Since joining Open Adoption Bloggers back in January, when I began this blog, I was curious about their annual interview project, so when the opportunity came to be a part of it this year, I gladly volunteered.
This project is the chance to “meet” another person who blogs about open adoption and ask them questions – mostly adoption-related, but not always – about their life and their blog. Through sheer serendipity, I was matched up with Meghann, an adoptive mama who blogs at Four Wild Blueberries. It was great fun getting to know Meghann and learn more about her family’s story. It turns out we have quite a bit in common (she’s also a fan of The Creative Family) and her blog is such a friendly place, I feel like we already know each other!
Meghann answered my lengthy and complicated questions below, and you can see my responses to her questions on her blog. We are part of several duos publishing interviews today – make sure you check out the other interviews here.
1. I really like what you had to say in a March 2010 post about “unlearning – unlearning the outdated, incorrect stereotypes and attitudes our society holds regarding adoption.” As hopeful adoptive parents, we’ve encountered this with regularity when we talk to people about adoption – that’s probably the case for anyone connected to adoption. What’s the most recent encounter you’ve had with “unlearning” – and were your reactions then different from what they might have been four or so years ago, when adoption was new(er) to your family?
Oh wow…last week, I think? It really does seem like every time someone new learns that we adopted our children, something comes out in the conversation that makes me cringe a little bit. Usually it’s subtle—last week (I wasn’t kidding about that!) an acquaintance said, “Oh, they’re not yours? They look just like you!”—and it’s really just a language thing, a word choice, albeit one that stops me in my tracks.
My reactions are definitely different these days. For one thing, I’m less inclined to take offense; four(-ish) years ago I might have been a little indignant in explaining that they are no less *mine* than if I had given birth to them. Now, I’m more likely to ignore a questionable word choice. I don’t have enough energy to educate *everybody*, so I’m more selective and I choose to engage in that sort of discussion only when I think it would actually have an effect on the person I’m talking with, and often I don’t bother unless it’s someone we’ll be interacting with regularly. I’ve come to realize that you can’t save the world, so I’m more concerned with making sure that people my children come into contact with know enough not to say dumb things around them.
I’ve learned over the last few years how to gauge people’s receptiveness to learning, and I tailor my responses accordingly, but there are some kinds of comments I never let slide: Anything disparaging about my children’s first parents (or about first parents in general), certainly. Anything about how “lucky” my children are. Anything that makes assumptions (usually stereotypical) about my children’s background I correct as much as I can while still respecting their (and D’s) privacy.
2. In a post from June 2011, you wrote about your daughter watching a favorite childhood movie, Pete’s Dragon (one of my favorites, too!) over and over. You knew that she wasn’t making the connection between the main character as an adopted child and his adoptive parents, who were the “bad” guys. Now that she’s 2 years older, has Julia begun making connections like those? Does she bring up the topic of adoption now? And a related thought – how has openness evolved (if at all) for your daughter and her birthmother, now that Julia is a bit closer to school-age? Has that meant change for your son, too?
Julia still hasn’t made the connection in that particular movie. It could be that they never actually say Pete was adopted in the movie, so to her they are just scary people who are mean to him. My parents bought me the DVD of *The Rescuers* for Christmas last year—I have no idea why so many of the movies I loved as a child have adoption themes…—and they both have made the connection there, because at the end of the movie Penny is adopted. The first time they watched the movie, Julia turned to me at that part and said: “She’s adopted, like me!”
We’ve always talked about adoption a lot, since before the children were old enough to know what we were talking about. We figured it was good practice for us, and we thought it was better for the children if there was never a time when it wasn’t part of the conversation. And now that they are getting a bit older, they do bring it up more often—Julia more so than Asher, although he occasionally does as well. Julia often says, just out of the blue, that she misses MamaD and hopes we can visit her soon. Other times—also just out of the blue—she’ll tell George or me that she’s glad MamaD picked us to be her parents. Asher mostly repeats these things, but I imagine in another year or so he will have his own thoughts about it, independent of Julia’s.
We don’t talk a whole lot about what adoption *means*. And by that I don’t mean that we avoid it, just that it doesn’t come up as often. We’ve talked with them about where babies come from, and that most often a baby is carried by and parented by the same mama, but that sometimes the mama who carries a baby isn’t able to be that baby’s parent and when that happens she chooses another mama (and papa, or just a papa, or two mamas, or two papas, as the case may be) to be that baby’s parent(s). They haven’t had many questions about that just yet, although they do talk about how, before they were born, they grew in MamaD’s tummy. I can feel it coming, though: They are just getting to the age where they’ll be starting to understand what this means, and begin to figure out what it means to them. (I’m both looking forward to and completely terrified by this, incidentally.)
As far as openness evolving…right now the contact between our families is pretty much exclusively contact between D and me. Julia has talked to her on the phone, but most of our correspondence is online and of course the children are far too young for Facebook accounts still! It is a strange place, for me at least: Julia in particular (but also Asher somewhat) is very much able to form her own thoughts and express her own feelings and desires—but she can’t read or write (much) yet, so written communication still has to go through me. Over the next few years, as the two of them learn to read and write, they’ll be able to more directly tell D what they are thinking, and see what she is thinking, and I’m looking forward to seeing how their relationship evolves after that.
3. If you could somehow go back in time and have a conversation with the waiting-to-adopt-the-first-time you, what advice would you give yourself? Would you confirm any thoughts you had back then?
I wish I could go back in time and tell the waiting-to-adopt me to be very careful about how much she shares, and with whom she shares, about her children’s history. The barest details of their story, taken out of context, leave room for speculation about their origins that isn’t entirely kind to their first mother. (I should add that the assumptions are mostly inaccurate, but you know how they say a lie can make it halfway around the world before the truth gets its shoes on…) A few details, shared with the people closest to me, whom I thought I could trust, came back to me in unpleasant ways from other sources. In hindsight, I should have told *everyone* little more than “She had a baby; she couldn’t parent her; she chose us.”
4. I’m just guessing here from the weekly (sometimes more than weekly?) posts about knitting that you have a drive to create. I certainly do – and I’m always working on any given number of art and/or sewing and/or writing projects at a time. This has been a life-long thing for me, but lately, these various projects have been kid-oriented, and they seem to help take my mind off the wait to become a dad. What does creating mean to you – is it more than the practicality of the (beautiful) things you’re creating?
This is a really good question; I don’t know that I’ve ever thought about the meaning of it all… I’ve definitely always had a creative streak, but I think the sort of making I do these days really got started when we were young and poor and saving up for our first house, and I realized that I could make people much nicer gifts than I could afford to buy them. And of course there is also the influence of the generations of tightwad Yankees who came before me, so I really can’t stand paying someone else to do something I can do myself. So there’s that: It’s a cost savings, and a way to give or have nicer things than I could otherwise afford to. And then when my children came along…I just really wanted to make things for them, so I taught myself how to knit—my grandmother tried to teach me more than thirty years ago with very little success, but I guess once I had a reason to do it, I just did.
I find the act of creating to be meditative and calming. (I sometimes say I knit so I don’t kill people, and it’s only partly a joke, I think.) So there’s that, too. It’s a necessary outlet for me—I’m home all day with my children, and I do believe that the work I am doing is important, but it’s important to have something else to engage my mind and my hands.
As I make more and more of the things we use every day, I’m struck by how much…just crap…we buy for ourselves, for others, with very little thought going into it. This is becoming a bigger thing for me as time goes on: I really want to raise my children to not place more value on things because they are new, or store-bought, or whatever, but to see the beauty in things that are (imperfectly) handmade, or the utility in things that are well-loved but still perfectly functional. I want them to be comfortable giving of themselves in that way, and as they are getting old enough to be able to create alongside me (and, increasingly, on their own), that is something that is becoming more important to me.
5. This one is (maybe) a toughie: how would you characterize your philosophy of parenting? From the pictures of your garden, the recipes you prepare with your kids, the nightly reading, and your encouragement to your children to really be present in their world, I am taking lots of notes! Many of these things are what *A* and I dream of experiencing with our children. I wonder if you might write about what these things mean to you.
Wow, is that what my life looks like on my blog? From where I sit it seems like a lot of chaos and inability to get out of my own way and accomplish even a fraction of what I plan to get done in any given day, so I’m glad that at least it looks like I’ve got it all together. 🙂
I don’t know that I’ve thought about our parenting philosophy as an abstract concept before…it’s just sort of what we *do*, you know? When we began looking into homeschooling I found myself very much drawn toward the Waldorf approach, which really is a lifestyle as much as it is an educational philosophy, but I wouldn’t call us a strictly Waldorf family. We’re also both really intrigued by unschooling—another whole-lifestyle approach to education—although we’re neither of us 100% convinced that’s the “right” approach for our family, either. Maybe that’s the common thread: we are both lifelong learners, just insatiably curious about the world around us, and always have been; I think our way of living reflects that. Everything is a learning experience, you know, but not necessarily (hopefully not, anyway) in that sort of canned “teachable moment” sort of way.
It will probably sound a bit cloying, but I think I approach parenting (and I can’t speak for George here, but I think he might say something similar) from a place of just really enjoying being with my kids. So many people say to me that they couldn’t do what I do because they couldn’t spend that much time with their kids, and I sort of nod and smile—and it’s true that there are days when we wall drive each other up a wall—but I have to admit that I don’t really understand where they’re coming from. I can’t wrap my mind around the annual countdown to the first day of school that’s all over Facebook in August; it seems like everyone is really anxious to get their kids out of the house, and I’ve never really understood that feeling. I wonder whether it’s a side effect of all the difficulty we had in having a family, so I’m hyper-aware of how amazing the experience of being a parent really is, or if it’s just my personality.
Thanks again, Meghann, for working with me on this project – it was a lot of fun! Don’t forget, dear readers, to check out my answers to Meghann’s questions on her blog, as well as the other interviews being published today over at OAB.