Archive for September, 2009


October 3, 2009–Two Korean Holidays in One

Since Chuseok is a Korean holiday that is determined by the lunar calendar, the date changes every year. This year it falls on Saturday, Oct. 3 (although in Korea the holiday runs Oct. 2-4 to allow for travel). Another Korean holiday falls every year on Oct. 3–National Foundation Day, which the foundation of Korea is celebrated.

Here you’ll find the post I did last year with some tips about how celebrate Chuseok. That post includes several links that can assist you in your celebration.

I also blogged about Foundation Day last year. Here’s a link to that post.

So this year, you can celebrate two Korean holidays at once. Sorry I didn’t come up with new ideas this year, but life just hasn’t allowed me to spend the time on this blog that I’d hoped to. Hopefully in the next year I’ll be able to add some fresh ideas for your Chuseok celebration.

In the meantime, it’s a great opportunity to try out some Korean dishes (san jok and ho bak jon are so easy), read some books, and open the discussion about Korea with your kids.


Being TransPARENT

Anyone who follows this blog knows that it’s not been an easy year for us. It’s been a year of discovering that our son, in many ways, is still fragile in how he views his place in our family. And all of it has led to what I’m starting to believe is post adoption despression for me.

Some, maybe lots, of adoptive mommies experience these blues when their children first come home. Months or years of waiting and anticipating this child are hard, but still joyful. Then the child comes home and it’s not all joy and love. The child rejects you; you discover you don’t have the bond with the child that you thought you already had.

That’s not how it was for me. I had read the books. I’d paid attention to the stories of other adoptive families. I expected the first few months to be hard. (Although I did completely underestimate how much of a role sleep deprivation would play in those early days.) I was fully prepared for the struggle I had educated myself about. And our first six days together were rough. Not a lot of sleep. A grieving baby. No help from family or friends. At one point I didn’t know if we would make it through.

What I wasn’t prepared for was the fact that three years later there would still be struggles. I don’t remember anyone talking about struggles years down the road. I wish I’d had Parenting Your Internationally Adopted Child by Patty Cogen while we were in process. It gives such a realistic view of the issues that may come up throughout the life of your adopted child. And The Connected Child by Karyn Purvis, which also helps you see how early trauma can affect a child. These books, I believe, would have helped prepare me for what might be a lifetime of adoption struggles.

From the outside everything must have looked rosy because we got lots of comments on what an “easy” transition our son had. I really don’t know what to say to that. It’s true that he didn’t have the struggles that some kids have in those first few months. I attribute that to God preparing him for his new family in a way that only God could. And, the fact that God prepared us to not make those first few months about us. Yes, we were experiencing a transition too but nothing like the transition our 9-month-old son was experiencing. We met all his needs; we slept with him; we used a carrier to keep him close in strange situations; we didn’t allow anyone to hold him for eight weeks; when he started to push us away, we held him closer. We put in a lot of work to help him feel secure.

And three years later, he knows that he’s loved and cherished. But I believe that sometimes he doesn’t feel completely secure in our family. I think there are times when he’s wondering when the next change will come. As a parent, that’s hard to swallow. We certainly haven’t done everything perfectly, but we know that likely this insecurity, this fragile nature, isn’t about anything we’ve done or haven’t done. It’s just how he’s reacting to the early losses and trauma he’s experienced.

I believe one of the biggest problems with motherhood today is a lack of transparency. We all want the world to think that our families are going wonderfully; our kids are excelling; and we’re the greatest parents of all time. No one wants to admit that they are struggling. That at times they dislike being a mother. That their children might have some “issues.” But at almost 40 years old, I’m tired of putting on my “rosy” face. Sometimes life isn’t always rosy. And often times adoption isn’t rosy.

Being an adoptive parent is hard because for many being an adoptee is hard and not just for the first few months home. Many adoptees struggle with issues throughout their lives. Hard as it is, I want to be prepared so my son doesn’t have to feel alone in those struggles. And maybe my transparency will help prepare another family for the journey to come.


Joy and Sadness–The Irony of Adoption

I’ve been struggling lately. Our son is just a couple of months away from turning 4 and as of last week has been home for three years. He’s a joy (most of the time). But parenting has been harder than I ever imagined. (And I wasn’t one of those people who idealized parenthood by any means.)

The preschool years are filled with lots of behavior issues. Children at these ages are testing their limits, experiencing new-found freedom as they’ve learned to walk/run, and voicing their opinions. All children do these things at these ages. But as an adoptive parent who’s educated about the effects of adoption, I’m always left wondering if some behavior issues or struggles are adoption related. And sadly, I figure I’ll be wondering this for the rest of my son’s growing up years.

Sometimes I wish I were an adoptive parent who had remained blissfully ignorant of adoptions issues. One who could still only see the joy in this child joining our family. Who refused to believe that my child is struggling or will struggle. One who feels it’s God’s will for this child to be part of our family; that he was meant just for us.

But I’m not that AP. I don’t feel guilt over adopting my son. I know his story and believe that given the circumstances his first mom made the decision she thought was best for him. But I do feel sadness. Sadness over what he has lost. Saddness over the ways that those early losses continue to affect him.

My son constantly asks if I’m protecting him, like when he’s in one room and I’m in another. And he’s still unable to sleep by himself through the night. I’m sure some bio kids have these issues too. But I feel without a doubt that these are results of my son’s early losses.

And given my feelings about adoption, I at times feel very alone. After two years, I finally found an online community of similar-minded APs. They have been a support and encouragement. But those parents who live near me, those who could be lean-on in hard times friends, don’t share my feelings of ambiguity about adoption. Some do share some of my feelings; others remain completely joyful about the process of adoption.

I recently saw one AP wearing a shirt that said “Adoption Rocks.” I cringed. I know too much these days about corruption, supply and demand, coercion, and societal pressures to believe that adoption always rocks. It’s the irony I live with daily–the joy of raising my son and the saddness about what being adopted really means for him.


Orphan–By Technical Definition Only

I’ve been contemplating this post for a couple of weeks now and decided it needed to be said. I was recently reading the blog of an adoptive family who referred to their adopted child as an “orphan” and now that the child has an adoptive family as “an orphan no more.” And it bothered me.

Let me say that I know nothing about this child’s background; maybe this child is an orphan in the true sense of the word. But for many of us with children adopted internationally, our children were only orphans in the technical/legal use of the word.

Random House Webster’s defines orphan as “1. a child who has lost both parents or, less commonly, one parent through death. 2. a young animal that is without its mother. 3. a person or thing that is without protective affiliation, sponsorship, etc. 4. (esp. in word processing) the first line of a paragraph when it appears alone at the bottom of a printed page.”

Most children who are available for adoption both domestically and internationally have not lost one or both parents to death. So it seems wrong to me to call them orphans. To do so seems to ignore the parents who gave them life.

I know that some adoptive parents fear the first parents. The adoptive parents want to be the only parents. And some decide to adopt internationally to avoid having to deal with birth parents.

But no matter how much an adoptive parent ignores the fact that the first parents exist, it seems they may be very present in the minds of the child. And why not? In a world where everyone points out how much little Jimmy looks like Dad or Sue has Mom’s eyes, wouldn’t an adopted child wonder who they look like? Or where they got their athletic ability?

Whether or not we would have contact with birth parents didn’t factor into our decision to adopt or from where. But now that I’m educating myself on adoption and it’s impact on a child’s whole life, I wish we’d pushed for an open adoption. I see our birth parents more partners, both striving for the goal of giving our son the best life he can have. His first mom gave him a start. Now is our time to be a part of his life. But someday he may want his first parents to be a part of his life again too. I hope if and when that time comes that I don’t feel any jealousy or competition. Because our son isn’t and truly never was an orphan.

My Korean Culture Blog

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