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Showing posts with label adoption. Show all posts
Showing posts with label adoption. Show all posts

Friday, January 20, 2012


One of the members of our church choir is a dedicated peace activist who has been arrested more than once for her protest work; from time to time she reports on the status of charges against her. When my daughter first understood that this woman had been put in jail because of her beliefs, she was intrigued. This led to a discussion about democracy and civil disobedience, and to the stories of the Civil Rights Movement. The stories about Rosa Parks and Dr. King have become part of American mythology, and I was proud to tell her some of those stories.

I quickly found myself in rather deep water, however, since explaining the background of the struggle required discussing racism and its destructive manifestation in our history of African slavery. Imagine the squirming I suffered inside as I (a white woman) explained to my newly-adopted Ethiopian daughter how white people went to Africa to steal black people and bring them here against their will, their heritage stripped from them. The growing look of baffled alarm on my daughter’s face finally resolved itself into a gut punch of a question. “Am I your slave?”

Thursday, July 14, 2011


My daughter and Lisa’s kids all take Tae Kwon Do, the martial arts practice of Korea. They are all just months away from earning their black belts, and I want to share one story from their long journey today. 

Part of their testing for rank promotion (the belt tests) is board-breaking. Actually breaking the board isn’t required, but trying is. Among the lower ranks, the first class in which they try board-breaking is scary or exciting, according to temperament. It is definitely possible to get hurt doing this; what is required is careful preparation and then decisive action. My daughter was extremely apprehensive the first time. The prospect of striking the wood clearly had her rattled, and she kept darting nervous glances my way where I sat in the parents’ section. As I recall, Lisa’s son was the first to raise his hand to give it a try. He took his fighting stance in front of the instructor who was holding the board, and then slammed it with a hammer fist. Crrrack! We all broke into spontaneous applause as the two halves went flying. Before long, Lisa’s daughter was waving her hand in the air to take her turn, but K. was shrinking visibly.  As an athletic performance with an audience,  this was a task that required both physical courage and social courage.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Rightful Heir

Does every child experience doubts about his or her parents? As in, “I wonder if they are really my parents? Who am I, really?” It’s very common (according to Dr. Lisa, and especially if there is an older sibling who has planted a few seeds of doubt!) for children to suspect that they have somehow been switched at birth and ended up in the wrong family. We may share our children's birth stories with them, but working against them we have many many stories throughout history that speak of doubt, in the form of “foundling” stories or stories of abandoned children who achieved greatness.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Let's Talk Dirty

I am a gardener. I get dirty. I often wear dark nail polish in the summer to hide how unscrubbably grimy my fingernails have become.

And that’s okay. Dirt’s not that bad.

Becoming a mom for the first time to a little girl who had already grown out of the crawling stage (so I thought) I was rather foolish about some of the clothing choices I made early on. K. was 8 when she came here, and needed her first snow suit. I bought a white one. Oh dear. She goes to a Waldorf school where there are two recess periods a day, in a play yard that is wood chips and mud. They crawl in it, jump in it, roll in it, dig in it – there seems to be nothing they don’t do with mud. I’d meet her at the gate that first winter, and behold a child in a white snow suit that was entirely coated with mud. 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Quiet Alertness

Lisa’s list of the 7 Baby Bs may be poignant for adoptive parents to read – it certainly was for me. There is so much I don’t know about my daughter’s first 8 years, let alone her first eight hours, eight days, eight weeks or eight months. Were these 7 Baby B’s part of her life? What if they weren’t? What do I do? Is it too late? If these foundations of attachment are not solid will my daughter develop courage? My own emotional courage as a parent is put to the test in moments such as this.

Upon reflection, however, I remembered an observation I had made some time ago. My mother and sister and I were visiting old colonial towns in Mexico. It was Holy Week, and many families were out and about, watching the religious processions and enjoying their holiday. After a few days it dawned on me that I never saw any children either in strollers or prams, and then it also occurred to me that I never saw any children having fits or hysterics or being scolded, and I seldom saw babies crying. Everywhere I looked, babies and toddlers were being held and carried, either by parents or aunts or uncles or grandparents or older siblings. Now, to be sure, these almost medieval towns were unsuitable for such wheeled transport, and no doubt the cost was also prohibitive for many families, too. But I think, as well, that they just wanted to hold and carry their babies, and I saw a lot of “quiet alertness” in those children.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Chapter One: Jennifer and the Lovely K.

I wanted to share this story first.

My daughter had been home with me from Ethiopia for a couple of months. At 8, she was learning English quickly, and I spent most dinners telling her stories – myths, legends, fables, fairy tales – to fill her ears with words and her imagination with ideas. One evening, with my reserve of stories and my energy running a bit low, I pulled out a few flash cards I had made. Each of these cards bore a sticker with words such as “cooperation” or “honesty” or similar virtues, and I defined the words for her and asked her to think of an example for us to write on the back of the card. We came to the word “courage,” and I gave her a brief description,( although this was long before Lisa and I teased apart the six types of courage.) “Can you think of a time when you had courage?” I asked this child who had lost her family, her country, her culture and her language and still managed to smile every day.