October 2008

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alex's life book

  • In early 2006, I began creating a life book for my daughter, Alex. Click here for links to articles describing my experience.
  • And for those of you who are more digitally inclined, in late 2006, I recreated key pages of Alex's lifebook for an article I wrote for AlphaMom, using Scrapblog.

    You can see the final digital result (and leave comments, if you'd like!) here.

what's been on my nikon lately

  • And you can view my favourites here.

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Comments

Vickee

This really hit home. We are a biracial family. My husband and I are white, our sons are Asian. We took alot of classes around this issue - it was a requirement of our agency. Luckily.
Lots of stuff shook out after awhile. Turns out I was really angry about pre-teens and teens not 'being grateful' to their parents - for anything! Not just for adopting them, but for loving them, rearing them, supporting them, etc. Forgetting that teens everywhere have issues; being adopted is an easy thing to pick on when you're going through the angst of puberty and beyond. This came out during a social worker's visit after we had read some books she suggested.
I had lived in Asia when I was a child, and thought I was A-okay with adopting an Asian child. Turns out, both my husband and I had alot of work to do before the arrival of our first son. We rehearsed scripts for What To Say To Stupid People, always trying to cast a positive slant on our children and their adoptions. As, after all; our little ones are hearing everything. If you get upset and angry, they are going to think "Hey - that's something bad!" If you answer questions kindly (where you can, or as your mood allows), or say "That's personal family matters, and we don't discuss family with strangers. Excuse us-we need to go" the children will understand and learn from it.
The question that threw me, and that I never thought would come up when Oldest was so young (4), was "Why didn't my REAL (I almost died at that word) mother want me?! A girl at camp said my real mom didn't want me!" And I had spent so much time telling the boys they have 3 mothers; a Birth Mother whose tummy they were in; a Foster Mother who took care of them while the paperwork was getting done and travel arrangements were being made, and me - their mother. All out the window when an older child asked a possibly innocent, and probably devastating question for my son. BUT! We had rehearsed our answers to questions like these - many, many times with our dear Social Worker! So I laughed (through gritted teeth) and said "AHA! Sounds like your friend at camp doesn't understand about adoption!" and then went into our 2 sentence explanation. He skipped off, okay with it. Because I was okay with it. THen I went outside and cried for the 1 minute I needed. Kicking myself for not doing more prep! But in reality? You cannot do enough rehearsing, and telling, and assuring. The questions. They do come up.
So Yes; Face every Devil before. Because you just might face that Devil afterward. In fact, Probably. No make that, For Sure.

Dawn Siler

About a year ago some friends of mine finalized their adoption of two beautiful girls. My girlfriend is African American her husband is Hispanic and their two children are white. Being in an interracial relationship myself I have heard many unkind words thrown around about our union. It wasn't until I started spending time with my friends and their two daughters that I realized how unkind and how ignorant some people can be. I was extremely surprised when I heard certain comments made about my friend and her children from a mutual acquaintance who expressed that the children would be better off if adopted by a white family. Needless to say, my friends no longer associate with this woman. Unfortunately there are so many people out there, who feel just like she does. I'd like to send this question into the void. When is our society going to shed its preconceived notions about race? Unfortunately I think that we have a long way to go. A home is a home and that as long as the adopted children are well loved and cared for it really doesn't matter who adopts them.

Jenny

Karen
Well said. Always admire your artistic talent, and now, also your intellect.

owlhaven

Thanks for this thoughtful post.

Mary, mom to many beautiful children of different colors

maya

Hi Karen!
You know, you're REALLY RIGHT about that - I'm (sadly) coming around to the fact that while I'd be happy to have a (insert any race here) kid, my husband isn't comfortable with it as I am. Note: That is not in the least because he's got an ounce of predjudice in him - the man is a much nicer person than I am. I think he just is really upfront about what he'd be able to deal with, which in the long run, is a good thing. Right?

luolin

Thank you, Karen.

cloudscome

Like Vickee said, most of us deal with it before, during and after. These things go deep in our psyche and we have to be open to always learning, uncovering, renewing, growing. Racism has been in the air we breath for generations.... hopefully our children's air will be less polluted if we do our work willingly, courageously, joyfully. Talking about it is the first (no, second or third...) of one of many steps.

quietlife

I love hearing your perspective on adoption! I completely agree.

Although I was adopted by a Black family, a colleague of mine came to me with questions about what I thought about her (White woman) adopting transracially. I pretty much told her much of what you said. That you need to do some honest soul searching about your feelings about race before doing so. Not only do they have to confront other people's as well as their own stuff regarding the child being of another race, as the child gets older, they will also have to confront other issues as the child gets older and starts developing their own racial identity.

As an adopted child, it was not easy for me and my mother coming dealing with my adopted status, particularly as a teenager. I learned that the words, "YOu aren't my REAL mother" were very powerful words and I, unfortunately, used them as a weapon often. As a Black teenager, I went through a lot of identity issues around being Black. I'm thankful that my mother was able to help me navigate through that. For her, that wasn't too hard. My mother helped another girl work through some of the same challenges when she was a teenager - she was Black and adopted by a white couple who had no idea how to handle her identity issues.

brat

Goes without saying that we're on the same page.

It never ceases to amaze me how people feel it is their business to tell adoptive parents how we should feel, think, operate, etc. Particularly people who have never adopted before. Once had a longtime hairdresser whose sister adopted a baby girl. She'd been named by her birthparent, and her sister changed it. However, my hairdresser decided she liked the name the birthparent chose better, and refused to call her by her permanent, legal name. She related this as an intentional slap in her sister's face, because she didn't really believe she had the right to make choices as a "real" mother, because she didn't consider her one. I calmly pointed out her wrongness. After almost a decade, that was the last time I dropped a dime in her pocket. I would have left on the spot if I hadn't had a half-done head.

Good advice to do some deep soul searching before adopting. Wouldn't this world be a better place if ALL parents were encouraged to take a class before bringing home baby? I'm not just talking about a Lamaze class, but one where you explore the developmental stages of children, and how to raise them to be healthy adults, with respect for others and themselves.

We have yet to hear the comments. But, since Little Brat is half West African, she's growing more and more chocolate as she ages, like her gorgeous birthmom. No doubt my husband--who, as you well know, is Marcus' American twin--will be out somewhere in the future and someone will drop the eventual insult. I guess I'm not worried so much about what that person thinks, but about how he and Little Brat are so intrinsically bonded, fused at the hip, and the pain it will cause when someone intrudes on that with a throw-away comment. Maybe it's because of where we live, but I have *never* observed anyone do anything but smile at the two of them.

But there was this one day...we were in a department store and Little Brat was operating on fumes. I was looking at clothes while he tried to entertain her elsewhere. I heard her yell, "I want Mommy!" I thought to myself...what if someone thinks he's a kidnapper? And I wasn't as concerned about that person's reaction, as much as what it would do to my husband. You count the cost when you adopt...but as Vickee related in her story, that doesn't mean you won't need to have a little cry sometimes.

Dad

Well said, Karen. Your perspective adds great value to this discourse. And by the way, give Alex a big hug for me.. She is as blessed to have you and Marcus as parents as you both are blessed to have her as a daughter. I love you all.

Regards, Dad

1girl2boys

I must live in some sort of box. Growing up, I was surrounded by much diversity. The neighborhood I lived in, the schools I attended, it was all very multicultural. I had friends from many nationalities. Race was NEVER an issue. Now that I'm older I constantly hear about race being an issue. On the one hand, I'm extrememly grateful I was brought up where I was because I do not judge anyone based on skin color. But on the other hand, I feel like I'm blinded about what really goes on in this world.

I have to say I have always loved children and always wanted to have biological children as well take in foster children. One of my good friends growing up was a foster child in a very diverse house and I had the most respect for her mother. I don't have any foster children now, but I would really like to when my kids are older. And I don't care AT ALL what color their skin is. They can be the palest of pale or the darkest dark or anywhere in between. I very much admire Mary @ Owlhaven for her large diverse family.

I guess I respect others decisions to express their true feelings and only care for kids that they feel comfortable with, it's probably better off for the child that way, I just can't understand that mentality. I guess a big thank you goes out to my parents for raising me to see people based on actions and not on race.

jenni

Thank you.

DeAnna

Thank you for posting this - I love your insight. My husband and I have adopted transracially and I totally agree with your thoughts. Race definitely matters because its going to matter to our girls. I love their heritage, their race, their skin color and I hope that they will too. I like "brat's" thoughts as well. Like she said, I'm really not worried what people think about us, but I do worry about what my girls will think when they are old enough to understand comments and looks. How will they deal with it, will I be able to help them deal with any prejudice they may encounter.... Although, we also haven't had too many rude comments or looks from people, still there are some. And sometimes you just have to find the humor in things - for instance, my husband and I are both white, our 2 1/2 year old is hispanic/asian and our 5 month old is african american/hispanic so we definitely get some looks. I told my husband that sometimes I can almost see it that people are looking at my girls, then me, assuming the girls have different birthfathers (not considering they have different birthmothers as well) then they look at him and think "What a saint, to marry this woman and love her kids." :)

Stephanie

I, too, appreciate your thoughts on this issue. My husband and I have three beautiful children through transracial adoption and we feel extremely blessed. We have been fortunate in that insensitive comments have been few and far between, even though our family has caused many a double-take! However, I do agree with you that "soul-searching" is a must before crossing racial lines in adoption. It is not for the faint of heart ... but for those willing and able to do so, it will be more rewarding than they can even imagine.

Angie

Very eloquently said, Karen! In the 70s in America, the Black Social Workers (organization name?) were opposed to non-blacks adopting black children for various social reasons, porbably having as much to do with hair, racism in society, as much as things like complexion. They've changed that stance, probably resulting in more children adopted in general. Now, as you said, it is up to people to search their souls and decided what they are willing to deal with and what they can handle regarding their children. Excellent article!

meera

Thanks Karen for posting on this. I too agree! And I think you hit the nail on the head. The time to think of this is before, or during the process of adoption, not after! There are many shockers with international adoption, esp with India. The children are sometimes smaller, malnourished too. They have been through so much trauma, you dont want to see them go through any more.

Thida

Thanks for writing this, Karen. It's very thoughtful. I would argue that any interracial couple who chooses to have children needs to deeply examine their opinions about race. Adoption introduces an additional set of issues, but the race issues are still there however your child comes to you.

I'm not adopted, but I don't look like my Burmese mother to many racist people who categorize people based soley on skin color. I've been questioned many times and even told she's not my mother. Of course I do resemble my mother quite a lot but my skin tone is several shades lighter than hers.

My children aren't adopted but I've been asked on occasion if my daughter is adopted from China.

Amy

I have nothing to add to this -- seeing as I'm white, my husband is white, and our children are our biological offspring -- but I wanted to tell you how much I appreciate your posts and thoughts on topics like these.

Also, there was a similar type of article recently in the Chicago Tribune, discussing the increase in U.S. adoptions from Africa and particularly, the issues faced when white parents make such a choice. It was quite interesting reading (link: http://www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/chi-0608180010aug18,1,6804116.story )

Island Girl

Beautiful. Thank you.

missbanshee

Karen, it is posts like this one that brought me to your site in the first place (way before I started writing rambling comments about how gorgeous and divine you and your family are, imagine that!) The post above that started with "I must have grown up in a box" about growing up in a very diverse community could have been mine. HOWEVER, I realize that "race wasn't an issue" because OH. I'm white. Of course it was easy for me. I never understood racism and hate (or homophobia, religious intolerance, etc) because I've NEVER EXPERIENCED IT. I want to adopt someday, probably in lieu of having biological kids, and I always said that I wanted MY child, no matter what race or background. My issue now is my OWN capabilities. If I adopt a child of another race, can I give him or her the strength and pride of his or her race/background if I don't know from experience? Am I able to do that? Would it be fair to the child? Frankly, sometimes I feel like a dolt for hoping to be able to undertake that, sometimes I think, of course, love is love is love. I guess it's not society or color or creed anymore for me. It's me. Can I do it? Can I do it right for this child I dream of? Can I do it RIGHT?

bek

Karen,

Beautiful as always. I had some comments, my son managed to turn the computer off and so I left them on Fizz's blog. Great points.

As for the poster above. I worry about the same thing every day. We hear a lot of the negative about transracial adoption, we all hope we are going to do it "right" but remember that for every bad story you hear there are good ones too. None of us get though this life w/out some baggage, some kind of sad experiences and trying times. I just hope that w/ my kids I can give them the skills they need to handle it, like my parents gave me. It is a complex thing and by not buring you head in the sand, by not pretending it won't be an issue you are on your way to doing it the best way you can.

LELIA

I would like to tell missbanshee that of course she can do it right. We knew we hadn't had the experiences that our biracial would have, so we made sure to join a church that had faces like theirs in leadership and asked people to be their mentors in the areas we couldn't cover.
I also wonder if I live in a box. I expected to get a lot of grief for adopting who I did, but I've never had any. Maybe part of the easy acceptance of our family is because we were in the military, the Air Force, which might be the least racist organization on the earth.
Alex, and you, are soooo beautiful. I enjoy your blog.

jonniker

I honestly don't know how to add anything here. This is truly brilliant, and so well-thought out that I'm speechless.

Thank you.

Suebob

This race/culture thing is so complicated. Just tonight, someone asked me why I had moved to a different town. I said, "Oh, [blankville] was way too white for me." The listener pointed out, kindly, "Uh, hon, you ARE white." "Yeah, I guess, kinda," I said. I don't know what makes me nervous around too many white people, because I certainly can't pretend to be anything else.

Jennifer

This is a veru insightful entry. Well done. I have been admiring your pictures for some time, and I love your writing too. You are very gifted in both.

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