Hearing His Music Once Again

“Well, hello there, cutie!”
“Thanks, little buddy.”
IMG_2933Words from strangers in public places to my seven-year-old son in the last 24 hours—the first from a lovely waitress in a restaurant to my son as he walked to the restroom, the second from a gentleman at the Boston Museum of Science when my son lifted a rope stanchion out of his way.
That this qualifies as news of the day may be surprising. There are probably lots of parents with very cute, very helpful children who get approving nods, gestures, and words from kind strangers regularly.
But not my son. Not lately at any rate.
My seven-year-old son Edgar was diagnosed with ADHD very recently; and despite the fact that he is very cute and very helpful, that is often not what people—especially strangers—saw.

Read more over at The Creative Mama.

Our Capacity to Love

As much as I might like to take a break from the news, I am compelled to read, drawn to the events of the day for reasons that are equal parts selfish and magnanimous, offensive and defensive.

And today as I read the latest round of finger-pointing, excuse-making, and name-calling, Mary Warren’s comment to Goody Proctor in The Crucible rang in my ears: “We must all love each other now, Goody Proctor.”

Love.  Now.

A wise friend once expressed her wish to me and to our family: “May your capacity to love surpass your desire to be loved.”

And, honestly, I believe it really is as simple as this.  When we shift our thinking from wanting others to like us, to love us, to need us and move toward a place where we freely and selflessly give of ourselves to others and to the greater good, a monumental shift takes place–a shift the world so desperately needs right now.

As 2012 draws to a close, I share with you a brief slide show of our friends and family this past year and remain grateful for our capacity to love.

Hold on tight to those you can; hold in your heart those you can’t.  And continue to grow your capacity to love.  This, truly, is our only hope.

The Voice of a Father

Pic 1Pic 3Open Adoption, Open Heart
Russell Elkins
$14.95, Aloha Publishing, 118 pp.

Chronicling the at-times bumpy journey to his son, Russell Elkins takes the reader on a memorable one as well in Open Adoption, Open Heart. Starting with an unflinching glimpse of his and his wife’s challenges with conception to a false start that reminds readers that life will unfold as it will, Elkins tackles the aspects of adoption that are often shrouded by the main event of bringing home baby–aspects that are all-too-familiar to adoptive parents: familial complications, paternal rights, guilt and angst. Written in a clear, concise style, this book offers a much-needed and too-often quiet voice of an adoptive father. But perhaps most importantly, Elkins is able in just a little over 100 pages to demystify and de-stigmatize open adoption, showcasing the benefits while acknowledging the challenges. He writes: “The relationship between birth parents and adoptive parents is not a natural one. It’s not instilled inside us as human beings to naturally want to share parenthood with someone else” (62). What Elkins shows us is that when a child’s well-being and happiness are stake we are fully capable of doing better than the dictates of human nature. And that–in addition to this inspiring story–should give us all hope.

Interview with Russell Elkins:

SH: The title of your book will immediately attract those whose lives are touched by adoption. What do you feel your book offers to readers who may not be part of an adoptive family or part of the adoption community?

RE: One thing I quickly realized when my wife and I were going through our first adoption was that adoption had changed dramatically over just the last few years. Most people don’t know what adoption is like now just like my wife and I didn’t know before. There are all kinds of adoptions now, and having the adoption be really “open” like ours is really common–now more the norm than the exception. Just a few years ago it wasn’t even an option.

Not only that, but who doesn’t love reading a true story? My intention in writing this book wasn’t just to educate people thinking about adopting. It was to take everybody willing along for the ride we went on with all the emotions as well as the intense details of the story. I don’t really have a way to keep the numbers of who has bought it and who hasn’t, but I’d be willing to guess that about half of the people who have read it aren’t directly connected to adoption.

SH: There are countless misconceptions about open adoption. What do you feel are the most significant misconceptions and what would you say to clear up those misconceptions?

RE: For adoptive parents, I’d say the greatest misconception is that you just fill out some paperwork, write a check, and wait for someone to bring a baby to your front step. Wrong! There are a lot of emotions that go along with it–the guilty feeling that accompanies receiving a gift from someone who is hurting from their sacrifice, the evolution of the relationship with biological parents, or even having a relationship with them at all. There are a lot of things to sort through, and just making decisions without educating yourself is asking for a disaster.

For birth parents, people tend to think about birth parents like they’re unfit to parent, on drugs, too immature, etc. It’s just not true. There are a billion different reasons to place a child for adoption, but one thing they all have in common is a willingness to think beyond themselves to what the child needs. Birth parents love their child enough to make that tough decision, something that immaturity and unfit/unloving people could not do.

SH: You maintain a relationship with your children’s birth mothers, and the title of your book implies that to do so requires an open heart. What have been the most significant challenges you experienced in negotiating these relationships?

RE: There is a popular saying (and a few variations of it) that says: They are parents in a way we are not. We are parents in a way they are not. Together we are parenthood.

Now, open adoption is not the same as co-parenting. We don’t get any parenting advice from the birth parents about how to raise our children. That’s not what it’s about. On the other hand, there are things that the biological parents are to our children that we will never be. At first that’s was a hard pill to swallow–being willing to have a relationship with them when we knew we weren’t the sole people responsible for their lives. But we’ve not just come to terms with what we’re not, we’ve learned to embrace the things we are. We are parents through adoption and we’re so incredibly proud of that fact that it doesn’t matter to us anymore in the least bit what we’re not. Those things disappeared. We embrace our roles.

SH: It seems that many of the voices writing today about adoption–whether in scholarly sources or in popular publications–are female. As a male writer among many women, where do you find your inspiration and what is it that compels you to write?

RE: When I was in college I used to have to write so much that it was a chore. Now, though, it’s my recreation time. I love to just flip the right-brained switch and write– whether it’s writing a fictional novel, writing a song, a blog post, or adoption writings.

And yes, men writing about adoption is pretty rare. In fact, even before I’d signed a contract with Aloha Publishing I started to blog about adoption and it took less than two weeks before I started to get emails and phone calls from people wanting me to join up with them. I write for http://www.adoption.com and Adoption Voices Magazine among other smaller things. My inspiration just comes from knowing that I so strongly feel that the world needs to hear what I, and people like me, have to say. That’s all the push I need.

SH: You self-published this book through Aloha Publishing. How would you characterize your experience in this arena and what advice would you offer to aspiring writers about the world of self-publishing and marketing?

RE: Everyone’s heard of self publishing and traditional publishing (big publisher publishing). A lot don’t realize that there are a variety of publishers in between the two. Aloha is one of those–often called partner publishing, which could mean different things to different companies. I chose Aloha because of the quality of books I saw them put out as well as my own ability to keep my hand on my own work. Like with a traditional publisher, I did have to submit a manuscript and proposal. I met the CEO of Aloha at a writing convention and submitted it to her there. My manuscript was one of just two selected out of about 60 submitted that week. Ultimately, even though I was working with a company, all the decisions had to be okayed by me. That was important to me. I learned a ton about publishing while working with Aloha–not just on this book, but also on my book 10 Adoption Essentials that is released only as an e-book right now, but will be in print soon. I’ve spent a good amount of time chasing traditional publishers and agents for other works I’ve done, but for this one I wasn’t even interested in the big guys. I wanted control of this particular project because it means so much to me and it has come out wonderfully. Even though I plan to go completely on my own with Open Adoption, Open Heart Part 2 (expect it out in April), I’m so glad Aloha picked me up because the outcome just wouldn’t have been as good without them.

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Leave a comment on this post between now and 9 PM ET on 31 December 2012 and you will be entered in a drawing to win an autographed copy of Open Adoption, Open Heart. The winner will be announced on 1 January 2013.

It’s Time to Do Better

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Tonight my cousin, a preschool teacher in Connecticut, sent me a photograph of one of her former students–a beautiful little girl whose eyes were as wide as her smile, her expression one full of hope.  My cousin described her as “creative,” and “social,” and “smart.”

I looked at her and could think of just one thing: This child could have been my child; this child could have been your child.

Having a child with epilepsy, I can tell you emphatically I would move a mountain if that’s what it would take to keep my son safe and healthy.  I would move a mountain if it meant there were even a chance that it would keep him safe and healthy.

If you told me I had to give up my car or my television or my computer to keep him safe and healthy, I would not hesitate.

And I’m fairly certain there isn’t a parent who wouldn’t concur or wouldn’t do the same.

So, why are we so reluctant to give up our guns when doing so has the potential to help keep our children safe and healthy?  Why are we reluctant to make changes–even small ones–when doing so might make a difference, might make THE difference?

As parents, we give up our time, we give up sleep, we give up peace of mind for our children.  And we don’t begrudge it.  We would give up ANYTHING for their well-being because they are children and because we love them.

Some might argue that there is no guarantee that changes in our gun laws would make a difference.  But, of course, that is no argument.  Because we love our children–ours and everyone else’s–we have to try.

The Dignity of Silence

IMG_2461In the world of open adoption, there is an ebb and a flow. And just like any relationship, there are complications. As the adoptive parent in the triad that includes August and his birthmother, though, I have experienced a metamorphosis that has been as powerful as any other aspect of this amazing journey.

It has always been my contention that open adoption, when it is a positive force in a child’s life, is the absolute best gift adoptive parents can give. To grow up knowing your birth family, to know (not merely be told) that your birthmother made an adoption plan because of the deep, abiding love she has for you is an opportunity unparalleled. And, of course, the more people who want to step up and love your child is nothing any parent could ever deny.

Parents, though, have a habit of being protective, to want to shield their children from anything that could not only harm them but cause them even a moment’s angst. Whether that’s right, wrong, or something else depends upon so much; but in an open adoption, it is not surprising for an adoptive parent to continually assess and reassess: Is this relationship in my child’s best interest?

Yesterday August was supposed to spend time with his birthmother. She was not able to come. August and I waited patiently for her at the appointed spot at the appointed time (and for 40 minutes after). August had a gift to give her and her new baby. He was looking forward to running up and giving “her the hugest hug ever.” He was disappointed when she didn’t come.

As I drove home, I listened to him come up with reasons why she might not have come–as only a three-year-old can. He rationalized: “Maybe she was dusting,” then, “Maybe it was too cold outside.” In any other situation, I would have been compelled to comment: People don’t miss important appointments because they’re cleaning. The cold didn’t keep us away.

But I stopped myself . . . in the nick of time. And I realized that this is HIS relationship with his birthmother. It is not my place to judge, to comment. My only jobs are to drive him until he’s old enough to drive himself, to answer any questions he asks, and–most importantly–to listen. It will unfold as it will and needs no help or hindrance from me.

Putting my sons’ needs before my own is nothing new. Turning off my steady stream of commentary is. I’ve always known there is power in saying “no.” I am now learning the dignity that resides in silence.

Forward Movement

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Life looks different here. Very different . . .

Taking turns without a drop of contention.

Completing homework without a single tear.

Penmanship that is more precise.

A content and genuine end-of-the-day smile.

A palpable sense of peace.

We are negotiating the world of ADHD and medication with our eyes wide open, and we are putting our trust in our son to lead us through this journey. He is re-learning and unlearning, endeavoring to change entrenched patterns, altering his previously default responses to challenges. I stand by his side and in utter awe.

There are struggles in the process. Perfection doesn’t exist and therefore shouldn’t be the goal–for a person with ADHD or without.

But there is forward movement.

And there is more ease, more confidence, more comfort for our son.

It’s what every parent wants and every child deserves.

[I would like to take this opportunity to welcome new readers and to thank WordPress for the recognition of being Freshly Pressed. You have many, many choices in terms of what you read online and off. I will endeavor to deserve your time, your readership, and your thoughtful comments. Thank you.]

No Words

There have been times as a writer when I have sat down with only the vaguest notion of what it is I want to write, plopping myself on my chair and placing my fingers on the keyboard and simply hoping and trusting the words will come.

And I’ve been lucky–really lucky–because they usually do.

But tonight they’re not coming.

And maybe it’s because there are none.

I thought when I first heard the news today that my biggest challenge would be how to explain this tragedy to my two oldest sons–but only if they had happened to hear about it, only if they brought it up first.

But that is not my challenge because there is no explanation.

We field questions from our curious children all day every day. And though the “why’s” may occasionally seem incessant, we can provide answers.

We’re the parents. The teachers. The grownups. We know things. We can fill in their blanks.

But who fills in ours when there are no words, no explanations?

How do we explain senselessness?