Showing posts with label Guest Bloggers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Guest Bloggers. Show all posts

Monday, January 28, 2013

I Know Who I Am

Picture this. Two young parents about to embark on the journey of a lifetime. A journey called adoption. 

Already blessed with a beautiful baby -- a biological son -- they desperately want to grow their family even more. 

So with a heart full of hope, the young mom begins the mountain of paperwork and bright red tape required to bring home Baby #2. Countless months and long distance calls later, they are finally on their way to the airport. Both nervous and excited, they carry with them admonitions -- from nannies and papas and a big brother and cousins -- to hurry home with the newest family member. Their future looks bright with their little son and new Salvadorian baby.

Then, they hear this on the car radio: "El Salvador has entered a state of siege. U.S. citizens should exit the country." When they get to the airport, there is a message waiting for them sharing the same grim news. But they get on the plane anyway.

I can’t imagine how my mom and dad must have felt. And in truth I never really contemplated it. I just took for granted that they came to get eczema-covered, sickly, nine pound me --  four months old, waiting in the orphanage.

But embarking on my own adoption journey to adopt two deaf children from China made me consider many things. One of those is the bravery of my parents. 

I know my mom thinks we're courageous to adopt deaf children, and maybe we are. But if I’ve done anything brave in my life, it is only because that was the first lesson my parents ever taught me.

I recently read a blog post with the title, Adoption Begins with Loss. It was a thoughtful post, but I remember being puzzled by that title. Because for me, it's always been, adoption ends with gain.

Here's a song my Dad wrote for me when I was little. He used to sing it all the time:

Traci Laine
She never lived in Spain
She never lived in Maine
But she lived in El Salvador
But that was before
Her Mama and Daddy came down from Georgia
Where she'll live forevermore.

My life has been pretty angst free. I'm not trying to make light of the struggles other adoptees have with their pasts, but I want adoptive parents to know that adoption doesn't always lead to grappling with who you are. 

I know who I am. I'm Traci Laine, who never lived in Spain, and never lived in Maine. I lived in El Salvador. But that was before.

Sweethearts since high school,Traci and her husband have one biological son and recently brought home their two deaf children from China. Traci was given the gift of family as an infant when her parents adopted her from war-torn El Salvador. Passionate about uniting deaf orphans with loving families,Traci blogs at LikePenAnd. . .

This is the third post in my series by adult adoptees called On Being Adopted. Listening to adult adoptees helps us as parents look at adoption through a different lens, seeing it from the perspective of the person who was adopted. If you missed them, you may want to read the first two posts: There Can Never Be Too Much Love, and Marriage and The Past Through an Adoptee's Eyes.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Marriage And The Past Through An Adoptee’s Eyes

This adopted little girl, born in Korea, grew up in a small, all white community where she stuck out like a red wine stain on a beautiful wedding gown. With the early divorce of her adoptive parents, this striving to belong, this striving to be who she thought others would accept, this striving to be perfect, this struggle for identity, she would pack them one by one as her "baggage" into adulthood.
One day this little girl would have her fairy tale dream and find her prince charming, have 2 children by birth, and eventually, adopt 3 children from Ethiopia.
Unfortunately, this baggage from her childhood would continue to weigh her down in her marriage and in her relationships with others.
As she began to slowly unpack the baggage of her past and one by one look at the items inside, she would come to a realization of why she struggled so deeply to be completely confident in the spoken words... "I love you."
Did you REALLY mean those words?
Will I do something that will make you leave me like my birth parents? Like my adoptive father?
What if I don't live up to being the perfect wife?
What if I don't know how to be the perfect mom?
What if I don't live up to who you thought I was? What if she's not who I really am?
As she and her husband would encounter conflict, her baggage would add meaning to the spoken and unspoken words.
"He's mad at me, so he must not love me and will abandon me like the men before him."
"He needs time to process the issue, so he must really be disappointed in me. I must not be the wife he wants."
"We don't see eye to eye on the kids discipline, so my ways are not valuable, and I won’t ever be the perfect mom."
"I need things orderly and predictable, and he's OK with messy and spontaneous, so I can't be nor live up to who he thought I was."
This would keep her safety wall from being torn down. She convinced herself that if he ever left her she'd still be protected because she convinced herself that she couldn't trust THOSE words. She couldn't trust her feelings. She could only trust that she was unlovable, and people eventually leave those who are not lovable. At least that's what life had shown her.
Due to her husband's love, patience, compassion and persistence, she began to see glimpses of the other side as cracks slowly formed in the wall she had built. She began to see a life she was missing. A joy she was missing. A freedom she was missing.
As she got more and more glimpses of this joy, this freedom, this other life, she wanted it deeper and deeper inside of her, but she was afraid. She knew she had to make a choice... Would she live her life getting glimpses through the cracks, or would she break down the wall, piece by piece, and actively live the life she saw on the other side? The life she truly did long to have.
This adopted little girl, born in Korea, is actively living her life one day at a time as a wife, mom to children through birth and adoption, and a leader of an orphan care ministry providing support to adoptive and foster care families. She continues to break down the wall she built with the partnership of her husband and a trusted support system. She is experiencing more joy and freedom as she allows herself to trust others and finally believes THOSE words... I love you!
What I would like adoptive parents to know is that the love, patience, compassion and persistence you give your adopted child within your home will design the template that he/she will take into their future relationships with spouses, friends, colleagues, etc. Despite the brokenness of an adopted child's past, you as an adoptive parent can be the key to helping them live within the life they truly want, rather than watching it through the cracks. Our actions and words are often driven by the fear of believing we are not lovable and you too will leave us like the others. We need you to be the partner who hands us the tools to break down the wall piece by piece.

Tara Bradford will celebrate 20 years of marriage with her amazing husband this June. She has 5 children ages 9 - 18. She is grateful for the healing God has brought this adopted little girl from Korea, and she shares her perspective as an adoptee, adoptive mom, and orphan advocate at Smore Stories... life and contemplation in a racially mixed family.

Thanks to Tara's readers for visiting Death by Great Wall today. I'm glad you're here, and I hope you find encouragement for your journey. Take a look around, and  leave a comment somewhere to introduce yourself.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Exhaustion - Guest Post by Karen

One of the things I missed by not having biological children was being awakened every two hours by a hungry newborn.

The closest I ever came to that schedule was the 8 days I spent on a long distance sailboat racing team.  A schedule of 4 hours on, followed by 4 hours off, translated into 3 hours of sleep every 5 hours -- except it was too light to actually sleep during the day. 

In the same way, the newborn life must be a grueling existence. Exhaustion. Utter and complete exhaustion.

Although she wasn't a newborn, Becky, adopted at 14 months, had a really tough time sleeping as an infant. 

Then came Katie, adopted at age 4  -- up every single morning by 5:15 am (maybe, if we are very, very lucky, it's 5:30).

I am almost 50,  and if I don't get my 8 hours of sleep every night, I look like I didn't get my 8 hours of sleep. Being perfectly honest here -- the thought of a child who would sleep through the night and maybe even sleep in greatly appealed to this sleep deprived mom. With an older child, at least I wouldn't be making negative progress, decreasing what little sleep I was already experiencing.

Which brings me to Cami.

Cami, adopted last year at age 9, sleeps well. She goes to bed when Katie and Becky do at 7:00 every night. She sleeps till 6:30 or 7 every day -- when the other girls are already awake. Yeah!  Maybe there is more sleep in my future?

But I am more tired than ever.

Here's what I did not count on -- the emotional energy expended on parenting my older adopted child far exceeds anything I have ever experienced. From the moment I hear her footsteps coming down the hall in the morning till she is tucked in bed and soundly asleep, I am on alert. High Alert. Code Red Alert.

Is she regulated?

Does she feel connected?

What will derail her before breakfast?

It's hard enough to parent any child struggling with the drama and hormones of the preteen years. When you navigate those same waters with a child whose fear trigger is super sensitive and whose window of stress tolerance is very small, it's a veritable mine field that requires full and complete concentration.

A lapse in attention to this landscape for even a moment can result in a monumental meltdown over the lack of a certain breakfast cereal. You must be aware of every single word out of your mouth -- watching sibling conversations as well -- and you have to think about every single thing. You can NEVER let your guard down. It saps every ounce of energy out of you every single day.

Recently, about a week before the end of school, Cami began getting very irritable with everyone. She was short tempered and at times downright nasty to us and her siblings. It came to a full boil the morning of Katie's graduation -- which was also Cami's last day of school. She fussed and carried on throughout the graduation -- rolling on the floor during the presentation, whining and fussing.

As I walked her into her school later that morning, I asked her, "Do you know what summer vacation is? Do you know what the last day of school means?"

Her answer: "No."

For the past week, we had been talking about these things in the general conversation -- and they are good and happy things. Things to be celebrated. A time to have fun. Only she didn't know that. Consequently, her fear radar was triggered, and those fears manifested themselves in less than pleasant behaviors.

Every.  Single.  Thing.  Every. Single. Day.

It is utterly and thoroughly exhausting.

Recently, a fellow mom of older adoptees shared an interesting perspective. She had been up late several nights in a row dealing with some fallout like ours.

"I guess this is making up for all those newborn nights I didn't get with her," she said.  

Then, the same week in church, these verses:

Even youths will become weak and tired,
and young men will fall in exhaustion.
But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
They will walk and not faint.

Here is what I realized -- my exhaustion is not really from the journey I am on. I am tired because I am trying to walk this path in and of my own self.  I think that because I reach out to friends for support, read a few books on the subject, and confess my weakness in parenting, that I am not suffering from the sin of independence.  But I am. 

These good and necessary activities will not relieve the exhaustion. Neither will two or three nights of straight through 10 hour sleeps (although I would be willing to give that a try)!
I need to trust Him that this is where He wants us. He gave us clear confirmation through this journey that all these children were to become part of our family. The evidence is there.

I need to trust Him that He is in this with us. He has provided what we needed -- when we needed it -- through the adoption process, the medical journey and our educational trials.  Evidence again that He provides.

I need to trust Him that we will make progress. We have come so far with Katie, so there is hope for Cami. More evidence.

Sounds like this might be a "me" problem.

Cami, with her dad, after a recent surgery 

So this morning, as I hear the footsteps come down the hall, I will commit this child's healing to Him, and ask for His strength to sustain me. I will whisper His name when the meltdown appears on the distant horizon. I will mutter the scriptures that promise hope and healing and strength. I will play my praise music loudly and sing joyfully when I feel like hiding in the closet crying.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains.
Where does my help come from?

My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;

the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm
he will watch over your life;

the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

Karen's three beautiful girls!

Thank you, Karen, for such a raw and honest, yet hope-filled post!  One of my biggest joys in our adoption journey has been getting to know women like Karen.  Although we've never met in person, she's encouraged me over and over again to look at Wenxin's behavior with eyes of informed compassion.  You can read more of Karen's adoption journey at her blog, Casa de Alegria.

What are your thoughts?  Feel free to post comments for Karen on the form below.  

If you liked this post, you might also enjoy this one on building trust in older child adoption.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Educating an Internationally Adopted Teen - Guest Post by Sandy

How do you make wise educational choices when the child you're adopting is already a teen and doesn't speak a word of English?  Today's Guest Blogger, Sandy, shares her story.

(This post is not intended to spark a public school vs. private school debate.  I'm sure many adoptive parents have had good public school experiences.  It's intended to give a snapshot of some of the educational difficulties parents may face when adopting an older child.)

A photo of Sandy's family posted January 2012

I've had several people ask about schooling our children after their adoptions.

Ben was 6.5, and John was almost 14 when we adopted them. If you read our entire blog, I stopped blogging when the children were going to begin public school.

Sandy's son, John, who was adopted from China when he was almost 14

Well, public school was a big, big mistake. Really. if it is at all possible, do not send your older adopted child to public school. First of all, John had to spend a week testing, as mandated by the state of NY and our Federal government. He didn't understand two words of English, of course, so the testing itself was upsetting, confusing and frustrating.

Then, the school decided to place John in 6th grade (age 14--normally 8th grade), and (because of his test results) he was required to take 3 periods of ESL (English as a Second Language) a day. His ESL class was made up of Spanish speaking migrant workers' children, and it was a complete and utter waste of time. I sent in several hundred English/Chinese flashcards that I bought, and I purchased an expensive English language learning program for Chinese speakers that I gave to the school. The teacher basically babysat the kids all day and did not even look at the resources I provided.

I'm not exaggerating when I say that the only English words he learned at school, in the 10 weeks he attended, were profanities. His first full English sentence was to tell his brother to "F off." In addition, John latched on to the kids who would readily accept him, and naturally they were the losers, dealers, and delinquents. John was almost 14 years old upon adoption, but like most post-institutionalized children, he was several years behind socially, emotionally and academically. John looked, and acted, like a 10 year old.

Also, attending school all day also slowed down John's English acquisition. Sitting in a classroom most of the day with kids who did not speak English (and had no intention of learning English) only made John resist us more. In addition, it took away from the time we had with him to establish bonding.

In June, after 10 weeks of public schooling, we called a meeting with the administration, guidance office, ESL teacher etc. I have never seen my husband go absolutely bonkers (he is an attorney), but I thought his head was going to explode when the vice-principal bluntly announced that John would never graduate high school. He'd be 21( and age out) first because John was going to miss 3 core subject classes a day, in order to attend his federally mandated ESL classes. John would not get enough credits to graduate, according to the administrator, in four years of schooling because of the ESL classes. I had to almost physically restrain my husband when the principal said that, by the way, HE was going to make the educational decisions for John, since John was at school 6 hours a day and ultimately the principal is responsible for the child's education and the principal knows what is best.

Umm. No. Sorry. You just happen to work here right now. Our son's education is way more important to us, than it is to you, jerk. You might have him for a few years, but he is our son forever!! And we know him better, understand his needs, and you know virtually NOTHING about children adopted from China, or their needs! I am certified in New York to teach Reading K-12 and English 5-12, so I could at least speak the school's lingo, but the administration was practically trying to bully us!

As I said, I'd never seen my husband go ballistic, but he went nuts when the school told us that they were going to make all the decisions because they knew what was best. And that John would never be successful because it was just too late for him.

The next day I started a search for a private school. Our oldest son (now age 16) has been attending an all-boys college prep school, McQuaid Jesuit, since 7th grade, and at that point I was homeschooling our son who was 10. McQuaid, however, has rigorous admission requirements and costs 2 arms and a leg. And I just didn't feel that I could homeschool a defiant, angry teenager, who didn't know English.

Then, I found Lima Christian School that offers a K-12 program. The school also works with several agencies in Asia (China and Korea) that send students to Lima Christian to master English so that they can get accepted into American Universities. They understand how to work with Asian students, and the other ESL students are highly motivated to succeed. The school placed John in 8th grade, at our request (only one grade below age appropriate at age 14.5), and arranged his schedule so that he had the ESL teacher all to himself for one period a day. He also had a study hall where he was peer-tutored every day. The teachers held him to the same standards as the other students, but did provide extended test taking time when necessary. We received weekly progress reports, and we spent hours with him at night doing homework. The school jumped through hoops to make certain we were happy, and they checked with me before adjusting his schedule or giving him modified assignments.

Now, John is in 9th grade, and he works independently most of the time at the 9th grade level. He maintains a B/A- average. At my request, we continued the one period a day with the ESL teacher. She makes certain that he is "getting" everything. Next year he will join the regular English class and will no longer be considered an ESL student. Ben (age 8.5 now, 6.5 upon adoption) never received ESL classes. He's completely fluent in English, and almost at grade level in reading and writing. Unfortunately, he has forgotten his Chinese.

At the private school we are the consumer...they will adjust the curriculum to meet the child's needs because if they don't, we can find another school! Our son Connor, who was homeschooled, would be in 7th grade in public school because of his age. He is in 8th grade at LCS, because of his abilities, and in 10th grade math and science. On top of that, he has a 95 average too. With a graduating class of 16, the school can be flexible and meet all our children's needs! Hooray!

Sandy's family today.  Notice the addition of two
sweet boys, adopted last month from China.

Thanks, Sandy, for a great post.  I'm so happy that your perseverance paid off, and you found a great school fit for all your kids. 

Sandy has two adoption blogs,  Our Adoption Journey, which tells the story of John's adoption and Petersadoption which chronicles their 2012 adoption of two more boys from China.  Sandy first shared today's story back in December 2011.  Now wrapping up another school year, John has made even more progress.