"I am not writing an adoption blog", I said a few years ago.
"I'm writing a fabric/bust adjustment/kid/vintage crap blog".
Adoption has been a part of my life and my story for a really long time. It was there long before we filled out the paperwork for August or talked about how our family was going to look. The definition of family, the trauma of family, the complication of family, the appearance of family-- these are concepts that have woven their way through my life and the creation of my worldview more than any other force. When I cracked the door open on our family in this space, I should have either slammed it shut again, or swung wide the gates. I do not get emails or inquiries about bust adjustments or vintage crap, I only get emails about adoption.
And now, it seems, The Blog is Dead? Maybe I've missed my chance to make it right.
I want to make sure that I have not misled you or romanticized the choices we have made. I believe, with all my heart, that adoption is about being family for another family. It is about sharing the burden. It is not about finding a child or being chosen from a pile of bios-- it is making a commitment to be family to a family that cannot for whatever reason. I am not naive about the reasons that children are placed. I know that in this country, poverty, addiction, mental illness, and lack of support or safety nets create deep chasms. I know that there are institutional systems that make it easier for a white woman like me to adopt a healthy brown or black baby than it might be for that baby to stay with the family that it was born into. I know that many children are growing up with people who are not keeping them safe. I know that thousands of children are aging out of the foster care system every year and that many of them long for a family to call their own, whilst people like me pay thousands of dollars in fees to bring a tiny person into our home. I know that many mothers making the choice to place their infant, feel as if they have no choice at all-- while we are being fed the "brave and loving choice" narrative by the industry. I recognize that the story or history we are given during the process of placement might be a different story if we look for it in a year or three or ten. There is so much that we cannot prepare for. There are forces way beyond our control.
There are things, though, that are well within our grasp. We need to identify and hold onto those things. We need to start by telling the truth. We need to figure out if we're up for this kind of parenting... for this kind of family. We need to decide if there are ways we can help and support families that does not involve complete separation. We need to be able to allow people to change and grow and get the help they need. We are living proof that parenthood-via-adoption can be beautiful. I would also like to recognize that for as many happy and healthy situations adoption might create, it can also be devastating for kids and families.
I am parenting children that don't look like me, but that doesn't mean I've entirely dealt with all my bias about race or privilege. It's hard work, because I'm choosing to do the work. If you care about people who do not share your skin colour, you must do the work. Just because we have a biracial president does not mean that we are living in a post-racial society. Just because we participated in Orphan Sunday at our church, it does not mean we don't passively participate in the systems that create these orphans.
Paul's dad passed away this last year. He was kind and generous and he and Paul had been very close. He was also an unapologetic bigot. When we told him about our plans for adoption he asked us, very simply, to choose another way. He told us that we would have to choose between having a relationship with him or adding baby to our family through adoption. And so, almost seven years ago, Paul faced his dad and made that choice. We were not blind to the potential problem. It wasn't as though we had not expected a difficult transition. Many people had tried to excuse his behaviour, "well, that's just the way things used to be." They tried to tell us that he would change his mind based on a story they had heard from their brother or cousin or friend, "he'll take one look at how happy you all are, and come around! He loves you guys so much-- it will be okay!". It was not okay. It was terrible. Paul had to choose his family over his family.
YOU MIGHT HAVE TO CHOOSE YOUR FAMILY OVER YOUR FAMILY. He never met three of his grandchildren. The last time he saw Sam was just after Sam's third birthday. We left room for him to change his mind... we left room for reconciliation. When Paul called to tell him about Manny, his dad responded by asking about the weather. Still, we never, ever left room for having to apologize for our children. It is the barest of minimums that we could meet. It was an early reminder that Love Does Not Always Conquer All in human relationships.
Our family sometimes invites unsolicited attention or makes other people uncomfortable. There are times when we trigger people's frustration or contempt. Their disdain of our choices comes from their own experience or bias. Sometimes (more when the boys were smaller) women stop me in the grocery story with small talk, and I know they're checking to see if the boys elbows are ashy or if their clothes are clean. They might finger their hair and cluck their tongues at me-- offering advice or encouragement. On good days, I am grateful for their attention and I know that they are not looking out for me, but for my children. When I have run out of the house without paying attention to the lotion situation, or I have gone too long between visits to the barbershop, I cringe and smile and offer up lame excuses. Sometimes the You're-Not-The-Boss-Of-Me version of myself (think strong minded 15 year-old) rears its head and I feel self-righteous and frustrated. This is not helpful. We are choosing-- without apology-- to raise our kids within a community where they have role models and peers that look like them (yep, even in Portland!). This means we will face criticism. We are not alone. There are families-via-adoption (even international adoption!), that are doing this work every, single day. I am forcing myself to show up even when I'm uncomfortable. I am constantly acknowledging that we probably don't know what we're doing. I am getting better at asking for help. I see my son stare adoringly at black families and I want to wrap him up and tell him that it's okay and I know that it is confusing. I want to work harder and do better to make sure that he never has to apologize for who he is or how he was raised.
Most days I am a generic teeth brushed/don't hit your brother/homework done sort of parent. Most of the time our lives are filled with the every day stuff that has nothing NOTHING to do with these conversations. Sometimes I'm super crappy at keeping the every day stuff all together, let alone dealing with these Big Conversations that we are committed to having. These conversations are going to come whether or not we're ready for them. In an effort to avoid being knocked flat on my ass, we are trying really hard to have them.
What I want to say is this: all of this... all of this is the very, very least I can do. This is the barest of minimums that we must undertake.
This is the least I can write about. Swing wide the gates.