Tuesday, July 28, 2009

hot-hot-hot!

It's hot in Seattle.

I know, I know, I know. My readers from other parts of the country, perhaps especially my California people who know that I haven't always been a denizen of the ever moderate Pacific Northwest, will be rolling your eyes. I know, it's 100 degrees or more for months at a time where you live.

We get the same dismissal as giant wimps when it snows here and the entire city digs in and shuts down. Seattle is just not prepared for extreme weather. We don't own snow tires and we don't have air conditioned homes. Many of us don't have air conditioned work places either, which is why there are shops and restaurants all over the city closing because the temperature is 97 degrees today.

I work at a hospital so obviously we have air conditioning. But at home my poor husband and cats are struggling. Cats can't sweat and don't pant to cool off like dogs, so their only recourse is to cease all movement. Andrew and I have decided that this is a good strategy for us, as well.

But one nice thing about the heat and sunshine is that our back-alley garden, while needing plenty of water, is thriving!

Do you see? RED tomatoes!! The last year we had a garden out on the peninsula our tomatoes never turned red. There just wasn't enough sustained sunshine that year. It's not even August yet! In addition to the tomato plant we're also eating zucchinis already, and watching the cucumbers and watermelon grow. Andrew is holding out hope for the two corns he planted in a window box on a whim, but while they have shot up in the heatwave I'm just not sure corn works like that. Shh. Don't tell him. It's super cute.

The dahlias are also blooming away:

I can't wait for them to ALL be covered in flowers.

In adoption news, we are finally done with a whole new round of paperwork to add two more agencies to our WACAP roster, and tonight I'll make a couple updates to the profile books to be sent to them. It's been almost six months of waiting, so far, and things have changed. All in all we're in a much better place than we were six months ago, which leaves me certain that whenever baby a+a arrives, we'll be in good shape.

Provided we don't die from melting, first.

It's hot in Seattle!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Every child is entitled to have his culture embraced and valued.

I'm watching Star Trek Deep Space Nine this summer (geek factor 10/10) and I keep running into storylines that are relevant to this blog, and transracial adoption. Star Trek at its best is all about about inter-cultural relationships and sci-fi as vehicle for social commentary, and of course since I'm a pretty hopeless Trekkie I find it to be a brilliant and insightful medium. (Disclaimer - I don't expect anyone else to experience it this way) Last week I watched an episode where trans-racial adoption was the central storyline - between two species that actively disliked each other. One had oppressed the other, and the adoption was of an abandoned child of the oppressor by parents from the oppressed culture/species. It was as interesting twist. The adoptive parents raised their adopted child with their own views on his native race, so at the point in which the storyline picks up the child also actively dislikes his native people. The dilemma, then, becomes whether or not he should stay with the adoptive family who claim to love him - but hate his race and culture.

Every child is entitled to have his culture embraced and valued.

The episode threw into relief for me something fairly subtle about the nuances of trans-racial adoption. The adoptive parents in this scenario wanted their adopted child to be separate from his native race and culture. They wanted to believe that he was an "individual" and that they could love him and still hate his origins and race. But culture and race are not so easily divorced from identity. What they were really teaching their adopted son was to hate himself.

No adoptive parent I know would teach their adopted child to actively hate their own race or culture, even if it isn't the same race or culture as their own. However, I'm afraid that truly valuing and embracing other cultures is a lot more complicated than just not being hateful. Here's some of the main challenges as I see for myself as a white person adopting a child of color, things that already exist as obstacles between me and my adopted child's culture and race.

1. My culture doesn't value other cultures. As a white person in the USA, all the messages that my own racial culture and heritage give me are that my culture is the gold standard. The way that white people live and think is "normal" and other cultural values, thought processes, and experiences are to be judged against the "normal" that is dominant white culture. When a model who isn't white is on the cover of a fashion magazine that's not "normal." When a black man is elected president that's not "normal". There are thousands of messages conveyed by my culture about it's supremacy via media and other mediums every day. Think of how often you read or hear about "white culture." Not very often, right? Because it is the assumed perspective, the invisible, powerful norm. This means white adoptive parents have to work extra hard not just to show care, respect and value for their child's racial heritage and native culture but to be actively counter-cultural in their own racial spaces, working against this prevailing message that white-ness is the gold standard and all other cultural expressions are deviations from what is reasonable and normal. Those messages are subtle, and they are all over. Some of them are coming from inside my own self - I'm not immune to my culture, after all. If I don't work to counteract them, my child will identify me with them. Make no mistake, regardless of what we do, negative messages about non-whiteness are communicated to children of all races, loud and clear.

2. My participation will not always be appropriate or welcome in my child's cultural spaces. The thought of being left out is painful for me. However there is a fine line, especially for us white folk, between valuing another culture and appropriating it. Part of embracing my child's culture is making sure there are adults available to and invested in my child's life who can help her understand and participate in the parts of her heritage and culture where I do not belong, where my presence would be harmful or inappropriate.

3. I will need to make personal and cultural sacrifices to make room for my child's culture. For some adoptive families this means finding an African-American or other culturally appropriate church to attend. For others it might mean taking time and resources away from one family tradition to make room for a new one that honors a special day or tradition from the child's culture. For us this definitely involves a commitment to living in diverse places, so our child will not always and only be surrounded by white faces.

The point is that if parents of a transracially adopted child do not intentionally embrace their child's culture, do not intentionally change their own patterns of culture and tradition to make the child's heritage a privileged part of their family life then the family won't be a safe space for the child's whole identity and self. The default message will be not unlike the fictional star trek storyline, where internal conflict and self-hatred was the legacy of the adoption experience.

In the end, in the story, the child was sent back to his homeland to live with his biological family and learn how to be a member of his own species. I felt conflicted about this, naturally. But on some level this is the goal for all transracially adopted children, at least metaphorically. This whole item on the TAC bill of rights can be boiled down to planning, hoping, and preparing for the day when our child is able to identify fully and comfortably with both his identity as a person of color, separate and different from me, and as a member of our family. Part of achieving this is designing a family culture - starting now, before this child is even a part of us - that is aware and critical of white-ness and open to embracing, valuing and respecting something different.

I've found some wonderful resources on the web for delving deeper into this. I highly recommend Macon D's blog, Stuff White People Do for a great example of a white person honestly seeking to understand what "white" means and how he is affected by his own racial designation every day. See the links in the sidebar for other blogs that I've found helpful as I attempt to do the same.

Friday, July 24, 2009

OA Roundtable #4

I have this piece of flair over there --> that says "Open Adoption Bloggers." It's a blogroll of people from all sides of the open adoption triad who blog. I've found some amazing blogs through it, and some very wonderful folks have found me.

A few weeks ago Heather at Production not Reproduction started sending out writing prompts, so that folks in the blogroll could have a discussion of sorts on various topics. This is what she says about them:
The Open Adoption Roundtable is a series of occasional writing prompts about open adoption. It's designed to showcase of the diversity of thought and experience in the open adoption community. You don't need to be part of the Open Adoption Bloggers list to participate, or even have a traditional open adoption. If you're thinking about openness in adoption, you have a place at the table.

We're at prompt #4 now, and I still feel like I'm teetering on the edge of participation. I don't have a traditional open adoption...just currently I don't have any adoption and that's something I feel intensely aware of sometimes. Okay, a lot of the time. This is a funny club to be in, the waiting club. But I wouldn't be here, if it weren't for open adoption.

So our fourth assignment is to write about a small moment that open adoption made possible. It might be about something that happened during an interaction or conversation if you have face-to-face contact. Or a moment centered on a letter or picture, if you don't. Just a single, small moment that could not have happened if the adoption were not open.

So far most of what the other bloggers have posted - all of whom are currently in open adoptions - is pretty special. In a good way. Mine isn't special, at least it isn't special yet.

When we looked at adopting, we looked at all kinds. Domestically there just aren't a lot of closed adoptions still happening. Internationally, open adoptions are pretty hard to do. So if we had wanted a closed adoption, we probably would have gone international. I suspect that is part of what makes international adoption such an attractive option for so many.

The first moment then, is this: I am talking to Liz, days after we complete all of our paperwork and turn in our profile books. She is telling me the story of a woman whose baby girl is due mid-March. My heart is pounding. This is more information that I would ever have in a closed adoption. I say yes, please, show her our book.

Then there is the other moment, a few days later: I am again talking to Liz, but this time she is telling me that the woman chose someone else. She chose a single mother to parent her daughter, she chose someone that reminded her of herself. My heart is again pounding, but differently. I hang up the phone.

Neither of these moments would have been possible if we weren't hoping for an open adoption. We wouldn't know these stories, which means we wouldn't know much about our child before she comes to us. And we wouldn't be chosen, which despite feeling rejected when we are not picked, is so important to me. I want a relationship with my child's biological family. I want her to want us. I want her to choose us from a wide range of options. I think this is good for the first mothers, giving them an important degree of control over situations that must feel quite untenable. I think it's also good for us as the adoptive parents. There is a sacred trust that begins this relationship. It starts with choice, and options. Even when the choice isn't us, we're making it possible for others to become parents in this painful, uncomfortable, and wonderful way.

And our turn will come.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

not that I'm counting..

...but the ticker marks five months today.

It's a respectable amount of time. Not too long - there are parents who wait much much longer. But not short. If we get picked tomorrow, we'll still have earned it, we'll have waited plenty.

And tomorrow is not going to be the day.

I don't have a lot of other stuff to say tonight. It's been a good day, a better-than-yesterday day. We went to a baseball game and our often unreliable team won. It's warm for Seattle, and we walked home holding hands and enjoying the breeze. I didn't even shiver.

We decided to add another agency to our list, this one in Florida. I've been dawdling on the paperwork since before Andrew went to Japan. I keep thinking that we'll get picked and I won't have to finish up this next round of signatures and notary certifications. It's a long application. It feels very January 2009 to me.

But looking at the ticker, I feel like this is the weekend we'll get it done and turn it in. Five months is long enough. We can't afford to dawdle.

I should mention how lovely our Liz is. She probably makes everyone feel this way, but I feel like she's rooting extra hard for us. She gets us, and how much we want to be parents, and that we really do have something to offer. I feel like she is disappointed too, whenever she has to write me that a birth mom has chosen another family. That matters alot when I'm down, and her confidence makes me grin when I'm not. If you ever do this, make sure you've got a Liz.

It's only been five months. Not that I'm counting.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

In the interest of full disclosure (not-strong, not-brave)

I want to let you in on a little secret. Well, it might not be a secret. Maybe some of you know this secret or have guessed it. But sometimes I feel guilty when I am told that I am being very "strong" or "brave" while we wait and get passed on by potential first moms, one after another.

I'm not. I hate it. It is really hard to cope some days, especially when there is an email #2 from Liz that arrives halfway through a workday and I still have four or five hours of work to go before I can go home and fall to pieces.

I just don't usually blog about it.

See, I'm writing a story here. Like all good stories this one has a lot of truth to it. It is chock full of truth. But, like all good stories, there is just enough fiction to keep the protagonist(s) of the tale bearable, interesting, and sympathetic to the readers. Since I am the protagonist, I like to write myself as just a little better than real-life-me actually is. A little braver, a little stronger, a little more okay with the way things are going. I don't lie, absolutely not. I just edit. I leave out a dark mood here, add in a little ray of hope there. I allow real-life-me to just rest and put on the perspective of the novelist/historian/writer. How do you want this day to be remembered? Blogger-me asks real-me. Together we look at everything, and keep the good stuff. It's a neat trick.

I'm thinking of my readership. I know most of you out there would tolerate a little more darkness from me. No offense, but you're not the readers I'm worried about. There are two people who will read this blog someday whose sympathy and respect are of paramount importance to me. You can guess who one of them is - my darling as-yet hypothetical little one, of course. Because littles grow into bigs, or so I'm told, and rumor has it the internet lasts forever. I want that future heart-of-my-heart to read this and know how much I longed to know him or her. But not so much how much ice cream I ate, or how hard it was to get out of bed the day after someone else's first-mom didn't pick me.

But perhaps my most important reader is me. Future-me, of course, who will come back and read this sometimes late at night, maybe while rocking a baby. Or maybe she will will be too tired and will forget about the archives and then one day after her little one has gone off to a first day at school or a long day at grandma's house she'll click through to the old adoption blog. Maybe it'll happen when she's waiting, again, for baby #2.

Regardless, I want her story to be a good one, so most days I leave the bad stuff out.

It's there though. In the gritty every day now I'm not so brave, and I'm really not so strong.

Its amazing how quickly the ugly stuff evaporates, though, if I don't bother to write it down.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Zoo!

We're animal people. We love our cats and one of our possible dreams for a future life includes a little bit of land, a potbellied pig, bees, dogs(one very large and one very small), and possibly some pigmy goats.

So we bought a membership to the zoo.

And we took our friend Jenny with us.

She takes pictures for the Seattle Weekly.

Needless to say, little one, when you do find us you will be well photographed.


Sunday, July 5, 2009

Every child is entitled to parents who are not looking to "save" him or to improve the world.

I'm having trouble concentrating on work today - I keep going back and looking over the email we got from Liz a few days ago. I have a little folder of these now, although I know I should be deleting each one as soon as we find out that it isn't our baby whose situation the email describes.

This isn't always how it works, I'm finding out. Some agencies don't tell Liz or us when they are showing profile books. But there is one particular matching agency that does it this way, and we've been shown quite a few times through them. It goes like this: I get an email from Liz and my heart skips a beat. The title is something like "African-American Baby Girl due _______." Then I realize that this isn't my child's birth announcement and I can breathe again. Dummy, I think to myself, when you're actually matched she will call you. What follows is an email with information about a pregnant woman and the child she is carrying. I forward it to Andrew, we both read it and discuss the details and make a choice about whether or not we want to be shown. I spend a few dreamy days re-reading the email, imagining that maybe this is my baby boy or girl. Then a few days later there is another email from Liz, which again stops my heart but differently. Crap. I think. When we're actually matched she'll call.

As Liz learns where our boundaries are - so far we haven't been offered a situation we're not okay with - she will feel able to put us in without sending that email. Or, maybe, one of these days she'll actually call.

So now there that there is once again such an email sitting in my inbox, I'm thinking about the Transracial Adoptee's Bill of Rights. Some of the emails that have landed in my inbox from Liz this way have had truly, truly heartrending stories inside of them. They are stories of women who are very brave, yes, but also of babies who really need a start at life that their first mothers can't offer to them. Each one comes with a warning:
Caution: We are very sensitive to the fact that reviewing information of children weighs heavily on the heart. Please read the following with caution:

I'm not kidding. The emails actually say that. I laughed, the first time. But now I get it. My instincts kick in and I want to be the one to offer these little ones something better. And that's the danger. Not that I might be hurt by reading a sad story, but that I might let that feeling of wanting to be a savior be the main reason I say yes.

Every child is entitled to parents who are not looking to "save" him or to improve the world.

It must be hard to be family with someone who has "saved" you. It must be hard to be family with a person who you have "saved." The victim, the saved one, owes their savior something. Can you imagine growing up with parents who feel entitled to gratitude from you? Who became your parents because they pitied you?

And it gets even more complicated when you stir racial difference into this savior/saved dynamic. Savior=white/adult/financially secure. Saved=black/child/poor. Do you see?

Families are made of equals, ultimately. Sure, we are different ages from our parents and our children. This means the roles we play are different - disciplinarian, coach, teacher, provider vs learner, eater, grower, etc. These roles are fluid, they change as children grow up and parents grow older. In a transracial family there are other less fluid differences - skin color and natural aptitudes, for example. But savior and saved are not healthy familial roles.

One of these days I might get an email from Liz with a story about a baby I want to save. That desire is different than the desire to parent. I will do my best, when this happens, to recognize it, and to say no.