January 29, 2010

One (or Two) of These Things is Not Like the Other Ones

When we were initially looking into adoption, we discussed the pros and cons of international vs. domestic adoption, whether we were hoping for a boy or girl, and if race mattered to us. After determining that a domestic adoption was the right choice for us, we decided the rest (sex, race) should be left up to whomever or whatever was looking out for us.

As luck would have it, we were blessed with a healthy, beautiful, African American baby girl. Living in a relatively diverse neighborhood (for Portland anyway) and having friends of all colors, races, and sexual orientations, we were completely comfortable (and even thrilled) to have a child of a different color. We felt marginally equipped going into it to handle any challenges and are continually trying to make sure we are doing right by our daughter by celebrating our differences and our sameness.

When we decided to adopt baby number two, we knew we wanted to do a domestic adoption again, but this time, we also knew we want to adopt a baby of color.

Our concern was that we didn’t want Ava to feel singled out in our already “unique” family. We thought if we have two children of color, they could discuss racial issues with each other, should there come a time when they aren’t comfortable talking to their white parents about how they are feeling (I hope they’ll always feel they can talk with us about anything—and I will continue to work hard on this—but I’m not that na├»ve!).

So, we held out for a long time to bring home a baby of color. Our agency, as it turns out, doesn’t get a lot of African American women through their doors, so the wait was long. There were other opportunities to adopt along the way, but we politely declined. It just didn’t feel right. Those who have adopted I think will agree that there is a feeling you get about “your” child. You just know.

So, along comes our son, Kamari, the birth child of a multi-racial (black, white, Native American, and Greek) couple, and low and behold, he’s the whitest multi-racial baby we’ve seen. Ha!

Seriously though, he’s pretty darn white, and at first, I was a little upset about it. I realize how awful that sounds; believe me, I’m not proud. It’s just that I had my daughter’s possible future feelings in mind and was being a protective mother, worrying about how she might react one day. I was being unnecessarily over-protective.

What I’ve realized these past few months, as I watch Ava with her brother (that many may have realized way before me), is that it doesn’t matter and really, I have no control. While I do think we made the right choice in “holding out” for a child of color, the two kids will bond in other ways, have other things in common, and have other differences (beyond the color of their skin, and the obvious, their gender).

We have no control over how Ava will or will not feel. In fact, there’s more evidence to suggest she may have bigger issues with Kamari’s relationship with his birth family (where she, as of yet, has no relationship with hers) than with the color of our family’s skin.

And so, alas, another lesson is learned. With all things in life—especially when it comes to raising children—I just need to let go of my expectations and let life happen. Things have a funny way of turning out the way they’re supposed to all on their own—without help from me.

January 11, 2010

What’s In a Name, Part 652

Our son’s name is Kamari. Yes, Kamari, pronounced just like it is spelled: kah-mar-ee. I love the reaction we get from some people when we tell them his name. Head cocked to the side, quizzical look on the face, nose scrunched up, followed by: the birth mom chose it, eh?

I guess that’s to be expected, after all the “drama” we went through with our daughter’s name. [Recap: birth mom hated the name we’d chosen, birth mom made threats, and on and on until we settled on “Ava” (which she loved). To put it mildly, it was a painful ordeal]. And with “Kamari” being a bit (just a bit!) more unique than Ava, I can see how people might wonder where the name came from*.

Actually, we found the name, and then chose it (with a little help). And the reason I wanted to write about it was because the process by which we chose the name—with help from our birth mom and dad—was actually sort of fun, and such a contrast to our first experience. So, to those who, like us, have struggled with the whole naming thing, I wanted to share our story.

Our agency coordinator, knowing that our son’s birth mom had a name in mind that she loved (and we did not), suggested that all four of us write down the names we liked and bring them to a meeting that she would facilitate, just to see what happened. For the next hour, we tossed around our names, and one by one picked through them, laughing and joking about things like the kids we’d known (and didn’t like) with some of the names. Finally, we narrowed it down to four names, two of which happened to be from our list and the other two from the birthparents’ list.

One name was quickly eliminated because it was, coincidentally, the name we’d chosen for the child we’d hoped to adopt in August '08 (our daughter’s birth sibling) that fell through, and that just didn’t seem right. Another was a tongue-twister when paired with our last name. Out of the remaining two, we were leaning slightly toward the other, but the birthparents loved “Kamari.” We mulled it over with our last name and it worked, so Kamari was it. For fun, I made everyone sign the piece of paper with “Kamari” circled and all the other names crossed out—you know, to make it official and all—and that’s going in Kamari’s baby book.

As for a middle name, none of the other names from the list worked with “Kamari” and our last names (it would have made for about a 15 syllable name!), so we all stared at each other, stumped, until my husband remembered that through the course of our conversation, we’d learned that both our birthmother and birthfather have the same middle name: Lee. My husband threw that out as an option, and the birthparents were truly flattered; it just seemed right. So, Kamari Lee it is.

As if naming a child isn’t hard enough (coming up with something you and your partner can agree on), add to the mix a birthmother and sometimes even a birthfather, and you get several opinions going at once, which could potentially be explosive—as I’ve mention a time or 652, naming is very personal.

I understand there are lots of birthparents out there who don’t care to be involved with the naming process; that just hasn’t been our experience. But, if you can remain a little open-minded about it (open-mindedness when it comes to names?? certainly not my strong point), it might just work out and the process might actually be fun. I was mentally prepared to go into battle once again this go ‘round, but was pleasantly surprised by the birthparents’ openness to different names. I even surprised myself. “Kamari,” like “Ava,” was not my first choice. But both names have really grown on me and the names we had originally chosen now don’t seem right.

What do you know? Apparently I have grown as a person through this experience. Yay, me!

January 04, 2010

8nt Texting Gr8? LOL

I just realized I’m inadvertently and unwittingly teaching my daughter what I consider to be a bad habit: incessant texting. Let me start by saying I hate texting, really I do. Not only is my cell phone ill-equipped to properly do the job in an even semi-timely manner, but I prefer to actually converse with people.

Believe me, I understand why people like it. You can quickly and easily let someone know you’re on your way, running late, whatever. I get it. And in the beginning, I thought it was sort of cool that our birth mom texted (that’s not even a real word!) me at least once a week throughout her pregnancy, and really cool that she texted me during labor (“getting ready 2 push…”). No joke. (Though I later found out that the text reading: “In delivery, head almost out” was actually written by the birth father, it was still cool.)

But now our son is four months old and I’m still getting texts. Several texts a week. And if I don’t respond within a couple of hours, I get the same text again.

People who know me well know I’m not a cell phone user. I basically have it for emergencies. I prefer good, ol’ fashion communication; you know, talking on the (land line) phone or face to face. Even emailing. So this texting several times a week (several texts per exchange, of course) is making me crazy. But more importantly, it’s turned my four year old daughter into a texting maniac.

Using a piece of paper, her plastic princess phone (*groan* given to her by our neighbor), or even her palm, our daughter texts her (make believe) sister, her “boyfriend” as she calls him (the 14 year old, yes 14, next door that she has a crush on), or even our son’s birth mom. She does this at the dinner table, in her bedroom, in the car. At first it was kind of cute. Look at our daughter, all grown up and texting, I’d said to my husband.

But that’s just it. “All grown up” at four. Call me old fashioned, call me behind the times. Whatever. Pre-teen, teen, young adult—it comes at you fast. The longer I can keep my kid a kid, the better in my opinion.

Yeah, it’s just texting, what’s the harm? It’s not so much the “harm.” It’s just that I want to raise children that interact and engage with others, not bury their noses in cell phones, texts, computers, video games. They can bury their noses in books, that’s cool with me.

Okay, it seems I’ve gotten a bit preachy; not my intent. (sorry!) My daughter takes her cue from me and here’s what’s on my list for 2010: less texting, more talking.

Though I will admit, I think it’ll be pretty cool for our son to read all the texts his birth mom sent during the three months prior to his arrival (I’m writing them out and saving them in his baby book). Oh how the adoption times have changed!