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Monday, November 14, 2011

Two Roads

First let me start out by saying that I love both of my girls.  Fiercely.  I've been blessed to parent the Tongginator for almost seven years now, and to have recently begun the journey of discovery with Squirt, whom we adopted four short months ago.  But these two journeys?  They've been on very different paths.  Two roads diverged in a wood, and I?  I took both of them.

Six years apart.

The Tongginator felt absolutely traumatized by the act of adoption.  Trauma enveloped her in so many ways, some in which I played a part, some in which I did not.  My head tells me that finding a permanent, loving home for a one-year-old through international adoption is the better choice when the alternative is budget constraints dictating that this same child, having not been adopted and now a year older, returning to an  orphanage after two years in foster care.  But my heart?  My heart simply weeps for the child who sobbed for her foster mother, who longed to remain in her country of birth, who loathes being a visible adoptee.

I'm so glad the Tongginator is my eldest because - had she not been - I might have failed to educate myself about adoptee loss, transracial parenting, ethics within adoption, and on and on.  I continue to learn more, and by no means do I even have half of the answers, but I'm in a much better place than I was seven years ago.  I love that the Tongginator taught me that hating adoption does not equate to hating one's adoptive parents.  I love that the Tongginator taught me that she has a right to her feelings - all of her feelings - when it comes to her life story, and that it's not about me at all.  I love that parenting the Tongginator continues to open my eyes to many more forms of racism and my own white privilege.

I am a better listener because of my Tongginator.

I continue to grow wiser because of my Tongginator.  (How could I not, with her as an example?)

I just plain love knowing my Tongginator.

After nearly four months home with Squirt, I can tell you that this new journey is and will continue to be vastly different.  That's not to say that Squirt won't feel loss - because she absolutely does and will continue to do so, I am sure.  But she wasn't traumatized by the very act of adoption.  Y'all, it's almost like she soaked it all in before breathing a huge sigh of relief and thinking, "this? is a much better deal."  With a ratio of 20 babies for every one caregiver in her orphanage, and the words of one caregiver ringing in my ears ("she's never seen a spoon; she doesn't know how to hold a toy; she rarely left her crib"), of course Squirt has every right to feel that way.  Perhaps she'll change her mind as she ages, but at the moment she's so very happy to now be a part of our family, perhaps any family.

I'm so glad Squirt is my youngest because I'm able to see much more of the joy that is adoption.  I now get why others used to look at me like I was a crazy person when I spoke of trauma and loss and grief and all manner of things.  I'm still - after four months - marveling at the fact that adoption truly can be this easy.  Who knew?!!  I surely didn't.  Don't get me wrong: we're still using tons of attachment parenting techniques.  And if we fall off the wagon in one or more of those areas, yes, we absolutely feel the repercussions.  But Squirt is happy as long as we do what we are supposed to be doing, whereas for years the Tongginator felt miserable no matter what we did.  Therein lies the difference.

I am much more at peace now that Squirt is a part of my life.

I feel more confident as a momma because I am Squirt's "person."

I'm enjoying every moment of getting to know my Squirt.

I don't know why I'm sharing all of this except to say that both of my girls are wonderful children who reacted very differently to a series of difficult, difficult circumstances.  One child is not better than the other, although - if I'm honest - I will say that one seems easier to parent than the other, at this point at least.  But both girls are equally deserving of my best efforts.  They are neither of them wrong or bad for reacting to adoption in their particular ways.

They are both amazing kids.

And they will neither of them be bad or wrong for feeling about adoption however it is they will feel later in life.  Their opinions will be valid; they will be their own; they will be right and good.  Because they are FEELINGS.  I didn't fail as a parent if the Tongginator grows up to hate adoption, to publicly speak out against the practice of adoption, to politely call out others who say ignorant things.  I will not have failed as a parent if Squirt never seems bothered by her adoption.  Neither of them will be wrong or bad for feeling and thinking either way.

They will both be amazing adults.

My heart overflows with gratitude and love whenever I think of my two little gals.  My heart also breaks for them, because they deserved so much better than any of us gave them.  And it bursts with pride when I see how much they've grown, how well they've not only survived, but thrived.

I am so blessed to be their mom.


Kim K. said...

Beautiful post. I'm so happy for you.

Megan said...

I love this post. I love to hear stories of how every single child internalizes their previous lives differently. It is a good reminder that we have to parent all of our kids differently and that no one "blanket" technique works for everyone.

I especially love the line about how both children deserve your best. That is so true- and soooo easy to forget when parenting one comes so much more naturally and easily than the other. I absoluletly needed to have that lesson in my face today!

Thanks for sharing your heart!

Christina said...

LOVE this post! Thank you so much for sharing this touching reflection on your adoptions and parenting.

Aus said...

Wow - TM - it's maybe time you think about a book? Compare and contrast? And in every chapter repeat that line - "And they will neither of them be bad or wrong for feeling about adoption however it is they will feel later in life. Their opinions will be valid; they will be their own; they will be right and good. Because they are FEELINGS. "

You REALLY DO "get it" - and there are lots of folks out there - including professionals - that don't!

And from here - we have great joy that you TD, T and S are the family that you are!

hugs - aus and co.

Wendy said...

Beautiful post. I'm glad that you are finally getting that experience! I have a similar story, but 13 years apart and in reverse order (Child #1, now nearly 20, has shown none of the grief, trauma, and heartache that her sister has, at times, demonstrated). Fortunately, I had 13 years of adoptive parenting and support to at least somewhat prepare me for a very different experience with my second child. We continue to grow and learn together as a family every day.

Briana's Mom said...

This is a wonderful post. I think the experience I had with Bri's adoption is more like the experience you are having with Squirt now. There were definitely times we had issues, but for the most part, Bri's transition to us was fairly easy. I am grateful to those that have experienced more difficult transitions and have been willing to share their experiences. It has allowed me to see the other side of the coin. And when Bri questions me now, I can see and appreciate all the aspects of adoption. Thanks for helping me open my eyes. I'm so glad you are enjoying both of your wonderful girls.

Larissa Boechat said...

I love it when you're inspired. My day just got better!

Amy said...

So beautiful - And may I say thank you for being brave enough to post about parenting both your children and adoption. I have learned so much through you (and the links you have shared over the years).

prechrswife said...

Great post!

The Byrd's Nest said...

Great post my friend, yes, they all grieve in different ways. And most certainly I am a better person and mother by just experiencing life with them every day. They teach me so much and I will always strive to be a life learner as an adoptive mom:) We watched (for some reason) Lottie's video on the day we met her. I cried throughout the entire video..the vacant look in her eyes, the intense rocking every time she looked at us and of course the thumb in her mouth. She was trying every thing she knew to comfort herself on that very traumatic day.....they are survivors and I pray that they will always know that whatever their feelings are...they are entitled to them:) They have taught me to look at them with eyes only filled with love and compassion and to look beyond the bad behavior and know that there is always a reason...always. Love you friend.

Cedar said...

Thank you for sharing!

Sharie said...

So glad you are seeing the joy! I'm glad that T gets to experience it through her little sister too...after waiting so long for her it would not be fair to have to go through that grief all over again.

Kate said...

So much in that one post TM. I may have to print that out to refer to later. That's good stuff...written so eloquently.

As I just begin this journey again...your words hit me square on...in the 24 hours we have known our Jillian...OUR second adoption has been vastly different already too. Not better or worse. Easier...but like you, so thankful for my experiences with Lia and I wouldn't want to change a thing.

Elaine said...

Again, I'm nodding in agreement. My 2 girls had very similar beginnings to yours. And homecomings. I used to call my little one "the happiest baby in the world". And she was. Until about 6 months in when - I think - she finally believed we were there for the long haul. Then the trauma of those first 8 months when she was one of 40 babies, unheld, unloved, unnoticed came out. A bit at first, but then in full force. It totally blindsided me. A very different road from her big sister. Not to put the fear of god into you, but, well, just our experience.

Patty O. said...

What a fantastic post! You are an amazing mom with equally amazing kids. How awesome is that?

Aunt LoLo said...

I am just catching up on the past few months of your journey. Thank you so much for sharing what you can. As always, your insights and thoughts resonate with me as a -mother-. Any kind of a mother, in all senses of the word.

Kayce said...

Great post TM! Thank you!! I'm so glad you have those amazing blessings in your arms. You are an amazing mom to both of them.

Janet said...

I felt exactly the same way about Adam and Jeane. Adam was literally traumatized by it. He was a robot, and completely emotionless. Jeane seemed to just...handle it. She took it all in stride. What I am noticing now is that Adam is doing really well emotionally (much better, anyway). But Jeane is struggling in a few ways. She needs control, and it can be somewhat scary about how much.Anyway, we need to deal with both kids where THEY are at. Sometimes it's hard. Really hard. I am glad that you are doing so well right now. I know we haven't kept in touch a bunch (life tends to get in the way) but I am grateful for you in my life.

Kristen {RAGE against the MINIVAN} said...

We have had two very different adoption experiences, too. So hard to know how much is nature vs. nurture, but it has been (and continues to be) drastically different.

lmgnyc said...

TM you are one smart lady. With the same parents but different children you see how adoption can affect kids differently. We need to honor and validate their feelings no matter what they might be.

Good job TM. Thanks for laying it all out like that.

3 Peanuts said...

I so get this. As you know, I have only adopted once BUT I have seen, heard and felt a different road with every single child. Kate was in loving foster care but her adjustment was so much easier than so many I see. I think we all have to open to all the possibilities. Our children sure do teach us a lot don't they?

Alyson and Ford said...

Love reading your posts, glad you are back writing. We also are not sure with our AA which is nature (her personality) or what was from the effect of being in an orphanage for two years. We live and learn. All amazing; you are amazing too to share your insights.

Alyzabeth's Mommy

anymommy said...

This is incredibly insightful and it reflects my own experiences as an adoptive mother. I think, it is similar (thought not exactly the same) to the way that some people will have PTSD after a terrible accident and some people will fall into a terrible depression when grieving, while others will recover more quickly. Our brains just process things differently. No reaction is wrong, but I think your compassion will provide both of your beautiful daughters with resiliency, which is a huge gift.