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Adoption Reddit

You may already be familiar with Reddit. Have an interest? Reddit probably has a running discussion; it’s a treasure trove.

(Careful…it can be addicting. Hilarious kitty pics are hard to ignore.)

If you have Adoption connections, I’d like to recommend that you join the Adoption group* (sub).

If you’re part of the Adoption Triad (an individual who was adopted/fostered, an adoptive/foster parent or a biological parent) or if you’re considering fostering or adoption, it’s a great place to hang out.

Many members who were formerly adopted or in foster care provide excellent advice for adoptive/foster parents with honest questions. I won’t list user names because there are too many (and I’ll end up accidentally leave someone out), but believe me, if you have a concern, someone can help. It’s also a great place to talk with other parents in similar situations.

*I feel as though the sub has gotten a bad rap recently; if you get a negative response in one (or more) of the comments, just ignore it. Most of the time, individuals posting negative views are dropping in to stir the pot (you can click the user name to see their post history). Most of the truly active members are incredibly helpful and truly care about making life better for our kiddos.

Also, keep in mind that negative comments often source from a well of deep grief and loss, so if someone’s acting like a jerk, they are probably hurting. 

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Adoption = Interview with Richard

This week, Richard was kind enough to allow me to interview him about adoption. His candor and willingness to dig deep are impressive. You’re going to love him.

So, tell me a little about your adoption.

I was adopted domestically when I was three days old.

You have an adopted sibling, correct?

My parents adopted my brother when he was about a month old. We’re not biological siblings. We didn’t really get along, growing up, and aren’t very close now. He’s six years older.

How would you describe your parents’ relationship with each other?

They are loyal and loving to each other. My mother has a more dominant personality than my father.  I never saw them fight and my father instilled a high standard of patience and love.

How would you describe your relationship with your parents?

Mostly good. When you grow up you learn how to do deal with people’s personalities in healthier ways. My mom tends to be passive-aggressive and avoid hard things. I discovered it really affected me growing up and I had to grow out of some of these behaviors.

I think our differences have to do with the major personality differences between us. They are introverts, and I am definitely an extrovert. They are completely happy to live simple lives. I need a bit of chaos and want to change the world.

I’m doing my best to learn to nurture these relationships in a healthy way.

What are some of the things they really “got right” as they parented?

I was always loved, always safe, always fed. Most of the time, they listened to me and encouraged me. I think the best things they did in regards to adoption is that my parents told me since I was young that I was adopted but treated me like I was no different than if I was their own son.

What do you wish they’d done differently?

I wish they pushed me a little harder. I really struggled with Anxiety and ADD and I felt like I lost so much time.

As I grew up, I had to discover that I needed distraction and some form of chaos, I am a very passive person, and really know how to hold on to my emotions, but I only felt alive when something was wrong or needed to be fixed.
I also should have been sent to an adoption counselor at a young age. I didn’t seem unhappy and back then we didn’t have studies or people like you addressing these issues I was safe, but I didn’t feel safe. I always had this feeling, “everyone will leave me.”  I couldn’t identify where the feelings came from.
This may be more biological but my depression wasn’t everything is awful. More like “everything is boring.” Nothing seemed fun, nothing seemed pretty.  Maybe I was a good actor. I never lashed out with it and I tried to be a good kid, but I was really hurting inside.

Are you close with your wife’s family?

My wife’s mom is one of the most amazing and supportive people I’ve ever met. She calls me and tells me she’s proud of me.

Do you want contact with your birth family?

Yes and no. I’d like some closure, but I don’t want to disrupt anyone’s life (more than I did twenty-some years ago). I do look to see if anyone is searching for me, specifically my mother.

I check adoption finder websites about once a year. She knew my name so I don’t think it would be difficult to find me. I found her last name through some people I met on forums who have access to that kind of information I’ve looked up the name on Facebook to see if anyone looked like me. Doing this isn’t very productive. 🙂

What are your thoughts on adoption, in general?

The definition of mercy is: “compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.” I think this is what adoption is. It’s not always pretty and will be a challenge, but you are doing a thing that most people are not able to do.
My biological mother chose the hard way to deal with an unwanted pregnancy and knew she could not care for me. My parents chose to take me in and take care of me.

If you had a magic wand to “fix the system,” what would you do?

Identifying the physiological issues and perhaps behavioral issues that adoptees face. I like what we are seeing in the advancement of identifying of some of the issues involved. I think the adoption process should include mandatory counseling.

How do you define yourself?

I think I have a gift of being both technical and creative. I can identify challenges at work and home and address them. I can think clearly in emotional situations. I thrive in exciting situations.

Did you ever feel different, being adopted?

I felt different because I wasn’t anything like my parents. My example of who I should be was much different then who I was. Growing up I didn’t accept me for me. I needed to be like THEM.

I didn’t link it to adoption, but I never felt like I fit in with my friends, either. I always felt left out. I was surrounded by people but incredibly lonely.

“Surrounded by people but incredibly lonely;” I think that describes my kiddos to a T. In fact, last night, my son told me no one in his class likes him. By their positive reactions when he walks into the room, I know many of them like having him there, but his perception is that they don’t. As a mother, how can I help him?

That’s tough, because you’re the mom. Honestly I’d open up to them. Tell them what you struggle with and how you overcome it.  I think all this work you are doing is going to help tremendously. You’re recognizing that adoption isn’t simple.

Do you feel there are struggles specific to adopted children? How can we address those?

Definitely. We need to help adoptees understand who they are to address the issues they’re experiencing. We need to accept that they’re different from their adopted parents. Don’t just assume they’re “okay” and don’t try to force them into a mold.

What do you think you really “got right” as you grew up?

I lived to have fun but tried to stay out of trouble. As a kid, I was hyper, but I was kind.

What do you wish you had done differently?

I wish I treated my ADD and depression earlier in life. I wish I used that time that I wasted on art. I just feel like I lost so much time.

If you have the opportunity to adopt, do you think you’ll do it?

Perhaps. I don’t know. I won’t walk into it blindly.

What advice would you give adoptive parents and adopted children?

Parents, you should definitely love your children as your own, but also accept that they are different. Encourage them to follow their interests. Pay attention to them, but don’t smother them. Don’t keep adoption information from your child.

Adoptees, it’s okay to feel different. Explore your gifts. Seek help when you need it. Don’t act out in anger. You’re going to be angry at some point, but you need to identify why. Use that emotion to fuel your gifts. Learning who you are may be challenging, but remember that you’re never alone.

Richard is in his late twenties and works in digital media. He and his lovely wife have been married almost three years. They live in California with their pets, a dog and a cat.

Adoption = Interview with Anna

Recently, I had the pleasure of catching up with Anna, a fellow WordPress blogger, to talk about adoption.

Casey: So, Anna, tell me a little about your adoption.

Anna:  I was adopted domestically, with a family whose ethnic origins are similar to my own. I’ve been with my adoptive family from birth but I was “officially” adopted when I was almost a year old.

C:  How would you describe your parents’ relationship?

A: They are such a team; it’s cute and annoying. I could NEVER play one off the other (I tried to get a dog, once…it didn’t work). They love each other and take care of each other. They’ve had a strong marriage almost 30 years and they’re incredible people. My friend says, “your parents are like finches; they mate for life.” They gave me a very solid foundation on which to build my life.

C:  How would you describe your relationship with your parents?

A: I was always a Dad’s girl. It took me many, many years to stop being angry with my mother. My younger brother (also adopted) got all of her time and attention as we grew up. He is close to me in age and special needs, so I was often given to Dad. As such, we have a really close relationship. After I moved out, Mum and I were able to create a really loving bond (which I also credit to that solid foundation), and we’re as close as Dad and I are now.

C: What are some of the things they really “got right” as they parented?

A: Punishments. They used to ‘ground’ me; I went to school, came home from school. Nothing else.

Also, they let me calm down, write it out, and THEN they’d bring me out of my room to talk about it. I had an awful temper as a older child/teenager, but I think this worked because they weren’t trying to have an immediate conversation with me.  They were very supportive, encouraging and they both have really good senses of humor – which I think you need to be a good parent.

C: What do you wish they’d done differently?

A: I wish they’d talked about me and my accomplishments more. I often felt like I played second fiddle to my younger brother.

C: Do you mind talking about your birth family?

A: Not at all. I always wanted my mum in my life. I have contact with everyone on my mum’s side: my maternal grandmother, mother, mother’s brother and his wife, my older brother and younger brother.

C: How did you get in contact with them?

A: My adoption was ‘semi-open’. I had contact with my maternal grandparents, and they provided a home where my older brother and I could spend time together. I stayed there about one week every couple of years. Once he and I got older, we started talking to each other over instant messaging.

A: How would you describe your current relationship(s) with your birth family?

C: I get on well with Nana and my Uncle and Aunt; it’s boring and supportive (in a nice way). My brothers and I have put in some decent sibling time over the last couple years, so we enjoy each other’s company. I was one of the first people my brother called when he found out he and his wife are expecting! As for my mother… we were very close. Then I moved to be closer to her, but she seemed to slip away from me. She and her husband have recently moved to another city.

A: How did that affect you?

C: For the first four months I felt like I was drowning. I was also suicidal for a time, because the pressure in my head was too much to bear. There’s a line I wrote in my blog which I think explains it: “it felt like my life had been ripped open; scattering memories into the air. When I could drag myself up, I would try and catch them and wrap them back up into myself but it didn’t always work. Things that had been precious, suddenly felt like lies. Those memories couldn’t belong to me, because I wasn’t me anymore. I was in the wrong family, had the wrong life, had all the wrong memories.”

My relationship with my birth mum was once just so incredible and happy and everything I wanted, and now it’s splintered. Sometimes it grates at me and I get sad. But I write, and try to put it to one side, until I have time to sit and feel and acknowledge those feelings, before letting them go.

I had been so convinced, for 21 years, that she hated me, but instead I found that she loved me so much, it hurt. I will say that the “Mum hates me” message that I had drummed into myself for so long is almost impossible to let go of completely. Our reunion was, for two years, almost absolutely everything I could’ve dreamed for. Now it is disappointing. I believe it’s something called ‘secondary rejection,’ which can come from either side of the birthmother/adoptee duo.

C: If your connection with birth family had any effect on your adoptive family, what was it?

A: My Mum went into therapy for a while, and my Dad was very angry. But they are amazing people, and still supported me and encouraged me, and picked me up every time I curled up in the fetal position and cried.

C:  What are your thoughts on adoption in general?

A: Oh god, okay. Brutally honest? If the mother is capable and has family and government support, she should keep the child. My mother raised a child for three years before I came along. I firmly believe she could’ve done it, and it is a huge wedge in our relationship that she didn’t. Every adoption situation is different though, so I’d be loath to comment on all of them.

C: How do you define yourself?

A: As an adoptee. But also as my parents’ daughter.  A writer and a reader. I watch too many TV shows. I get invested in characters. I love dialogue. I’d like to think I’m kind, compassionate and helpful as well. I laugh a lot. I also collect mothers (weird, right?).  When I say collecting mothers…this is figurative, obviously. I’ve been very fortunate to meet strong, affectionate older females who like to step into the ‘mum’ role from time to time. For example, where I work now, I appear to have been adopted by the other three women in my team (as I’m a good 30 years younger than all of them). I’ve known my two best friends since age two, so their mothers are practically mine as well!

C: Did being adopted make you feel different?

A: Yes. I was teased about it in primary school. I hated every science class when we studied genetics (although I found them fascinating, they still hurt). I didn’t like family projects in general.

C: Do you feel there are struggles (emotional, mental, academic, behavioral) specific to adopted children?

A: I think there are emotional struggles. I think every child has the right to a personal relationship with the woman who put them on the earth. I struggled with leaving my older brother when I was little, because I’d have to go back to a world where I was the oldest. The earlier the integration/relationship starts, the better. Children are much more adaptable than people think they are, I believe.

C: What did you really “get right” as you grew up?

A: Well, my clothing choice improved. And I washed the purple dye out of my hair. But I also always understood why I was feeling a certain way, because I trained myself to acknowledge the feeling, explore it and understand it.

C: What do you wish you had done differently?

A: I wish I could’ve controlled my temper better, and not lashed out at innocent people.

C: If you have the opportunity to adopt, do you think you’ll do it?

A: Depends. If someone brought me a baby/child/teenager and said “you’re the best for them,” then of course I would. But if the child can talk, I’d have to ask their opinion.

C: What’s your advice to others (either to adoptive parents or adopted children, or both)?

A: You should definitely talk about adoption. Talk about the family, share the information that you know.

If you’re an adoptee going through reunion, you’ll experience a lot of memories and feelings very quickly and your brain won’t be able to catch them all. Keep a journal; write down important stories, thoughts, even shared text messages. Write about the good, and the bad. You’ll be happy to have it later on when the calm comes.

As an adoptive parent, don’t shelter your child from their adoption. They’re the main character in their own story. Let them in on it.

C: Any last thoughts?

A: Be true to who you are. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Jump in with your heart open, because you can never regret fully immersing yourself in an experience, even if it things don’t turn out the way you imagined.

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***

Anna is in her early twenties and lives in New Zealand with her two super-cute kitties. She’s currently attending university for an English degree, but her true passion is forensic anthropology. You can follow her blog at Lookingforyellow.wordpress.com.

Adoption = Yo’ Mama

For Blogging 101: New to me…Q&A. (This was an actual conversation.)

Q: I’m an adopted child, now adult, and have connected with my birth mom and several brothers. I wanted to be open with my mom (adoptive) and told her. She hasn’t said anything outright, but I don’t think she’s happy about it. Why can’t she be happy for me? She has nothing to be jealous about–she’s my mom.

A: As a young adoptive mom (we have an 8 & 10 yr old; they’ve been with us almost 4 years), I already grit my teeth at the thought of my kids going to find the people who hurt them in the first place. I do understand at some level the need to have connection and the loss they must feel, but still, I know it will be difficult.

You might want to try not mentioning it to your mom; you’re just trying to be honest, but she may feel that you’re throwing it in her face (this may be a completely subconscious feeling that she doesn’t even recognize), which intensifies the hurt. If she asks about them, you can just say, “Oh, we talk occasionally.” Otherwise, I wouldn’t bring it up.

I imagine myself being a selfless adoptive mother when the time comes, listening to all their experiences with the birth family, but I have a feeling (let’s be honest) I’ll be happiest if they say, “Wow, those people are awful. I’m so glad I was with you.”

If they really get along with them and want to spend time with them, I’ll probably feel jealous…”they treated you horribly and abandoned you. I spent every waking minute of my life after meeting you–and many of my dreaming moments–trying to make your life better. I spent half of those years sitting in offices, taking you to counseling and occupational therapy and speech therapy and neurology appointments, not to mention all the visits to the principal and working with the school, fighting to get you special help. And now you’d rather spend time with THEM instead of me?”

Again, I hope I’ll be able to be the bigger person and see it from their perspective–they’ll be discovering themselves, seeing their own gestures and features in other people, finding connections that only genetics can provide. But I have a feeling that if they really like “those people,” I won’t want to hear about it.

I could be totally off-mark, but I hope that helps you understand your mom a little…I bet she’s feeling something similar.

Adoption = Forgiveness with a Side of Chocolate

Our daughter harbors heartbreaking, heart-aching, anger toward her birth mother.

Thanks to a fun little disorder called RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder, not the cool 80’s “rad”), most of that rage is directed at me. One of RAD’s hallmarks is misdirection of anger toward the person who most closely represents the individual who caused pain. Most children with RAD aren’t aware of what’s happening; it’s not intentional, and it’s important for the “target” to understand that most of the child’s behavior is not a personal attack.

In general, she presents as an almost perfect child and is great at surface interactions. Anyone outside our home or very close inner circle of friends would be shocked that she’s anything but an angel. I did not immediately realize she creates that image on purpose, so was taken aback the day she complained about a classmate who did not like her, stating, “but I’m so sweet!” If you’ve ever seen The Bad Seed (which, in an ironic twist, has always been one of my favorite classic movies), imagine Rhoda. That’s my girl (without the homicidal tendencies, thank goodness).

For much of our time together, she has repressed her true feelings. Sometimes she references “pushing the feelings down” or “keeping myself from coming apart.” Once, she told the counselor that she has “a line,” and she has to make sure she stays “below this line,” tracing a chest-high line in the air. If she feels herself getting “close to the line,” she removes herself from the situation and stays by herself for a while. Every Thanksgiving and Christmas, she opens up a little bit; two years ago she told me, “it’s not fair that you get to see your mother.”  This year, her play therapist suggested we try something different. I sat in the waiting room to see if she would talk freely without me. She told the therapist that she is angry at her birth mom. The therapist suggested that she write a letter.

Later that week, Hubby had our son elsewhere, so I asked if she’d like to write a letter. (We’ve made a rule not to discuss the bio family in front of her brother. He’s allowed to bring it up if he likes, but if she references them when he’s present–and not mentally prepared–he has a very negative reaction.) I told her it was just for her, and I wasn’t going to read it unless she decided to share it. She wrote her feelings in large, scrawled letters (she asked me to read it), stating, “I wrote messy because I am VERY ANGRY.”

Several other times, when her brother was away, either she or I have suggested letter writing. The letters have been shorter each time, but still very angry. This past Saturday, in addition to writing the letter, she wanted to talk as we sat in the kitchen. “Why did she get rid of me? Why was she so mean to us?” Still angry, her tone was plaintive. I don’t have good answers. Or any answers, really.

Social services told the kids their mother was unable to provide care because she was “sick,” which then made our girl feel guilty for not being able to be nurse for her mother. On arrival with us, the kids had convinced themselves that social services kidnapped them from their home, had “taken” them from their family. They hated social workers, police, judges and anyone in authority. The few answers I do have are ones I don’t want to give. “Your mother put herself first, neglected and abandoned you, wouldn’t do the few, easy things the judge ordered she must do to keep you and didn’t show up to what she knew was your final meeting.” No. I refuse to break their hearts further. I remained silent and let her talk, praying for the words to help her.

My eyes snapped to the cookbook shelf, and I had an idea. “So, you’re really angry, right?” I asked. “Yes, SO angry. She took my heart and did this,” she said, making a breaking-in-half motion with her hands. “So, do you think she knows that you’re angry?” I reached for my biggest cookbook. She nodded. “She knows.” As I pulled the book down, I asked, “Do you think it’s hurting her back when you’re really mad?” She stood up, always interested in cooking. “Yes. It hurts her. What are you doing?”

I held the cookbook out to her. “I want you to hold this over your head with both hands. Don’t let go, okay?” She took the book, eyeing me with suspicion. “So,” I asked, “how heavy is it?” She shrugged. “Not that heavy. I can handle it.” I smiled. “Great! So, that’s my cookbook. If I held it over my head, it would be heavy, but you’ve got it and you can handle it. Do you think you can hold it up all day?” Her eyes widened. “It might get heavy.”

“So, you’re holding the cookbook. Is it heavy for me?” I asked. She looked at me as if I’d lost my mind. “It’s not heavy at all for you; you’re not holding it.” I smiled. Maybe this would work. I pulled out one of her Christmas stocking gifts, a sealed plastic candy cane full of chocolate kiss candies, and placed it on the table. “Okay. You can have as many of these as you want.” She gasped happily (candy is usually well-rationed at our house). She started to put the book on the table, but I held out my hand. “Wait. You can have as many of these as you want, BUT you must keep both hands on the book.” She narrowed her eyes, determined. “I can do that.”

I let her try for about two minutes. She attempted to use her elbows, her nose, her mouth. Finally, frustrated, she said, “I have to put the book down.” I smiled. “So. In order to get to the candy, you have to let go of the book, right?” She nodded. “I just said that.”

“Before you put it down, tell me this. Does it affect me one way or another if you’re holding the book?” Slyly, she said, “I can’t give you any candy unless I put the book down. So I should put it down and give you some candy, right?” I laughed. “No, I can get the candy, because I’m not carrying the book. So does it matter to me if you hold the book?”

I reached for the candy. Now she was annoyed. “No. It doesn’t matter to you if I’m holding the book. Are you going to eat my candy? That’s not fair.”

I didn’t want her to lose focus on the idea, so I said, “Okay. Put the book on the table.” As she did, I asked, “So, now you can get to the candy, right?” Ripping open the plastic cane, she said, “Yep.” Praying I wouldn’t lose her to the chocolate, I said, “You know, when we hold onto anger, it only hurts us. When you held my book, it didn’t make a difference to whether I could get the candy. It only kept YOU from getting the candy.” Her eyes held a spark of recognition. “You’ve been holding a lot of anger against your birth mom. Who is it affecting?” Her mouth dropped open. “Me.”

“Is it affecting her?” Mouth full of chocolate, she shook her head. “When we hang onto anger, it hurts us and keeps us from getting to the love,” I pointed to the chocolate kisses, “but it doesn’t affect the other person. It can make us have bad behavior, though, and sometimes we find someone else to treat badly when the person we’re really mad at isn’t here.” She squinted at me, not getting it.

“When you first came to live here, were you nice to everyone?” She nodded enthusiastically. I ask, “Were you nice to Daddy?” Nod. “Were you nice to your brother?” Nod. “Were you nice to me?” Nod–then, “Not really very nice to you.”

“Why do you think that happened?” Eyes wide, she said, “I was mean to you, but I wasn’t mad at you. I was mad at her.” Completely floored she made the connection, I continue, “Right. And I always knew you weren’t mad at me. That’s why I didn’t get mad back.” (Honesty here: even knowing her motivation, it was definitely a lot of work not to take it personally, and sometimes I still did, but I worked hard not to react.)

“If you keep holding the anger against your birth mom, will it hurt her?” She opened another chocolate, one eye on me. “No. It just hurts me.” She slid a foil-wrapped kiss my way.

“Right. That’s why God tells us to forgive. Forgiving is deciding to let go of the anger, like deciding to put the book on the table. He doesn’t want us to forgive so the other person will feel better. He wants us to forgive because holding the anger keeps us from being able to get–and give–love.” I picked up the chocolate. “Could you give this to me while you were holding the book?” She shook her head.

“Forgiving is hard. People have hurt me, too, and when it’s a really big hurt, I think about what happened and get mad all over again. But I have to decide to forgive them over and over, because if I don’t, I can’t love others the way I should, and I can’t get the love I need. You don’t have to forgive her today, but when you’re ready to decide to forgive, I know you’ll feel better.”

“I don’t know if I can forgive her yet,” she said, thinking (and unwrapping more chocolate). “I know,” I say. “Sometimes it takes time. But now you know what you can do to feel better.”

***

The next day, she hugged me. “Can I write a letter to tell her about what I got for Christmas? I’m not going to write a mad letter this time. I forgave her. I’m still a little mad, but I feel better.” I hugged her back, tight.

Blogger JoyRoses13 has a great quote, which I’m stealing: “Bitterness is the poison that we drink ourselves, hoping to kill our enemy.”

Who do you need to forgive? It’s time to put the cookbook on the table.

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