can differences divide?

divided_highway_ahead

This summer our girls attended Girl Scout day camp.  This was their 3rd year there.  It is a great full-day camp that runs for 9 days in the hills of Berkeley in Tilden Park.  What was especially nice this summer, is at this camp our girls can reconnect with some of their friends from the town we used to live and moved from over a year ago.

It’s taken me a bit to digest the first week of this summer camp and why I’m sharing now in late September.

It was quite a surprise when it happened, the differences that were making a GREAT divide.  You see my eldest daughter was reunited with most of the girls from her previous Girl Scout troop at camp something she really looked forward to.  This was a troop that had started in kindergarten and one we were part of through part of 2nd grade even after we had moved.  So both she and I were caught off guard with the questions one of our friends was asking, almost taunting both my daughter and I about.  “Are you adopted?” she asked each of us, first A during the camp day and then me at pick up “Isn’t A adopted?”.  I could see A was upset at pick up and realized as soon as I was approached by this girl that that may be the reason.  You see our family was built through adoption and we make no secret about it and this girl having been part of our circle of friends knew this.  So I pressed her what was her sudden interest, was there something she wanted to know about how we became a family?, who all our family was? why was she taunting us as she asked?

At 8 years old, A can choose who and what she shares about our family story.  She knows how our family was built, she knows and has ongoing relationships with ALL her family.  She chooses at this age not to always talk about it.  Our story is not a secret but a private family matter.  So being questioned like this was upsetting to her and me. Furthermore, this girl went on to tell everyone in their group at camp.  That truly was the most upsetting part.  Who was she to retell A’s story?  What did she get from telling the other girls?   Why did she feel this need to make A feel different from the group?  This was not very Girl Scout like for sure.  Her actions were creating differences that ultimately could divide the group and we still had many days of camp left to go.

When I was approached by this girl, my daughter’s friend, I asked her why? why was she asking this day?  Was there something she really wanted to know?  I am happy to explain more about our family make up and use it as an educational moment, but that didn’t seem to be what she wanted.

I wanted this to stop.  No one should try to divide a group and make anyone feel different.  I asked A if I could call her friend’s mother to let her know what was going on.  She agreed that it would be ok.  I did make the call, I did explain all that I had tried to share with her daughter trying to make it a positive by turning it into an educational moment about how families can be made differently.  She apologized for her daughter but her daughter never apologized to either of us.

This incident left me wondering, was this the start of others looking at our family so differently that they wanted us to feel that way, to divide us from others? Then I thought how do we better prepare our daughters for this?  How do we protect their hearts when someone is asking with the type of intent that hurts?

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She sees us as part of her whole …

manipulative-fraction-circle-whole-outline

During this school year our second grader had a project related to social studies that included finding out your families ancestry.  She had worked on this project speaking with both her birth mother’s family and her birth father.  We learned from both sides she shared similar ancestry like being Scottish, Norwegian, Belgium and more.

Recently she and I were discussing what to have for dinner and the conversation turned into what you may eat if you are Chinese, Chinese food; Mexican, Mexican food; Irish, Irish food; etc.  I then explained that that may be true when living in your home country but you don’t have to be that ethnicity to eat that type of food.

Her response was well I eat Italian food and I’m Italian.  I looked at her thinking how I can respond to her as technically she is not Italian but I am.  I asked her if she remembered her school project from earlier this year and what we had learned about her ancestry.  She told me yes she remembered but that SHE IS Italian because I am.

I sit here today thinking about this conversation and being glad that our daughter knows where she comes from from the relationships we have with her birth families. It tells me she is not split on who her family is. She is confident in that she belongs to ALL of our families and we are all a part of her wholeness.

adoption themed books at storytime …

Our girls chose “The Mulberry Bird” recently as part of our night time story time … although it was long for reading that time of night we read the entire book at one sitting …

For those not familiar with it’s story here is a review and description of the book:

Kindergarten-Grade 4-Relinquishment is the hardest part of adoption to talk about and is often glossed over in children’s books. Brodzinsky has chosen to tell the story using birds to represent the people involved. A young mother bird feeds and protects her baby, noticing that other mothers have mates to help them. Her baby’s father has flown away. Then a storm breaks her nest, and the baby falls to the ground. She goes to the wise owl for help, and he says the only way to solve her problem is to find a family to love and care for her child. She refuses at first, but then relents, and the owl carries the baby to the chosen shorebird couple. The young mother sees that her child is safe and loved, and sadly flies away forever. The baby hears from its adoptive parents the story of its first mother’s love and care. This revision of the 1986 story is longer, newly illustrated in watercolors, and reflects changes in adoption practice. Language has been made more inclusive: the baby’s need for “a mother and father” becomes its need for “a family.” More of the youngster’s feelings are included: anger and confusion as well as happiness and sadness. Still, the book is sure to prompt discussion.Nancy Schimmel, formerly of San Mateo County Library, CACopyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.>

The conversation that followed is what I found interesting … J made an innocent comment and told us she wished she had two families to love her … well we chimed in YOU DO AND A DOES TOO! We then went on to talk about who were part of their two families … and both girls helped name out who their families are … afterwards J seemed excited to realize that she indeed has two families that love her ….

uncharted waters … sort of …

the definition:

Doing something that has never been done before.

In some ways living with a family created through open adoption is like making our way through uncharted waters.  Open Adoption is approximately 30 years old, having started sometime in the 1980s. Before then families having adopted lived in secrecy sometimes not even sharing to the children that they were adopted. Today there are so many ways to view and live what open adoption is that everyone’s journey is different.  In our immediate family there is no other family built through open adoption or adoption at all. Ours has its own pathway and we move forward with both of our daughters’ families that we have incorporated into ours. At the same time, we take along our families in our beliefs of how we want our daughters raised and how we want them known by all and loved by all.

We have met and know as friends other families also created with open adoptions. Their children are older than ours so we do have their experience to help us through our own family experiences; but yet we have our own experiences to help guide us onward …

At the time each of our girls turned 4, their respective birth fathers realized the importance of their knowing each other.  Something we had hoped for and had always left the door open to the possibility of.  In both cases, we had met and/or talked to each of these men during the adoption placement and then in each case both stepped out of the picture, although not completely.  Both men accepted the information for our family blog where I post regular family events and pictures.  This was a place they could anonymously watch their girls grow.

And so at the age of 4 our girls got to meet and begin their relationships with their birth fathers and siblings through this part of their family.  Needless to say our family continues to grow with these families!  Over this summer,  we have been able to meet up with both of our girls’ birth fathers and their families.  Both were amazing times spent together with fun, laughter, love and great memories!

Our girls are now 7 and 5 years old respectively.  Both of our girls have ongoing in-person and loving relationships with both their birth mothers and birth fathers and parts of their extended families. As we have learned and continue to learn, these relationships have ebb and flow, but we relish in the fact that we are a family together! Our open adoption families are young so to speak and so our pathways is still in its early stages.  What we do know so far is do not count anyone out from these relationships.