Falling into Place

Today August visited with his birthmother, who is seven-and-a-half months pregnant.

Today his birthmother also signed a photo release for an upcoming article of mine that will be published in the September issue of Adoptive Families magazine.   It’s a photo of her and August (and a beautiful one, too,  if I do say so myself) taken last fall.

I highlighted the gist of the article–how you explain to a child who joined his/her family through adoption a birthmother’s pregnancy and her subsequent decision to parent.  I explained why the magazine wanted to use the photo and then asked her about how she would like to be identified in the caption.

His birthmother handed back to me the signed release and told me that she hopes one day to do some writing herself–to explain to prospective birthmothers the benefits of making an adoption plan, to help ease their fears and highlight the benefits.

An hour-and-a-half later August put his hand on his birthmother’s belly to feel the baby.

And by the time our two-hour visit had ended, I had the feeling that we were all doing just fine.

Moving On

“Mom, can I go over to Alex’s house?”

Eight words that forever changed Oscar from a small boy who was under constant supervision to a young man who was finally able to feel the first vestiges of independence.

This morning is the first morning that his best friend and confidant won’t be just two doors down, won’t be close enough to roll out of our house and over to his.

They’ve moved–not far, but not within walking distance without the previous requisite supervision.

So, it’s different.

Oscar said this morning that he knows he’ll still see Alex but acknowledged that he is sad and that it won’t be the same.

He then added that he was glad for the year Alex lived two doors down and how he became his best friend.

Focusing on the positive and not dwelling on the loss . . . a lesson from a very independent seven-year-old.

This Is My Brother

There is a destiny that makes us brothers,

No one goes his way alone;

All that we send into the lives of others,

Comes back into our own.

–Edwin Markham, Poet

During an event at Oscar and Edgar’s school, Oscar asked if he could read a story he had written to Edgar’s Kindergarten class.

As Oscar took center stage, Edgar jumped up to join him and uttered four words that spoke to the magnitude of his pride: “This is my brother.”

Oscar asked me recently if I thought Edgar loved him–and here it was, a simple sentence that overshadowed every disagreement and squabble, a moment to capture and hold on to, a reflection of who they are and who I hope they always will be.

And This Is Why

Someone asked me recently why I felt the need to pursue my doctorate.  The question was motivated, I believe, by genuine rather than morbid curiosity; and as this blog is an ongoing gift to my sons and this is a question to which they may also want to know the answer, I thought I would answer it here–and the personal statement I wrote in support of my application seems the most apt way to respond.

So, here is my 500-word response to the question:  Why do you feel the need to pursue your doctorate?

To say that I have been on a path that has brought me to this moment is probably an understatement.  Though I received my Bachelor of Science in Education 22 years ago and my Master’s in English 18 years ago, my professional life as a public high school English teacher since 1990 has ensured that my content knowledge and research skills have stayed relevant.  I am in as much awe of my discipline as I was in my late teens and early 20s; however now, two decades later, I bring experience to my work and a perspective that I necessarily lacked long ago.  Further, as the parent of three young sons whom my husband and I adopted as infants, I also bring an increasing and uncompromising awareness to the place adoption holds in our world.  As a literature scholar, I am compelled to examine how adoption functions in literary texts past and present; however, as a freelance writer for Adoptive Families magazine as well as the author of an award-winning blog, I am also acutely aware of how our modern world looks at issues related to adoption as well as adoption itself. 

 

Pernicious mindsets that existed in the past about families that were formed through adoption, about birthparents, about children who were adopted on the surface have seemingly given way to acceptance and inclusion.  However, even the most superficial examination of what passes for humor on Twitter or Facebook or in the latest Hollywood blockbuster reveals that negative attitudes do not merely linger—they pervade.  And despite the laudable work of publications such as Adoptive Families and the strong voices of adoptive parents and their children, adoption in the minds of many is still often relegated to second-best, those whose lives are touched by it viewed as a subgroup—and a marginalized one at that. 

 

Not unlike others who have been consigned to roles of lesser status, adoptive parents and their children are fighting against a tradition—including a staunch literary tradition—that undermines (or in some cases demonizes) the adoption process.  While stopping short of saying that one causes the other, it is not disingenuous to suggest a connection.  Literature reflects societal attitudes, but I would argue that it also helps to create them.  And it is my contention that before true movement can take place, these literary assumptions need to be exposed, confronted, and inverted.  To analyze this aspect of the human condition accurately and with integrity, I need the help of the interdisciplinary approach of Salve Regina University’s Humanities Ph. D. program.

 

Writers are told to write what they know and to write about the issues that inspire them that seem to move few others.  This is what I know; this is what moves me.  As the mother of three sons who came to me through adoption, I am called to do this work—to thwart past and present assumptions from making their way into the future–for my children and for all families touched by adoption.

Moving with the Tides

As I stood yesterday afternoon watching Oscar, Edgar, and August at this tank, it dawned on me that this was the first time August, soon to be three, experienced this aquarium exclusively on his own two feet.  The stroller stayed in the car–and truly that’s where it belongs.  Every day August lets us know in no uncertain terms that he is “not a baby!”  He relishes his independence and being able to negotiate this world on his own terms.  I marvel at his growth and wonder why it has to come seemingly all at once.

And just as wistfulness at this inevitability was about to overwhelm me, I looked at Oscar.  He stands a full head taller than Edgar and is nearly five years older than August–and of the three the one who wanted to (or, more accurately, insisted on) bringing his stuffed beluga whale to the Mystic Aquarium, it was Oscar.

The whale had to be washed so she looked her best; she sat with Oscar the whole way to Connecticut.  He doted on her.

It was sweet, it was childhood–and it reminded me that though children’s growth is fast and furious, it, like the tides themselves, ebbs and flows.  The flashes of maturity are often coupled with these momentary visits back to a time when they were even younger.

And as proud as I am of August and his quest to move forward, I am equally proud of Oscar and his willingness to occasionally move back.

Is There a Doctor in the House?

Not yet.  But soon there will be.

After surprisingly little reflection, I have made the decision to go back to school to pursue my Ph.D.

I say “surprisingly little” because truly the idea came to me without warning then became nothing short of a compulsion.  I investigated the programs available to and feasible for a full-time mother and full-time teacher, had a moment of angst over the mathematics portion of the GRE, made the necessary inquiries and requests.

And in September 2012 I will begin my first class toward a Doctor of Philosophy in Humanities at Salve Regina University.

My classes will be in the evening five minutes from my home, my work completed after my children go to bed–because even though my pursuit of this degree is inspired by them, I am determined not to have its acquisition take time away from them.

My research will combine my passion for literature with my overarching desire to examine the place adoption has held, currently holds, and will hold in our world–the world in which my children are growing, the world with which they must interact, the world they will inherit.

This research, this degree is for my three sons–a legacy I want to leave for them and for all adoptive families.