Tag Archives: Support group

Both And

I posted something on my FB page a few days ago that I’m sure was rather inflammatory towards adoptees. l hate that it was inflammatory. I appreciate a good pal on Twitter engaging me on the post. All that said, I’ve left it up, despite the fact that I think the author is a bit of a hack.

I’ve you’ve followed the blog for a while, or just dug into the archives, you’ll know that I’m a huge adoptee fan, almost groupie level sometimes (see FB posts about Angela Tucker and the goodies I recently received). They’ve given me so much insight into what must be going on inside Hope’s head. They are an invaluable voice in adoption, and I’m going to keep listening because I know they make me a better mom.

But I’m also an AP who’s often in her feelings about what brought her to adoption, how hard raising a kid is, how hard raising a kid with some issues is, how sad and depressed I get, how hard I fight to stay above water, how hard I have to suppress my own ‘stuff’, how I feel I’m failing at this parenting thing, much less this AP thing that seems to require more of me than I ever imagined and the list of feelings goes on and on.  I have this identity that goes beyond being Hope’s mom.

The truth is, I’ve had to make peace in my life that I’m probably not as happy as I thought I would be as a parent. Another truth?

I sometimes wish I had just left my life alone. I’ve said before it was a good life.  Uttering this truth is a scary, ugly thing.

Getting all the stuff you thought you wanted in life, is well, not all it’s cracked up to be. And it’s not that I want more stuff, it’s just everything is tinged with loss…like everything is tinged with loss.

I am a parent to a daughter whom I adore, but I am unable to birth children—a truth that pains me greatly. I can’t *fix* my daughter’s troubles—a truth that is so complicated it just sucks; I mean I can help her heal but…I don’t know where it will take us. Relationships with family and friends are so different—some have thrived but many are irrevocably changed and not necessarily for the better. I lost my church—I grieve this nearly as much as the loss of my fertility because it shook the foundation of what I believe spiritually. Dammit, even my dog The Furry One passed away; he was one of few constants that joined Before AP and After AP. I could go on, but why, right?

Since I wrote my last pissy post on the drama in adoption support groups, I’ve largely shied away from them. Many of them are simply not safe places. They aren’t healthy and they aren’t supportive because it feels like everyone is fighting to see who is hurt more, playing vocabulary police, lots of “if you can’t take it, you shouldn’t do XX,” lots of name calling and lots of power plays.

Frankly, I’m grateful that I didn’t join any groups before I adopted Hope; I probably would’ve dropped the whole adoption thing and that would’ve been awful.  I might be sad about parts of my life, but I love that Hope is my daughter.

My mother has told me for years that hurt people hurt people. This is probably one of the truest things she’s ever said.

I look at support groups, and I see a bunch of marginalized folks—APs, Birth Parents, Adoptees—squabbling over their experiences and the validity of their feelings in the adoption experience.

The things about feelings is that whether we externally get them validated or not, we feel what we feel—the good, the bad, and the ugly.

And yes, we are all marginalized groups when it comes to the general public. Here’s my diversity breakdown: We’ve all got these images that we rally against—APs are “saviors”, Adoptees are the “lucky saved” and Birth Parents are the folks kids are “saved from.” This is a super simplified version, so work with me. That’s all the general public knows and sees of this community. And unless we are an obviously adoptive family, we move through the world like a duck—smooth on top, paddling like hell underwater. The world doesn’t understand our trials, and frankly they don’t want to hear about them because that breaks the spell of the do-gooder narrative.

So, where does that leave us? It leaves us to build community among ourselves with a power structure that mimics our marginalization. Saviors on top, everyone else on the bottom. Is it really any wonder why folks get mad? Why comments go from pleasant to fury in a hurry? It shouldn’t shock us.

Add to the fact that everyone hurts in some way, and online support groups are a powder keg.

Now, the point of me writing this post is really about me working through my own feelings when I engage online. I recognize my privilege, I try to stand down and help amplify voice, I try to be a good ally, and I hope to get better at that as I grow. I also realize that with this privilege it’s tough—and not fair–to ask other marginalized people to give us APs a break sometimes, but well…the truth is we could use a kind word and a turned cheek sometimes too. I say and do stupid ish on an hourly basis, I’m sure other folks do to. Sometimes we all just need to give each other a break.

what it is2

Holistically, our experiences and feelings with other members of the adoption triad isn’t really either/or, it’s both/and. None of us in the triad seem to get the communication thing right a lot. All of us type through pain and muck. It’s easy to forget that our experiences are our own, they are anecdotal; they can’t always be generally applied. It’s easy to forget that we’re supposed to be on the same team. It’s easy to forget that we all just want to raise healthy families in supportive environments and that every engagement doesn’t have to be a PhD crash course what we’re all doing wrong—this goes for everyone in the triad; it’s true for us all.

It should be all about the both-and. Always the both-and.

It should be about compassion. It should be about hope and caring. It should also be about education, but also mindful of delivery and purpose for all of us.

It doesn’t mean that there won’t be disagreements or even all out rows, but it doesn’t have to be nasty, it doesn’t have to be discouraging, it doesn’t have to be diminishing, it doesn’t have to be dismissive.

It can and should be supportive; it should be uplifting, it should be encouraging, it should be challenging in ways that improve not tear down.

try

So my call for the whole community, is to just try to do better. And since this is The Year of the Try, the success can simply be found in the attempt to meet each other where we are.

Just try.


Support Group Side Eye

It continues to stun me how myopic folks can be. I left a support group yesterday because grown folk could not have a civilized conversation amongst adoptive parents, birth parents and adoptees views on adoption. (I did reluctantly rejoin the group and immediately hit the “silence notifications” tab. #whoneedsthedrama)

Adoption makes for a bunch of interesting bedfellows, some of whom have big voices and a lot of privilege in the narrative. As a part of the triad, I’ve learned so much about how the diversity issues I work on professionally permeate the world of adoption. I was naive to think they wouldn’t, but I am repeatedly stunned by how things play out.

If we hope to build community with others, we have to be willing to feel some discomfort, even pain at times. I had a therapist that used to tell me that growth never occurs without some level of discomfort. We have to learn to exercise our muscles of compassion and empathy and to talk/type less and listen more.

The voice of the adoptee is an important one.  Man, when Hope speaks I’m like old skool E.F. Hutton—I shut up and listen. Why? Because nothing else on this journey compares to her voice, her needs. She is not just the center of my world; this adoption is about what she needed/needs. Oh sure, I wanted to be a mom. But honestly, I didn’t need to be one. I can’t say I feel like I was born to do this. I can’t argue that my maternal instinct couldn’t have been satiated in other ways besides becoming a mom (an all expense year of luxury in Bora Bora might’ve done it…). Hope needed a family. Hope’s family needed her to have a stable family and a stable home. I was available and a good match. I fit the bill.

I got a great kid; I got to be a mom, and she is getting her Mazlow’s needs met.

During the last two years, I’m sure I’ve done and said some stupid things about my adoption journey, about birth parents, about supportive folks in and around my life, about Hope and other adoptees. I’ve had to stretch, not just to understand what might be Hope’s perspective, but the general perspective of adoptees. I get that it’s hard for adoptive parents not to take some of the sadness and grief personally; but really, it’s not about us.

Except when it is, and it is when we are dismissive and silencing to the adoptee voice. Then we make it about us, our feelings, our narrative.

We are entitled to our feelings, we are. But we aren’t entitled to them at the expense of our children. It ain’t fair, but thems the brakes.

It infuriates me to hop onto an online support group that is supposed to welcome all members of the triad to the conversation, only to find that APs are whining about everyone being too sensitive. Yo, check it, everybody in the room typically has lost something, is grieving something, is struggling with something. Let’s get over ourselves. Most of the public narrative about adoption is about us anyway, what we want, what we’ve endured to finally become parents, what we feel then and now. It really is okay to pass the dutchie to the right and let someone else take a puff on the mic.

When an adoptee tells me something is offensive—especially something I, as an adoptive parent, have said is offensive—I take them at their word. End of story.

I don’t do/say any of the following because they are inappropriate:

  • I know this other adoptee and they are okay with it. What’s your problem?
  • Hey, it was just cute/a joke/darling! You are too sensitive!! Lighten up.
  • You always makes everything so negative!
  • You always make adoption about you!
  • Hey, why are you so angry?
  • You must be anti-adoption.
  • You must hate your adoptive parents!!
  • You aren’t grateful for being adopted?

This is just a sampling of some of the things I read on a support group thread yesterday. Now, this might be hard to connect, but much of this is offensive to adoptees much the way that the following is offensive to me as an African-American:

  • I don’t see color.
  • You’re just an angry Black Woman!
  • All/Blue Lives Matters as an “opposite” to Black Lives Matter.
  • You must hate White people.
  • The upside of slavery is that you were saved from the savagery/poverty/etc of Africa.
  • 400+ years of institutionalized, legacy driven racism and genocide has no bearing on today now that you’ve been “free” for 152 years—even though the last of the slaves didn’t even know they were free for about 2.5 years after the Emancipation Proclamation.

And if I need to explain why any of these bullets are problematic, please feel free to drop me a private email, and I’ll happily send you a prospectus about my diversity consulting and the attending fee scale.  I still have dates for private consulting available for 2016. #sideeye

To all of this BS, I say…

GTFOH.

It’s crap. Just crap. Let’s all spend more time respecting one another and listening to one another. Let’s all remember that adoption is really, really about the adoptee, despite all of our personal roles and feelings. It doesn’t mean those latter things aren’t real and important, but ultimately, adoption isn’t about us APs. It’s just not.  Yes, I know…we wish it was.

If a support group is going to be true to its moniker, then actually offer support by taking time to listen to all of the voices, giving them equal weight and taking them all at their words. Otherwise, just be honest about it and rock it like an old skool treehouse. Name it something clever and post a sign on the e-door that says “No adoptees or whatever” allowed. Let folks know whether they are truly welcome. Don’t waste anyone’s time, and finally, don’t be a jerk. Honestly, it’s not hard.

Rant Over.

#FliptTheScript

ETA: I will not be using the hashtag above in future posts or on Twitter.  Despite very much supporting the movement, a wonderful adoptee brought it to my attention that the use of the hashtag by a non-adoptee–even for purposes of support–is a form of attribution. I should’ve considered that, but I didn’t. My bad.

So although I have used it before with no complaints from adoptees, I recognize how it can be an inappropriate use of my AP privilege to use the hashtag. So, I won’t in the future.

See how easy that was?


The Cult of the Support Group

So recently, I lay awake one night fretting about the lack of folks to talk to about the adoption process.  I’ve read books and found them to be useful, but pretty dry.  My agency is really, really into promoting what I call the Cult of the Support Group.  Ok, ok, I got it, and I needed something a bit more interactive than the books, so in the wee hours of the night, I booted up the laptop in search of a web-based source of support.

Search terms….

  • Adoption support
  • Older child adoption support
  • Single parent adoption support

And so the searches went.  I discovered a few pretty vibrant support communities.  With a few keystrokes, I registered for sites and asked for permission to join other sites.  Current anxiety attack sated, I drifted back off to sleep.

The next morning I found acceptance into one group on a social media site.  Awesome!  Grabbing some java, I settled in to read posts and blogs for a while.  All good stuff, until I slammed into some major points of difference that left me feeling some kind of way.

  • No one on these sites looked like me (where are the other People of Color (POCs) who are adopting?).
  • So very few adoptive parents adopted domestically.  I’m sure there are lots of similar issues but there are a lot of different issues as well.
  • Most of the posters were very religiously conservative in ways that don’t align with my own world view.

I felt like I shared part of the experience but was still left out of the group on a number of levels.  Oh it wasn’t them.  It was me.

Was my major contribution to the support group conversation really going to be serving as some kinda expert about hair care for their adoptive girls from African countries with curly, tightly coiled hair?  Where are the threads about nurturing whole-self-identity, inclusive of racial identity of our children?  What am I supposed to say on this site about being perfectly fine if my kid comes to the realization that he/she is gay or believes they are a gender that is different than their biological sex when clearly that position is not going to be tolerated in this support group?  Is this a space where I can safely ask about parenting for progressive, left leaning Christians, like myself?  Is this a space where I can talk about my fears of raising my would-be Black son in a world where he will be viewed as threatening while walking home from the 7-11 with a Slurpee and some candy because he doesn’t have the privilege of just being where he is, doing what he’s doing?

I’m not really feeling like it’s that kinda space.  And I’m not an online hair consultant, though my hair always looks good! (You betta werk!)

Image <<Click for full effect!>

Now I work on diversity issues as a part of my day job, so yeah, issues of race, racial identity and culture have deep meaning for me.  It doesn’t mean that I don’t participate in other realms; frankly I LIVE in all other realms, but I bring this part of me to that space.  It’s a part of who I am.

My adoption agency has encouraged me to plug into support groups and get connected with people who are sharing this experience.  I’m trying.  And I know that this post highlights my dilemma with just one group I stumbled over in the middle of the night.  But I haven’t found a group (on ground or online) where I don’t feel limited or silent  or even invisible because I hardly see anyone who looks like me and shares some critical experiences with me.  So, I’m diving back into other group searches that will hopefully produce what I need or at least more than the group I excitedly stumbled upon.  I realize I’m also going to have to moderate my expectations (seemingly an ongoing theme in the adoption process)  I’m not quitting the group that I found, but it is only meeting a slice of my need as a parent-in-waiting, and I anticipate that it will only address a slice of my actual parenting life.

New search terms….

  • Progressive Christian parenting
  • African Americans for adoption
  • POCs and adoption
  • Adoptive parents who are ok with maybe one day joining PFLAG

 


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