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What can I do?
Posted: 07 October 2009 11:23 PM   Ignore ]  
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We adopted our son last summer from Korea. He was 9 months old. He is the absolute joy and love of our lives.

We have what some have considered an “unusual”  international adoption in that it is semi-open. We were scheduled to meet the family while we were in Korea (they cancelled) and we write to the birthmom. I send letters, photos and now drawings our son has done. I will always do this so long as she is still agreeable.

I know that I can never heal the hurt that my son may feel as he gets older and realizes that he has another mother somewhere else. I do talk to him about her (we call he Omma Oh) but he does not yet understand. We celebrate Korean holidays and I will encourage him to learn Korean (his choice) so that if he decides to go to Korea, he can speak the language.

I love this little boy with all my heart. I would like to know from adoptees what did you need from your parents? What did they do right in regards to your adoption and what did they do wrong? I just want to do the best job in rasing him that I can. I will stumble at times and I will fail at times but I’ll keep trying.

Thank you,
Shannon

Posted: 08 October 2009 04:23 AM   Ignore ]  
Total Posts:  47
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Shannon, it’s very nice to hear that you’re trying your best to understand his needs.  What a huge question!  I could write 500 pages in answer, but I won’t.  :)

I was a domestic adoptee.  Hopefully, you’ll find some IA’s to give you better advice for your particular situation.  I didn’t have the cultural issues, although I had no idea where I originated.  I had absolutely no knowledge of my heritage or ethnicity.  That was very difficult.  As it happened, I was raised about 50 miles from my family of origin, and my elementary principal and his wife, my preschool teacher, were my distant cousins.  I wasn’t expecting that, but it was nice to know that I was already familiar with my extended family. 

The thing I needed most from my adoptive parents, aside from food, clothing, and shelter was respect.  Sometimes they were very good about it, and other times, they were a little more tempted to objectify me.  I think that’s common with adoption.  The language that was used in those days was a little less objectifying than the language used today, but the temptation was still there to create an alternate reality.  I was fortunate in that my adoptive mother was always very honest and open with me about what it meant to be adopted.  She did not pretend that I should be pleased with my adoption.  When she spoke of my natural mother, she called her my mother.  There was no “tummy mommy” or “you grew in my heart” sort of thing.  She recognized my mother and her rightful place in MY heart then expressed her hope that I would consider her my mother as well.  She put the ball in my court.  Modern adoption language does not do that.  It does not recognize the right of the adoptee to consent to the adoption.  And because she showed me respect, I have undying respect for her.

As for where my parents went wrong in the same aspect, sometimes explanations were very cliche.  They sometimes used the standard adoption language of the day such as, “Your mother loved you so much she gave you away.”  Of course, there was the two parent justification as well as her age.  (She was 17.)  None of those statements recognize the emotional tie between mother and child.  They reduce the role of a parent to one of cold, calculating decisions based on social circumstances.  The child becomes an object to be dealt with.  That’s not a great worldview to instill in a child.   

Again, I have no advice about the cultural difference since I didn’t know my culture as a child.  I can only tell you that if I could not speak to my mother due to a language barrier, I would be very, very disappointed.

Posted: 08 October 2009 03:58 PM   Ignore ]  
Total Posts:  43
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Jeanne it’s great to hear with such honesty your experience regarding the language as an adoptee. Honesty and respect are what I will focus on rather than sugar-coating and euphamisms (sp?). (I am a ‘PAP’). I think some of the language is from adults thinking that children will be “confused” which is never the case. Children are rarely confused growing up in multi-racial, multi-religious or bilingual homes and adults often fear they will be. I think that you are right, the woman who gave birth is your mother, I will be a woman who (as a verb) “mothers” my child (possibly along with the mother depending on the openness of the adopton). My future child can know that. I like that she just presented it to you and kind of said, I can be “mother” for you, if YOU feel that, but I’ll be taking care of you no matter what. Thanks for sharing since I am still learning!

Posted: 08 October 2009 05:51 PM   Ignore ]  
Total Posts:  6
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Hi Shannon,
I think its great you are asking this question for your son. Like Jeanne I am not a trans-national adoptee and I hope you are able to get some input from people who are in a more similar position to your son. I would suggest reading blogs - you may already do that - but I like Third Mom’s blog, and I know there are tons of Korea or other trans-national adoptees who blog too so I would seek those out. I really loved the book Outsiders Within which is a compilation of writings from trans-national adoptees - I highly recommend it.

As far as my own experience, I wish my parents had raised the issue of adoption more. As an adult, I know now that they could have handled me bringing it up but at the time it felt way too dangerous. I wanted to be sure they knew I was happy with them and loved them and whenever adoption came up I was very careful to make sure I didn’t say anything that could hurt them. I knew I was adopted from before I can remember so I don’t remember how they told me. I got some sort of story that implied my parents loved me so much they had to give me up to give me a better life. That gave me a warped perspective on love I think and whether it is that sentiment or just the act of being voluntarily relinquished by one’s mother, well it left me feeling like it was very likely anyone and everyone in my life would leave me. My parents never left me and never made me feel like that was an option for them - they gave me support and love throughout my life, so they did that very right. But it has been hard to take their love in. I don’t really know how an adoptive parent can make that particular issue better for an aodptee but I do think bringing it out into the open is helpful.

I too wish I had known more about my own identity, history, family, etc. My parents didn’t know much and shared all they knew but it was just too little. I think the more you can share with your son about his specific history is great. Knowing his ethnic heritage is a big plus but also all the information you can give him about his own family I think is even better and meeting them when they are ready is a huge plus in my opinion.

I’m sure I could give more input but can’t think of it right now. smile I think the general thing is to be as honest and open as possible - deal with reality and talk as much as possible. I know it is hard - I have three sons and it was easier to talk to them when they were young. Now that they are older they don’t like the emotional, sensitive topics. So all the more reason to try to cover it early on.

Posted: 10 October 2009 01:25 AM   Ignore ]  
Total Posts:  5
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I just loved Jeanne’s entire post!  This really spoke to my heart - “She recognized my mother and her rightful place in MY heart then expressed her hope that I would consider her my mother as well.  She put the ball in my court.  Modern adoption language does not do that.  It does not recognize the right of the adoptee to consent to the adoption.  And because she showed me respect, I have undying respect for her.”

I am confused about modern adoption language.  I am not even sure what it is.  If these words are missing from modern adoption language, they need to be added!  They represent the core of what modern adoption is supposed to be about now - the child.

Posted: 12 October 2009 09:32 PM   Ignore ]  
Total Posts:  1
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I applaud you for broaching this concern and I think it is great that you are reaching out to those who are adopted. I was adopted as an infant from Colombia and so I have grown up my whole life thinking about and dealing with these “issues”.
I think the best thing you can do is give your child space . Create a safe environment in which your child knows that he can approach you about many things (not just about being adopted)and allow him to work these thoughts out on his own.
The biggest thing is just to remind him that you are his mom and that you love him. If you open up the doors of communication while he is young you will be in a good position to handle and discuss anything that may come up in his future.
Hope this helps

 
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