GIFT coach, Gayle Swift writes a blog, "Writing to Connect.," which reviews children's books through an Adoption-attuned lens. Some focus on adoption-themed topics but most do not. Here are two books that align with our recent blogs on adoptee identity. These originally appeared on Gayle's blog. Enjoy
Children love banging out music. From their first toddler foray wielding spoon against a pot or a pan, they respond with joy, enthusiasm and persistence. But for some kids music offers much more than an outlet. It is who they are and how they connect to their deepest feelings and express themselves. Melba Liston was one such child. She connected with her talent at a very young age. Little Melba and her Big Trombone by Katheryn Russell-Brown illustrated by Frank Morrison is based on her life.
Born in 1926 in an environment filled with jazz, blues, and gospel, music dominates her life. Eventually it brings her all over the world. Music also presses Melba to face the realities of prejudice and racial separation that dominated that part of history. Melba's story inspires glows with the power of following one's passion, the thrill of fulfilling one's dreams. She overcame great difficulty not only in terms of personal challenges but also in terms of the racial realities of that era. This serves as a model for the power of vision, commitment and determination. Her success was not magical nor without challenges. It occurred as a result of hard work.
Morrison's award-winning** illustrations brilliantly further the story. The effort and energy Melba expended come alive in the pictures. Dwarfed by her trombone, seven-year-old Melba struggled to master it, to release the music that lay dormant in the instrument. Her family encourages her to dare to be the best musician she can become, to take risks, and to ignore those who would try to hold her back. Melba blazed a trail for female musicians. "She was one of the first women, of any race, to become a world-class trombone player." The story clearly portrays the immense power of an innate talent and how compelled a child feels to develop her abilities.
The AQ* (Adoption-attunement Quotient) potential in this story is easy to capture. This story celebrates a child's innate talents and it highlights how her family encouraged and helped develop her gift. As adoptive parents we have the same opportunity-- a duty really-- to look for the hidden talents that lie within our children--the gifts of their genetic heritage. Some families may find this effortless to accomplish. Perhaps their child's talents meld right in with the generational patterns of the family, for example, when an athletically-gifted child is adopted into a sport-loving family.) Or, the opposite might be true a bookish, creative child more at ease with a journal, drawing pencil or paintbrush joins the same family. This mismatch can be a source or tension or it can be an opportunity to broaden the family's identity, to embrace this new "flavor" to notice and appreciate it. Whether it is a stretch or a no-brainer match, a child's talents are a blessing, a light to be fostered and nurture. One of the greatest gifts we can give a child is to validate them--their thoughts, feelings, talents and their differences. When our children were grafted to our family trees, we all became permanently linked, permanently changed.
In Florida, where Casey and I live, nurseries frequently graft varieties of trees. One popular match is called a "cocktail tree*." Farmers choose a sturdy, vibrant citrus tree and then graft branches of limes, oranges and lemons. When the mature tree blooms and fruits, it produces not only the fruit of the parent plant. Each branch remains true to its DNA: the orange branch produces oranges; the lime branch yields lemons and the lemon branch bears lemons. Nurtured by the strength of the root stalk, each of the grafts reaches maturity as a healthy expression of its potential. I would assert that this is what we wish for our children: that they become the best version of themselves instead of a hollow imitation of an idealized set of expectations.
*In other parts of the country a similar process produces fruit salad trees that include apple varieties or other fruit combinations.)
** (He won the Coretta Scott King Honor Award for 2105.)
In My Name Is Not Isabella, one little girl's imagination runs wild in a delightful game of pretend. Author Jennifer Fosberry introduces readers to a variety of history-making women through Isabella's role play. Isabella's mother encourages explorations as she pretends to be an astronaut (Sally Ride,) a sharpshooter (Annie Oakley,) an activist (Rosa Parks,) a scientist (Marie Curie,) a physician ( Elizabeth Blackwell,) and a mother. Mike Litwin's illustrations have a quirky and charming cartoon style that perfectly compliment the lighthearted story. At the end of the story, the author includes brief biographical notes about these "women who changed the world."
This book offers a wonderful spark for readers to "play pretend" and imagine themselves growing up to be a variety of people. It ends on a perfect note of self-acceptance as Isabella announces "'It's me, Isabella, the sweetest, kindest, smartest, bravest, fastest, toughest, greatest girl that ever was,' ...as she fell asleep and dreamed about who she would be...tomorrow."
The story lends itself to conversations about all the different roles your child might imagine. Parents can share their memories of childhood dreams as well as any current ones that inspire them. Enjoy the imaginary journey and encourage even the most outrageous goals. This is the time for unbridled fantasies. Practicalities will come all too soon.
When we use our AQ* (adoption-attuned) lens we can see how well this story aligns with our children's task of braiding their multi-stranded elements of biological and adoptive family's influences. Isabella realizes that she does not have to choose only one aspect of her dreams. She can incorporate every angle of her personality to become herself. So too, our children are a mixture of many "ingredients" that blend to become a complex and special recipe. In some ways, they are like us as. In other ways they are not. As parents we choose to be intentional in conveying both acceptance and delight for their similarities and their differences.
Sherrie Eldridge is an award-winning author of seven books, including the best-selling Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew. (We believe it is essential reading for adoptive parents.) Her classic book, 20 Life-Transforming Choices Adoptees Need to Make, is being reissued by Jessica Kingsley Publishers. the book is available for pre-order. Official launch date is March 21. Sherrie, an adoptee and a staunch advocate for adoptive families writes, LIVES the adoption journey, connects with adoptees’ hearts and validates their experience. She is the founder of "Jewel Among Jewels Adoption Network, Inc., a non-profit, faith-based educational organization which offers resources to anyone touched by adoption--foster care and adoptive parents, birth parents, adoptees of all ages, social workers, mental health professionals, and university training programs. http://www.sherrieeldridge.com/"(from the JKP Website)
What is the main message of 20 Life-Transforming Choices Adoptees Need to Make
The main message of the book is that we are responsible to choose options that lead to healthy lifestyles and relationships.
What feedback do you receive from adoptees and their parents?
I interviewed nearly 70 adoptees for the original book. It was so enlightening for all of us. The main comment from adoptees was, “I didn’t know other adoptees felt the same as me. I feel like I’ve been through therapy!”
How can families whose religious beliefs vary widely from your own find value in your message?
The second edition is toned down a lot when it comes to references to God. I hope that readers will bring their own beliefs and weave them throughout the pages. One woman wrote on amazon.com that she was Buddhist but that she could simply apply her own beliefs where God was mentioned.
After all, maturity is searching for truth and tossing the rest.
As far as my own beliefs, I can’t completely wipe them out of my writing because it is who I am.
As a committed voice for adoptees, you’ve written many books. What is the unifying message you seek to convey?
I seek to convey that relinquishment is traumatic but that with hard work, adoptees can overcome and champion what once brought them down, such as feelings of abandonment, etc. We adoptees need to do our work, but then we need to “get over ourselves” and move on to maturity.
What is the most important thing adoptive parents can offer their children? (Beyond unconditionally loving their children)
The most beneficial thing is the ability to parent wholeheartedly. By that, I mean that the parent/s have grieved their own losses and are not afraid of the child’s loss. Without that prior grief work on the parent’s part, attachment cannot occur.
“You are a unique weaving together of nature and nurture into one marvelous human being, with awesome potential.” (my quote!)
How can parents create a context of openness that reassures children and invites conversation on both the easy and the difficult aspects of adoptive family life?
Parents can create openness by making adoption a common topic in the family. If kids are resistant, which they very well may be, put out feelers. “I wonder where you got that love for horses.” Or, “I wonder if your birth father had zits on his face as a teen.”
These comments tell the adoptee that its not only okay to talk about adoption, but that it is a welcomed topic.
How does respectful/positive language benefit adopted children and their families?
Positive adoption language honors the birth parents. “We LOVE your birth parents.” This communicates unconditional love to the child. “Oh, they must love all of me because I came from them.”
Of course, there’s always the negative aspect question that arises. “How can you honor parents who are in jail, etc.?” You honor their position as the child’s parent, not the performance. Always assure the child that negative, painful lives are the result of poor choices and that you will help him/her to make good, healthy choices.
When parents live with a high AQ* (Adoption-attuned Quotient) how does the entire family benefit
I am not familiar with this term. I would guess you mean “adoption savvy?” The whole family would be able to take a deep breath because everyone feels understood and there are no subtle pressures to perform to perceived expectations.
10. How does the move toward Open Adoption benefit adoptees? What drawbacks, if any, do you see?
Open adoption is a wonderful event and lifestyle, but it is not the panacea once thought of. Yes, we adoptees can see our birth parents often, but sometimes this creates rejection for us because birth parents may not keep their word. Adoptive moms STILL get the misplaced anger even though the birth mother is in the adoptee’s life. Each family needs to find what works best for their child….always with concern for the child’s well-being, not the parents.
is available for preorder. Jessica Kingsley Publishers officially launches this new issue on March. 21, 2015. It will be available in both paperback and Kindle formats. Read GIFT's blog post on Forever Fingerprints
At GIFT Family Services, we constantly look for ways to help families connect and create positive relationships and moments of togetherness that build healthy bonding in a family. A Facebook video posted by the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University struck us as a wonderful blog topic for this holiday season. It explained a concept called "Serve and Return"
This refers to the feedback loop that occurs when communicating with others. It involves give-and-take, attentive eye-contact, deep listening and an interest in connecting with another. This ability to communicate authentically is the most valuable present we can give our children. It is not something that can be bought but it is something that can be taught.
Although humans have been programmed to be social beings and to enjoy interacting, the skill set on which it depends must be modeled. It takes courage to reach out to others, to risk being vulnerable, and ask for what one wants. This innate ability develops through observation and repetition. It channels through each of the senses. Vocalizations, gestures, touch, tone of voice, eye contact— all contribute to the communication loop.
In families, parents instinctively teach this essential life skill to their kids by responding accurately to a child’s actions. When baby coos and her parents coo back, when baby smiles and her parents return the smile, or when baby reaches out and her mom or dad reaches back, she learns that her effort produces a response. Baby “Serves” and parents “Return.” This simple process produces profound, life-shaping results. She discovers her ‘voice” in the world and learns that her actions produce results. She perceives the world as a safe place, one that acknowledges her presence, responds to her overtures, and makes room for her contributions. Most importantly, she realizes that her family is that safe base from which she can explore the larger world and to which she can return to refuel.
When we share 360˚ of emotion, we show our children that they too can be real with us. They can share their joy as well as their fear, their curiosity as well as their worry, their anger as well as their love. This gives them permission to be authentic and builds trust. Trust is foundational to healthy attachment.
This season give your children the gift of your focused, responsive attention and your relationship will glow with an invaluable holiday light. Watch the video here:
To observe National Adoption Month. GIFT is featuring a variety of guests bloggers. Enjoy their stories. We appreciate their willingness to share such private moments.
I was 41, Single and Jewish…and I was matched in THREE months!
So first, let’s dispel the myth that you won’t be able to adopt if you are a single woman, over 40, and/or not catholic. It’s simply not true!
But for now, I will focus on my decision to be a single mother “by choice” and the adventures of parenthood alone.
While I realize some people have always had a calling to adopt, I was not one of them (well, maybe subconsciously I actually was). I wanted my fairy tale – married to a hot guy, lots of kids in a beautiful home with a white picket fence. Instead I found myself single, in my 40’s, living in a one-bedroom condo on a non-for-profit salary.
But I was still holding on to my dreams. And while I might not be able to control finding and falling in love with the man of my dreams, I COULD take control of becoming a mommy. So I started down that rocky path.
It was my choice to become a single parent, but not exactly what I would have chosen if my plans had panned out. So, I use the term single parent “by choice” loosely.
Like many women, I struggled with fertility, and after 2 years and 26 rounds of IUIs, I found myself considering adoption…and – it felt right! Nine months from the day I made that decision (a bit ironic, I know), and with the help of an awesome adoption consultant, a brave birth mother and a sweet little baby boy, my dreams of motherhood came true!
People thought I was crazy to parent on my own, telling me how it was hard enough with two parents. My answer was always, ”I won’t know any different.”
And I still believe that. You work with what you’ve been given/what you have…and you make it work for you!
The Best Part of Parenting on Your Own:
…And yet, while there may be more points on the challenging side, trust me when I say the positives SO outweigh the challenges…and you can do it!!
BUT, there is one thing for sure that you will need…SUPPORT!
I never fully appreciated the term, “it takes a village,” until becoming a mother. Having a network of support, especially during that first year, is so important. You will need your family, friends, other Single Mother’s by Choice (SMC), parenting groups, church/synagogue, etc. If it’s not obvious to you who those people will be, start building your own community!
I’ve learned that the community of motherhood that you are about to enter into is AMAZING, and if nothing else, supportive! You need them and they need you!
The baby stage, for me, was easy. I thought, “What’s all this HARD stuff people were telling me about?” So, I might have had an easy child. But I had also worked incredibly hard to become a mom and hadn’t put my body through pregnancy, that I was pumped up on adrenaline and roaring to go! Also, because it HAD taken so much time, money, emotion and a lack of patience, I appreciated motherhood; I dare to say, even more.
Going back to work full time was tough. Just being able to get to work and then back home on time puts my stomach in knots. What I’ve realized along the way is that the workforce isn’t always as understanding of the unique pressures on single mothers as you would hope…no matter what lip service they give you. You need back up plans for your back up plans…and/or the ability to take a lot of sick days from your job!
Besides juggling work and home, as a single woman, I haven’t quite fit in, especially as I get older.
In my family, my sisters have been married with kids for quite some time, and I felt like the odd “wo”man out. Socially, I had my core group of single friends, while many others were married and most with families of their own. So I didn’t see them much anymore.
Now, I’m single with a child who I adopted on my own…in and of itself, this is not something most people understand, let alone can relate to. So, where does that leave me fitting in? As I become more confident, it’s gotten a LITTLE better, but there is still a sense of not quite fitting in. For example, the friends I already had with families have kids much older than my 3 year-old, so now we really don’t have much in common, and it’s a bit more complicated to get together.
I DO have a core group of girlfriends with young children, and I have the support of my family, but I have also sought out to build a new community around me to learn from, through which I find support. These are other Single Mothers by Choice, adoptive family groups (it doesn’t hurt that now that I’ve moved, I have plenty of room to host all my new friends), and a ton of awesome Facebook groups for moms, adoptive families, single parents and the like. All of these things are now part of this adventure I call my life. And I feel richer because of it!
Above all else, I still pinch myself everyday, because it feels like I’m living in a dream…and I am!
Rebecca Gruenspan, MSW, is the Founder of RG Adoption Consulting. A single adoptive parent herself, Rebecca works with hopeful adoptive parents to educate, guide and be a hand to hold through the domestic adoption process. She also has years of experience as a therapist, fundraiser, event planner, presenter and mentor.
©2014 RG Adoption Consulting LLC
Welcome to another installment of The Adoption Blog Carnival, a smorgasbord of adoption conversations from several bloggers. Check them all out. Each one has a useful tidbit that you'll be glad to know. We are please to participate in this group effort to support adoptive families. #adoptiveparenting
Whether you are in an Open Adoption or not, you will enjoy reading Bumber's Bumblings blog about her first post-placement visit with her child’s birth mother. Not surprisingly, both mom’s approached the visit with a mixture of excitement, curiosity and uneasiness. How did it turn out in reality? Read I Thought I Would Be Sad - Open Adoption to find out
Leslie, a blogger deeply steeped in her Christian faith writes Waiting on a Word She shared her personal “miracle” in The Long and Winding Road to Asheville, a post filled with startling incidences of things happening not only how she dreamed, but also as she needed them to fall into place. A termination process that typically takes years, was completed in under five months. In a dizzyingly rapid timeline, the foster child they loved so much became their son. If you’ve ever been discouraged by the snail’s pace that is the adoption process, you will rejoice in Leslie’s experience.
Schumm Explosion blogs practical reminders in Adoption Tax Return “A quick look at the adoption tax return and how it has effected our family. Make sure if you adopted in 2013 that you file for it on your taxes.” Who couldn’t use a financial break? Read their post to learn about several things you can do to take advantage of legitimate tax relief.
This RAD Mom talks about The Big Picture and how families and the relationship dynamics change when adoptions occur. I especially liked this quote which focuses on sustaining our family's light of hope and nurturing. “"When your wife is triggered, the first thing you should do is hug her. Your child will not want to be part of a family that he feels like he can destroy. Your marriage needs to be first." While the road to connection may be like a roller-coaster, with heart-pounding highs and lows, we know the results are worth the turmoil.
Growing Intentional Families Together blog post Unveiling Adoption invites parents to pull back the veil on adoption—not the veil of secrecy which is increasingly more transparent in the era of Open Adoption--but the veil that clouds adoptive families from seeing and validating the challenges as well as the blessings which adoption brings.
Suzanne, who blogs at Surpassing Greatness shares a limp-in-your-throat conversation with her young son. New understanding in my boy from China reflects their deeply held faith as she celebrates her son’s deepening understanding of God and their Christian faith.