Motherhood has a very humanizing effect. Everything gets reduced to essentials. ~Meryl Streep

Any mother could perform the jobs of several air traffic controllers with ease. ~Lisa Alther

Now, as always, the most automated appliance in a household is the mother. ~Beverly Jones

Saturday, December 22, 2012

"The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun..."

Last week a school psychologist was killed in an act of school violence. Along with her, and other adults, a gunman took down our youngest and most trusting learners. The week of the violence I received information in the mail to register my son for public school kindergarten.

I am well aware that no one really wants to hear another opinion on the issue of school violence. We have been inundated with opinions since it happened. Feel free NOT to read another opinion. Despite this, I am going to share my thoughts. I can't hold them in any longer. I'm a school psychologist and a mother of young children.

In addition to a horrific act of violence that occurred, the rumors about the "end of the world" were spreading rapidly through the teen population. The result was a lot of anxious kids in our school buildings this week. I know I personally spent a good portion of the week counseling kids regarding their fears about school violence. I am drained, as well as sad for all those people who struggled to get through this week.

So...putting armed guards in the school is going to fix all this?

I am flabbergasted at this type of thinking.

Do you really want your kindergartner walking past an armed guard on the way to their classroom? What kind of message is that?

Most of the incidents of school violence have been planned in advance. The shooters were generally intelligent young adults. Bullied and ostracized, but smart. With some attention to the routines of the guards, they would not have a hard time avoiding them. Or the guards would be the first ones killed, and the rampage would continue. Or the shooter would come in an unguarded door. The weapons these shooters have access to are only designed to destroy human lives - if that is a person's intent, a minimum wage armed guard is not going to keep kids safe.

The proposal to put armed guards in the buildings would be prohibitively expensive. Money would need to be invested in training, wages, equipment, and thorough background checks. In an economic climate where schools are financially strained, this is where we want to put our money? Academic programs and mental health services are being removed from schools.  I recently just participated in a process in my district aimed at reducing costs of support services. We can only assume the end result of this process will be fewer staff people available to support our neediest children. While I believe that districts should engage in solid planning and fiscally responsible decision making in regards to support services, who could possibly think it appropriate to reduce this type of service given recent events? Such discussions are not only happening in the district where I work, they are happening across the nation.

If this is not the answer, what do we do? I wish I knew.

We do need to make our schools safer places by utilizing appropriate security measures. We can learn from past tragedies. Our school buildings were built decades ago, when these issues were not a consideration. Money needs to be allocated to designing single-points of entry to the buildings, as well as utilizing available technology to keep people safe. In addition, the whole culture of students, staff, and parents need to change. I cannot tell you how often I see doors propped open, or adults and kids letting people into the buildings without signing in. These safety measures will only work if that are respected and utilized by the very people they are designed for. While additional security won't solve all the issues, it is not something that should be ignored.

Instead of cutting services, the mental health supports in our schools and in our communities need to be enhanced. As the economic status of families spiral downward, fewer and fewer people have ready access to the resources they need. I am not blaming parents, but the reality is that so many people struggle to make ends meet, there is not the time and resources available to get themselves and their children the help that they need. I am not a perfect parent by any means, so I don't want to touch on the subjective view of "parenting" that could enter the conversation at this point. I really do believe most people do the best they can, but can't always get the help they need.

And the most inflammatory point of all....in America we need major "gun" reform. Why in the world does anyone need access to machine guns designed for mass killing? In addition, we need to work to change our "culture of violence." We are a society that has become way too accepting of violent images, bullying, and isolation. When these happen all around us, we tend turn away and ignore it. I hate to admit it, but I am guilty of this as well.

This recent event hit too close to home for me. As I work hard to reassure my children, and other people's children, that we are safe, I have spent a lot of time thinking about these issues. What can be done? The "armed guards" suggestion nearly put me over the edge. Let's look at the bigger picture and get to the core of the issues that create school violence.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

"You weren't born here...."

This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend the KAAN (Korean American Adoptee Adoptive Family Network) in Albany, NY. I traveled with a wonderful group of friends who I have gotten to know through our local adoption support group.

It was a weekend filled with thought provoking discussion on what it means to be "Korean," a "Korean adoptee," and a parent through adoption. Many sessions focused on issues related to discrimination and racism. It was eye-opening and made me think hard about my children's future.

Although the discussion were stirring a lot of feelings and thoughts for me, for some reason, in the back of my mind, I felt somehow removed from it. My children are young, and are rarely separated from me. Although we have had our share of "ridiculous adoption related questions" (you know the type), to my knowledge my children have never been addressed directly about their adoption or ethnicity.

My son is currently attending a day camp that celebrates diversity and differences. The goal of the camp is to promote "peace" and understanding of the differences among people. So far he is really enjoying it. Each day they talk about a different country and the culture of that country. Overall, it seems to be an excellent program and he is enjoying it.

In the car after I picked him up at camp, BG and BB were having one of "those" sibling interactions. I believe BG was singing loudly, and BB was yelling for her to be quiet. All of the sudden I hear BB yell, "You weren't born here!"

What?

WHAT?

I felt as though I had been punched in the stomach. I asked him where he had heard such a thing. He said that a "mean boy" at camp had said that to him.

How naive I was to think that I had time before my children would experience [negative] comments about their differences. I don't know if the other child knew my son was adopted, or he was making an assumption about his place of birth based on his appearance. As suggested by the context in which my son repeated it, the statement was not meant positively and was not question. This statement was directed towards him in a negative manner (and apparently had the intended impact on him). Although so young, he knew that it was not said nicely and that it was not (in the other child's mind) a good thing. What a message for such a young child to receive.

We had a conversation about how such comments are not nice, and that families come together in many different ways. He had some follow up questions about Eastern Babies Home (EBH) and where his sister was born. He told me he told an adult, but I can't really be sure he did. One thing I learned this weekend, is that many adoptees deal with these types of comments in silence and by themselves. Although he did not tell me directly, I am glad it came out in a way that we can deal with it.

Let the advocacy begin.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Declining Rates of International Adoption


When families gather for the holidays, it is naturally a time of rejoicing and giving thanks. As my father watched my children play, he remarked he recently read an article about the dramatic decline in the number of international adoptions. Both of my children were adopted from South Korea. Last year only 736 children were adopted internationally from South Korea (Foreign Adoptions by Americans Plunge Again, David Crary, 2011). I said that this trend makes my children even more special. He said that nothing “extra” is needed – my children are special just because of who they are.

Everyday I am thankful for my children. Watching the declining numbers of international adoption evokes very complicated feelings in me. I applaud countries for stepping in and addressing the terrible abuses in international adoption. I am strongly in favor of countries developing the systems to care for, and protect, children born into difficult circumstances. Domestic adoption and remaining within their culture are ideal for children and families.

My concern is that “reality” has not caught up with the “ideal.” While many countries have been working diligently to change the culture and promote domestic adoption, the reality is that the numbers of children in need have outpaced the social reform. For example, in South Korea, it is reported, “Out of 8,590 children in need of protective care in 2010, 55.9% of them are under facility-based protection (4,842 children) while 44.1% are being protected under family care (3,748 including foster care, child-headed family, adoption, etc.) (Ministry of Health and Welfare Press Release, 11-18-2011). While these numbers are heartbreaking, South Korea is fortunate to have a pre-existing and long-established foster care system. Many countries who participate in international adoption utilize orphanages as their primary means for caring for children in need.

My children have information in their health backgrounds and social histories that might be viewed with concern by some people (although they were not issues for us). At the current time, the relatively small number of Korean couples who are interested in adopting domestically are more apt to chose babies without special needs or significant social histories. Given the current social climate and attitudes toward adoption in Korea and many other countries, it is very possible that my children would have been among those children who ended up in “facility-based protection.” My beautiful, intelligent, loving, and joyful children may not have grown up in a family.

I realize I am on a “slippery slope,” in that my last statement could be interpreted as “adoptive parents as saviors.”  My children saved me, not the other way around. Critics of international adoption often point out that within the United States we have many children available through foster care and domestic adoption. In building our family we already suffered great loss and heartache. We couldn’t face the laws or uncertainty of attempting to adopt domestically. For us, domestic adoption was not an option. We also were honest with ourselves, as first time parents we were not prepared to address the challenges of older, often traumatized children within the foster care system.

In short, international adoption is a good, humane option for some children and families. In an ideal world, all countries would have the resources and social structure to support their children in need. The Hague Convention is a start, in that it calls out into the open the abuses and need for reform within international adoption. Much work needs to be done, but abruptly ending the practice of international adoption prior to these reforms will result in many children growing up without families. That seems like a huge price to pay for rushing.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Mess....blessed!

I love white boards and bulletin boards. Although they do not add to my home's "fashion appeal," they help improve my sanity. I need to see (and be reminded) of my to-do lists, unpaid bills, and the other important papers that always seem to get lost in the shuffle. An attempt to organize the chaos of our lives.

This board in the kitchen also holds other treasures. Crayon masterpieces, paper pumpkins, pictures, cards, and birthday announcements. While dreaming of having children, this is one of the things I envisioned. A home decorated with children's artwork and school papers. Since this is near our kitchen table, we often look at and talk about the projects while we eat. Although my BG is still on the quiet side, she is so very proud when she points to something and says, "Look! Mama! School!." When I look at this wall I feel so thankful to be a Mommy.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Preschool



I have posted in the past about BB's school experiences. Things started off rough at the daycare we were at, but improved when he entered the YMCA program. We kind of held our breath to see what this year would bring!

Less than a year ago, we saw the stress our baby boy was feeling at the daycare setting. During two "fun" events, Thanksgiving and Christmas, he was anxious about participating in the events. He clung to me, cried, and wouldn't sing the songs with his class. It broke our hearts. He was too young. He just wasn't ready for those events. In fact, the majority of things in the classroom were well beyond his developmental levels. His behavior was interpreted as "naughty" and we got reports like, "Today was worse than usual." He may not remember these events, but I fear DH and I were traumatized!

Last night Jacob had an event called "Donuts and Dads" at his new preschool. He was so excited! At home he has been singing all the songs, and talking nonstop about the event. DH was able to take videos and pictures. There was my little boy - happy, participating, and thoroughly enjoying himself. It brought tears to my eyes. At home we see how happy he is - he comes home talking about the activities they did and his friends.

Earlier in the week I was able to talk to his teacher over the phone. She feels he is doing very well and adjusting fine to the classroom. He still gets his services, and not everyday is perfect, but the the things they are seeing are generally typical of other children his age. She emphasized several times that he is one of the youngest children in the classroom. DH and I are so relieved that they understand, and recognize, where he is chronologically and developmentally as compared to the older children in the classroom. They are positive about him and enjoy his antics.We are thankful he still gets services and couldn't be more pleased with his current service providers.

The future will happen as it will, and no one can predict what the future will hold for BB, but we are so happy and pleased that for this moment in time he loves school!!!!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Too Much Stuff

I am a complicated person (sometimes!). I love to shop, but I hate stuff. As I look around my small house, I am overwhelmed by the amount of unneeded stuff we have accumulated. I feel closed in and crushed, especially as I contemplate cold weather and staying inside to play.

Just about the only time infertility still makes me really mad, is when I consider my house. DH and I bought it as a "starter home." We figured that by the time we were planning for a second child, we would be ready to move onto something larger and with a better lay out.

It took us many, many years longer to build our family than we expected it would take (although it was well worth the wait). In addition, we spent ALL our savings on fertility treatments and adoption. Such was life. Even though it was difficult, I don't regret the path that our lives took.

I do regret this quirky little Cape Cod. There is nothing we can do about it right now. We tried to sell it about a year ago, but that didn't work out. Funds are depleted and will take a few years to build back up.

So, in the meantime, I am trying to be thankful that we have beautiful children, enough money to pay the bills, and a roof over our heads. Sometimes it is difficult to be thankful, when all I can notice is the crowded rooms and mismatched counter tops. One step I have taken to make life here more enjoyable, is a radical purging of unnecessary stuff. It feels good - out with the old, and in with the new (attitude!).

Friday, October 7, 2011

A Painful Moment

Yesterday I took the kids to a farm market. This market has animals, a jumping "pillow," and a playground. The kids had a great time and thoroughly wore themselves out! We laughed a lot and enjoyed being outside in the nice weather.

As I watched them climbing on the playground, I was struck with a moment of pain. No matter how much DH and I love them and fill their lives with happiness, at some point they are going to feel the loss of their birth parents and culture. All children react differently. I am sure there are some children/adults who were adopted who just accept the past and move forward. Yet, from what I have read and experienced, most adopted children and adults go through periods of time when the loss and grieving comes to the forefront.

Learning to cope with emotional pain is something all healthy people have to learn to do. I know this. As a mother, I want to protect them from it. But, I know it would not be productive to bury their pain or pretend it does not exist. We will be there to support them. Nonetheless, it may be hard to watch it unfold in whatever way it unfolds for each of my children.

Along with these occasional "painful" moments, comes thoughts of BB and BG's birth mothers. I am often struck, at various times during the day, with the desire to show them how wonderful their children are. I wish I could invite them into our lives to see how amazing they are. This is something I know is different from those families who have biological children. Their birth parents are another presence in our lives, always with me.