So I found this article today on Adoption.net Ten Things to Consider Before You Adopt http://www.adoption.net/adoptive-parents/node/26527.  The article offers 10 observations and thoughts one should consider before entering into transracial adoption.  I read it a couple of times and finally realized I have to come back and if not exactly respond, I feel compelled to share my reactions. I’m not discrediting the author’s experience in any way. I just find that I can’t agree with some of what’s being suggested.  So here’s my take.

  • “We are conspicuous.” Yeah, there’s no debating this one. It’s just a fact of life that you can’t avoid and my suggestion is the best thing you can do is embrace the difference.
  • “Is it developmental or adoption related?” The author talks about how she frets over many childhood issue and challenges wondering the source of the issue. I can relate to this as well.

I can recall when Lil Bit was an infant and there was a period where she favored being with Erin. There was a time where she would eat with Erin, sleep with her and then when it was my turn to feed her, she would fuss and refuse to sleep. It honestly got to me and I would fret about is this an adoption thing or just a baby thing?

Finally during a visit with Erin’s mom, Lil Bit needed a feeding and it was my shift. I fed her and I could not get that baby to go to sleep. After a while, I asked Erin’s mom to take her and told her, “Let’s just run a little experiment here.”

When I gave Lil Bit to her grandmother, she settled in very quickly. Apparently she just preferred being with a woman over a man. With that knowledge, I could look at my mother-in-law and say, “Ok. Now I understand what’s going on here. You can keep her this time. Since she’s already asleep.”

Next time though, I had the confidence to just let the baby cry her self out until she fell asleep. After all, my in-laws live 600 miles away. That baby had to learn that some days I would be her only option to eat and sleep and therefore she’d better learn to get comfortable with me.

I will say this, “Thank God, our adopted daughter was our second child.” I had the confidence to say, “OK, this is a baby thing, not an adoption thing.” If our first child was adopted, I would have fretted far more over some of these things.

  • “Birthdays may be a bummer.” I can’t debate this one. It has never been our experience with any of our daughter’s five birthdays so far, but who knows? It could become a challenge one day.
  • “About that underlying sadness: it’s a constant. Adoption starts with trauma and is based on loss.” This is probably the one that stings and troubles me most. I understand the perspective, but I refuse to accept or embrace it. I would submit that it’s problematic to the child’s overall growth and development.

You can’t ignore that there is loss in adoption, but there is also so much gained.  Focusing on loss just seems like a troubling way to move forward.

  • Yup. It’s out there. I don’t believe, or rather I’m not aware of, any direct instances where my child has experienced racism to date.  I have seen instances where people have looked at us sideways.

There have been times where people look at us you can just see them doing the mental gymnastics and arithmetic in their heads trying to make the equation add up. I’m sure that some day down the line we’ll have bigger challenges here.

It seems to me the best we can do is raise our daughter to be as strong and confident as possible and when those challenges come up, we will stand by her to try and see her through.

  • “We will always live in a big city.” The author’s perspective here suggests that racism is more prevalent and the lack of racial diversity outside major metropolises will be problematic for kids. I can see the point, but again, I reject it. Trouble, narrow-mindedness, racism is everywhere. I’m not naïve about that. But suggesting that it’s limited to areas outside big cities is simply wrong.

We live in the suburban area of a fair sized Southern city. The benefits our children derive living in a neighborhood with horse pasture butting up against our backyard far outweigh the cultural advantages that might come from living downtown. It’s a trade off. It’s part of parenting.

The choice is not an adoption issue. It’s more of a personal safety issue.

  • “It might take a while to find the right school for your kids.” I can’t debate this one either, but in the context of this article, it doesn’t quite ring true for me as an adoption issue. It seems like another general parenting challenge. Perhaps we were lucky. Our kids are students at a very culturally diverse public school and they are both excelling in that environment.
  • “Your pediatrician may be clueless about black children.” Again, if you’re living in a big city, finding a competent pediatrician familiar with all races and cultures shouldn’t be that big a challenge. This just doesn’t ring true in this article.
  • “Sappy Mc Sapperson” The author talks about being prepared to cry a lot at things that didn’t previously impact you. This is another parenting thing, not an adoption thing. When our first son was born, I was stunned at how my tastes changed and the things that affected me.

I can’t watch television or movies that center on putting children in harm’s way any more. I get too angry, too agitated. The oddest commercials and songs which never touched me before reduce me to tears. It’s amazing. But again, it’s been that way since our first son was born.

Has the context shifted a bit since our adopted daughter came into our lives? Sure. But I still don’t see it as an adoption thing.

  • Khalil Gibran –As a parent, I am so much more open to all children, but I still don’t see this as an adoption issue. To be fair though, the author has adopted internationally, while we have adopted domestically. I kind of don’t feel qualified to speak to her point on this one.

The author then offers a succinct list of tips to prepare for the odessy of adoption. They are:

  • Prepare to help them.
  • Prepare to rally against all things that make them feel ‘other-ed’ and less than.
  • Prepare to be uncomfortable.
  • Prepare to become an ally.
  • Prepare to not fit in.
  • Educate the people you love to also be advocates for your kids.
  • Know that there will be grief and sadness, but that there will also be joy.
  • Prepare to be forever changed.

I don’t contest that these things are relevant and apply to adoption, but they still strike me as tips that are more applicable to parenting as a whole. What do you think? Am I way off base here?

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