Saturday, May 11, 2013

Wishes For The Disappeared

To the mothers and fathers whose pain and sadness were too great to stay, I hope you find the peace you're looking for.
I wish you could have stayed. I wish you could share in the joy of everything you are missing. There is happiness in playing, laughing, arguing, and crying with our children.

I'm sorry you couldn't stay. I wish it could have been easier. I wish you hadn't felt so alone. I wish you knew the support you're looking for is in the family you're hiding from.

I wish you could come back to us. Hopefully the things you need to work through are not so punishing as they appear. I hope you can let yourself be happy again. You deserve to be happy. I hope, someday, that you can share your happiness with us, because we deserve it too.

I wish you could see how hard it is when you aren't here. You bring so many gifts with you. Even when you felt alone, when you felt useless, we loved to be near you. I hope you will share your future with us. You can do such amazing things. We want to cheer you on, if you'll let us.

I hope you'll come back, because we can't wait to see what you'll do next. We want to show you that you're still our family. We want to show you how much we still love you.

Even if things can't be the same, I hope you know you're worth so much more than you give yourself credit for.  I wish you would come back, because there's someone very important who really wants to know you.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

We Beat SOPA and PIPA

Save internet privacy.

Get the word out.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

What Would You Ask?

Next Saturday I will be giving a brief presentation at the agency that arranged my son's adoption. I've been invited to talk about my own experience as well as first/birthfather issues and experiences in a broader context.This has left me groping for handholds. There's so much that I could cover, but I only have thirty minutes. To narrow things down I've decided to come to you, my brain trust.

What do you want to know about my experience?

What questions do you have about first/birthfathers?

Have I shared anything here that changed your perspective? What merits repeating?

Please help me and the hopeful future parents I'll be talking with this weekend. Take a moment to leave your questions and ideas in the comments, send me an e-mail, or a tweet. The presentation is Saturday the 20th, so the earlier you can get something to me the more help it will be. As always anonymous comments are welcome. If you don't want a comment to be published just say so in the comment itself. I'll read it, but will not publish it. Take warning: this may lead to a new series of posts.

Thanks for your time.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Things of Note

As always there is a lot cooking in the background here. Many things are afoot and, for a change, they are mostly positive. There are some posts coming as well as updates to some projects I've been working on.

Worth noting is that I will be putting together something tangible that lists resources birthfathers may find useful/validating. I will also be working with my local chapter of Catholic Social Services (who facilitated my son's adoption) to create resources. The exact nature of those projects have yet to be determined, but there are several ideas that deserve pursuit.

As a final note, I have decided to open the door to other goings on in my life. But that won't happen here. Instead I have created a Twitter account. That's where I'll share recipes, ramble about my other interests, and share the general "slice of life" kind of information. The blog will keep its focus on adoption issues, my experience, relational theory, and relevant news. The Twitter page will have links to things I find interesting, that affect my personal life, recipes, as well as thoughts about adoption, relationships, and life as a human. If you want a more complete picture of who I am beyond my thoughts on adoption, Twitter is where you'll find it. I've even added a convenient widget to the sidebar making it easy to find me. If you don't have a Twitter account but still want to get the great recipe for sesame/thyme salmon I posted today, you can check out the link below.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

In a Name - Politics and Power of What We Call Our Children

"A rose, by any other name, would smell as sweet". - Shakespeare

Juliet argued that the names of things are meaningless compared to what they are. It isn't the name that matters but the literal thing itself that is important. Terms are immaterial. It is the dense matter of a thing we must know. She explores the division between language and reality the way many adolescents do.

"Truth has nothing to do with words. Truth can be likened to the bright moon in the sky. Words, in this case, can be likened to a finger. The finger can point to the moon’s location. However, the finger is not the moon. To look at the moon, it is necessary to gaze beyond the finger, right?" - Sixth Patriarch Huineng

As a society we love the idea that there is depth to our world and experiences that language cannot touch. The base words we use to describe a thing cannot come close to encapsulating its totality. Equally important, however, is symbolism. We use symbols constantly. We use them so often that we forget they are symbols at all. That is what the teaching from the Sixth Patriarch Huineng is about. There is nothing wrong with symbolism so long as we remember what it is.

When discussing adoption it's common for people to talk about real things. Some talk about real birth certificates, real parents, or real names. Because so much changes for a child during adoption it makes sense there is a search for solid, unchangeable reality. From birth to adoption every facet of a child's reality may change. For many this includes permanently changing their name.

There are arguments to be made for both maintaining a child's given name from birth as well as changing it. Changing a child's name to resemble that of the family parenting him/her is an inclusive choice. The idea is the child will feel more a part of that family unit and having a similar name will reduce stigma the child may otherwise have encountered.

On the other hand, maintaining the child's name from birth is inclusive in a different sense. That choice invites difference into the family. It also highlights connection with the family of origin. Highlighting that connection has many costs as well as benefits. Stigma comes into the picture again. Highlighting difference to a child who already feels different can be used for healing, but it can also be damaging. Some times it is helpful to have something concrete to address when feeling different and alienated. The ability to say "this is the thing that makes me feel different, it's open for anyone to see, and it really isn't a big deal at all" can be comforting. At other times, however, the alienation needs a counterpoint. In these times it's necessary to highlight similarity and belonging rather than difference. Unfortunately that counterpoint often becomes an attempt to minimize or remove any trace of difference. When taken to extremes that tactic is usually counterproductive.

With the rat's nest of complications that arise when considering changing a child's name, a simple solution presents itself; adoptive parents and birth parents name the child together.

Many parents do exactly that. Unfortunately it isn't a practical solution for everyone. Some people don't make an adoption plan for their child before birth. Some people never make an adoption plan, but choice is not a luxury their circumstances allow. Many people don't  have the opportunity to ever meet the parents of their children. There are as many reasons for this solution not working as there are examples of its success.

In Festus' case, Athena and I chose to name him without input from Prof Plum and Ms Scarlet. I anticipated that they would later change his name, which they did. I bear no umbrage. I happily call my son by his given name. But it was very important to me that I had the opportunity to give him a name I chose. In the past I've heard people discuss the names birth parents give their children. A common question in those conversations is "did they every think about ______?" The blank changes, bu the basic idea is always there. "Did they even spend five minutes thinking about this?"

As a birthparent let me assure you the answer is unequivocally "yes". Athena and I spent a long time talking about what names to consider for our son. We also considered how to approach naming, whether to include Prof Plum and Ms Scarlet, even if we should abstain from naming our son at all to allow them the chance to give him his first and only name. Eventually we decided to give him a name we chose for him. There were many reasons for that decision.

In our case, as with most first families, we hoped for everything to go well but planned for the worst adoption experience we could imagine. That meant once he was out of our arms at the birthing center we may never see nor hear from our son again. His name, even if he never knew what it was, was our last chance to give him a legacy. We chose names with meaning. We chose names that symbolized all we wanted for our son through out his life. He had names that wished him intelligence, power, triumph, and connection to a family history nearly as old as recorded language. We knew he may not ever learn these names. He may never discover that he was the last person from this family to bear my surname.

I'm glad I could give my son the symbol of our history as well as the symbols of all the things I want for him. I'm glad Athena gave him a symbol of his Chinese heritage and her whole hearted wish for personal power and strength of character. I'm glad Ms Scarlet and Prof Plum gave him his new name. I'm glad to know my son and I'm glad I could give him something truly timeless.

Do birthparents give a second thought to what they name their children?


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Coming up for Air

Swearing under my breath I ran back to the apartment from the truck. I was already running late, but there weren't any better options. The present had slid off the seat and torn the wrapping paper. Certainly Festus wouldn't mind, but I would. I grabbed the tape from the dining room table, locked the door on my way out, and ran back to the truck. I pulled my phone from my pocket and sent a text informing Ms Scarlet that I would be late.

A little better than twenty minutes later I was standing on Ms Scarlet and Prof Plum's front porch. The wrapping paper had been easily repaired. Ms Scarlet greeted me with a hug. Instead of the usual upbeat greeting we normally exchange this one was tinged with concern.

"How are you doing?" she asked. The tone of her voice and non-verbal communication made it clear what she meant. It was the kind of inquiring you hear in a hospital waiting room. There's no condemnation, judgement, or expectation in it. Instead there was concern and love.

We quickly moved on to having our evening. Highlights included Festus trading off between chasing and being chased by every adult in the house. His refrain became "we should run as fast as we can". We continued to play and chat. Before dinner Festus opened his belated Christmas present. It was a hit. As the evening wore on Festus was alternately sweet and surly. No one was particularly surprised by this and everyone handled it well. Despite his occasional surly grunting or silence, there was still an important development in my relationship with my son that night.

When we were playing he made an unusual choice in sentence construction that only a young child would think to do. He talked about being chased by "my mommy". He said he should be picked up by "my daddy". He laughed when proclaiming he was going to "get my *******". My name became a title. More importantly I became someone he chose to claim as his own. It was clear and distinct. He knows my name because he knows and wants me.

After Festus went to bed the real conversation began. I had sent Ms Scarlet and Prof Plum an e-mail explaining the barest facts of what had been going on in my life. Chief among those are the split with Athena and her desire to pull back from seeing Festus. This visit was the first time the three of us had seen each other since November. There was a lot of ground to cover. We glossed over the broader topics, which left time and energy for the real issues at hand - our relationships. We talked about my relationship with Athena, their relationship with her and her family, my relationship with her family, and how all of this related to the little boy who was asleep upstairs. Initially I was nervous. I didn't know what to expect which always puts me on edge. As the conversation deepened so did my comfort. When the conversation was wrapping up I realized how much I valued the two people I'd just spent my Sunday evening with.

Beyond my relationship with Festus I appreciate having Prof Plum and Ms Scarlet in my life. It's great to have a friendship with two people who are so, well, adult in their relationships. They're responsible, well adjusted, grounded individuals with good heads on their shoulders. It's strange to understand that I had to be reminded of that. They bring the qualities that make them good parents to their friendships and family relationships too. The reasons I felt they would be excellent parents for Festus are the same reasons I like to spend time with them.

I'm glad I was reminded that I don't visit just to see Festus. I visit to see my family members that live in that household, all three of them.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Reduced Version

I've made several attempts to write about what has been going on in my life of late. I haven't been able to finish any of them. Frankly it's just too hard to get through everything in one go. Instead I'll lay out the bare facts here and now. I can then process each part as necessary in the coming days, weeks, and months.

Last week Athena ended our relationship. This came just a few weeks after she told me she wasn't sure if she wanted to have any further contact with our son. Needless to say both of these situations are very difficult for me to handle. Forewarning: please don't post any comments about Athena's short comings, perceived or otherwise.

I am still unemployed. This is the longest I have been without a job since I began working. In fact I have never been without work since I began working a steady job when I was 21.

I will visit Festus on the 20th. We haven't seen one another since November. It's difficult to imagine facing him now. I feel like I've failed him. There isn't much I can offer him or myself right now. I've been putting one foot in front of the other for so long that I must take it on faith that I have faith at all. In six short months my life has crumbled to pieces.

Athena and I had been together for nearly five years. Four of those we spent living together. I miss that time we spent together. Hopefully things will get better.

But to be honest, I'm sick to death of hope.