaters burden Texas. The potential for war with Korea feels possible. Puerto Rico struggles to recover from apocalyptic devastation. White supremacy, racism, civil rights, freedom of the press, health care–all swirl for our attention. Human rights. Civil rights. Personal rights. Adoptee rights.

How do we balance it all and ensure some resolution?

Intention. Values-based solutions. Action. All are necessary.

Choose to resist the  pull of trash talk, social media diatribes and finger-pointing. Instead, focus on formulating a well-reasoned stance that partners with an action plan. Whatever your views and values, move beyond talk, complaint and criticism. Change results from action.

Our families are directly affected by all this chaos. Our kids hear the news. They draw inferences. Often they rely on minimal information and sources with questionable accuracy. We all know kids tend to fault themselves like when difficulties such as divorce or adoption occur. Convinced that something about them caused the event to happen, kids shoulder a heavy emotional burden. We can and must help them understand that these circumstances result from adult choices and actions (or inactions.)

As Intentional families, we have a responsibility to help our children understand what is happening within our families, communities and country. Do this in age-appropriate ways. Discuss how your family values affect your thoughts, decisions and actions. Then follow through with ideas for how your family can “do” something to effect the desired results. Get as creative as possible. Choose activities to do as individuals and as a family. Find a way to have fun while you are making a difference.

Develop a family pattern of helping out in the community. Here are a few things you can consider:

  • Agree to perform an act of kindness every day.
  • Gather items for a food drive, storm relief, etc.
  • Explore the history of voting rights.
  • Decide how which daily actions you will take to help the planet
  • When you visit the playground, beach or park, bring gloves and a bag to gather trash.
  • Choose a project to do as a family
    • Hold a garage sale. Contribute proceeds to a good cause
    • Send letters to active duty military personnel
    • help serve a meal at a local food kitchen once a month
    • Bring a neighbor’s trash to the curb
    • Run a lemonage stand for charity
    • Pick up litter in your neighborhood (Take appropriate safety precautions.)

Change, Privacy, Attachment and OBCs: Living with Adoption

Wednesday, September 20, 2017 @ 11:09 AM
Author: admin

questions-privacy-attachment-and-obcs-living-with-adoptionReaders of this blog understand that change is difficult for many adoptees. It triggers feelings of fear, rejection and instability which are rooted in the separation from the birth mother. An adoptee’s predisposition to be hypersensitive to change makes sense considering their fractured life history.

My time-line reveals no similar cracks in continuity. Raised within the family into which I was born, I never feared that they’d “reject” or “abandon” me. I never wondered about the possibility of an alternative reality which could include different parents, siblings, names and, identities. Like a barnacle on a wave-tossed shore, I felt securely attached. I relied on family to witness, support and encourage me as I labored to handle any challenges and obstacles that came my way. I knew who I was and where I fit in the continuity of the family timeline. My people were survivors who understood hard work, difficult times, financial struggles and, the sucker punch that an unexpected health issue could deliver.

In spite of this time-tested sense of being reliably steadied by family ties, I’ve never been a fan of change. It unsettles me and sucks up energy and focus. I prefer the familiarity and security of routine. Plus, I’m an introvert, so I crave quiet and solitude to recharge my “batteries.” I also carefully guard my privacy and personal information.

All of these thoughts came to mind when an adult adoptee recently confided to me the angst and worry that a recent doctor’s appointment triggered within her. The medical history form which I find simply irksome to complete, slaps her in the face with a sharp reminder that she lacks the medical history knowledge which I take for granted. I know the significant risks in our family for heart disease, dementia, cancer, etc. Because I know the facts, I can take appropriate action in terms of diet, medication, and monitoring. I only have to worry about a specific set of facts.

My adoptee friend on the other hand, has to worry about the entire universe of medical risks. Unlike my health risks which are identified across generations, her fears are “unbounded” because anything is possible.Does breast cancer run in the family? Alzheimer’s? Melanoma? Heart disease? Diabetes? Multiple Sclerosis? The reality for her is she does not know. And so…she worries…a lot. She pleads for early screening for breast cancer.

And is denied.

And so she worries even more.

She suffers from an unusual array of health issues yet has no way of knowing if these symptoms are part of a family pattern or if they are indicative of genetics, stress, environment, occupational hazard, etc. Should she avoid certain things? Should she be engaging in other pro-active practices to help stave off the family risk? Who knows?

Not her.

Not her doctor.

She doesn’t think this is fair, or wise or, medically sound. She wants access to her family history, identity and people.  I agree. So does the Donaldson Institute who is spearheading a national movement #OBC2020. Check it out and join the movement to restore these basic human rights to adult adoptees.

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