Monday, November 22, 2010

Adoption Awareness Month

Two stories of interest here in Adoption Awareness Month:

+ I did an interview with Danette Schott at S-O-S for Parents about adopting my kids back in 1994 (!) and what we've learned along the way. Take a look, if only to see photos of how cute my kiddos were then, how cute they are now, and how very old I have become.

+ According to a blog post on, Taye Diggs of Private Practice is producing a show called Matched that "will focus on adoption professionals in Los Angeles" and "the lawyers, doctors, and caseworkers who make the process happen and how it takes its toll on their own lives." It's apparently a fictional show and not reality TV, but ... yikes. Maybe it's just me, but of all the people involved in the adoption process, it's really the lawyers, doctors, and caseworkers we want to spend time with? I guess it makes sense from the point of view of having an unchanging core cast to focus on, but it kinda makes children and families the equivalent of corpses on a police procedural.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

End of an Era

This has been a growing-up kind of year for my son. He's out of self-contained and into inclusion classes at school. He's growing his hair out from the buzz cut we gave him years ago so he wouldn't have to comb his hair. Though his head's no longer stubbly, his face is. These were all expected transitions, and ones we fought for (me, the inclusion classes; him, the hair). But there's one step toward maturity that I totally didn't see coming.

He no longer wants his toy cars.

Read the rest of this post on Hopeful Parents.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

As if kids didn't hear enough bad language in high school already

This year, for the first time, my son is in a resource-room class for English instead of self-contained. And I was excited to hear, at back-to-school night, that the class would be reading Catcher in the Rye, a bona fide literary classic, something that I read and found meaningful during my own schooling. Woot! A standard high-school educational experience for the boy!

So they've gotten to it now, and the paperback has come home (as if I didn't have my very own copy in my Former English Major Collection down at the back of our laundry room), and we're reading it together so he can answer homework questions. And ... well, I'm quite a bit older now, aren't I. And certain language that was a thrill to see in print when I was in high school or college is not so thrilling to be reading aloud to my kid who I have been desperately hoping would not pick up these words and add them to his perseverative-repetition queue. And now he's hearing them directly from me, as part of his English assignment. Um, yay free speech?

I'm not going to launch a protest or anything. I'm not sure how much my son is going to understand the story, and I think I'm going to have some difficult concepts to explain going forward, but it seems like a good thing for him to be in a class that's considering serious fiction. Still, I'm a little worried about vocabulary lists. This is the same teacher who put Mongoloid on a vocabulary list when my daughter had her a few years ago, and argued with me when I complained. If my guy is asked to memorize the meaning of sonuvabitch and use it in a sentence, I am going to have to protest that.

Monday, November 08, 2010

The dreaded assignment, college version

Bad news for adoptive parents who are thinking the hurtful family tree and baby picture type assignments end with lower education. My daughter has a college assignment now that has her in tears: She's to give an oral presentation on her family's cultural heritage, with suggested questions like "Where were you born? How did your parents decide to give you the name they did? When did members of your family come to this country? How do you celebrate your cultural heritage?"

Well. That's some loaded territory for an international adoptee, isn't it? Also, I'd think, for a kid raised in foster care, or an abusive home, or any sort of background in which you might not want to be talking to a roomful of peers about your family history. It's not even a sociology class or psychology class or anything in which roots would be relevant. It's Introduction to the College Experience. And I think the teacher is considering meeting people of different cultures part of the college experience, and rah rah multiculturism, okay, I get it. But wow, does this professor ever for a moment consider that for some kids, it's complicated? One's cultural background can be a source of pride, but that is not a universal experience.

It's not that my daughter is ashamed of being Russian. It's just that she doesn't relate to it at all. And talking about heritage, heritage, heritage makes her start to feel blue about not knowing her birthparents, and she's afraid that if she gets up and starts talking about being Russian, she is going to cry. We communicate well about her adoption issues and try to give her a positive personal narrative about her background and culture, as much as possible given her language and learning difficulties. Adoption is pretty abstract, and she doesn't do abstract.

Really, though, we're a family that doesn't do culture, in the sense of obsessing about where your ancestors came from. My husband is purebred Italian and grew up with an Italian-speaking grandmother in the house and plenty of Italian culture, but he's had zero interest in making that part of our family story. My own upbringing was about as processed-cheese-food suburban American as you can get, and my parents worked hard to make that happen. That's our cultural background: American. That's what my daughter identifies with, what my husband and I proclaim. But I don't think that's what this professor is looking for. Wave the Italian flag! Send in some of my grandmother's Manischewitz soup!

Whatever. If my daughter was younger, I'd have a word with the teacher about this, just to make sure he was sensitive to her sensitivity. As the parent of a college student, I don't seem to be allowed that, and frankly, I'd probably just embarrass her more. As it is, I'm unsure how to proceed. The project does have enough wiggle room that she might be able to just focus on our family's mongrel-like mix of heritages and not accentuate her own. But I kind of wonder if this isn't a good opportunity to work on that pride-in-her-Russian-heritage thing. It's a neat thing about her. It's a neat thing about our family. I kind of hate to hide that light beneath a bushel, though of course, it's her light to do with as she wishes.