Tuesday, September 16, 2014

An eloquent post about adoption

I wish to draw attention to a highly eloquent post by Nancy at "Ordinary Miracles and the Crazy Nine." It is specifically about the fact that Vietnam, after a lengthy hiatus, is opening back up for international adoption.  However, the meat of the post is about international adoption in general: the stress and heartbreak shared by everybody in the process, from the parents who want so much to have a child to orphanage workers who love the children as well as they can to the birth parents who are faced with the terrible decision to give up their children to the children themselves, growing up without a family to call their own.

Please read and pass it along.

http://nancyvnjourney.blogspot.com/2014/09/vietnam-adoption-reopening-and-rambling.html

Monday, September 15, 2014

Why Adoption (pt 2)

Shortly after we were matched with our daughter, I wrote a bit about our decision to adopt.  With Caroline home for a few months, I would like to revisit this topic.

I begin with this: thanks be to God!  A day hardly goes by that I don't look at my daughter (oh, magical words!) and ponder what a miracle it is that she's in our lives. 
Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.
Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing.
Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.
For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.
Amen.
The decision to adopt was not an especially easy one as there was a tremendous amount of uncertainty about it, uncertainty that tended rather to increase than decrease as we went forward.  How long would it take?  What physical and emotional handicaps might the child have?  Could we cope with them?  Were we even doing the right thing by taking a child away from her home country / culture?  Were we too old?  And, of course, could I be a good father?

Had I known then what I know now - the joy of being Caroline's father - these questions would have been of but little moment.  I still worry about some things, but they are wrapped up in my desires for her to have a happy life.  This is, I think, perfectly normal for any parent: we want so much for our children.

Herewith my reflections:

--- WHY?  Adoption is not for the unmotivated.  There are tremendous costs in money, time, and emotional stress.  Adopting a child is not simply a matter of dropping by the agency, plonking down a pile of cash, picking a child off the shelf, and signing a receipt.  So, why do it?

We wanted a child. It's that simple.  That's why we did it.  It is fundamentally a selfish choice that parent(s) make to have children, either biological or adopted.  We had some thoughts that life with us would be better for the child than life in an orphanage or even foster care, but we did not have any self-righteous belief that adoption was a rescue mission or that the child would somehow be "lucky": we do not hesitate to tell people that WE are the lucky ones.  I think that most parents feel that way about their children.

It remains to be seen what Caroline thinks about all of this when she's older.

--- THE PROCESS.  My wife and I often muse that having a child is so easy (perhaps TOO easy) for other people: a few minutes in bed or the backseat of a car and VOILA!  somebody is on the path to parenthood.  For the adoptive parent, it's a bit more involved.  I can't speak about domestic adoption, though it seems to me that it has its own set of issues.  For us, there were questions of meeting (or not) the requirements established by various countries, selecting a program, getting approvals from multiple governments, paying lots of money, waiting... and dealing with the emotional issues of rejecting children made implicit by the "medical issues checklist" that we filled out early on.  And, oh yeah: there's a visit to another country at the end.

Again, this is NOT a process for the unmotivated.

It is, however, very much worth it.

--- AFTER.  We worried about post-adoption trauma.  We worried about attachment.  We worried about health issues.  I'm happy to say that the majority of our fears have been groundless.  We've been very lucky as we know other people who DID have these sorts of problems.  If / when we adopt again, we know that we may have to deal with them. 

Again, this is NOT a process for the unmotivated.

One thing that I worried about that - so far - we haven't had to deal with is unthinking, impertinent or even insulting questions about our daughter.  Part of this is due to the fact that Caroline is so cute and engaging that nobody stops to question where she's from or why she's here (OK, we've had one little boy who wanted to know if she was from Mexico.  MEXICO, forsooth!).  But also I think that international / transracial adoption has become so common - it seems that everybody we meet knows somebody who's done it - that people simply accept it without much question* in a way that they didn't even a few years ago.  I hope that this continues.

Caroline is still a little girl.  I don't know if she's noticed yet that we don't look like her.  Her questions about origin and race and culture and birth parents are still in the future.  We continue to read and ponder so as to prepare ourselves for them, to prepare ourselves to help her answer such questions as she might have.  "AFTER" has no end.

Again and always, this is not a process for the unmotivated.

But it has been so, so, so worth it.

My favorite (so far!) photo of our daughter

=====

(*) How American families are formed and what is considered to be "normal" has changed quite a lot in my lifetime.  As a boy, I certainly knew about divorce, but it was at that time relatively uncommon, at least in the conservative part of the South where I grew up.  Children had "single parents" because a parent had died and occasionally due to divorce or PERHAPS because the mother had been highly (ahem) unwise in her choices.  Certainly this was what was portrayed on television.  Now, witness the program "Modern Family", which features a traditional nuclear family, divorced / remarried parents with step- and half-siblings, and a gay couple with a transracially adopted child.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Progress

Caroline is learning to speak.  Oh, not complete sentences yet, her pronunciation is not very good and she's not consistent, but she can say several words and obviously understands a great many more.  Some words that she can more or less say:
  • Mama
  • Laolao (my wife's mother, aka Caroline's Most Favorite Person in the World)
  • Mamaw (my mother)
  • Eye
  • Spoon
  • Plate
  • Milk
  • Snack
  • Ice cream (sensing a pattern here...)
  • Night-night
To my regret, "Baba" comes out as "Mama".  I think she does it on purpose!

My mother pointed out just how remarkable this all is.  Four months ago, Caroline had probably never heard any English at all in her young life.  She's only twenty-two months old.  Now, here she is, learning to speak it and certainly to understand it.  A brief story about understanding:

A week or so ago, she was in the kitchen with me while I was cooking breakfast.  To get her out from underfoot while I was frying bacon (her second most favorite food after chocolate), I gave her a sales flier and told her, "Take this to Mama." I had to repeat myself a couple of times, not really expecting her to do anything but perhaps crumple the flier or throw it in the floor.  Instead, she took off through the house, found my wife, and delivered the mail.  How about that!

We are all so proud of her!

Oh, and she ate with chopsticks a few days ago.  We were at our favorite Chinese restaurant (the owner spoils her) and she watched me eating with them.  She demanded that I hand them over and then proceeded to pick up a piece of jiānjiǎo​ and put it in her mouth.  Incredible!  I don't claim that she can use them on a regular basis, but to do it even once at her age... Wow.

Now, the only drawback to Caroline being rather bright is that she not only understands what we are up to when we start using words like "nap", but she's also smart enough to put up quite a stout resistance.  She knows the difference between being taken to her room for a clean diaper or a change of clothes... and being taken to her room to be put in the crib (which I fear will very soon be unable to contain her).  The former she will accept without complaint.  The latter, on the other hand... The closer we get to the door to her room, the more her bottom lip starts to come out.  Little grunts of suspicion start to become whimpers of protest that rapidly escalate into shrieks of rage that would have Torquemada plugging his ears and telling us to, "Ease up on the kid, for pity's sake!  What sort of sickos are you, anyway???"

I shudder to think what life will be like when she can tell us quite everything that's on her mind!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

White dolls in China

A short note.

When we were in China, my wife was surprised at the dearth of Asian-looking dolls on the shelves of toy stores.  Friends of ours who are currently in China to bring home their son report the same thing: toy store shelves with plenty of blonde-haired, blue-eyed dolls, but far fewer dolls with Asian features.  Even our Manadrin tutor, a Chinese native, told us that she had very few Chinese-looking dolls as a little girl.

Is Mattel's marketing THAT good???  Is this common in other Asian countries?

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Grandparents

Caroline is very fortunate in having two sets of grandparents who love her very much.  During our second outing at Reynolda Gardens, we got some snaps of her with her maternal grandparents.  Oh, how Caroline loves them!  And how they love her!

Paw-paw and Lao-lao with their granddaughter
 
"Watch me run!"
  
"OF COURSE they love me!  Who wouldn't?"

Monday, September 1, 2014

Reynolda Gardens

     We took Caroline to Reynolda Gardens twice today. 

     The gardens were once part of the Reynolds Tobacco Families city home.  I believe they are now owned by Wake Forest University.  The roses are so beautiful and I love the water lily fountain. 

     We had no idea how much Caroline would love them.  She ran and played and smelled the roses.  She even made a new friend.  I didn't have my camera with me for our first visit so I used my phone.  Here are photos from our first outing just after breakfast. 


 

      Since Caroline loved the park so much, I thought I should take her back and get a few photos with my good camera.  I thought it would also be a good way to memorialize her casts and post surgery recovery.  I dressed her in her finest silks, which just happened to have purple flowers that matched her casts.  She looked like a little princess, so I thought I would share the photos with everyone.

 

She Laughed

 

She tried to pick the flowers

She smelled the roses!

She checked out the fountain.


She played with twigs on the stairs.




She ran!