Breaking Out More of Your Adopted Tween’s Story

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


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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When You Get a Social Media Account Because Your Kid Does

Posted by on Feb 18, 2016 in Kids & Technology | 0 comments

Instagram and other Social Media Apps

I’ve been making an effort lately to spend less time on social media. Twitterholic that I am, I find it just takes up too much time that I could be spending writing, enjoying friends and family in three dimensions, or participating in any number of real-life activities. Some days I’m good about this; others, I get sucked down the chirping rabbit hole and can’t find my way back for at least an hour. (Yes, I realize something’s wrong with that metaphor. On the other hand, it’s about Twitter, so anything goes.)

So why did I just join Instagram? It wasn’t because I wanted to add another social media service to my daily list of obligations. Rather, I joined because I’m a parent. To be more specific, my fourteen-year-old son, “Jack,” decided to get an Instagram account. As I told him, wherever he goes in the world of social media, I go, too. That’s part of the deal. So I found my way to Instagram.

Now, those of you who are shaking your head at my helicoptering, hang on a second. And those of you who are shaking your head because I allowed my son to venture into the soul-sucking world of social media at all, hang on a second. I believe neither of those characterizations to be true. Here’s how I view kids and social media:

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Uncharted Parent on PBS NewsHour

Posted by on Feb 10, 2016 in The World We Parent In | 0 comments

It happens every presidential election cycle. National and even international media gather in New Hampshire for the first-in-the-nation primary, and if you move, you’re apt to be interviewed.

Lisa Desjardins of PBS NewsHour came to my house a few days before the primary to interview me about my thoughts regarding state of the middle class as it relates to the Democratic candidates for president. The piece below includes more than just my perspective, and if you stick with it past the 4:10-minute mark, you’ll get to see and hear not only my views on the presidential race, but my kitchen, my family and what we ate for dinner.

The voting is over here, but most of you have yet to go. Make sure you get out and vote—and take your kids to the polls with you if you can!

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A First-Hand Lesson in Making a Difference

Posted by on Feb 4, 2016 in Education & Learning, The World We Parent In | 0 comments


How many adults don’t participate in politics at any level because they think, “What’s the point?” And how many kids learn powerlessness in the face of government bureaucracy before they even reach voting age?

What if kids learned how to effect change before they even made it to high school? What if they could get a real-life lesson in how this happens, and what if they could even participate?

Some kids in my town got this chance this week. In a classic budget dispute, it came to light that the town budget committee, looking to make some cuts from the schools, had floated a proposal to cut the Chinese-language program. Chinese is currently taught in grades 7-12 and is one of four foreign languages taught in the middle and high schools. As my eighth-grade son and a number of his friends are in their second year of Chinese study, this development immediately grabbed my attention.

The lesson began.

With the help of a friend and her son—the latter is my son’s friend and also in his Chinese class—we assembled a list of kids and parents connected to the Chinese program. By the end of the day, we had contacted as many people as possible connected to the program, filled them in on the situation, asked them to attend the next budget meeting and provided them with additional information. My son and his friend spent considerable time over the weekend preparing remarks to explain to the committee why they had elected to study Chinese, why they ought to be allowed to continue and why it would be unfair to discontinue the program now. They also talked to their friends about the meeting to gin up additional support.

At the budget committee meeting Monday evening, kids and parents who opposed cutting the Chinese program filled the small meeting room.

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Here Comes High School

Posted by on Jan 27, 2016 in Education & Learning, Growing Up | 1 comment

high school sign sm

Tonight I attended the high school curriculum meeting for the parents of next year’s ninth-grade class, which includes my fourteen-year-old son.

Holy hell, when did my son get old enough for high school?

This is, of course, impossible. If I dig deep enough in his room, under the underwear and soccer uniforms strewn across the furniture, the shin guards and bedding on the floor (I don’t ask why), I’m certain I’ll find a leftover dinosaur or two from that old obsession. I know he no longer sleeps with the privileged quartet of stuffed friends that he used to consider sacred, but I also know they still live in that room. They’re just tucked into a corner of a bookshelf where he can pretend he doesn’t want them anymore. So “Jack” doesn’t cuddle with me any longer or call me “Mommy.” I can still trick him into get a hug when I really want one.

Next you’ll be telling me he’s going to be driving before I know it.

Oh, wait. He will.

I’ve got a secret to reveal about parenting my son at this age—actually, both him and my ten-year-old daughter. I love this stage of parenting. I waited for this. When I envisioned being a parent prior to becoming one, this is the kind of role I imagined.

To be clear: there has never been a moment in which I did not love my children. And I am not so foolish as to believe that everything will be clear sailing from this time forward.

But patience is not even close to my most abundant virtue, and the world of babies and toddlers was not the easiest world for me to live in.

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First in the Nation

Posted by on Jan 20, 2016 in The World We Parent In | 0 comments

NH Presidential Primary Marker

Over the past several weeks, I’ve traveled out of my home state of New Hampshire a few times, and I’ve spoken with quite a few folks here who are visiting from outside the state. A number of people have asked me what’s it like to live in New Hampshire during primary season, so I thought I’d devote a post to answering that question.

A little background: it’s 2016, which means it’s a presidential election year. (You knew that, right? Don’t tell me if you didn’t.) Each of the two major political parties—the Democrats and the Republicans—must elect its candidate to square off in the general election in November. These primaries begin, by tradition, with the Iowa caucus (this year on February 1) and the New Hampshire primary (February 9). Campaigning seems to start the day after the previous presidential election, but it begins in earnest at least a year before the primary. As the date gets closer, campaigning ramps up.

Because Iowa and New Hampshire go first, our states’ contests have a lot of influence. Presidential hopefuls want to win right out of the starting gate, or in a weird year like this one, they at least want to do very well. So the candidates spend a lot of time here, and they tend to have solid ground organizations with paid staffers and volunteers trying to round up support.

What does that mean for the New Hampshire citizen? Here’s what life looks like on a daily basis:

  • If the phone rings, chances are it’s not a friend, relative, or someone trying to sell you something. It’s either: a) a campaign looking for support of one kind or another; or b) a poll.
  • The phone rings every evening with political calls. We can get as many as four or five calls each evening. This goes on for months.
  • Personally, I have established rules for answering polls. I do take some of the them; I consider it a responsibility that goes along with the privilege of living in the “first in the nation” state. But I will only answer one poll per night. I will only answer polls administered by live humans—no robots. And I won’t answer them during family dinner. (Hey, if I miss one, I can just pick up the phone twenty minutes later when the next pollster calls.)
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The Lecture Years

Posted by on Jan 14, 2016 in Education & Learning, Growing Up, Parenting on a Daily Basis | 0 comments

Susi and Mom


“I want to talk to you about heroin. Our state is in the middle of a terrible epidemic.”

“Did you see that story about the kid killed in that horrible crash on the highway? You know they were drinking before they got in the car, right?”

“I want to talk to you about consent, and what it really means.”

“Your body has changed a lot in the past year. I suspect you’ve got a lot more changes in front of you this year. Let’s have a quick chat.”

“The only disease they mentioned in your health class was AIDS? We need to have a talk.”

“Another unarmed, young black man was killed by a police officer. Why? Well, let me explain what’s been going on.”

“So here’s the thing about the recent burglaries on our street. The way they’ve occurred—it was probably people looking for cash or things they could easily sell to get cash to buy drugs. Because this is what happens when people get addicted to drugs.”

“All of those people are fleeing terrible violence in the Middle East—mostly Syria—and Europe doesn’t know what to do with them. No one does, including us. Many of them have died. There is a history…”

“Do you have any questions about _____?”


If you have a teenager living in your house who loves to discuss topics ranging from difficult to embarrassing with you, then you aren’t cringing right now. Also, please call me and tell me what that’s like. Because I haven’t got a clue.

My own teenager, fourteen-year-old “Jack,” is of the eye-rolling, oh-God-not-another-Talk-please variety. When he hears anything in my words or inflection begin to veer in the direction of a Talk, I can see his upper body subconsciously settle into place. He’s learned he will receive Talks whether he wants them or not, so he tries to prepare himself and hopes the imminent one will be quick and that he won’t have to answer too many questions.

I deliver my brief lecture, punctuated with “uh-huh” and “no” from Jack whenever required. If I ask him for more, it’s like I’ve asked him to solve the problem of time travel. (Actually, he’d probably prefer I ask him that.) Occasionally I can lighten the atmosphere with a joke—presidential politics comes to mind—but that’s not always the case. When I’m satisfied I’ve been understood, I ask if he has questions, he says no, and one of us leaves the room.

Obviously, this is not the way I’d like for these things to go. But I can’t ignore these topics. Jack is not a little kid anymore.

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