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.

The Wicked Witch, the Bell Jar Efffect and the Girfriends’ Getaway

Ladies: Show this article to your husband at least two weeks before Mother’s Day, birthdays or any gifting holiday!

belljarfamilyMost of us love being Moms. We love our families and wouldn’t exchange being a Mother for anything in the world. But admit it…don’t you sometimes wish you could go back to just being you for a day? You known…the you that existed BFF (before fabulous family)? The you who splashed on perfume instead of calamine lotion, who shopped for pastel clothing two sizes smaller without concern that strained carrots or green peas might show, the you for whom a normal evening meant a cute date, a romantic dinner, a flight of wine and a night on the town, not a re-run of Monk, a pot pie, a drink tray full of 7-eleven slurpees and fanning yourself in front of a hiccuping air conditioner.

I think I was several weeks into Motherhood before the call of the wild howled in me. I longed to throw caution to the wind and do something really crazy…like have private time in the bathroom or splurge on something not made by Johnson & Johnson. But alas, guilt won out. The insidious call of deferred maternal chores beckoned. By the time I answered, I could have bungee jumped from the top of the laundry, scaled the Everest of dishes in the sink or recreated “Honey I Shrunk the Kids” in our redwood forest of grass. I sighed, put my twin daughters down for their relay naps, fed the washing machine a seven course dinner and made a “to do list” out of whatever I couldn’t cram into the dishwasher without dismantling said machine. I considered borrowing a goat for the grass, but somehow, the thought of more poop deterred me.

Then a plan hit me. It was all so simple! All I needed was a large shelf and a big bell jar. I could put my husband and daughters on the shelf, under a bell jar, where they’d be safe and sound, and time would stand still within! Then, off I would go for a weekend of restless meanderings, binge sleeping, and indulgent food remarkably free of the word “helper.”

Did you know they don’t sell those on the internet? Well, at least, I couldn’t find any with specs that said they’d stop time or fit humans.

I made it through those first few years of motherhood with only an occasional and temporary transformation that involved the word “itch” with the antecedent letters “w” or “b.” Fortunately, my husband likes science fiction so he finds roaring, green-faced monsters entertaining.

Since those days, I’ve discovered the next best thing to a bell jar: The girlfriends’ getaway. For one weekend each X weeks/months [fill in frequency depending on desperation level], you get to click your heels, wave a “wand” (don’t you love the magic of credit cards!) and be someplace other than home… without dropping houses on anyone.

It’s amazing how a change of perspective and a little pampering can change your world from black and white back to technicolor. And before you know it, you’ll be ready to click your heels again and return to those little munchkins at home!



A Toy Story

In the kitchenSaturday, we held our first yard sale in four years.

I cleaned out the garage (mostly “junque”). We sifted through boxes in the basement (cast-off treasures). My daughters lightened the load on the bookshelves and in the DVD cabinets.

Most of what we had to sell were kids’ things…my daughters’ toys accumulated since we moved into our house almost eight years ago, a few décor items and the collection of my mother’s dolls that I hadn’t been ready to part with since her death six years before the last garage sale.

I should have been ecstatic to see stuff that had taken up room in our house going to a new home where it would be loved anew. In part, I was. But parting with some of the items made me wistful – certainly more so than they were. It felt as if I were parting with the flotsam and jetsam of my daughters’ childhood.

The Build-a-Bears born of Birthday Party Adventures went to the daughters of a man covered head-to-toe in tattoos. Our collection of Barbie DVDs went to a family whose native language was Spanish. The young girl who bargained for the Hula Dancer I’d brought back from Hawaii for my Mother assured me she’d take good care of the doll. This would be the 48th in her collection. Three sets of Build-a-Bear clothing went to a young disabled woman who had just bought a new bear that morning. I hoped the young girl whose family bought the doll house would enjoy it as much as my daughters had.

It helped to learn something of the family inheriting our treasures. Part of the reason Pixar’s Toy Story was so popular is that the creators understood the bond between humans and toys, even if they flipped the perspective.

My daughters are twelve-going-on-sixteen now. They’re no longer children, but not quite women. When I shop, I find myself avoiding some aisles in department stores because they transport me to a land to which I can never return with them…a land filled with the enchantment of Hide-and-Seek, Play Doh, Candyland and Make-believe. I know new magic lies ahead, but the past is more easily remembered than the future, imagined.

There are toys on those store shelves that I knew their younger selves would have adored, toys that I’d always intended to buy “the next year,” toys they’d have loved that never made their way into our budget.

The last time we shopped, I asked them if they would have liked it if I bought a particular “cute” lunch box for them, or if they’d be embarrassed to tote it in front of their friends. They just smiled. I interpreted those enigmatic smile.

“I guess that means you’d be happy that I thought to buy it for you but you’d be embarrassed to use it in front of your friends?”

“Yeah, that’s it Mom.”

Good thing I’m a mind-reader.



Written in summer 2012.

The Invisible Ties that Bind Friendships

JoAnn,Donna,Sue & CarolA  little over a year ago now, I reconnected with some of my best friends from grade school, and we’ve been meeting every three or so months since. I still marvel at how it came about and the richness it has added to my life.

One day, I was in Pier 1 and heard my maiden name called. I turned around, and there was JoAnn. She said, “I don’t know if you remember me, but….”

I’d have known her anywhere.  She, like I, was a little older, a bit more zaftig than when we used to play, then pal around together, but there was no doubt of who she was.

Next, we reconnected with Donna through facebook and started meeting every three to four months at restaurants in Geneva, NY, the  halfway point between Rochester and Syracuse, where we now live. In many ways, we picked up where we left off, oh so many years ago when we went our separate ways after high school.

I don’t know if they experienced the same emotion, but at first I had a sense of loss at there being a gaping hole in the quilt of our shared lives. As stories were shared, though, new threads were woven and the quilt is becoming whole again.

Yet a piece was still missing. Yesterday, Sue, the fourth member of our friendship circle, was added thanks to JoAnn’s dedication to tracking her down. We’d found the missing fabric!

Each time we’ve gotten together, I’ve been surprised by how often one of our mothers is evoked by another in our group to make a “guest appearance,” in spite of the fact that they are, sadly, now all gone.

Comments such as “Oh, I loved your mother’s golumpki,”  and “I told your mother she made the best picnic lunches ever and she was so surprised,” or “I was touched that your mother always remembered I loved her sloppy joes and always  made them when I came over,” and “Your mother was always so welcoming…” are laced through the conversations each time we gather.

Growing up, I’m not sure any of us realized the role our friends’ mothers played in our lives, but clearly, they were invisible threads that helped bind the quilt of our own rich friendship.