A Child Named Hope

I  take up “the pen” today because it’s the only way I know to wrestle with disquieting feelings I’ve had recently.

aidAs a marketing person, I post to many social media sites – both my own and to those for which I work. One Thursday, about two weeks ago, I had a most unsettling experience.

Through one of the non-profit facebook sites I run, I received a message where the writer asked whether the organization I posted for is truly community-oriented, or “a liberal propaganda house.” He pointed out that there are conservatives and libertarians in the community.

We had a relatively positive message exchange, where I indicated the organization welcomes everyone, and that, as a public access television station, we broadcast everything submitted, except media that advocates violence.

The individual pointed out that recent posts were “Left of Center.”

I thanked him for pointing this out, and stated that our purpose was not to alienate anyone.

Now I will say that the leanings of most of the people who work at this organization ARE, in fact, “left of center.”  As one of the more diverse organizations in the city of Rochester, attracting people of all ages, socioeconomic levels, ethnicities, political leanings and religions, that is the mindset of those who tend to apply for jobs and work there. It also tends to be the mindset of many of the independent producers whose work is shown on the channel. So, the individual writing is probably accurate in his assessment that the posts I have made have a tendency to be somewhat liberal. Following his comment, I actually thought about the fact that we should, perhaps, reevaluate our social media strategy to make it “more balanced.”

Then, in thinking about this exchange, I was curious what had prompted his note.  I clicked on the story I’d posted. That is when I became unsettled.

togetherIt was a story and photo, originally posted by Malia Obama, about Anja Ringgren Loven, a Danish woman doing social working in Nigeria. The first photo showed her feeding an abandoned and severely malnourished two-year-old Nigerian child. In the second photo, it shows the same young woman holding the child at some later point in time. She has now adopted the child, who she named Hope. He is the picture of health and clearly shines with the love he feels.

When I originally shared this post, I considered it a purely inspirational story…the story of one human coming to the aid of another.

As someone who has adopted children internationally, I know that there are some who would say this child has been robbed of his heritage. To those critics, I would say, “Better robbed of his heritage than robbed of his life,” which is likely what would have happened. Every child should have the chance for love, no matter what.

But to discover that this post could, in any way, be construed as a political message totally flabbergasted me.

I am distressed and disgusted that this election cycle has catalyzed a toxic environment that has become so divisive and so polarizing that politics trump humanity and a story such as this can be construed as anything other than inspirational.

What have we, as a nation, come to when we cannot simply rejoice in the rescue of A Child Named Hope?

Disclaimer: This is the opinion of Carol White Llewellyn and should not be construed as representing the opinions of anyone within any of the organizations with which she works.

 

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Reflections on Being a Parent

dreamstime_s_19205088-super-womanAs I sat there waiting for the doctor to take me back to the recovery room to be with my daughter, I reflected on parenthood and the unexpected emotions and realities it brings.

When I was without children, time seemed to pass more slowly… I had fewer physical and temporal reminders of time’s passage. Yes, there were holidays, but there were no quarterly report cards or picture days, there were no outgrown shoes and clothing to replace or regularly-scheduled dental appointments, band concerts or intramural practices to attend. Time did not swirl with the same crazy intensity.

When I was without children, I was invincible, or at least could pretend to be so. My daughters are my Achilles heel…their physical or emotional suffering pains me far more deeply than my own.

I am also at my strongest. I swallow fears and tears to give my children strength. I become part lioness, part super hero, to keep their world safe and happy.

As a parent, I push to become my best self…trying to love, protect, encourage and inspire them…trying to be someone they want to look up to and emulate.

Such is the role of parents since the dawn of time. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Originally posted on Carol White Llewellyn’s Family, by Choice on June 30, 2011.

 

Thanksgiving, Family and Chocolates

1363289_handmade_chocolatesIt’s Thanksgiving week and almost the end of November, National Adoption Month, so I wanted to share a very personal post. In truth, it has only a little to do with adoption, but much to do with giving thanks for family.

I have only very recently reconnected with family members… cousins on both sides of the family and an uncle who were “lost” due to factors, some within, and others totally beyond my control.

Over the years, in spite of the fact that we were out of touch, I thought of them often. But it was only in reconnecting that I truly realized how much I missed them and how our shared history and memories enriched my life. I regret those “missing years.”

Yesterday, I was thrilled to get back in touch with two “long-lost” cousins while visiting their father, my uncle, who is terminally ill. My cousin Joan remarked, “so what have you been up to the last 30 years?”

Thirty years? How could it have been that long? How could we, who were once almost as close as sisters, have let life get so in the way of staying in touch? Fortunately, we fell into easy conversation, in spite of the sad reason for our reunion, and we were able to pick up where we left off. I’m certain we’ll all stay in touch now, certainly via email or facebook… in spite of living more than half the country away from each other.

As I think about Family, I realize it’s a funny thing. Family is like a box of chocolate. Sometimes you love them to pieces. Other times, a little goes a long way. But even the ones that are a little nuts sweeten your life.

So this week on Thursday, I will be giving thanks for family. I will give thanks for my wonderful husband and two amazing daughters who wouldn’t be family without the institutions of marriage and adoption. I give thanks for friends who are like family and family who are friends. And I will give thanks for finding lost treasures.

What will you give thanks for?

This post was originally published on November 21, 2011 on my former blog, Family, by Choice.

Click here, to view videos that were part of the Family, by Choice series.

Memories of Adoption Eve

thats_a_nice_toyEleven years ago next Monday, we became a family. We celebrate the birth of our family, much in the way others celebrate birthdays , and we call it “Family Day.” Generally, we choose something special to do together on this day. When we lived in New York, we often went to Rye Playland. Here in Rochester, we’ve gone to the National Museum of Play, Seabreeze and the Seneca Park Zoo. Last year, we spent the day running between rain drops to collect sea shells with our friends Annette and Ted, on the beach in Naples, Florida. That’s a Family Day we’ll all always treasure.

To commemorate the day, I thought I’d take you with me to the night before my twin daughters came into our family. Amazing that it feels like only yesterday.

We had arrived in Guangzhou, China and were staying in the beautiful White Swan Hotel, a very different experience from the hotel we were at in Beijing where faulty air conditioning didn’t insulate us against the 100° temperatures outside and left a huge spreading puddle on the rug that we stepped in each time we entered or left the room.

At the five star White Swan Hotel, there was a young woman stationed at the elevator to guide you to your room each time you stepped off the elevator. A stream accented by a waterfall flowed through the middle of the hotel lobby, exotic birds serenaded you from cages in the upstairs lounge, and the breakfast buffet was fit for Kublai Khan.

We had arrived from Beijing that day, still a bit jet lagged and we’d done a bit of sightseeing, so I should have been tired. Instead of tumbling asleep to dream of Adoption Day taking place the next morning, I lay awake worrying far into the night, long after my husband snored softly from the adjacent twin bed (yes, even in a five star hotel, twin beds were the norm).

Was I worrying about the health of my daughters or about how long it would take them to bond with us? Or worrying about the leap of faith we’d taken, adopting twins that had probably been premature? Was I worrying that they’d only heard Chinese for the first nine months of their lives or that we would look so different, we’d seem like aliens to them?

No…I worried that I wouldn’t be a good enough mother.

I worried that I was too selfish, too set in my ways…that I’d be reluctant to give up the many things I’d enjoyed doing as a single woman and then as a couple – the dancing and travel, the shopping, movies and plays, friends and adventures. I lay there, silent tears streaming as I envisioned the “me” I knew slipping away, drowning in diapers and bottles, nursery rhymes and strained peas, nursery school and PTA. I worried that my career would suffer and that I’d be seen as less capable. I worried that I, as I knew myself, would disappear… dissolving into my new identity as “mother of twins.”

At last my fears were absorbed into the night, I fell asleep and the gritty-eyed dawn arrived. Our group of four families boarded a bus and headed happily off to a governmental building to meet our long-awaited children.

And in that one day, all of my fears came true, at the same time as they never materialized at all.

How do I explain it?

For a time, I did become engulfed in feedings, ear aches, diaper changes, nursery rhymes and alphabets. But the odd thing is, they enriched rather than eroded who I was…who I’ve become. Did my career change? Yes, but not because of my daughters, but by economic circumstances and choices I’ve made, both good and bad. Yes, there were times when I’ve wished I could put my husband and daughters in bell jars set high on shelves where they’d be safe and time wouldn’t pass so that I could go off and be “my old self.” There are still days when I think that if I have to do one more load of laundry, prepare one more meal, make one more grocery shopping trip, I’ll turn in my badge.

I’ve since discovered that’s what “girlfriend getaways” are for…a chance to renew and reinvigorate. The most important thing I’ve realized is you don’t have to love every part of the job to be a good parent. And you don’t have to let go of who you are…. The parts of yourself you treasure most can be shared with your child, enriching and blossoming in both of your lives.

This was originally posted on a former blog Family, by Choice on August 1, 2011.

Click here, to view videos that were part of the Family, by Choice series.

The Misbehaving Child: Try a Little Tenderness

grubby-girl-sxcI remember the time, when they were about two, that my one daughter bit her sister on the back so hard it left marks and, of course, made her cry. Rather than scold or punish the instigator, I wrapped them both warmly in my arms, hugging both of them and said, “Sweetheart, look…you’ve made your sister cry. I know you didn’t mean to do that. I think we should make her feel better.”

She too started crying, but put her arms around her sister and hugged her in apology. She never bit again.

Never does a child need to be shown love more than when s/he misbehaves. Yet often our actions leave the misbehaving child feel unworthy of love and betrayed by a person they love most.

I don’t believe that most children are willfully naughty. When a child misbehaves, there are a number of typical reasons:

  • It’s a bid for attention
  • The child’s curiosity and experimentation got him or her into trouble
  • The child was bored and needed stimulation
  • The child simply didn’t understand the situation and consequences

Whatever the reason, punishing the child without both of you understanding what was going on in his or her mind works against successful parenting. Once you understand, you may decide simply to talk it over, or if the action deserves punishment, why not let the child help decide what that should be? I know that sounds radical, but it helps the child understand the impact of his or her actions and shoulder some of the responsibility for it.

On another occasion, we had just moved into a new home when one daughter started peeling decor off a window. In talking with her, I discovered that, with all of the moving activity going on, she felt neglected and left out. I understood the problem and took steps to make her feel more involved, but couldn’t let the action go unpunished because she knew she shouldn’t have done it. It was willful misbehavior. So we decided together that her punishment should be to clean the windows. To this day, she remembers the incident, not with shame, but with a sense of humor and understanding of herself.

So the next time your child misbehaves, try a little tenderness and talk through the behavior. You’ll get a better understanding of your child and it will work toward building your relationship.

This was originally published on my blog Family, by Choice, on December 29, 2014. Although I have decided to close that blog, I will share some of the posts here.

 Click here, to view videos that were part of the Family, by Choice series.

Responsibilities of The Mature Parent

This was a very difficult post for me to write, and probably one that’s hard for you to read, but one that I simply had to share. While this is aimed at the adoption community because adopted parents are often older when they become parents, this really applies to all parents, young and mature.

* * * * * * * *

little-boy-looking-up-sxc-smallMany older parents decide to adopt after going through years of infertility. Others select that path simply because they met their life partner later than they would have anticipated. Sometimes people simply aren’t ready to become parents until they’ve done certain things in their lives, then suddenly realize they’ve missed out on what they consider to be one of the most important aspects of it…children .

When my husband and I adopted, we were only two years younger than my father was when he passed away, leaving a wife and three young children adrift without the beloved father/husband who filled our days with joy and gave us all gentle direction. There was also no financial plan in place for his demise. I have often had to deal with the fear this past raises for me in thinking of my own daughters’ future.

Fortunately, my husband and I are both healthy and we look and feel fairly young for our ages… at least most of the time. I know that I am a much better and more patient mother than I’d have been when I was in my twenties or thirties. Still, the specter of my father’s untimely and unexpected death haunts me.

I recently read a story of a woman who adopted young children when she was in her 50s. I ask, “…and why not,” happy that this is now an option. Yet a nagging voice in my head fervently hopes she has a plan in place, “just in case.” Of course, an accident or health issue can happen at any age, and all parents – but mature parents in particular – have a responsibility to their children… to make a will, to plan for their child’s financial security, to identify loving and competent guardians who will protect, love and guide their child, assuring his or her future.

Of course, no amount of planning can ever replace a parent. These steps simply assure that the child set adrift by loss can and will be cared for in whatever ways are needed. It is the least and also the most that parents can do to protect their children. It is the most important gift you can give your child.

This post was originally published on my Family, by Choice blog on March 21, 2011. Although I have made the decision to close that blog, I chose to re-post some of the more important information here, on this blog.

Click here, to view videos that were part of the Family, by Choice series.

Guest Post: Reflections on Adoptions in the 1960’s and 1970’s

This article is written by guest author, Peter F. Eder. Peter is Senior Editor of The HUB magazine, a marketing publication and Contributing Marketing and Communications Editor of The Futurist magazine. Peter, a Darien CT resident, is an adoptive Parent.

father-child-on-beach-sxc-smallWe adopted our daughters in 1968 and 1971.  Reflecting on the passage of time and events, the adoptions occurred during a period of enormous social and cultural change.  Recognizing that the past is prologue, I would like to describe the period, the process and the impact of these dramatic changes.  Hopefully, it will be helpful to others as we live in a world of even quicker and more radical changes.

 The Late 60’s and the Adoption Process

In the late 1960’s, adoption was still an in-the-shadows activity.  Unwanted, unplanned pregnancies or an inability to raise children were a secret – there was a strong societal emphasis on privacy for what many considered a shameful event.

Institutions – private and public – controlled a rigorous process and served as gatekeepers and bankers of information.

This was clearly reflected in the intense scrutiny that was key to the adoption process.  Proof was required not just for financial fitness (income, savings, life insurances, ownership of property, condition and size of the home), but physical, psychological, and spiritual fitness as well.  It meant visits to the institution’s case worker, documented proof of everything, at –home visits, testimonials from clergy, community leaders, and employers.  It meant visits to the home – often on very short notice.

The process took one to two years, and once the child was identified and delivered to the parents, on-going supervision continued for the next twelve months, including surprise visits to the home.

Once the process was finalized, the institution ended its oversight and retreated into its privacy.

The prevailing social philosophy was to tell the child from the start about his or her adoption, but to quickly and completely create cultural assimilation.  Parents were encouraged to pass on their own heritage, language, religious values to the adoptee, to ensure a fit into the family and community.

It was also a time when nationalism was intense and adoptable children were kept in-country orphanages, rather than made available for adoption. (Viet Nam was just one example.)  The sole exception was South Korea – the Korean government felt it was in the best interest of its children to place them in a father / mother family household.  Its adoption program was strong, clear, fraud free, far-reaching and intense.

 The Societal Shifts of the 70’s

The early 1970’s saw several monumental changes to American law and culture that impacted and changed the adoption process.

One was the activity of Florence Fisher, a New York City adoptee who searched for her biological parents.  In the 1960’s she founded the support group ALMA (Adoptee’s Liberty Movement Association) and wrote the autobiographical story, The Search for Anna Fisher.  It brought to wider public notice what adoptees craved and were willing to do in their search for their biological parents – breaking down or penetrating institutional walls by legal or illegal means.

A second major happening was the 1973 Supreme Court ruling on Roe v. Wade, in effect legitimizing abortion.  While oral contraceptives had been on the U.S. market since the early 60’s, in 1971, there were 774,000 reported abortions.  Since 1973, the average annual abortion rate is 1,405,640 fetuses (more than 52 million babies aborted in the 1973 – 2010 period).  The ruling resulted in a dramatic decline in the pool of adoptable infants and saw the blossoming of the movement to consider older children for adoption – children who had been institutionalized or resided for years in foster home, or “less perfect” children with handicaps, and physical and psychological challenges.

A third major happening was that a number of major adoption institutions decided that a worthwhile alternative to adoption might be programs which would encourage and support the biological parent in retaining and raising the child as a single parent; in effect becoming shelters as opposed to serving solely as adoption agencies.

Finally, there was also a shift in cultural beliefs that began to stress that it would be more beneficial for the adoptee to be adopted by those of the same ethnicity or religion.  This further narrowed and affected the availability and stretched waiting times for adoptions.

The Foundling Family Newsletter is Born

In this shifting climate, a handful of New York Foundling Hospital adopters came to the conclusion there was a real need for a post-adoptive parents program.  We realized that as our adopted children aged, we needed to acquire special skills and resources and to do it as a group rather than individuals, allowing us to provide each other with greater support and clout.

Fortunately when we approached the New York Foundling Hospital, we found its leadership was of the same mind and we easily secured their agreement and support (though it created no changes in their stringent privacy policies).

We decided to secure answers to a series of questions.  Among them:

  • How should we remember and celebrate the institution that serves as a catalyst?
  • How do we deal with health issues – routine and emergency, – when we typically knew little about the adoptee biological history?
  • How do we reconcile religious beliefs and values in explaining reasons for adoption?
  • How do we help a child recognize and accept the past from a psychological point of view?
  • How do we deal with a child, while testing our own commitment to the process?
  • What are children and parents legal rights in a changing privacy climate?

We launched the Foundling Family post-adoptive parents group in 1971 and I was involved in it for the next four years.  During that time, my wife and I created the Foundling Family Newsletter and organizing a Nassau and Suffolk County group we met more than 15 times over the next five years.

The Newsletter contained information on events, book reviews, meeting highlights and announcements, ads for children available for adoption, trend reports and personal sagas.

In addition to the Newsletter we held meetings inviting experts on medical, psychological, social, religious and legal subjects, conducted surveys organized and led discussion groups, held reunions at the New York Foundling Hospital, did publicity on more-difficult-to-adopt children, and lobbied on behalf of the adoption process and its adoptees and adopters.

It was at the time ground-breaking, helpful and rewarding to all.

by Peter F. Eder

Copyright 2011 © Peter F. Eder – All rights reserved.

This guest post was originally published on the blog Family, by Choice on April 26, 2011.

Click Here to view videos that were broadcast on RCTV in the Family, by Choice Series.