Family camps can be highly motivating and empowering experiences for families (Lewicki, Goyette, & Marr 1996) and can act as a tremendous catalyst for forming healthy attachments in a family system.
When my kids struggle or act out, my antennae are always up for what might be below the surface of an issue. All parents do this, right? But wow, do adoptive parents ever have to bring their whole brain to it, using use their x-ray vision to see right down to the bone.
Here are two stories that illustrate the “below the surface” concept that amazes some of my friends who have little experience with adoption.
Most days, as I push our stroller up a hill loaded with my son and a week’s supply of groceries and feel the muscles in my arms and legs working, I am reminded of the total body workouts I used to enjoy at my local gym.
Not that long ago I lived a very different life, one that included a husband, and a charming little house that we owned on a tree-lined street, a fulfilling full-time job, a fun fashion part-time job, volunteer work as a board director for two companies, four weekly gym workouts, and a circle of friends for dinner parties and occasional travel.
In her creative non-fiction essay “The Letter,” J. Jill Robinson writes about how she reunited with her birth son, David. He was married and himself an adoptive father when David and Jill found each other. We sat down with her to find out more about her experience as a birth mother in reunion.
Before I got to know both sides of Victor’s birth families, I had a firm opinion about open adoption. I thought it was the only way to adopt, and it would help our child with his sense of identity and belonging.
Open adoption was better for the birth families, and our lives would be deepened by these new family members. In my cushy fantasy, I’d have a close relationship with the birth mother, and her family would be our family. We’d snap group photos at graduations, pop corks at weddings, and sniffle as new kids came along for the birth parents.
I never got the chance to thank you for the little boy we share. For the trust your heart had that strangers could love your son with the same intensity that you do. Thank you for giving him all that he needed to get started in this beautiful world. Noah came to us brimming with love, and I know it was from you. I know you would be very proud of him today.
My son Gabriel has been talking about tattoos since he was about 14 or 15. He has always talked about wanting the tattoos to have some meaning for him, as opposed to just being a picture he likes. His first tattoo, which he got at age 18, was of the Liberty bell. It was representative of where he was born (Philadelphia) and says “circa 1993,” which is his birth year.
At the beginning of our adoption, emotions were high, birth family visits were frequent, and roles were unclear. Well-meaning friends and family members suggested that it might just be “a whole lot easier if our adoption was closed.” We could bond with our baby without interference, and the birth parents could “get on with their lives.”
Our adoption journey started in 1998. We chose domestic adoption for a number of reasons, including wanting a newborn, and the possibility of openness with a birth family. We were prepared to wait, knowing we had no control over when, or even if, we would be chosen.
We did all the paperwork and education sessions, and by March 1999, our homestudy was ready. We jumped into the pool of waiting families and prepared to wait.
I can’t remember the first time I learned the term “waiting parent.” But somewhere along my journey of building a family, the term has become second nature. It was like a category was added to my identity. Some might have described me as a woman, wife, student, football fan, queer, Polish – but when all the paperwork was submitted – I was also a “waiting parent.”