Category Archives: Growing up

On missing teeth … and so much more

They’re dropping like flies. Little white enamel-covered flies.

Tonight, when Maeve is sleeping, floating in slumberland, her body resting up for another day of intense summer play, the quarter-laden Tooth Fairy will make yet another appearance in our neighborhood, at the homes of two of Maeve’s friends.

As for Maeve, she’s not yet welcomed this mysterious visitor. There’s been no flutter of wings that brush by her sleeping face or tiny bits of sparkle left behind on her pillow. And if her deeply rooted pearly whites are any indication, that visit isn’t on the Tooth Fairy’s itinerary anytime soon. (This, despite her pulling and pushing on each, sure that “this time” something’s come loose.)

Tooth talk is fast and furious among the five- and six-year-old set, with gleeful announcements and excited displays of tooth-wiggling and look-at-my-tongue-poking-through-the-new-hole moments.

Inevitably these casual celebrations of coming of age turn to tallies – who’s lost how many and when. Then, as if on cue, comes the natural jump to tales of genetics: When Sally’s mom got – and lost – her first tooth, if Harry’s dad was in preschool or first grade when he lost his and whether his teeth came in early or late, and what all of this means for their progeny.

At this point in the conversation, of course, there’s not much I can contribute. Spurred by maternal instinct, my mind wanders to my own childhood and tooth timeline in an effort to uncover some sort of predictor for Maeve. But in a flash I am back, a bit embarrassed I’d sort of forgotten about my path to parenthood and the lack of DNA threads tying Maeve and I together. There simply is no charted course we can follow as she nears these biology-based milestones.

The truth is, of course, I never really forget. Not just because, as an adoptive mom and a wife to an adoptee, adoption has hugely impacted my life. No. I don’t forget because each day I am presented with yet another opportunity to see my daughter learn, struggle, celebrate, fail and overcome – and I know her first mother is missing it all.

Sometimes I am there with tears of joy – seeing her dance her heart out in the year-end recital, graduate from kindergarten, earn her next karate belt with ease, or finally conquer the sight word that had eluded her. When Maeve left her training wheels in the dust, her eyes lit and my heart swelled.

Other times, I shed tears of frustration – a friend’s rejection that left her broken-hearted and confused, her recent wrestle with particularly intense stuttering (the medical forms at the speech pathologist’s office asking if there was a genetic predisposition), or a temper tantrum or bad choice that comes seemingly out of nowhere and with full force.

Still, whether celebrating or struggling, we are together and this could make it possible to “forget,” to consider myself and my carefully crafted family a whole unto itself – daily reminders like developmental milestones and medical history forms be damned.

But the fact is, we are not whole. Maeve’s own story is missing key players. And because of that, our family’s cast of characters is not quite complete.

At this time, contact with Maeve’s first mom B. is entirely in her control – her stepping back some time ago means we can only wait, our arms open and our hearts committed, for her to be ready. Honestly, it’s not an easy place to be.

No matter how much I love Maeve, or how “perfectly” I try to love her, celebrate her and support her, I will never be her first mother, the woman who made her and brought her into this world. The world in which she now celebrates, struggles and finds herself landing in all the confusing places inbetween.

And therein lies a loss that cannot be swept under the carpet or placed neatly into a box to rest on a forgotten shelf. As Maeve’s mom — but not her first mom — it’s a struggle: How can I make her feel whole when she has such a fundamental loss? I am all too aware that my very presence in her life is because someone else is absent.

My mama role means ensuring my child is healthy, happy, generous and kind; that she is whole. The work to do that, of course, is monumental. It can be exhilarating and uplifting, it can be exhausting. Depends on the day.

As we merged onto the highway after leaving this year’s adoption picnic, Maeve shared an observation from her perch in the backseat: “Hey, Mom? Dad? I didn’t see B. there.”

No, Maeve, you didn’t.

But oh how we wish you did. She could try to wiggle a tooth loose for you and share with you her own tooth timeline. She could hug you hard when you fall, try to make sense of confusion, twirl your curls around her own finger and clap as loudly as we do when you soar. We could all work on being whole together, in our own version of a family that makes sense for everyone.

And it would be monumental. And exhilarating. And uplifting. And exhausting.

But most of all, it would be amazing.

This is the latest Musings of an Adoptive Mama column from the quarterly publication, Adoption News, by Adoptions From The Heart.

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Filed under Adoption, Birth parents, Children, Firsts, Growing up, Latest AFTH column, Maeve, Open Adoption, Parenting

Roots and Wings

Aside from the pitter patter of pet paws and my own keyboard clicks, the house is strangely silent. As a mom of an almost five year old, this hush doesn’t happen often.

Maeve is two houses away, playing inside with two long-time neighbor girls a few years her elder – and they all are delighted. Yesterday the new threesome played in our home, reading books, dressing up, chasing cats and even plopping down at the kitchen table to ask for a snack.

This is all so new to me. Now, we’ve shared playdates with preschool friends or meet-ups at the park – but as I’ve learned today, that’s so very different than letting her “be” without me or her dad. It’s just not about her being sans parent sidekicks, but we’ve orchestrated most every decision since we changed her first diaper. (Apologies to the future tweeny Maeve reading this. Yes, I mentioned your diapers to the world. Cue eye-roll … now!)

And in these moments I wonder if she will remember all we’ve tried to instill. Who will she “be” when not reminded by omnipotent voices from a few feet away to say thank you. Pick up the toys when you’re done. Take turns. Share. Be helpful. Use your kind voice. Make a good choice.

In five months, I’ll watch her enter elementary school as a kindergartner. Will she bravely bound inside, eager for new adventures? Or will she look back at me for assurance one last time before the door closes behind her? (If it’s anything like her first day at daycare when I returned to work, perhaps I should arrange for someone to get me home afterwards – who can see through all those tears to safely navigate a car through the streets?)

My mind sends me a reminder notice that this is just the beginning of an independence I’m supposed to be cultivating. You know, roots and wings.

Yet my maudlin heart responds with equal urgency that the moments are fleeting, the cuddles are numbered and it won’t be long before we’re not holding hands in public anymore.

I can’t help but be reminded of an excerpt in the book Tuesdays with Morrie:

“Life is a series of pulls back and forth. You want to do one thing, but you are bound to do something else. Something hurts you, yet you know it shouldn’t. You take certain things for granted, even when you know you should never take anything for granted. … A tension of opposites, like a pull on a rubber band. And most of us live somewhere in the middle.”

That tug-of-war in my heart is as fierce as her concentration while pumping on the playground swings or pushing her little Chucks into the pavement – handlebar tassels blowing in her breeze – as she and her Radio Flyer scooter sail away. Away from me, from her dad. Away from needing us so completely. Away from the cocoon we’ve enveloped her in since the day she made us a family.

The stillness in the house suddenly cuts sharply, and my thoughts are rattled back to the here and now as I hear the laughter and chatter of three new pals heading toward me, and just a few minutes after the return time I’d assigned.

The door swings open and the gleam in her eye is blinding. The energy she radiates brings me back to the bliss of my own childhood when the only concern was what to play next and how much time before dark.

Maeve smiles at me, and in this moment of welcoming, I feel so strongly the connection we’ve carefully cultivated while in that little cocoon.

That passage from Tuesdays with Morrie ends with this: “Which side wins? Love wins. Love always wins.”

Indeed.

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Filed under Adoption, Books, Children, Family, Firsts, Growing up, Life changes, Love, Maeve, Parenting

Book Review: Daring Book for Girls

daringgirlsbookcover.jpg

This review is part of my participation in MotherTalk.
This, and all future reviews, will be archived on the Reviews tab above.

When I was in college, I managed a small independent children’s bookstore. From storytime under the big in-store elm tree to choosing from the myriad books, puzzles and realistic animal and bug puppets, children entering our shop were encouraged to discover the wonder and adventure in reading.

One afternoon, like most, a mother and young child sat in a cozy corner reading from a small stack of books. As I went about my work, I took delight in the ebb and flow of their voices and his determined page-turning. That is, until it came to a screeching halt when the little boy — about three years old — began to shriek in protest: “No mommy! That’s a girl book! I’m not reading that!”

It was then I realized just how young children are when they learn the unfortunate pinks and blues, dolls and trucks mindset in “traditional” gender roles. I promised myself any daughter of mine would also have a truck and handle a fishing pole, and any son would have a doll and help bake a cookie or two in the kitchen. (Ya know, alongside daddy’s apron strings. Me not being a fan of the kitchen and all.)

I also was careful in future dealings with customers not to become mired in that narrow gender-role mindset; I’d show all children all different kinds of books, sharing all sorts of adventures with all sorts of readers.

Given this, one can imagine I’m not wont to pull from the shelves a book seemingly written for one gender or another. No thank you. I don’t need a bookcover or author telling me I’m an acceptable reader simply because I’ve got breasts.

Ah. But there’s now an exception to this rule of mine.

When the recently released The Daring Book for Girls by Andrea J. Buchanan and Miriam Peskowitz landed on my doorstep, thanks to MotherTalk and publisher Harper Collins, I found myself in the uncomfortable position of being simultaneously intrigued and cautious.

But wait. Mamagigi’s getting ahead of herself. First, another personal story. (Yes, it relates. I promise. Yeesh.)

One spring, as a child, my parents bought a large, playground-grade swingset from my elementary school for our own backyard. Seems the school was planning an upgrade and held an auction to make room for new play equipment.

Now, this swingset was special. It was like no other in my little slice of suburbia. It was red. Cherry red. And big. Very big. It seemed to be crafted soley for the purpose of swinging higher than all the other shamed denizens of Swingset-land. This awe-inspiring swingset sat ready, its long A-frame legs and strong chains tempting us — and all the neighborhood kids — to hop on and give it a spin. You know, if you dared.

To put it simply, my sister and I were thrilled.

But alas. It wasn’t meant to be.

Just days after its arrival into our very own backyard, a tornado blew through my Midwestern town and twisted the beloved new plaything into a big, depressing, cherry-red pretzel.

We moped for days, wallowing in our misery and the unbelievable unfairness of it all. Suddenly, the once-promising summer shined less bright, and each day lingered longer than the one before it. This is what happens, don’tchyaknow, when one’s innocent childhood daydreams are squashed and all that remains is disappointment, frustration and — gasp! — boredom.

This continued at a painful pace until, well, until the day our mother had heard enough.

Without explanation or invitation, she simply marched into the backyard and began to climb a big old tree that had been uprooted during the tornado and landed in our backyard. A tree that for us, had only been further reminder of the Tornado That Ruined Our Life.

While our parents’ gift of super-sized, ready-made swingset fun was just a short-lived reality, that afternoon mom presented us with a much greater gift: a jumpstart of our imaginations. She was daring us to embrace an unexpected opportunity that had landed — quite literally — in our own backyard.

The Daring Book for Girls reminds me of that day. It beckons young girls to extract the iPod earbuds from their ears, close their cell phones and embrace creativity and the important role it deserves in one’s childhood.

From its unique Tiffany blue hue and silvery glitter stylings to its heftiness as a hardcover chock-full of information, stories and tips meant to empower today’s young girls, Daring offers so much more than tired and shallow tips about blotting lipstick, walking gracefully in heels and batting eyelashes at bad boys. And this non-traditional take on activities for girls is a treat, indeed.

Its vintage feel doesn’t hurt either, with marbleized inside covers and old-fashioned fonts, parents of potential young readers can’t help but feel transported to the simpler time of their own childhood. Or the childhood they wish they’d had.

Although one could argue this packaging forces the fond feelings of yesteryear, the fact is if the book’s contents didn’t live up to its packaging, moms like me would simply place it right back onto the shelf and walk away.

But that’s not a problem for Daring — it delivers.

Readers can flip to any page and learn something they didn’t know. Or, just as delightful, relish in recollections of past adventures. There’s no need to carve out hours for reading this book, either. Each page or two offers a new activity, a new tidbit of cultural information or just-for-the-fun-of-it facts. From sports (something I admit the tweeny me would have skipped right over had this book existed then) and history (our daughters should learn about all sorts of daring women that came before them, yes?) to crafts (like making your very own sit-upon — oh, how I wish I still had mine, with its now-dated greenish-brown and ivory gingham checks and long ivory plastic waiststrings) to clever tricks and tips meant to entertain, there’s little room here for boredom.

Gather your daughter. Tell her to gather her friends. Heck, gather your friends. There are good times to be had and memories to be made.

This book will have a place in my daughter’s collection. And although she’s too young now to take full advantage, I’m not. It’s also a useful tool for me, in my role as her mom, to help keep her days full of learning, adventure and creative play — the simple charms of childhood.

So for me, its purpose is two-fold: In addition to being a guidepost for my own mother-daughter adventures to come, it’s a sweet reminder of my own years as a child when the most important thing I had to worry about was what crayons to use on the sign for my lemonade stand.

That day following the tornado, when I dusted off my imagination — thanks to a not-so-subtle dare by my own creative mother — is one of several memories I hold dear. Like dancing with her in warm summer rain showers.

Or later, sitting with friends, knotting shoelaces onto sticks and dangling them above murky rain puddles. Just us girls, fishing poles in hand, chatting it up and waiting for rainfish to bite.

This book is a must-have — for us and our daring daughters.

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Filed under Children's books, For fun, Friends, Gifts, Growing up, Parenting, Reviews

Marketing childhood happiness? No, thanks.

As Jenna noted, seems the Christmas Advertising Snow Job has begun. Today, I, too, found myself trying to shut out have-a-holly-jolly-Christmas jingles while perusing store aisles for very non-Christmas things.

Now, let me be clear. I’m not against Christmas jingles. Or Christmas shopping. And I certainly don’t mean to sound bah-humbug. It’s just that it all seems to have gotten, well … outta hand.

The holiday sale flyer for WalMart made its way through my mail slot earlier this week and, most unfortunately, didn’t make its way to the trash before Maeve noticed its enticing colors and images. Images and design geared for little ones just like her. (And those younger. And older.)

She wanted to flip through Every. Single. Darn. Page. Eyes wide with interest, she scanned up, down and across the ad, her little fingers struggling to keep the wide pages from spilling.

The look on her face got me thinking (and swearing I’d be more diligent in trashing the junk mail).

It’s seemingly quite a fierce marketing push to entice children these days. (Ouch. When someone says “these days,” they are about to make themselves sound very old. But I digress.)

Don’t get me wrong. I remember those early Saturday mornings, my sister and I still pajama-clad, balancing a bowl of cereal in our laps, seeking out the cartoon of the moment. And with that dose of Road Runner came commercials every 10 minutes.  Commercials stacked onto commercials, hocking toys, dolls, games and light-up-thingies that with a simple twist here and a tug there would become something else altogether.

And I loved it, coveting the Easy Bake Oven, a Lite-Brite and a Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine (oh, the quarters I knew I would make from selling the icy rainbow goodness in the neighborhood on hot, summer days) from right there on my parents’ couch.

So, I ask you: Is this an age-old issue and becoming a mama has simply heightened my sensitivity to it — or has wooing children through endless television commercials; “charactered” diapers, plates, cups, clothes and shoes (ever try to find a non-television character coloring book?); and toys with meals — actually gotten worse?

According to Campaign For a Commercial-Free Childhood, marketing to children “encourages eating disorders, precocious sexuality, youth violence, family stress, and contributes to children’s diminished capability to play creatively.”

A New York Times article in November 2004, according to CCFC, notes that “from 1992 to 1997, the amount spent marketing to children shot from $6.2 billion to $12 billion.” That’s double in five years. And that number? That’s 10 years ago.

It also notes that “almost every major media program for children has a line of licensed merchandise used to sell fast-food, breakfast cereals, snacks and candy.”

I started asking myself all sorts of questions, like why is none of this surprising to me? And, most important, what can I do to protect Maeve from it all? To keep from falling into the trap of it all?

But before panic sets in, I remember.

I remember jumping in puddles — in the rain — with my mom. And later attaching string to sticks and “fishing” in those very same puddles with my friends.

Or when a tornado twisted my new swingset into a pretzel and I thought the world as I knew it was over. The day after the storm, it was my mom who showed me how to use my imagination. After all, the tornado had uprooted a tree — and she couldn’ understand why I was sitting sad inside the house. I didn’t “get” the fun of finding the jungle gym nature had provided, until I saw my mom in the backyard climbing it herself, finding a perch and waving me over.

Or when my dad, a professional photographer, walked all around the neighborhood, teaching me about taking photos, him letting me use his grown-up cameras. And later he taught me how to develop our photos right in the bathtub.

Or the time two neighborhood boys decided I couldn’t play with them anymore — and my mom consoled me and told me to pick myself up and play on my own. She set up a little table outside, emptied a box of old fabric scraps and other “mom tricks,” and she and I had the Mother of All Craft/Play Sessions. Right there in our yard. Wasn’t too long before those boys were inching their way closer, wanting in on the fun.

Or getting up before the sun rose to go fishing with my dad at the lake, where we’d spend a few hours in the quiet of the just-waking morning.

Or the times my family would pile into the car and we’d head to the wildlife refuge near the university where my folks worked. We’d park and sit, and wait for a family of deer to make an appearance.

Funny. Ya know what?

I haven’t a clue if I ever got the Sno-Cone machine.

NaBloPoMo Stats: 4 down, 26 to go.

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Filed under Children, Diapers, Family, Growing up, Maeve, NaBloPoMo, Parenting, Products

Adoption talk, spot on

Here’s a well-reasoned, inspirational, informative, thought-provoking post that is perfectly matter-of-fact in its approach to explaining important transracial and adoption issues to one’s child. Something to aspire to. I’m so glad this woman’s work — literally — is on my blogroll.

In the next couple years, Maeve will likely find herself tackling similar questions. When she verbalizes these types of thoughts, feelings and concerns, may Thomas and I be this well-prepared and balanced in our approach. May we not always explain away her fears and sadness — a knee-jerk parental reaction to ease pain, of course — and instead know when to let her sit with them awhile and make sure she knows it’s alright to feel whatever she’s feeling. And that no matter what, we’re there.

We’re here, Maeve. We’re here for you and we love you just as you are. For who you are.

(As I’ve said before, if Maeve were biologically my child, she wouldn’t be the same little girl I adore so completely.)

And for those times when Maeve does need just the right answer to soothe her soul? May we have it, or be smart enough to know when we don’t. And in that case, may we do our damndest to find it.

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Filed under Adoption, Beauty, Birth parents, Body image, Children, Discussing Adoption, Family, Growing up, Love, Maeve, Open Adoption, Parenting, Relationships, Still learning

On Girls, Dolls and Self-Esteem

So very, very sad. As I watched this (thanks to Dawn for the video reefer), I fought back tears to hear these girls describe how something so fundamental as their skin color directly correlates to the value — or lack thereof — they place on themselves as human beings. Now, I’m not oblivious to the ridiculously horrid way advertising, society and the culture within which our children are being raised affect their very sense of self. It’s just that seeing it, in such a black and white form (literally), is a five-minute, startling reminder of the hugeness of it all.

No little girl should ever feel she is less than another simply because she was born in her own special skin. She shouldn’t consider herself the “bad” doll or resort to adding bleach to bathwater in an attempt to attain beauty, status or happiness.

As Maeve’s mother, I’m forever charged with working to ensure she doesn’t learn to think, believe or hurt this way. (Because, by the way, I absolutely believe such thinking is a learned behavior.) Maeve needs to know she is beautiful inside and out, just like Ruby and Ariana and Madison and — well, you get the idea.

But how?

During a time of early imaginative play, many young girls innately connect with a doll. One they bestow their love and attention to, nurturing it, sleeping alongside it, talking and hugging it, feeding and changing it. Relating to it in the only ways they know how. Doesn’t it then make sense that the emotional connection to a doll that actually resembles their own features, skin color and hair type will one day translate positively into how they care for themselves?

No? Well, let’s give them porcelain-white dolls with icy blue eyes and blonde ringlets to pet and love and call pretty — and tell me that doesn’t send the alarming message that only these girls are the kinds worthy of love.

Dawn’s words resonated with me — that taking the seemingly simple matter of a childhood doll so seriously is not an overreaction. If you think so, heed Judy’s advice and read White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack. Then come back here and please explain how today’s stark selection of realistic and ethnic dolls isn’t problematic. I believe that for a little girl like mine, the doll in her arms — and all that she naturally learns from it — can seriously impact how she views herself, the world and her place in it.

Interestingly, I watched this video today just before taking on the tedious task of tackling the 10,000 pieces of mail that arrived while we were in Nags Head. The mail chore — and my mindset — were unexpectedly brightened when I stumbled onto the children’s catalog, Magic Cabin. Completely unfamiliar to me, I was soon engrossed in its colorful, handdrawn pages, relishing in many of the “simpler” toys and activities of my own childhood.

Launched in 1989 solely as a doll company by a stay-at-home mom, its motto is “Childhood’s Purest Treasures.” It notes the words “batteries not included” never appear in its catalog because its items are “kid-powered.” From origami lanterns, tin tea sets (yes, tin!), teepees, wooden cash registers and alphabet wallcards, to flower presses, science and nature kits, crafts and candle-dipping, theater pencils and yo-yo dolls. (I hadn’t thought of my own beloved yo-yo doll until seeing the photo, with its countless circle scraps of fabric forming floppy arms and legs. Ah, the memories!)

And then … I stumbled into the doll section. Specifically, the Magic Cabin Dolls collection.

Now, not all of the company’s doll offerings are as ethnically varied as they could be. But the Magic Cabin Doll can be selected in such myriad shades and combinations as blush skin/blue eyes/blonde hair or mocha skin/brown eyes/brunette hair or brown skin/black eyes/black hair. I would like to see its girl dolls not be limited to long “flowing” hair — only its boy dolls have the shorter “mop of mohair curls.” (Oh, I smell a letter to the company in the making: “You are so close folks, so close.”)

For the really handy sewing types, make your own doll but buy the cotton skin from them in, as they say, “all the colors of humankind” — fair, blush, golden, mocha and brown — as well as doll hair in two textures and nine colors: blonde, golden, sandy, auburn, cinnamon, light brown, brown, brunette and black. 

Progress indeed. Now, if only the mass-market corporate behemoths carried as many options so all children — no matter economics or geography — were presented the world, quite literally, on a shelf.

(Although K-Mart this month is releasing a new collection of ethnic dolls, a search on its website provided little results. Press accounts indicate the move seemingly was motivated by the success of Dora — to this I ask, exactly how many years has this girl been exploring and we’re just now seeing the light? But still. Baby steps, I suppose. K-Mart does carry the American Girl collection, which offers a Just Like You line and the Bitty Baby, which comes in several skin-tone shades. Thing is, most of these dolls cost a not-very-attainable $90. Now, if ethnic dolls were the norm rather than the exception, I’d think shelves in stores everywhere would be stocked with such dolls in various price points so all children could love a little one more like them.)

Choosing to think outside the blonde-hair-blue-eyed box when buying a doll may mean driving further for an adequate selection or conducting time-consuming online searches for that perfect doll. For me, it would be a gorgeous little mocha face, tightly curled brown ringlets and eyes the color of dark olives.

Every little girl should feel worthy because every little girl is worthy. The little girls we now cradle and hug will soon become unsure teenagers with the world and all its options ahead of them. And one day, these girls will become women, making choices, finding their own way and even raising children of their own.

So, forego convenience and encourage diversity in today’s toys.

The esteem of our daughters — and our daughters’ daughters — may depend on it.

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Filed under Adoption, Beauty, Body image, Children, Growing up, Making a difference, Parenting, Products, Racism, Self-image

Outer Banks … Inner Jab

There’s that line in a Jewel song about being sensitive and wanting to stay that way. I remind myself of that chorus if ever I feel like someone has intentionally poked and twisted sharp and hurtful words into me, my heart, my soul. As difficult as it can be when this happens — for me, it’s especially so in the moment when my response is lost, mired somewhere in disbelief — I remind myself of that song. My skin is most definitely not thick. But really, I’d not want it any other way. I’d rather be sensitive — the opposite just isn’t an attractive option.

Where am I going with this? Well, having just returned from a fabulous extended-family vacation in the warm and sunny Outer Banks, I’d like to get one less-than-fabulous thing off my chest before returning to my regularly scheduled programming — which, by the way, includes some recollections of a terrific time in Nags Head with Maevey Gravy and family.

But first, bear with me a bit about a funny comment directed to me during the vacation. Definitely not of the ha-ha variety, this comment was said to me by a child. An innocent-enough comment from a child’s mouth.

So this isn’t about anger or how I should have or could have responded. It’s more about how, as an adoptive mom, sometimes everyday situations are not so everyday. How this little one’s comment really got me thinking. Me. You know, as an adoptive mother.

One evening Maeve had a meltdown. During dinner she didn’t want to sit correctly in her chair. After kneeling a while, she began to try to stand and eat. Thomas and I repeatedly corrected her and she broke into tears. Hysterical tears. We brought her to our room so as not to disrupt the others finishing their meal and tried to calm her. It was a most unusual breakdown on her part — clearly something specific was bothering her. (Turns out the reason behind her suffering actually was directly related to her not being able to sit. Oh, just read on.)

A few of the children (there were seven of Maeve’s cousins at the vacation house) followed us into our room as we cared for a very upset Maeve. During the crying, I had her lay on the bed so I could check her diaper. She wanted none of it, pushing me away from the waistband of her shorts, bawling until her face was inflamed and nose was running uncontrollably. As Tom and I each tried to calm her, one of the cousins who had followed to see what was wrong with Maeve, touched my arm to get my attention and, after asking why Maeve was upset, flatly stated — and I can still hear the voice in my mind —  “You never should have adopted her.”

In the middle of all that screaming I’m sure I actually heard silence.

Pure silence.

I was stunned. Where was that coming from? Why would they say that? My thoughts ran the gamut from it being a personal attack on my parenting ability to one on my daughter herself:

Was it meant to say that because I couldn’t tame this two-year-old’s tantrum I wasn’t fit as a mom? I ran it through my head again.

You never should have adopted her.

Was it because Maeve was so upset and acting out so loudly with tears, sobs and anger that somehow she wasn’t fit to be here, to be part of the family? Again, it ran through my head.

You never should have adopted her.

No matter where I placed the emphasis, the sentence didn’t — still doesn’t — get any better. Despite it not improving with varied intonation and pronounciation, I reminded my wounded self the comment has come from a child.

No I wasn’t angry. Hurt, sure. But the more I thought about that exchange — my response, by the way, was “Why would you say that?” — I realized my feelings weren’t ultimately about the child commentor and their stinging words. Most of that sting is frustration that sometimes, for an adoptive parent, the very act of parenting can be different than others’.

What biological parent on that same vacation would ever be told, while their child cries, “You never should have had her.”

It just wouldn’t happen. Ever.

I hope that as time passes, as the kids in both of our extended families grow alongside Maeve, they learn that she’s just like any of them. Nothing more, nothing less. She’s just another cousin. Her adoption isn’t something that should surround her, envelop her, making her a present-tense case of “She is adopted.”

Of course, this two-year-old’s meltdown had nothing to do with her being adopted or with us adopting her. It’s just something a two-year-old girl (who happens to have been adopted) did. Period.

As much as I hope in my travels, writings, relationships and conversations, to help others — including our families — better understand adoption, open adoption especially, and the importance of embracing Maeve’s story and history, I hope they simultaneously realize that while she has a special story that must be respected, she is also, quite simply, just one of them. Another child in the family acting like any other child in the family has acted. In this case, her adoption backstory isn’t necessary.

This isn’t to say that during the vacation I didn’t welcome adoption topics, adoption questions, should they come my way. (Anyone visiting me here for anytime at all knows that talking about adoption is of the utmost importance to me.) Several other cousins of Maeve’s asked adoption-related questions. One asked if her “real mom had named her.” (Ouch on the use of “real,” but still, a question I gladly answered.) Another not present for this last question asked, on an entirely different day, why we didn’t name her. I wasn’t sure what they meant until I realized they thought Maeve was the name given her by her birth mother. In both cases, I used the random questions while splashing about in the pool or digging in the sand to explain. I explained that her birth mother hadn’t given her a name because she told us she specifically wanted us to choose it. I also explained that her birth mother also liked the first and middle names we ultimately chose and their meanings, all very intentional on our part.

Through the conversations I tried to share, to enlighten, to explain while not using the exchanges as a pulpit. I simply answered nonchalantly and honestly. Matter-of-factly. After all these are just the facts surrounding Maeve’s adoption and in sharing them that way with the children, I hope they come to see her adoption as just that. Just another fact about Maeve.

But it’s not a context for which all things Maeve must be defined or a filter through which all things Maeve must be viewed. After all, she’s just one of the kids. She’s … simply … family.

When we finally did calm her and wrestle that diaper off of Maeve, we found a particularly nasty rash — one brought on, we figure, by the frequent use of swim diapers, the sand, the ocean saltwater and the pool chlorine. When I saw her skin broken open and oozing, my heart felt a twinge of guilt as I recalled the moments before when Thomas and I told her she must sit at the table.

Seems sitting was simply too painful. When we immediately put her in a bath in the hopes of soothing her skin — she would only bathe on all fours. That’s how raw her tush was.

Hmpf. Raw. Much like the comment that bruised my heart.

Sure, both will heal. But neither were necessary.

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Filed under Adoption, Birth parents, Children, Diapers, Discussing Adoption, Family, Growing up, Maeve, Open Adoption, Parenting, Someone else said