Ignorance About Adoption Wins an Olympic-Sized Audience

Posted by on Aug 11, 2016 in Adoption | 0 comments

Image by Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil (cc)

Image by Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil (cc)

One comment. Someone made an ignorant comment about adoption, giving no thought to the consequences of his words. Hey, it happens all the time. Maybe the particular subjects of the comment were hurt, maybe not. I don’t know them. But I do know that this time, the comment was made in front of an Olympic-sized audience.

Here’s what happened: On Sunday, NBC Sports announcer Al Trautwig referred to American gymnast Simone Biles’s adoptive parents as her grandparents. In fairness to Trautwig, Biles’s father is her biological grandfather. He and his wife legally adopted her and raised her from a young age; thus, they are legally and otherwise her parents. Quite a few people, including at least one adoptive parent, pointed out this error in Trautwig’s reporting. To my mind, the error might have been forgivable. A simple, “Oops, sorry,” plus a correction could have ended the controversy there.

But that’s not what Trautwig did. Instead, he tweeted, “They may be mom and dad but they are NOT her parents.” (Emphasis his.) After a storm of comments, interviews, and words with superiors at NBC, Trautwig apologized and deleted the tweet. But what goes out on the internet is forever—just ask my kids, to whom I’ve lectured on this topic many times. You can read about the incident and apology at the Washington Post here.

You might wonder, what’s the big deal? A sports reporter made a dumb comment, then he apologized. Over and done. Or maybe you’re inclined to say, mountain, meet molehill. Or, well, he was just clarifying facts. He didn’t intend any insult. There wasn’t anything behind what he said.

Before I explain what’s wrong with Trautwig’s comment, I want to note that I considered for a long time whether to write to condemn it. After all, Trautwig did apologize, so case closed, right? Especially in the current political and social climate, maybe we should stop looking for reasons to be angry or offended, and search instead for opportunities to give people the benefit of the doubt. I don’t think Trautwig meant to demean or hurt anyone. I’m sure he thought he was just clarifying the facts.

But as a parent by both adoption and biology, I decided I had to speak up.

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Breaking Out More of Your Adopted Tween’s Story

Posted by on Mar 2, 2016 in Adoption, Growing Up | 0 comments

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For the adoptive parent looking for a map: there isn’t one. Our kids come with stories that predate their entries into our families, and we have to raise those stories alongside the kids who own them. Like anything else having to do with parenting, we figure it out as we go, and the approach that worked with little kids probably won’t work with tweens—or teens. It’s always new.

In preparation for a trip we will take later this year, we recently decided it was time to renew our passports.* In order to do this, we began a house-wide search for the kids’ birth certificates. (Don’t say it. I know.) Ten-year-old “Emmie’s” Certificate of Foreign Birth was located in a file box along with a treasure trove of paperwork and mementos from her adoption, including a piece of paper that included a few details about her birth parents I’d forgotten we’d ever been given.

I will not share the details of what was written on that paper, nor will I share why I’d forgotten about them. There are reasons for both. But I will tell you what I did with the piece of Emmie’s story I found myself holding in my hand.

As a younger child, Emmie had always been interested in her origins, asked questions about her background, even cheered for South Korea when watching the Olympics. There was never a time she didn’t know where she came from or how she came to be part of our family, and she’s always known questions are welcome. She happily donned hanboks, ate Korean food when we could get or make it, and looked for Korean culture wherever we could find it.

In the last year or so, however, she’s backed off from her interest in things Korean—except for food. (My daughter—I’m so proud!) She’s asked fewer questions about her adoption, too. Is this because she’s a tween now and too busy texting her friends and trying to figure out boys to spare attention for adoption-related matters? Is she completely comfortable with her identity and just doesn’t worry about it? Maybe she’s very sensitive about it and, taking a lesson from her big brother, doesn’t want to ask her parents about these things anymore because come on, who talks to their parents about anything important? Or is everything simmering in her very busy brain, sometimes in the front, sometimes in the back, and it will all come out sometime, someplace, when I truly don’t expect it?

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Wanting Answers, Finding Questions

Posted by on Nov 25, 2014 in Adoption, Health & Sleep | 2 comments

question mark icon

Dreaded parenting moment: there is something wrong with your kid and you don’t know what it is.

Two weeks ago, I was at work when my phone erupted with a series of texts. My twelve-year-old son, “Jack,” was using a friend’s phone to text me from that friend’s house, where he and my nine-year-old daughter, “Emmie,” were spending part of the day. Emmie had had a seizure, and I needed to come to the house right away.

F**k.

There followed a stay in the emergency room, a CT scan, an EKG, a blood draw, some meds and a very, very long string of questions. Since then, we have been to and set up consults with pediatric cardiology and pediatric neurology. More tests. A finding, but no answer. Answers to questions, but no definitive findings. No comprehensive theories, but lots of possibilities. It might be Nothing. There’s a good chance it’s Something.

For the first time, we faced the emptiness of not being able to answer any of the questions asked of us regarding our daughter’s family history in a situation where such information could provide real assistance to the physicians treating her. Is there a family history of epilepsy? What about heart defects or disease? Our daughter is adopted from South Korea, and, like so many adoptees, owns a history that is unknowable even to her.

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10 Parenting Goals for the New School Year

Posted by on Aug 27, 2014 in Adoption, Domesticity, Growing Up, Parents are People, Too | 2 comments

Nope, NOT one of my goals this year. (Image courtesy Stargirl806 via deviantart.com)

Nope, NOT one of my goals this year.
(Image courtesy Stargirl806 via deviantart.com)

The new school year begins today. I know my kids will be asked to set goals for the year: goals as students, specific class goals, sports goals, academic activity goals, etc. As their mom, I will try to help them achieve their goals by supporting them in various ways while also encouraging their gradual independence.

But what about my goals for the new school year?

Yup, I’m talking about my goals as a parent. Calendar years mean little when you’re a parent; December 31 is just an excuse to party (or, more likely, try to party but not make it to midnight). When you have kids in school, the academic year is the one that counts. So I’d like to set a few personal, parental goals as the school year begins:

  1. Surviving the first months of THE TEENAGER. This year, my son “Jack” will turn thirteen. It’s no secret that I have long feared this stage of development in my children. There’s the split-personality moodiness, the overall crankiness, the disdain for the existence of parents, the meanness of other teens toward my own kids, the possibility that my kids may be mean toward others, the cliques, the slammed doors, the limitless potential for serious trouble, the possibility that there might be serious trouble and I won’t know anything about it… I could keep going. (And believe me, I do keep going in my brain at night.) My own teenage years were less than spectacular–actually, there’s no reward in the world that could entice me to repeat them–and my biggest hurdle will be not projecting my own experience onto my kids as I shepherd them through this next stage of life. Good luck to us all. If you need me, I’ll be quaking in the corner.
  2. Allowing my son to attend his first school dances without embarrassing him such that he joins the Witness Protection Program and doesn’t even tell me. Because, come on, how cute? They’re going to dances this year! I already asked if I could be one of the parent chaperones, and Jack said “no” faster than I’ve ever heard him answer any question in his life. As I mentioned above, I remember my teenage years all too clearly. So I don’t want to ruin this for him. But a few photos couldn’t hurt, right? Maybe a hug in front of his friends?
  3. Pulling off a successful bar mitzvah without turning into the Jewish-mother equivalent of Bridezilla. This one I think I’ve got. There were enough over-the-top moments leading up to my and my husband’s wedding that I believe I learned my lesson for a lifetime. It’s a celebration for a thirteen-year-old. Read from the Torah, nosh, dance the hora. L’Chaim. Do not lose your head.
  4. Navigating the next part of the adoption journey with “Emmie.”
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“What Will You Be, Sara Mee?” – How a Book Can Help Connect a Child to Her Birth Culture

Posted by on Feb 24, 2014 in Adoption, Our Cultures, Races & Religions | 0 comments


As an adoptive parent to a child whose origins lie in a culture different from my own, I try always to keep my eye open for things, however small, that can provide links from our culture to the place and customs my daughter had to leave behind. Such items aren’t substitutes, of course; there is no such thing. But by providing bits of concrete details–descriptions of holiday celebrations, tastes of traditional foods, videos of cities and countrysides she’s never seen–I hope to give her the beginnings of a multi-sensory story about the place and people who make up her beginnings.

I spied What Will You Be, Sara Mee? a few months ago while perusing a list of Korean children’s books before Lunar New Year. The picture book tells the story of a young child’s tol, or first-birthday celebration. The first birthday carries great importance in Korean culture because historically, many children never survived their first year. While conditions have obviously improved dramatically, the tol continues to be celebrated with much fanfare. At the center of the tol is the toljabee ceremony, when the birthday child chooses one object from an array set before her. Tradition holds that this object will determine what the child will be when she grows up–a pen means she’ll be a scholar, a bank note means she’ll be wealthy, a bow means she’ll be a warrior, and so on.

Until I discovered Sara Mee, I had never seen a children’s picture book, in English, about a tol. I ordered Sara Mee immediately, even though at age eight, “Emmie” is really a little too old for the book.

Emmie is not too old, however, to see this bit of her own story told in a larger, “this is part of the world around you” fashion.

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Race, Adoption & Being Part of an Interracial Family

Posted by on Feb 10, 2014 in Adoption, Our Cultures, Races & Religions, The World We Parent In | 0 comments

interracial adoption

There’s a fabulous new exhibit at the Museum of Science in Cambridge, Massachusetts called the Hall of Human Life. Upon entering the exhibit, you put on a bracelet bearing a unique bar code and answer a few demographic questions. Then you travel from station to station–over 70 of them–as the mood strikes you, answering questions, performing activities and receiving back data that will enlighten you in individual and societal ways about the human race. I brought my kids there over the December holidays, and we had more fun than we’d had at any museum exhibit in a long time. Seriously, if you’re in the area, check it out.

One of the stations in the exhibit posed a few questions about race. All three of us–I and my two kids–gave the same answer to this multiple-choice question:* “With which race are you most familiar?”

We all checked, “Caucasian or white.” I did, my son did, and my daughter did–my daughter, who is definitely not white.

It’s amazing how the human brain is capable of processing so many individual thoughts within the space of approximately 1.6 seconds. When I witnessed my daughter checking that box, it took about that long for each of the following sentences to run through my mind:

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