adoption

I’m No Hero

Ever since we first announced our intention to adopt, we regularly hear various people tell us we’re wonderful, saintly people because we chose adoption.  They believe we’ve given our kids a much better life than what they would have known.  I’ve heard words like “hero”, “brave”, “angel”, and others used to describe our role as adoptive parents.

This sentiment amuses me and makes me uncomfortable.  I may be a lot of things, but I do not consider myself a hero – especially not because we adopted.  Look:  we didn’t adopt because we felt called to do it, found it our social/moral responsibility, or because we were inspired by Angelina Jolie or some other celebrity.

We did it so we could have a family.  Period.

The possibility existed that we could have gotten pregnant on our own, but the fertility treatments we tried weren’t getting the job done.  So we decided to trade the stress, expense, and uncertainty of fertility treatments for the stress, expense, and uncertainty of adoption.  With adoption, we felt fairly certain that we would end up with a baby (especially considering we are white, Christian, married, heterosexual, and financially stable).  With fertility treatments (the shots, the turkey baster, and/or the petri dish), we had no such assurance.  Even if we could get pregnant, there was no guarantee that nine months later we would end up with a baby.

As for our kiddos, I’ve had people tell me that our children are “lucky” and/or “blessed” to have us as their parents.  While we certainly try to give them the best possible life, it would be horribly conceited of us to presume that growing up with us gives them the ‘best possible life’.  Plus, that sentiment is highly disrespectful to their birth mothers.  I cannot begin to understand the circumstances that led our two birth moms to choose adoption – and it’s not my place to publicly discuss what we do know – but you’ll have a hard time convincing me that the lives of our children are automatically better because we adopted them.  If people think we give our kids the ‘best possible life’ that’s only because we have an unspoken obligation to our birth moms to raise these children as best as we can – not because our “status” as middle class white people* is somehow better than what they would have otherwise known.

*Yeah, I think there is a bit of an unspoken (and hopefully unintentional) race element to all of this.  And I know there is definitely a class factor.  I think society tends to make assumptions about birth moms (i.e. young, poor, uneducated, possibly minority), just as they make assumptions about my wife and I (white, educated, professional).  Whether or not they would ever vocalize it, I guarantee there are people out there who believe that our minority children are guaranteed to have a better life growing up in a middle class white home than they would being raised by a single black woman.  I think that notion is absolutely ludicrous.  Any “advantages” we may have are perception, and are likely offset by the fact that raising a child of color outside of his or her culture can lead to a lack of racial identity.

At times, I think the “hero” sentiment is a coded way of saying “I would never, ever adopt, so I applaud you for doing something I’m too scared/weak/unwilling to do”.  This belief comes from my feelings on being a foster parent:  I’m not sure I could do what foster parents do, so I have a high level of appreciation and respect for those who have chosen that path.  Does that make foster parents heroes?  In my mind, it kind of does, but my guess is they would be just as uncomfortable with that sentiment as I am when I hear it.

So consider me a hero if you want (although you certainly do so at your own risk), tell me how “brave” our choice was (even if that is a bit of a back-handed slap at adoption), and say how “lucky” our kids are to have us.  But know that there are no heroes in adoption.  The birth moms are the brave ones, and the adoptive parents are far and away the lucky ones.

Adoption Humor FAIL

I subscribe to a daily email from the fine folks at the FAIL Blog that contains highlights from their popular website.  They send me a dozen or so images and links a day.  For the most part, I get some chuckles and the occasional belly laugh.

However, one of their recent images left a little to be desired.  The caption of the post was “When Dad Joke Go Too Far”:

So funny I forgot to laugh

So funny I forgot to laugh

Ol’ Dad went past “funny”, through “lame dad joke”, and landed smack in the middle of “hey, look what a moron I am!”.

Oh my…where to start?  Let’s go message by message:

msg1

Our Father of the Year actually starts out with some good advice.  Adoption IS a good thing.  In my experience, the decision to adopt was one of the smartest decisions I’ve ever made.  While adoption may not be for everyone, I would encourage everyone to consider it – or at least advocate for it.

Plus, I think it would be best if the genetic code that make this Dad…um…special (his horribly inappropriate jokes, inability to type the word “you”, and abuse of exclamation points) is not passed onto another generation.  It’s bad enough that the recipient of these message is tainted with Dad’s defective DNA – why would you intentionally harm a child with a big does of the Stupid Gene?

msg2

Bravo, good sir:  “ur” humor is absolutely hilarious.  Aren’t you the guy who opened for Carrot Top at the 1992 Nebraska State Fair?  That had to be “u”.

P.S., I can only hope that when mom found out about this, she cut you off – figuratively or literally.  It makes me no difference.

msg3

This final message is where Dumb Dad really starts to piss me off.

Why should the recipient be crying?  Because being adopted is such a negative stigma that kids cry when they find out?  Moron.

As for “Ur mine”, I can guarantee you that the three children in my house are most definitely “mine”.

Also, “watch(ing) ur mom have u” does not necessarily mean that the child is yours.  If Mom has any brains, she cheated on Dumb Dad with somebody with a high enough IQ to produce a viable embryo.  When you’re on Maury next month, you may want to ask for the paternity package.

The lesson here, my friends, is if you think that “ur adopted!” is a good punchline for a joke (or a funny put-down) you need to stop.  Or better yet, head down to the airport and make some jokes about explosives.  You’ll probably have better results.

 

Ten Things Everybody Should Know About Adoption

Adoption is a truly amazing thing – it takes children and places them with loving parents, creating a beautiful family.  Unfortunately, there are a lot of misconceptions, myths, and out-dated notions about adoption out there.  In celebration of National Adoption Month, as well as an attempt to provide friendly information and education for those whose lives have not been enriched by adoption, here are ten things you need to know:

1.  Never, ever, ever say an adopted child was “given up” for adoption. 

Be honest, we’ve all done it:  you’re talking about an adopted child and you say “Did you know that So-And-So was given up for adoption?”  Or you’re talking about a parent/relative/co-worker who “gave up” a child for adoption.

Please, stop doing that.

Think about it:  what do people give away?  We give away things without value or that we have no use for anymore.  I have never met a child who is without value.  A better option is to say the child was “placed” for adoption or a birth mother “made an adoption plan”.  These phrases more accurately reflect the painful reality:  placing your baby with another couple, whom you likely have never met, is one of the hardest, and yet most loving, decisions a woman can make.  And no child should grow up thinking he or she was discarded by their biological family, like an old couch set out on the curb.

Is avoiding “given up” another example of an ultra-sensitive, politically correct culture?  Some folks would say yes, but I’m guessing those same people would take a swing at me if I implied their biological children had no value.  My wife says it best:  “Please don’t say ‘you were given up’ to my child.  No, you, little girl, were created by God for a reason, and your mommy and daddy love you soooo much.”

2.  Families adopt for many different reasons.  When we were checking out daycares for our daughter, we met with a provider who told us that she typically did not accept adopted children.  As she put it, adoptive families “are so desperate for a child that they do not believe in discipline.”  Luckily for us, she could “tell that we were different.”  Needless to say, we did not entrust our child to this whack job.

There are millions of adoptive parents, each with their own personal tale of why they chose to adopt.  Yes, many families adopt in part because they are unable to conceive a biological child.  Infertility was one of the primary reasons we chose to adopt.  But do not assume adoption is some kind of “Plan B” to only be pursued once all available infertility options are exhausted.  Adoption was always on the table for us, even if we had a biological child.  We left several fertility options unexplored to pursue adoption because it was right for us.

Simply put, some are called by religious beliefs, some want to help a child, others want to enrich their family with a child from a different race, culture, or country.  There is no one size fits all reason.  Whatever the reason, adoption is a wonderful decision.

3.  Adoption can be incredibly expensive.  According to Adoptive Families magazine, the average cost to adopt a newborn domestically through an agency can range from $20,000 – $35,000.  Those costs include agency fees, costs to process paperwork and background checks, birth mother expenses (such as rent, food, and utilities), travel expenses to wherever the child is born, and much more.  International adoptions are typically even more expensive due to additional agency fees, the red tape of dealing with two governments, and more expensive travel costs.

Yes, the IRS does currently provide a tax credit for adoptive families ($12,970 per child) but that does not cover all of the expenses, nor does it put the money in your account when you need to write a really big check to your agency.

Some folks are lucky enough to work for a company that offers an adoption benefit (a few hundred to several thousand dollars) to help defray adoption expenses.  If your company does not have adoption benefits, encourage them to start.

4.  BUT…never say “you’re buying a baby” or “how much did your baby cost?”  If you want to be truly technical, yes:  adoptive parents do pay money to an agency (or other entity) for assistance in bringing a child into their home.

Of course, biological parents also pay money to different entities for assistance in providing their child.  Yet nobody asks the biological parent how much their numerous fertility treatments were, how much their doctor or mid-wife cost, or what they spent on the case of Keystone Light the night their precious little angel was conceived.

If you are curious about the costs that go into an adoption, ask a family that has adopted, check out adoptivefamilies.com, or use Google.  All are much better options than being rude and disrespectful.

5.  Adoptive parents are “real” parents.  

Here’s the deal:  my wife and I are caucasian with blondish-brown hair.  Our oldest daughter has a darker complexion with stunningly beautiful dark curly hair.  Our son and youngest daughter are African-American and will likely tower over us someday.  This disparity often leads to a variation of the question “Who/where are their real parents?”

These children may not have lived in my wife’s uterus for 9 months*, but she is their “real mom”.  She is the one who gets up with them at 3 am, changes their diapers, gets thrown up on, and does anything and everything that a “real mom” does – unless of course, their “real dad” is the one doing it.  Oh yeah, and it is our names on the birth certificates.

*Honey, I’m sorry for writing about your uterus on the internet.  It won’t happen again 🙂

I say this with absolutely no disrespect to the biological parents (a.k.a. “birth parents”, “first parents”, “bio mom”, or other titles) of our children.  Those two amazing women will never fully know the depth of our love for them, our gratitude for being chosen by them, and how blessed we are to raise their beautiful babies.

In reality, our children have two sets of “real” parents – the ones whose DNA they share, and us, the ones who handle their care.

6.  Adoption is not a cure for infertility.  I wish I had a dollar* for every person who has said “Now that you have adopted, you’ll be getting pregnant” or has shared the story of their co-worker’s cousin’s brother’s neighbor who adopted and got pregnant a few months later.  Sure it happens, but it is not like adoption magically triggers some “mom gene” that allows pregnancy to occur.

*And if I had that dollar for each time, my wife would not have had to skimp and save so much to pay for our second adoption.

7.  Despite what you have seen on TV or in the movies, adoptive parents are not concerned about the birth family trying to steal the child away.  The laws vary from state to state, but most are pretty similar to this:  once the birth mother signs the consent (which in many places cannot happen until at least 48 hours after birth) the decision is final and legally binding – her parental rights are terminated.  In other words, once she signs the consents, a birth mother has as much legal right to your biological child as she does to her own.  I know that makes for a pretty boring Lifetime movie, but that is the reality.

But if we’re talking about things that adoptive parents do worry about:  it is the birth mother deciding to parent the child before the consent paperwork is signed.  That is her choice, her right, and it does happen quite a bit (I’ve read about 30% of the time).  When that happens, it can be devastating for the adoptive family who has gone through a long and grueling process and is leaving broken-hearted and childless.  Trust me, it sucks.

8.  Most domestic adoptions are now “open”.  Another great TV and movie stereotype:  the adoptee grows up and somehow finds out that his “real mom” was living in the same town all along.  They meet for a tearful reunion, and everyone lives happily ever after.

Certainly, that happened in the past.  Most adoptions used to be “closed” where the birth mother’s identity was not known, or was locked in a file that was impossibly hard to unseal.  Or maybe the birth mom was not sure which family had adopted her child, or did not know where they were at.

But today, most domestic adoptions are considered “open”, where some sort of connection and relationship exists between the birth mom (or other members of the birth family) and the adoptee and/or adoptive family.  Open relationships can run the gambit from a letter and some pictures each year, to regular social media contact, to weekly visits and calls.  It really depends on the parties involved and what is in the best interest of the child.

These types of relationships are beneficial for all parties involved.  The relationships don’t always happen overnight – it can take time for the bonds to grow and strengthen – but the payoff is much better than birth mother and child meeting for the first time when the child turns 18.

9.  The process to get approved to adopt is long, costly, and frustrating.  Here’s a secret frustration of many prospective adoptive parents:  they want nothing more to adopt, but they have to jump through dozens of hoops to prove their personal, financial, medical, and legal worthiness to be parents.  Meanwhile, the news is always finding stories about the unemployed 22-year-old single mom who has 3 kids, and is pregnant with #4, parents accused of child abuse or neglect, or the big national story when we were starting our first adoption:  OctoMom.  For a domestic adoption through an agency, we needed:

  • Complete biographical information
  • A copy of our marriage license
  • A letter from our employers stating our salary and job stability
  • A complete financial statement – including a list of assets and debts and a monthly budget
  • Copies of our recent tax returns
  • A physical and report from our doctor stating we were free from major illness
  • Vaccination records for all of our pets
  • A local criminal history check
  • Two sets of fingerprints
  • A national criminal background check
  • Consents to verify that we are not on any sex offender registries or child abuse/neglect registries
  • Four hours of interviews and a house inspection by a social worker
  • Four letters of recommendation from our friends.

Aside from inducing carpal tunnel syndrome, many of these steps have fees attached to them.  If we were adopting internationally, the process would be longer, more complex, and subject to the unpredictability of a potentially unstable foreign government.  There is a reason that this is a popular mantra in the adoption community.

Throughout the process, you try to remind yourself that it is all necessary to ensure children are placed in safe, loving homes, but that doesn’t stop the frustration when you see those stories or fill out yet another form.

10.  Adoptive families typically LOVE to tell you their adoption stories and are willing to discuss adoption with other families who are considering it.  We faced a bit of a challenge when we first started considering adoption:  we did not immediately know of other adoptive parents that we could talk with to learn about the process, get their advice, and hear about the good and the bad.  None of our friends had adopted.  Aside from an uncle who adopted internationally over 10 years ago, we did not have family that we could reach out to.

So we expanded our search, and ended up talking with two couples:  one of my wife’s co-workers and a Facebook friend I had not seen since college.  Both were incredibly generous with their time, telling us their amazing stories and patiently answering all of our questions.

In short, if you are considering adoption or just have questions, reach out to somebody who has been through it.  The odds are very good that they will cherish the opportunity to talk to you.

I’ve mentioned it before, but I’ll throw it out there again:  if you have adoption questions or want to get some basic information from folks who have been there, feel free to drop me a line at feitcanwrite (at) hotmail.com.  I won’t have all the answers, but I’ll gladly help.

Sorry, Whites Only

Last weekend, we took the kiddos on a mini-vacation to an indoor water park – one that my son excitedly referred to as “Grape Wolf Lodge”.

Everybody had a lot of fun.  The five-year old loved the water slides, the 2-year-old liked dumping buckets of water on people, and the 1-year-old enjoyed playing in the water.  Family fun for everyone, and something we’re likely to do again.

But one thing from the trip is sticking with me.

In the room, they had a little promotion for Shutterfly.  There was a sample of a photo book and a coupon to create your own for free.  As you likely know, Shutterfly photo books are a digital scrapbook where you upload pictures to create a very nice looking book.  I’ve created multiple Shutterfly photo books, as I make one at the end of the year showcasing pictures of the kids from each month.

Our kids love books, and love looking at the Shutterfly books I’ve created, so naturally they spent some time in the room flipping through the sample book.  The sample book was a scrapbook of a faux-family’s visit to Grape Wolf:  Here are the water slides.  Here we are hugging the costumed characters.  Here is somebody swimming in the pool.  Here are the kids and their new friends in some group activity, and so on.

I didn’t think too much of it until I was flipping through with our one year old.  That’s when I noticed something odd.  As I was going through the various pages, I was only seeing white faces in the pictures.  Friends and regular readers know that all of our children have at least one birth parent of color.

About halfway through the book, I semi-jokingly said “Let’s look for the people of color in this book”.  I kept flipping pages and wasn’t seeing anyone who wasn’t lily-white.  Not finding anybody, I started over at the beginning.  This time, I looked closely at each photo (probably three or four per page) and carefully scanned the group activity photos for any children of color (black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, hell – anything other than white).  I kept coming up empty.

Finally, about two-thirds of the way through the book, I found a woman of color.  I couldn’t really tell her ethnicity (African-American?  A Latin America country?), but she was definitely not white.  This was good.

But wait…what is this woman doing?  Oh, she’s giving little Susie an ice cream cone.  The lone person of color in the sample photo book is an employee.  That is not so good.  But at least she looked happy to be serving ice cream to all those white kids at White Wolf Lodge* for minimum wage!

*White Wolf Lodge, where your ice cream choices are vanilla, vanilla chip, vanilla mint, and white chocolate!

Now, let’s clear some things up:  I’m not “outraged” by this.  I’m not sharing this to raise a stink, or bring negative attention to Shutterfly or Great Wolf Lodge – two companies whose products and services I will continue to use.

And yes, I have mocked ads and publications that use awkward diversity pictures – you know, that group shot of the black kid, the Asian kid, the Indian kid, the Hispanic girl, etc. all hanging out in front of the student union instead of in their own racially segregated groups?  (In the past, I’ve derisively called that a “United Nations” photo).  Trust me, I’m not saying that there needs to a specific quota of minority children per Shutterfly demo book.

I’m under no illusion (or conspiracy theory) that non-white, non-employee faces were intentionally excluded, or that either of these fine companies is racist.  I’m pretty sure that the only color they really care about is green (which helps to explain the expensive prices at the lodge:  $4.99 for a side of fresh fruit at the pool bar?  Really?).

But it sure would be nice if my kids, or the dozens of other non-white kids we saw last weekend, could see themselves represented in the sample “My Awesome Vacation at Grape Wolf Lodge” photo book – even if they’re just hanging out in the background.  I don’t want them to think that the only way they could ever return to Grape Wolf Lodge (without their white parents) is as an employee.

Oh, Shirt

I came across a site selling the t-shirt shown below:

Do you love your adopted kid?

Do you love your adopted kid?

The designer explains the shirt on her personal site:  “So many people misunderstand or don’t understand what being an adoptive parents is all about.  I think adoptive parents should completely own being an adoptive parent. Be proud of it and confident in it.”  That makes sense.

I’m not going bash on the person who designed the shirt, and is selling it.  To each their own.  But I would not buy this shirt for myself or anyone else I know.

Why?

It’s not that I’m ashamed or embarrassed by our adoptions.  It is the complete opposite:  the choice to adopt is easily one of the best things my wife and I will ever do.  Our lives, as well as those of our family and friends, have been forever enriched because of our three kiddos.  I may not have enjoyed the paperwork and expense of the adoption process, but I have pride in making it through that process three times.  I have confidence in who I am as a parent – regardless of if “parent” needs to be qualified with “adoptive”.

It’s not that I don’t want to talk adoption or advocate for it.  The first thing you learn about adoptive parents is that we LOVE to talk adoption.  We love to tell our stories, share advice, and many of us will speak up to remove misconceptions or correct outdated language.  I’m no exception.  I’ve written a ton about adoption, and will continue to advocate for it whenever the opportunity arises.

And obviously, it’s not that I don’t love my adopted kids.  They are my world.  My pride and joy.  I love them with all my heart and would do anything for them.

So why would I never ever wear this shirt?

Because when I look at my kids, I don’t see them as “adopted”.  I see them as amazing little people who happened to arrive in my life through adoption.  I will raise my kids to have pride in their adoption – as it is nothing to be ashamed of – and to respect the strength and love shown by their birth families when they were newborns.  But I don’t want “ADOPTED” to be the label that defines them for life.

I accept that when we’re out in public people probably see my children as adopted (I’m very white.  They are very much not white).  That is the reality of living in a society that tries so very hard to be colorblind that we notice every little difference.  So why should I reinforce that singular, impersonal label by wearing this shirt for the world to see?

If the world really needs to pigeon-hole my kids, I’d much have them defined by their amazing personalities (loud and proud, sweet and shy, loving and laughing) than by a generic label that really doesn’t tell you anything about who they are.

Borrowing an analogy I’ve seen elsewhere, would parents of biological children proudly wear a shirt that says “I LOVE MY C-SECTION KID!” or “ASK ME ABOUT MY TURKEY BASTER BABY!”?  Probably not.  I mean, sure, there might be some folks out there who are oddly proud of the marvels of medical science that helped bring their child into the world, but most people don’t choose to define their child as C-Section, breech, the result of a fertility treatment, or anything else.

I like that the designer of the shirt is an adoptee, as it tells me that she has pride in being adopted and wants to be an advocate.  But I’m guessing that she views herself by other terms (talented designer, independent businesswoman, etc.) instead of having adoption be her identity.

Now, if she comes out with a shirt that says “I LOVE MY KIDS”, I’d consider wearing that – if for no other reason than to see if my soon to be six-year-old rolls her eyes in embarrassment.

Baby Draft

Recently, I caught wind of a website that raised some controversy.

A couple in Florida wants to adopt.  In order to help defray some of the costs associated with the adoption, they set up a fundraising website where friends, family, and others could donate.

So far, no big deal.  Crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and PledgeMusic have become common ways for people to fund businesses and other projects.  Expanding into adoption fundraising is a logical extension for many of these sites.

But here is the difference:  in order to stand out / have fun / generate buzz, this Florida couple set up a hook.  When you donate on their YouCaring crowdfunding page, you get to specify your favorite NFL team.  The parents vowed to raise their child as a fan of the team with the most donation dollars.  They called their site the “2014 Baby Draft” and even created an intro video.

This is where I need to divulge a very big disclaimer:

I never saw the actual site or the intro video.  By the time I heard about this story, the negative backlash had caused the couple to take down the fundraiser.  I did find this article which tells more about the original idea.

An image from the original Baby Draft crowdfunding site

An image from the original Baby Draft crowdfunding site

What type of negative backlash did they encounter?  Again, I’m not 100% sure as I hit the tail end of this.  My guess is the “Baby Draft” name rubbed people the wrong way as it doesn’t really articulate the premise of selecting a rooting interest for the child.  I can see where some folks may have thought the parents were going to draft a baby in the manner that NFL teams draft players – through extensive evaluation, workouts, and analysis – when adoption just doesn’t work that way.  Again, that is my speculation.

As for me?  I probably should be more outraged by it – and maybe I would be if I had watched the video – but I have a hard time getting worked up by this.

Is a “baby draft” in bad taste?  Maybe.  Is it a good idea to place any parenting decision in the hands of an Internet vote?  Typically, no.  Should you question a parent who would truly “sell” his child’s rooting interests to the highest bidder?  Possibly.

But consider the other side…

Is adoption expensive?  Absolutely.  The parents who set up the site estimated their costs at $45,000.  While that’s above the national average for an agency-assisted adoption of a U.S. born infant, it’s easy to see that number if they are adopting internationally.

Is it easy to get grants or loans for adoption?  No.  Certainly, there are many adoption grants out there, but when you get past the ones with strict faith-based restrictions (i.e. married heterosexual Christian families) you are competing with hundreds of other families for the same limited pool of grant funds that may not be paid when you need the money.  Adoption loans are even tougher to find and obtain.

Do most employers offer adoption benefits to help defray costs or provide the necessary time away?  Some do, but they are few and far between.

Do prospective adoptive parents need to be creative with how they raise funds?  Definitely.  You’ll see all types of fundraisers, benefits, and sales.  One blog that I follow has a future adoptive mom decorating cakes to help raise funds.  It’s a cool idea (and she makes beautiful cakes) but it’s hard to imagine raising tens of thousands of dollars in this manner.

Maybe the Baby Draft family was misguided, their intention / motivation was not clearly stated, or they should have used a phrase other than “Baby Draft”, but I can certainly emphasize with their plight.  Our three adoptions were not cheap.  Very not cheap*.  We were able to do it with a combination of strict budgeting by my financially gifted wife, generous loans from my mom, and our good friends at Visa.  And even with all of that, we’re still getting our financial legs back under us 10 months later.

*So not cheap that I can barely afford good grammatical composition for my sentences.

But adoptive parents – present and future – know that despite all of the costs, fees, and expenses, the end result is priceless.

Racial Jackassery (J)

Yesterday I became aware for the comments made by an Alabama state representative.  During a March 2014 debate on abortion, Rep. Alvin Holmes said this:

“I will bring you $100,000 cash tomorrow if you show me a whole bunch of whites that adopted blacks in Alabama. I will go down there and mortgage my house and get it cash in 20 dollar bills and bring it to you in a little briefcase.”

(A full article can be found here.  Be sure to stick around for the lawmaker’s beautiful application of Godwin’s Law at the end of the article.)

Fortunately, my A to Z challenge letter is “J”, because that quote brings a couple of “J” words to mind*.

Is his joking?

Jeez, I think he really means that.

Ignorant jerk.

What a jackass.

*Lets be honest, that steaming pile of ignorance brings to mind many other words – many of which do not begin with “J”, and very few of which I would publish under my own name.  

Before you start to think this is random outrage over something that was said by a low-level politician 1,500 miles away, you should know this:  I am white.  My wife is white.  Our oldest daughter has a white birth mom and (we believe) a black father.  Our youngest two had black birth parents.  True, we did not adopt our children in Alabama* (ours were all born in Florida), but that does not change my initial reaction:  Alvin Holmes’s comments are shocking and offensive to me.

*But after we received clearance to leave Florida with our youngest daughter, we drove across Alabama on our way home, including a fun-filled 75 minutes of gridlock outside of Birmingham.  Personally, I think that entitles me to a share of the $100,000 in that briefcase.

Once my initial outrage subsides, I find myself torn on this.  There is a part of me that will always stand up for my family – especially against those who think we don’t belong together because the color of our skin doesn’t match.  I’m sure we get odd looks and second glances when we’re out, but I don’t notice.*  I have never had anybody say anything negative to me – but frankly, I chalk that up to living in the Midwest where if we can’t say something nice, we don’t say anything at all.

*Okay, there may have been one time in the grocery store where I felt like a black woman was giving me the stink eye, but that may have just been my paranoia – or the fact that my oldest two were being rather rambunctious. 

So yeah, if we lived within four hours of the Alabama capital building, we probably would have gone to show Rep. Alvin Holmes that we are one of many families who proudly adopted black kids.

Rep. Harris, this white dad and his three black kids will take our $100,000 now.

Rep. Harris, this white dad and his three black kids will take our $100,000 now.

But there is another part of me that wants to let this whole thing go.  In reading some of the other public statements that Rep. Holmes has made, it seems pretty clear to me that has a lot of unresolved anger and distrust for white people.  I completely understand that.  Alvin Harris is a longtime state representative, having served 32 years in the Alabama House.  Alvin Harris is also a black man.  Living in Alabama as a black man, I can only assume Holmes has known very real and very ugly racism and discrimination – the type of which a white kid in Nebraska, born the year Holmes took office (1974) can not even imagine.

Back in my business travel days, I spent some time in small town Alabama.  I remember being shocked by some of the things I heard coming out of the mouths of the people I was working with (i.e. white folks working in a bank).  There were not any direct slurs or words that begin with “N”, but there was plenty of things that I found inappropriate.  My point:  Racism is real in the South, and I have no doubt that Alvin Holmes and the people he loves and represents have been on the receiving end of a bunch of crap from white people.

I also know that one of the toughest things to do is to cure ignorance.  It can be done, but too often it’s not worth the hassle.  With his comments, Alvin Holmes appears to be painting all whites with the same brush.  He is saying that all things being equal, white people would choose white children, so why would any white person want to adopt a black child?  I could list off the reasons why we specifically chose an interracial adoption program through our agency, but I get the impression that would not matter to Rep. Holmes.  In his eyes, we “settled” for black kids instead of white ones.  As horribly, hopelessly wrong as he is, how do you combat that?  I don’t think you can.  Besides, I have better things to do than try to change the mind of somebody who has their mind made up. I’d rather spend that time with my beautiful children.

*   *   *

(Author’s note:  Wondering why there is a random letter in parentheses in the title of this post?  Not sure how this post corresponds to the daily letter in the April A to Z Challenge?  Like clicking on links?  These questions are all answered here.)

Incomplete – VOTE (I)

One of the big challenges of undertaking this monthly A to Z Challenge is finding content that is (remotely) relevant to the letter of the day.  Before I decided to take on the challenge, I did some planning and put together a rough calendar of topics.

For that list, I relied very heavily on my backlog of drafts.  Over the last couple of years, I’ve amassed a sizable collection of drafts.  Some of them are things that I keep tinkering with until I get it just right, or things where my best intentions have fallen by the wayside (a.k.a. my Husker countdown series).  But usually, these drafts are snippets. A few sentences  or paragraphs that I’ll type mainly to prevent the idea from being lost forever.

And yet, most of these drafts do just that – sit there lost, unable to find their way out of the bowels of this blog.  At the end of 2013, I put about 25 drafts out of their misery.  I lost interest in some, a few had no promise, and some where hopelessly out of date – such as a partial post about Kansas City Royals fans mercilessly booing Robinson Cano at the 2012 Home Run Derby.  There was some decent stuff there, but the moment has long since passed.

*   *   *

That preface leads us into today’s entry.  Letter I.  My original plan was to grab one of my random drafts, work it up a little bit, and purposefully leave it incomplete, chopped off right in the middle of a sentence, or maybe even mid-word.  At the time, I thought that was pretty clever.  I could slyly play to the “Incomplete” theme while getting some draft (preferably one that had a good beginning, but was lacking a good conclusion) out the door.

But the more I’ve thought about that, the less I like that approach.  I’m afraid folks would think the truncated post was due to technical difficulties, and not get the joke.  My clever idea isn’t so neat if I have to explain it a dozen times.  Therefore, I’m putting that idea back on the shelf.

Instead, I’m going to share snippets from a handful of long-lost drafts.  A few sentences that I like and that (hopefully) show there is some potential for a readable post.  Then, you, faithful reader will get to choose which one I complete by voting* in the poll at the bottom.

*Plus, I can then claim both “Incomplete” and “Interactive” as my theme for “I”, which hopefully offsets the contortionist-caliber stretching I did for “E“.

At the end of the month, I’ll take the draft with the most votes and complete/publish it.

Let’s me our contenders:

Contestant #1 is the adoption story of our oldest daughter, tentatively titled “The Good Kind of Gotcha”.  Your sample sentences:

We spent the next few days discussing and deciding.  Since this little girl (Jamie, we learned) was 6 months old, there were lots of medical records and other documents for us to review, which we poured over.

During this same time, a disk in my lower back became herniated, requiring immediate surgery.  With me fresh out of the hospital, we decided to go forward and have our profile shown.  We were chosen the next day.

We were parents.

Contestant #2 uses Mrs. Feit Can Write’s favorite Mexican place as a vehicle to explore gender roles assigned by society.  A taste from “I Always Get The Spicy Salsa”:

Like every other Mexican restaurant, they bring out chips and salsa when you sit down.  This joint has two salsas – a mild and a spicy.  Even though the salsas are served in identical bowls, there are two unmistakable ways to tell them apart:

1)  The spicy has red pepper flake in it.

2)  The spicy bowl is always the one placed in front of me.

Why is that?

Next up is my personal love letter to a processed pork sandwich.  Contestant #3:  “McMinistry of the McRib”

Today, my goal is to preach to the True Believers as well as convert some of you non-practicers of the pig to the gospel of goodness, the parish of pork, the ministry of mouth-watering.

We are in the middle of the McRib Holy Month.  Every year, McDonald’s opens the McRib vault for “a limited time only”.  Why?  When the water turned into wine, did you ask questions or did you enjoy a sip?  Skeptics will say it is because the pent-up demand creates a rush of sales (and free press) that would not occur if the sandwich was offered year-round.  I say the skeptics will be on the outside looking in when the day of judgment comes.

Contestant #4 was inspired in part by little braille stickers identifying each of the 100 cubicles in my former office building.  From “Appreciation for the Blind”:

Think about many of the other things we consider “disabilities”:  being deaf, paralyzed, missing a limb, or having some other debilitating disease.  Without getting in to deep, philosophical questions (Would you rather see or hear something truly amazing*?) they would all suck, and I honestly would not want to experience any of those long term.  Yet, given the choice, I’d gladly take any of those disabilities (and possibly even two of them) over the prospect of being blind.

*Don’t get me wrong, given the choice of listening to, say, Susan Boyle’s “I Dreamed A Dream” or watching it without sound, I’m choosing audio every single time.  But even if I were deaf, there are enough visual clues to know that something magical is happening.

Think about all of the beautiful things you have seen in your life:  a young child’s toothy grin,  the brilliant blue and white of a Caribean beach, the reds and yellows of autumn leaves, a gravity-defying Michael Jordan dunk, that one YouTube video with the cat – I cannot help but think my life is better for having seen all of these with my own two eyes.

Contestant #5 takes me to unchartered territory – writing extensively about my dad.  From the roughly named “Adoption and my Dad”:

This is where it gets tricky for me.  Because I want to talk about what those milestone moments would have been like if he were alive for them – the announcement that we were adopting, the phone call after we were matched, our homecoming with our beautiful daughter – but I find it tough to be objective.  The tendency I have is to romanticize my dad; to accentuate the positive and ignore any of the negative.

Of course he would have been 100% on board with our decision and supported us every step of the way, in any way that he could.  Researching, networking, offering us financial support, watching our dog when we were out of state doing placement, whatever was necessary, I know he would have done it in a heartbeat.

I truly believe that.  Period.

But if I’m going to take the time to explore this topic, I owe it to myself (and to my kiddos for when they read this many years from now) to not type a bunch of fluff with my rose-colored glasses on.

Finally, for you lovers of the bullet point list, I offer for your voting consideration, contestant #6, “Parential Rights of Passage”.  To do a large snippet would steal from some of the impact, but the post seeks to fill in the blank of

“You know you’re a real parent when you’ve had to deal with  _____”.

 *   *   *

Using the poll below, vote for your favorite.  Also, I encourage you to use the comments to a) explain your rationale and b) encourage others to support your candidate.

The polls close May 15, 2014.

 

*   *   *

(Author’s note:  Wondering why there is a random letter in parentheses in the title of this post?  Not sure how this post corresponds to the daily letter in the April A to Z Challenge?  Like clicking on links?  These questions are all answered here.)

Is Four less than Three? (F)

Recently, Mrs. Feit Can Write and I enjoyed a very lovely date night.  We went out, ate some good food, had some drinks, and saw one of our favorite bands.  Best of all, it was a completely kid free evening.

I know that may come off a little crass, but nights out (of any kind) are kind of a big deal.  Part of the reality of having three kids ages five and under is not being able to go out whenever we want.

Dinner in a restaurant?  We would need to pack 15 pounds of stuff into the diaper bag, answer a million questions on the way there, strategically pick a place that is busy/loud enough so we don’t ruin the dining experience for others yet slow enough that we do not have to wait for a table or risk slow service*, and time the whole operation perfectly so the kids are not starving when we arrive, not hungry when their food gets there, or the baby doesn’t need a bottle while one of us is trying to eat.

*Although we have noticed that families with multiple young children tend to get exceptional service and/or hurried out of most places.

Assuming we pull that off, there is still the challenges of keeping young children entertained, quiet, and appearing as if they did not just escape from the zoo.  That’s a lot of work for the four crayons you get at most restaurants.  The odds are high that one of us will say “never again” at some point in the evening.

What about a date night for just the two of us, you ask?  Paying for a sitter is never cheap, but when you get past two kids, you end up spending more just to leave the house then you do while you’re out.  We used to have a pretty good system of date swaps where we would watch the kids of some friends while they went out and a few weeks later they would reciprocate.  But strangely, right about the time we brought home baby number three, those informal arrangements dried up.

I get it.  Watching more than two kids – even for a few hours – is not for the faint of heart.  Living with more than two has been an experience – so much so that we’ve joked about changing our phone numbers so the adoption agency we used can no longer find us.

But is it really that bad?

Well, according to this article, it is.  They cite a study that says that three kids is the most stressful number of kids to have.  In what seems to be counter-intuitive, parents with four (or more) children have less stress then parents of three.

Why?  The article lists two key factors:

The increased stress of being out-numbered makes the transition from two to three much more difficult than from one to two.  And once you get past three kids, parents tend to “let go” and trust their parenting instincts and experiences.

For the most part, I agree with this.

Going from one to two isn’t that bad.  You can divide and conquer or one parent can pretty easily take both kiddos and give the other a break.  But a big part of the challenge of three is being outnumbered.  You only have two arms to pick up crying kids, and one set of eyes to make sure your little explorers don’t wander off in the store.  The classic parenting joke is you switch from a man-to-man defense to a zone.  Even with your spouse* helping, somebody will always be facing a double team.

*This is as good of a place as any to give a serious shout-out to all of the single parents raising two, three, or more kids by themselves.  In your next life may you come back stranded on a remote tropical island with a spa, an open bar, and no screaming.

As for the “letting go”, I’m not completely sure I buy that.  Yes, with our youngest we have relaxed on a number of things that would never ever have happened with our oldest.  For example, when our oldest was about 9 or 10 months old, we were at Wal-Mart when her pacifier fell to the floor.  I’m pretty sure we threw it away, because neither of us could ever imagine it being clean again.  Since then, we’ve joked that with baby #2, that pacifier would have been run through the sterilizer and given back.  With baby #3, I probably would have popped that sucker in my mouth, given it a quick slurp and handed it back to my daughter.

But I’m just not sure that relaxing your standards necessarily equals a reduction in stress.  I totally get the concept of “survival mode” – doing what you have to do to make it through the day.  But I wonder if the guilt of knowing that you let the kids watch four movies just so you could get lunch picked up before bedtime doesn’t create its own stress.

If anything, I think the reduction in stress with child #4 comes with acceptance.  Acceptance in knowing that you’re never going to know a house that is clean or quiet.  Acceptance that you’re never going to go out for date night again – and probably wouldn’t be able to afford it if you could.  Acceptance that this is your life.

With three kids, we still hold on to the crazy notion that we can still do the things that families with one or two children do.  Like go out to eat, take vacations, drive a mid-size sedan, have friends and family offer to watch our kids, or pay for college and/or weddings.  And that can be stressful.

But as somebody who never wanted to have more than two kids, I absolutely cannot imagine life without all three of my beautiful babies; the loves of my life, the reasons I go to work, and the reasons that my heart is full of love.

Yeah, it is crazy, stressful, and often crazy stressful, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

*   *   *

(Author’s note:  Wondering why there is a random letter in parentheses in the title of this post?  Not sure how this post corresponds to the daily letter in the April A to Z Challenge?  Like clicking on links?  These questions are all answered here.)

One Year Ago This Weekend – Abridged

*Author’s note:  If this post seems familiar to you, know that I’m not doing reruns.  I am entering a contest sponsored by A Child’s Hope Adoption Services about adoption stories.  I started with this post, but needed to chop it down to 500 words.  Brevity is not always a strong suit, but I’m happy with how this turned out.

*   *   *

A  year ago, life sucked.

A lot.

My wife’s busy season at work means sixty hour weeks, and full-time daddy duty with our three year old Jamie.  Busy days.  Short nights.  Lots of stress.

We’re also two months removed from a failed adoption.  The pain is still raw.

Our agency says we could get a call any day, but my hopes aren’t up.  I’ve switched off the pain until Michelle’s work settles down.

Michelle isn’t so lucky.  She naturally wears her heart on her sleeve.  Sixty hour weeks plus guilt from being away from Jamie doesn’t help.

Michelle sends me two emails.  She said she was crying in the bathroom over a co-worker’s baby shower.

The second reads:

“Not getting better.  Can I cry?  Walk out?  Come back in a week?”

Today is Friday, March 9, 2012.

*   *   *

Jamie is at Grandma’s this weekend.  I need the break, and time with Michelle.  I know she’s struggling.

We take time to rest and recharge.  We sleep in and go out to eat.

Today is Saturday, March 10.

*  *  *

We pick up Jamie.  We missed her – our rock through the failed adoption.  She’s so ready to be a sister.

We head home towards another hectic week.

Meanwhile, a woman is admitted to an Orlando hospital.

Today is Sunday, March 11.

*  *  *

I head to work for another forgettable Monday.  Around 4:00, Michelle calls.  I hear excitement for the first time in weeks.

“How would you feel about a son?”

She explains:  a mom wants to place her newborn son.  Placement would be tomorrow.  In Orlando.

Dazed, I head home.  Michelle tells her boss she’s out for 12 weeks, starting tomorrow.

Over dinner, we discuss the situation.  It takes two minutes.  This is our son.

Today is Monday, March 12, 2012.

*  *  *

We spend the evening in controlled chaos.  Booking travel, finding non-pink items from our baby girl stuff.  Packing, packing, packing.

Michelle asks about a name.  We had a girl name, but nothing for a boy.

I reply, “What about Cameron?”

Michelle likes Cameron.  I like Cameron.  Our son has a name.

We just need to go get him.

*  *  *

Four hours of sleep, but I’m not looking for the snooze button.  We’re meeting our son today.

We get dressed and load the car.  Jamie doesn’t know what’s happening, but she loves an adventure.  She’s wearing the “Big Sister” shirt we bought to announce our last match.

In the car, Michelle calls our agency.  The birth mom can sign relinquishment papers today.  We won’t leave until they’re signed.

A big smile from Michelle, and we’re off to the airport.

*  *  *

After a long day of travel, we leave the airport and go to the hospital.

We meet our caseworker, and review a mountain of papers.  I know they serve a purpose, but I can only think of Cameron.  I’d sign anything to see him.

Finally, its time.

We meet our Cameron.

Today is Tuesday, March 13, 2012.

Life has improved greatly.

%d bloggers like this: