Friday, April 27, 2007

The Adoptive Identity

As an adoptive parent, I have heard about the adoptive child identity crisis. This is when an adopted child comes to an age where they understand identity and start to explore their own, within the context of their personal story. This usually happens in the pre-teen or early teen years, and can be quite an extensive crisis. I think this crisis has an added dimention when the adopted child is of a different race from their adoptive parents. 'Who am I?' is more complex when you are raised by parents whose skin and cultural origin is different from your own, because you can't look to them for answers or experiential understanding. Some children deal with this identity crisis remarkably well, while others feel a profound sense of loss and cope by turning to destructive behaviours and negative life choices, either for a time, or forever.
Somewhere in the back recesses of my mind, I decided that this would not be the case for my child. I would know enough, network enough, be honest enough, love enough, and my child would not need to go through this identity crisis. I didn't even really admit this decision to myself. Maybe because I knew if I was fully aware of my decision, I would tell myself I was being rediculous. I wanted to create an environment for Matthew that was so perfect and loving that he would never have to go through an identity crisis. Somehow, I would love him enough to anticipate every need or thought or feeling, meet him the way he needed, and guarantee against crisis. What I realized this week while running (a great time to think) is that you can't guarantee against crisis. You have to have a plan for managing times of crisis, but you cannot guarantee its absence. In fact, you can almost guarantee crisis is going to hit your family at some time or another, which is why developing good coping skills as a family NOW is so essential. Who am I to say Matthew's pain is not going to be overwhelming for him? Who am I to try and take away his identity search; isn't it worth a crisis to know yourself? Who do I think I am setting myself (and him!) up for failure with this unrealistic expectation? In order to take away Matthew's future pain while sifting through his identity and life experience, I would have to take away his history. His history is what made him who he is. He owns it. It is not something to be denied out of existance or covered over. I can't control his identity or how he will feel about it, or about being adopted. He will feel pain. Who am I to take that away from him or try to control it? Why do I try so hard to create "perfect" instead of just creating "normal"?
I felt this way about his transition into our family, too. I felt that if I could just ease his transition enough, by following all the recommeded steps and being really responsive and affectionate, and keeping his routine, and his favourite toys, and his nighttime music, and dressing him in warm fuzzy jammies, and loving him enough, he wouldn't feel much pain during his transition from Momma Lisa's family to ours. Why did I want to control this so badly? I think part of me felt that I was a great mom if his transition was smooth. I was good if he felt no pain. Well, he felt a great deal of pain, and it lasted for a long time. Consequently, I felt that when he cried, I had failed. I took responsibility for his pain, when really it had nothing to do with me. Who did I think I was, trying to create an environment where a painful process would incorporate no pain? No wonder I was angry, and depressed. I had set up impossible expectations for myself and my son. All parents love their children and want them to experience the joys of life without the sorrows, but how did I think I was going to control the process of becoming and adoptive family to the point of erasing all pain? Oh, life. Why are you so tooth grindingly difficult? Nothing grows you up like having children.


I have this sensitive spot regarding birthmothers that I have been thinking about a fair amount recently. I really think our culture is too hard on birthmoms. As an adoptive parent I have a fairly educated view of the adoption process, and what it takes to relinquish, recieve, and experience adoption. I have not relinquished a child for adoption, but I have spoken to many women who have, and read about others who have, and spent a fair amount of time thinking and talking about the subject so I think it's fair that I have opinions about it. I wonder why, exactly, it is so difficult for our culture to understand women who choose not to raise their babies; I wonder if, perhaps, the thought of such a fundamental figure as a mother choosing not to be with a child raises rather overwhelming fears in us regarding our place in the world. We like to think (and rightfully so, except for certain moments when we aren't) that we are the centre of our mothers' universe. If we were not, it would hurt. It would feel like rejection. Are we angry with birthmothers because we fear rejection? Maybe for some of us it is because we can't imagine relinquishing a child ourselves, but are we really in a position to imagine it? We are not single, alone, scared, pregnant, or overwhelmed by social pressure to produce a boy, a degree, a husband, or a 'perfect' child. We do not even know what poverty is, so how can we judge someone who can't afford to raise a child, so doesn't keep it? If there was a war, and the threat of death or dismemberment or rape of your child was an imminent reality, you would relinquish your child for someone else to safely raise in a heartbeat. There are as many reasons 'why' a birthmum relinquishes a child, as there are relinquished children out there, but no mother doesn't love her child, or want it. Even a mother who leaves her baby in a garbage can at the prom loves her baby, she just doesn't know how to cope with it.
I think part of why I get so passionate about this subject is because I ocasionally see birthmums portrayed in movies and on tv and they are invariably villainous, cold, and uncaring. In one of the seminars we went to to prepare for becoming adoptive parents, a presenter told us about a reunion event she had been to in China for girls adopted from China to North American parents. Some of the girls who were adopted from China are in their late teens and in University now, and someone organized this reunion event in China for these girls to explore their country of origin, and network together. Somehow the word got out that these girls would be there, and when it came time for the reunion, the hotel they were staying at had hundreds of women lined up outside its perimeter: birthmums just hoping for a glimpse of a familiar face in the crowd of adoptees. Who are we to judge? A mother never forgets her little one, no matter who she is or why she had to give her up.

Tulip Festival 2007

As a Vose family tradition, we visit the Tulip Festival in Mt Vernon, Washington every year. Here are some pictures from this year's visit, which was last Sunday. You can see from the images why it is a tradition for us!

RCMP news

So, Brent has successfully passed 8 out of the 9 steps to becoming an RCMP officer; he now has to go for a medical exam, and then undergo 'security clearance.' Pending successful completion of those, he will be able to go to Regina for Depot. One of the recruitment officers let him know that he will likely go in about four months. Hooray for Brent! He is quite excited about this. We're excited for him, but are worried about how much we will miss him while he's at Depot. It takes six months!! Yikes!! This means he will likely miss Nerdfiesta, but if I can possibly swing it, I will go on my own with the boys. I'll need some help from the other Nerds/Nerdettes if that happens! So, great news for Brent! Hip, hip, hooray!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Rainy day

I believe I've posted this before: I HATE THE RAIN. Our weather woman on CTV is always harping about how wonderful it is to live in a rainforest and how the rain makes Vancouverites look younger, but I say bullSHIT! Yes, I swore! (Those who know me well know this is not unusual) I just hate the gloomy rain, and I hate my hair on a good day, let alone when it rains. It is difficult to be happy when you feel ugly! Today was one of the worst rainy days I've had in recent doesn't help when you're trapped indoors and your indoor area is a disgusting rodent hole mess!
Here's to SUNNY DAYS AHEAD!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Update on the Pink Car

Remember Ayden's yellow Sake car, that broke down and necessitated the purchase of a new, pink car? Tonight he told me that the car didn't just break down, it actually crashed, and then broke, and he then bought the new pink car, which is shiny and fast and has special buttons that turn the car into a rocket ship!
Once, Ayden asked me where God lives. I told him he lives in your heart, but this freiked him out so badly, resulting in him screaming "NOT IN MY HEART!! NOOOO!" with wide eyed fear, that I switched to a more concrete answer and said, "Okay, God lives in heaven." "Where is heaven, mommy?" Ummmmm...considering 'the sixth dimension' or 'an unknown plane of existance' to be a bit above his developmental level, I came up with "Above the sky." So now he thinks you can get to heaven on a rocket ship. Hence, the pink car that becomes a rocket ship at the push of a button can take him to heaven to visit God, and his son Desus. Today Ayden visited heaven in his pink car/rocket ship, and went for a walk with Dod and Jesus. I asked him what they talked about, and he said "Knock knock jokes," in a very matter of fact way. Well, a belly laugh stifled sounds a bit like a barfing cat, especially in the semi-dark of Ayden's bedroom at night--a bit distracting, but we soon returned to the knock knock jokes. "God sure loves jokes." "Yes, he has a good sense of humour doesn't he." "Yeah. Specially wif knock knock jokes!"
Ayden is the king of the knock knock jokes. His favourite one is
'knock, knock'
'who's there?'
'bum bum'
'bum bum who?'
'bum bum bum BUM!!!!!'
A very sophisticated joke, indeed. I think God would enjoy it. Ayden reminds me of my friend Rob Ouwehand.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Musings, from Meth to Matthew

Remember my post about Crystal Meth? I recently found out that Meth addicts will sell their urine and their scabs to other Meth addicts, so that the urine can be evaporated or the scabs pulverized and the remaining matter smoked. Really, is there anything more dehumanizing than an addiction that will make you smoke other peoples' pee? Ee-yeuch.
I have been coming across a repeated problem at work that I don't know how to address. I would guess it would arise in other contexts, except that when I'm at work I never have Matthew with me, whereas most other times we are together, or I am with people who know me well enough to know Matthew. Why is it, and I know all of you whities have experienced this as well, that other white people you encounter sometimes assume that because you also are white, it is okay to make racist comments to you? Those of you who are NOT white will have experienced the more personal, direct racism I can't experience, but in this situation I'm always left rather speechlessly angry, with nothing to say in response. Why? Generally one of two reasons: either the racist commenter is a co-worker, thus necessitating a civil working relationship, or the racist commenter is a patient, thus necessitiating professional and civil interactions with me. HOW does one respond civilly yet appropriately to racism? As a parent, I FEEL what my child feels, or would feel, if he were present and old enough to understand the weight of what is said...I also feel a fierce, dragon-like protectiveness of my child bordering on the irrational, which I treasure and think entirely appropriate...I also abhor racism and think silence perpetuates it...but WHAT does one say??
I talked about this with a coworker recently, who is white but whose girlfriend is Chinese-Canadian, and he feels similarly at a loss, and similarly angry.
I feel a great sense of responsibility for compensating, somehow, for the grief Matthew has had to experience already in his short, unusual life, and as a result feel a maddening drive to create a 'fixed,' redeemed, painless world for him to grow and develop in. The weight of responisibility I feel is so heavy that it morphs into guilt sometimes, which has a scary tendancy to morph into anger sometimes, which spills onto him, and creates the opposite of the fixed, redeemed, painless world I really, truly want for him. Some say we humans are rational creatures. I disagree, and point to this in myself. If anyone I knew were to approach the idea of international adoption and were to ask my advice regarding it, and how to successfully weather its difficulties, I would say: the waiting part is hard, but the parenting part is harder. Infinately rewarding and always worth it, but hard. My greatest piece of advice to these hypothetical parents would be, to not try to make up for what your child has already experienced. You can't. Nobody ever could. Simply create for them a new history, starting at day one with you, and make it as joyful as you can for them, for you, for your spouse and your other children. Embrace the history your adopted child has had previous to you, celebrate it, but don't expect yourself to make up for its painful chapters. Do what you do with realistic expectations. Some days you are going to dislike your adopted child. Some days you will be sick of looking at them, or hearing their voice, or getting up with them in the night, or battling the terrible twos with them. Don't we also feel this way about our biological children? Why would we expect to feel differently about our adopted children, simply because they were short changed by life before they came to us? Some days you will treat them differently than you expected to, or than you treated your older children, and you will wonder if it is because you love them less?? In your grounded moments you know you don't, but a voice will whisper in your head, 'what if I do?' and it will make you lose your mind. Don't listen to it. True love has very little to do with feelings, and everything to do with the fact that you DID adopt them, that you DO love them, that you continue to look at them and talk to them and listen to them when you are sick of them, that you continue to get up in the night with them, and bathe them, and feed them, and kiss their owies, and listen to their woes, and etc. day after day. Stop expecting yourself to make up for what they lost, and simply offer yourself, imperfect and wonderful just the way you are.
This is the most important, and most painful, thing I have learned as an adoptive parent.

Getting the most out of life's experiences

Ayden licks the icing from the ice cream cake dome on easter

Matthew warms up after a vigorating water fight with the garden hose in April!

Easter sweeties on our way to church


Ayden let me know today that Sake was populated entirely by children, which I already knew, but that this meant there were no babies. This I did not know. However, today a baby appeared in Sake, and his name is Roro (pronounced akin to row, row, your boat). He has several jobs in Sake, all of which are ways to help Ayden around the farm. He helps feed the pigs and the other animals, and he helps milk the cows (presumeably because as a baby he knows how to get milk from mammary glands?!?). He also helps clean Ayden's house, and he recently had a birthday party with a tiger cake just like the one I made for Ayden's first birthday, because Roro loves tigers and even has a PET tiger who also visits Sake... but I forgot to ask if the tiger is pink.
Yesterday Ayden told me that he used to have a yellow car in Sake, but it broke, and so he got a pink one that is very big and drives fery, fery, fery fast, just like LIGHTNING McQUEEN!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

This Just In from Sake

Apparantly, in Sake, no one ever has to take baths, and they don't have to eat their wunch before they have dessert. Ayden has had several more dreams about Sake in the last few days, and several visitors (namely, Raja the snake and Raja the rabbit, two of his stuffed animals, and also Tigey, his fish), though still access is barred to his brother. He has also picked up a new job in his spare time from being the town firefighterparamedicpolicechief, and is now also the mail carrier. But just sometimes. Oh, and our landscaper also visits his house in Sake and mows the lawn and rakes the moss and gives the trees 'haircuts' when needed: Ayden was very excited today when he waved and said hello to our landscaper through the open back door, and our "Lawn Doctor" waved back. "Our wandscaper waved at me and said hewwo!"
Meanwhile, Matthew is yelling "Truck!" "Man!" "Door!" "That!" and running around in circles with no pants on.
And mommy is thinking "What's my name again? I can't hear myself think!"
I wonder if Bodhi is allowed to visit Sake? I'll have to ask tomorrow. Ayden has decided that he loves his friend Bodhi so much that he wants me to have another baby (nothing new, he's been asking me for over a year to have another baby, but before now he always wanted a girl) and for it to be a boy so that we can name it Bodhi. In fact, the other day he said, "Mommy, let's ask Dod (God) for a boy to grow in your tummy," so we sat down and closed our eyes, and he prayed "Dear Jesus, thank you for this lovely day. Please make a boy baby grow in mommy's tummy, and please help it be named Bodhi. Amen."

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Easter at Nana and Dwandad's

So we have been having a grand time at the 'rents place this week/weekend! I drove up with the boys on Tuesday evening, and Brent flew in yesterday. Here are some pictures from a 'mini hike' (park the car and have a picnic) we did with the boys at a nearby lake (still frozen! Can you believe it?!):

We also had Ayden get back in the saddle again after a scary incident last Thanksgiving where he was kicked in the head by a mule: he was ready and willing to give the mules another chance, so here he is:

We had a wiener/marshmallow roast in the backyard (Grandad almost set the place on fire and we had to wait 1/2 hour for the fire to die down enough that we could safely roast our food):

And finally, we painted easter eggs today for our easter bunny visit tomorrow:

A Day in the Life of Brent

So, while I'm at work Brent has the responsibility of getting the boys out of bed (because they always sleep in on the only days they can't, and never on weekends!) and getting them ready fed, dressed, and on the bus by 7:50 so he can drop them off at daycare on his way to work. This was an email he sent me last Friday regarding that ritual:

It’s so hard to get the boys moving quickly in the morning. Ayden likes to take his time peeing and washing his hands (20 mins). Matthew likes to take time eating (30-45 mins). Ayden likes to complain about his breakfast (15 mins). Matthew likes to shit in his diaper (10 mins with new clothes). Ayden likes to pick his own clothes while reading a book (15 mins). Matthew likes to walk around in circles in the entrance way while Ayden and I are trying to get ready (5 mins). Ayden doesn’t like to wear a sweater or jacket even when it’s cold and rainy (10 mins). Ayden continues to cry about jacket and sweater while standing outside in the cold (10 mins). We rush to the bus and miss it because it came a couple minutes early. We have to wait for the next bus (25 mins).

So we get to the bus stop and have to wait. The boys love the bus so they are usually in a good mood. They also find many things to entertain themselves with like: “mama dada, poo?” “no Matthew that’s just dirty gum stuck to the ground” “Gum?” “no you can’t eat it and stop stepping in it”; or, “dump!” “Trah!”, “Cah!”; or, “My hands are cold!” “I told you it was going to be cold. You should be wearing your sweater. I put it in the backpack. Do you want your sweater now?” “No! My hands are cold!!!” “Ok, pull them into your sleeves” “Ok, but I’m cold” “Do you want your sweater now?” “Yes”; or, Matthew pulling out a dirty Kleenex out of his pocket which smells kind of funny so I take the Kleenex and put my hand in his pocket only to find 2 rotting carrots.

We all sit in one seat because we had to take a small bus and it’s full because no one else caught the big bus either. We walk to Elizabeth ’s house (5 mins). Ayden doesn’t want me to leave and is balling (10 mins). My heart breaks so I stay a little longer to comfort him and hold him (10 mins). I pry his arms off me and tell him I love him and squeeze out the door (5 mins). I walk away and continue to hear his cry because he is now walking the boys to school. I get a coffee and text you while I wait for my bus. My phone dies. The bus comes. I sit next to a smelly guy.

This email made me laugh so hard I cried. It helps if you know the kids well, and know things like, Ayden MUST choose his own clothing in the morning, and often chooses shorts when it is cold out; he prefers to be cold and hates to wear a jacket or a sweater; Matthew uses the word "poo" for poo, food, can I get through, pull me, and numerous other words; Matthew frequently has a runny nose and hence snotty kleenex in all his pockets; Matthew likes to daydream; Matthew likes to step on things, especially if you tell him not to touch it (like dirty gum stuck to the sidewalk).

And what am I doing while Brent is struggling to get out the door? Sleeping. Because we had a slow morning at work. =)

Monday, April 2, 2007

Sake [Sak-ee, just like the beer]

Some children have imaginary friends. Ayden has an imaginary city named Sake. One day while we were at the park, Ayden and I were talking about the concept of Canada. He knows we live in Canada, but he doesn't understand what Canada really means, and gets quite upset if you suggest that we also live in Langley, or British Columbia, or North America, or any other regional division you may come up with. Well, we were talking about Canada and the city of Langley, trying to come to a reconciliation as to how you could live in both at the same time, when Ayden said, "Well, mommy. In MY city everyone lives on a farm." When asked the name of his city, he replied, "Sake," and the imaginary city was born. I quizzed him on a few facts and he has been a wealth of information regarding Sake ever since. At first Sake was a city with only farms like Nana and Grandad's, but now it has a few houses as well. All the houses and barns and buildings in Sake are pink, including all the interior walls, the carpet, the mattresses, stairs, and bathtub, and the pets are all pink. There are only kids in Sake, no grown ups, and everyone has a job and a house and some pets and some brothers and sisters (what an egalitarian, socialist minded society!). Ayden has three jobs. He is the Fire Chief, the town Paramejic (Ayden speak for what mommy does), and a police officer. Clearly the town hero. Ayden comes and goes from Sake at will, and will often ask me if I saw that he was gone from his bed last night while he went on a trip to Sake. It is very far away and you need to drive for about four or five hours; about the same distance as Nana and Grandad's house, and he keeps promising to take me there for a visit but never does. Some days everyone in Sake eats grass, and other days they all drink milk. They go to swimming class once a week and they play naked whenever they want (Ayden is a nudist. It takes a lot of convincing that he needs to get dressed before we go out in public...I'm wondering if my cousin Hunter left his nudist germs in my suitcase or something the last time I visited...perhaps Hunter has finally passed the torch to my son). Matthew is not allowed to go to Sake, though Ayden's stuffed animals and Paige, our cat, often visit (though Paige has to dye her hair pink when she goes, presumably to blend in with all the other pink cats). There are a lot of animals in Sake. Ayden owns cows, mules (but ones that don't kick kids...reference to a VERY bad incident last October on Nana and Grandad's farm), dogs, cats, and fish: all pink.
I presumed the story of Sake was a cute one that would fade away, but it has persisted and grown, and is mentioned almost every day. Sake is fast becoming an integral part of our family history, with many jokes amongst mom and dad regarding missing items being in Sake, angry family members needing to go to Sake, and many small details being added to the dream every week by the Sake town hero.

Here is the hero himself:

I guess he lent his firefighter gear to his brother, and is now performing his role as the town princess??