Posts Tagged ‘transracial adoption’

David French interview on NPR

Thursday, August 30th, 2018

Two days ago, I published a link to an Atlantic article by David French, “America Soured on My Multiracial Family.”

Today, NPR aired an interview with French, which you can listen to here.

Two quotes: First, French says the question to ask someone who is thinking about adopting is not “Are you excited?” but “Are you ready?” And Second, his advice to prospective adoptive parents: “Adopt with your eyes open and your heart resolved.”

In case you didn’t read my response to French’s original article, it’s below:

My background is different from David French, as are our reasons for adopting our children. But I agree with much of what he says in this Atlantic article, “America Soured on My Multiracial Family.”

When it comes to my family’s configuration, I don’t seek approval or permission from anyone. I’ve become used to the judgement and, yes, hatred directed at us, largely by strangers who know little to nothing of our story. As French notes, the judgement and hatred comes from all sides, for different reasons. Some believe we as white parents have no right to raise children of color. Others believe foreign-born children (especially foreign-born children of color) have no right to enter the US under any circumstance, including adoption; this faction hates everyone they view as “not American.” Still others believe adoption is wrong, period, and hate us on principle.

This is not a bid for sympathy, just a statement of what is: Our kids are our kids and we are a family. Nothing anyone says will ever change that.

 

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On being a multiracial family

Tuesday, August 28th, 2018

My background is different from David French, as are our reasons for adopting our children. But I agree with much of what he says in this Atlantic article, “America Soured on My Multiracial Family.”

When it comes to my family’s configuration, I don’t seek approval or permission from anyone. I’ve become used to the judgement and, yes, hatred directed at us, largely by strangers who know little to nothing of our story. As French notes, the judgement and hatred comes from all sides, for different reasons. Some believe we as white parents have no right to raise children of color. Others believe foreign-born children (especially foreign-born children of color) have no right to enter the US under any circumstance, including adoption; this faction hates everyone they view as “not American.” Still others believe adoption is wrong, period, and hate us on principle.

This is not a bid for sympathy, just a statement of what is: Our kids are our kids and we are a family. Nothing anyone says will ever change that.

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Two wishes

Wednesday, February 14th, 2018


Driving home from school yesterday, Olivia said she wished she could change two things. First, her last name so that it sounded, as she said, “more Latino.” And second, the fact that she and I look so different. “I hate that people see us and can tell I’m adopted,” she said.

Olivia’s at a new school this year–high school–a much bigger place where no one knows us and everyone does a double-take. The first day, a girl looked at the screen-saver on Olivia’s laptop, a family photo. “Who are they?” the girl asked.

“My parents,” Olivia said, and you can guess the rest of the conversation. These kinds of occurrences happen often.

I’m putting this out there because if you asked Olivia, she’d probably say she’s comfortable with being adopted, at peace with it. She’s a well-adjusted young woman who knows and loves her birth family as well as her family in California. Still, Olivia doesn’t enjoy constantly being singled out, stared at, questioned. Nobody does.

As we approached the driveway to our house, I told Olivia I could only imagine how tough it was sometimes to be her, that she didn’t ask for any of it. I said she was welcome to change her last name when she was 18–her first name, too, for that matter–reminding her it would need to be amended on her Certificate of Citizenship (!!!).

“What I can’t change is the color of my skin,” I said. Olivia said that was okay. She loves me anyway. ~

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Road trip

Saturday, November 25th, 2017

The Friday after Thanksgiving we drove up the California coast from San Diego, destination Santa Barbara. We planned to see the exhibition Guatemala from 33,000 km: Contemporary Art, 1960-Present. I had checked the SB Museum of Contemporary Art website to confirm the museum was closed Thanksgiving Day; however, in my enthusiasm, I may have missed it was closed the Friday after, as well.

The photo above shows us standing outside the locked doors.

But the day was not lost. Santa Barbara is a gorgeous city and the kids loved shopping in the Black Friday mix. We also toured the Santa Barbara County Courthouse, a National Historic Landmark, and surely one of the most beautiful public buildings in the U.S. Meanwhile, we continued up the coast as planned, through Solvang and to Cambria. Today, we toured Hearst Castle.

Thankful. ~

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Road trip to Tikal, details

Wednesday, July 6th, 2016

Everyone I know who visits Tikal flies via Guatemala City, but we decided to drive. On the way, we visited parts of Guatemala we’d read and heard about–Rio Dulce, Lake Izabel, and Livingston—and saw miles of near-desert and dense jungle vastly different from the familiar mountains and valleys of the country’s west and center.

Our group consisted of my children, fourteen-year-old Olivia, eleven-year-old Mateo, and I, along with good friends from our Bay Area adoption group, Michele S. and her ten-year-old daughter, Sofia. We hired a driver, Helmuth Leal, who owns the Antigua travel company, Caminos del Quetzal. Literally dozens of tour companies and shuttles run trips to Tikal. We chose Helmuth based on recommendations of others in our adoption community. The service he provided was terrific.

Guatemala is divided into twenty-two regions called departments, similar to our States, and enroute to Tikal we passed through nine of them: Solola, Sacatepequez, Chimaltenango, Guatemala, Progresso, Zacapa, Izabel, and Peten. Tkal is located in the middle of Peten, the largest and most northwestern department, bordering Mexico to the north and west and Belize to the East. The distance from Guatemala City is about three hundred thirty miles. We started our trip in Panajachel, which added another hundred.

The trip took six days, with two days dedicated to driving. The cost was about twice as much as the price of five people flying round trip from Guatemala City to Flores, Tikal’s nearest airport. Bear in mind, the price included hotels, transport, and Tikal Park admission.

Before leaving for Tikal, our families had spent a week at Lake Atitlan, and Helmuth picked us up there on Sunday at 6 AM. If I were to do it again, to save travel time, I would start in Antigua. Lesson learned. We stopped for breakfast at the restaurant Chichoy, between Lake Atitlan and Antigua, and snacked in the van until we arrived almost at Rio Dulce. I say almost, because it was while on the road that we learned the meaning of the word pinchazo—flat tire. The incident added to the adventure.

Once in Rio Dulce, we unloaded our luggage onto a riverboat and cruised over to the rustic and charming Hotel Catamaran. The cabins were simple and clean, with ceiling fans we grew to cherish—that part of the country is hot! and humid!–and no internet access. The no-internet theme was repeated for the rest of the week, and for the first time I could remember, I truly felt off the grid. (more…)

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Antigua nostalgia

Friday, July 31st, 2015

During my trip to Guatemala with Olivia this summer, I felt very nostalgic for our earliest days together, when I moved to Antigua and we lived in a small house to wait for her adoption paperwork to be finalized. We were first getting to know each other then, and many of those days weren’t easy.

I remembered the hours we passed playing at Antigua’s Mickey D’s, wandering through the markets, and admiring the artwork painted on the sides of local buses. I also remembered the care shown to Olivia by our dear Guatemalan friend Yoly, who babysat during the afternoon hours I studied Spanish.

As I watched Olivia navigate her life in Guatemala this June–confident, happy, independent–I thought, How far we have come. ~

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Antigua, Guatemala

Friday, June 19th, 2015

Dear Mateo:

Yesterday in Antigua, we met up with Deborah Feore and her two lovely and amazing daughters from our Bay Area adoption group. You’ve met them at our annual adoption party, remember? It was so much fun to re-experience Antigua through the eyes of the enthusiastic girls. They liked everything about this town!

We ate lunch at Cafe Sky, took a stroll through the Square looking for the famous vendor “Ruth”–(her son’s name is Mateo!)–bought woven tablecloths at Colibri, ate orange chocolate bread from Dona Luisa’s, and wandered through the municipal mercado, where Deb revealed herself to be as mad for plastic “canastas” as I am. Canastas are the word Guatemalans use for the plastic tote bags that I buy a lot of, many of which are stashed in the closet downstairs.

As we walked along the cobblestone streets, one of her daughters said “This feels like my second home.” Ahhhh. — That was nice to hear.

We miss you!

Love,

Mommy (and Olivia, too) xoxo

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Some thoughts on adoption

Thursday, April 9th, 2015

I strive to view adoption from multiple perspectives and sometimes focus too hard on the negative. And by that I mean the loss experienced by my children, the inequality that exists in the world, the basic unfairness of life. These issues haunt me.

I sometimes discuss adoption with a long-time friend, an adult who is adopted, and she sometimes ends our conversations with, “You need to get over your liberal guilt.” If you’re reading this blog, you probably understand what she means by this statement.

Recently I read this Huffington Post essay by adoptee, Madeleine Melcher, and while my first reaction was to think, “Too positive!,” I later reflected that the perspective of Madeleine Melcher is as valid as the perspective of anyone else. Madeleine Melcher also deserves to be listened to. This one line especially spoke to me: “Parents: There is no voice on or about adoption that is more important than YOUR ADOPTEE’S.”

And I took that to mean: I need to listen more to my own my children and their experience of adoption–and a little less to other, louder voices that sometimes drown my children’s voices out.

Today, to myself, I say: Yes, remain aware of adoption’s complexity. Yes, keep my eyes open. But don’t allow the negative things that I know and I’ve seen, prevent me from embracing the good stuff that’s right in front of me.

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Questions people ask

Monday, March 30th, 2015

A while back, a friend posted on my Facebook page a photo montage that had been going around, by adoptive mother and photographer Kim Kelley-Wagner, whose two daughters were born in China. The montage shows the girls holding white boards hand-printed with comments people have said to or about them over the years. Some included “They send their babies here so they can become spies when they get older” and “Your mom could have bought a nice car instead of adopting you.”

A few people expressed surprise when they saw the montage, asking if similar comments had been made to us. They have, although with less frequency than they used to. At this point—my kids are almost 13 and 10–we have our routines and schedules, our circles who know us. Comments occur–or maybe it’s curiosity?–when we go outside the circle. So, a new school for 10-year-old Mateo, a different kid in a class, a first-time activity or sport will provoke a fresh round of inquiries. Questions like. “Why didn’t your real mom want you?” Or “Is she your real mom?” The questions are not intended to hurt, but they affect my children on some deep level. We go through this periodically.

Another place this happens, perhaps not surprisingly, is Guatemala. (Where we visit often.) Always, we are subjected to many looks, some questions, and a degree of judgement. (Which is understandable, but still! Repercussions occur within my children.)

And I realize, again, that as the biological offspring of my two parents, I never experienced this. My belonging was never called into question, the way it is for my children.

Then today, out of nowhere, another example occurred. As we got out of the car, Mateo said, “You know that DVD I watched last week, ‘Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day’?” And I’m thinking, You mean the one released by Disney, rated PG, and based on a book written by the famously sensitive Judith Viorst?

I kept my tone neutral. “Yes?”

“One of the girl characters says to a boy character, ‘Are you sure you’re not adopted?’” Mateo emphasized the word ‘adopted’ with a sneer.  “She said adopted like he was bad because he was adopted. Because he wasn’t like anyone else in his family, so he was weird.“

I stayed quiet for a moment. “How did that make you feel?”

“Sad.” He sniffed, wiping his eyes with the edge of his shirt. “If you’re watching the movie and you’re not part of an adoptive family, you don’t care. But if you’re adopted, you get it.”

I pulled him close, reassuring Mateo that I understood, that as his mother through adoption, I got it, too.

I don’t know why I’m writing about this, except I want to remember this phase of my family’s life. We love one another. That’s a given. Which is not the same as saying that every day everything is easy and simple.   ~

(PS: At the bottom of the page, it says “Comments are closed.” I don’t know why.)

 

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Thoughts on “Gotcha Day”

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

For National Adoption Month, the Huffington Post is running a series of articles on the subject, written by different members of the triad. Here’s a link to a very thoughtful piece by a young woman adopted from China, about the implications of the term “Gotcha Day.” (We don’t use this phrase in our family, just so you know.) The third paragraph is quite profound. Here’s an excerpt:

“Gotcha Day is one of those times when we think about our past and how little some of us actually know about it. We think about our biological parents and wish we knew them and could ask them why they didn’t keep us. We think about what our lives would be like, where would we be, what our futures would look like, had there been no Gotcha Day.”

Gotcha Day Isn’t a Cause for Celebration by Sophie Johnson

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