Monday, August 8, 2011

Adoption in the Digital Age

Four score and seven years ago... okay, maybe just even a score ago, adoption did not have quite as many challenges as it does today.  "What?!", you ask.  Shouldn't it be easier now that we are in an age of instant access to information?  At the tip of your fingertips lies a million opportunities and endless amounts of information.  Yep. So, let me tell you where my dilemma lies and then you can tell me your thoughts.  Because I want to hear them.

My brain and my heart are at an impasse. 

Two of my kiddos are adopted.  We adopted them after fostering them through our county agency.  As they were foster children first, we know their families; having dealt with them during the process of possible reunification, and have somewhat of a relationship with various family members (older siblings, aunts, etc.).  Their birth mothers are not raising them for very valid reasons.  Therefore, we are not exactly meeting up for dinner, or the like.  

Our state does not recognize, "open adoption" legally.  As parents we have the right to share anything we want with birth parents, but we also have the right to do nothing. Even if we had agreed to share photos (we did not), the Commonwealth would not enforce it nor compel us to honor our word.

There are several of the boys' relatives that I really like. Older siblings, young aunts, and others, who had no control nor ability to offer respite to the boys before they went into foster care.  The fact that the boys went into foster care and later were adopted, distressed them.  They have been cordial to us and have tried to maintain somewhat of a relationship, even though none of us really know the protocol of a situation that ideally, should have never been necessary.  But it was necessary, and hence my dilemma.

I love my boys.  Adore them.  I love them as much as my biological children, with that fierce, loyal, complete, "Momma Bear Love", that only a mother can understand.  I am also quite protective of them, and probably a little more so because of their life circumstances before adoption.  

I have shared pictures with their biological families before, only to have those pictures wind up on Facebook and MySpace.  It enraged me.  That may seem a bit of an overreaction, but it really upset me, as none of those who posted the pictures had bothered to ask me.  The "Momma Bear".  A couple even just copied them off of my Facebook page (I have since changed their access to photos) and added them as their own.  So I stopped sending the relatives electronic pictures.  One of them took pictures of the hard copies I sent and posted them on MySpace anyway.  I have not sent any more, but she has been asking for them.

I have never approached these relatives with my displeasure.  It is an awkward conversation to even envision.  These are MY sons.  I have the court documents and years of raising them to prove it.  I have an obligation to protect them and their stories.  Unlike my family and friends who are interested in the lives and photos of my children because they not only love them, but because they are a part of a bigger Mr. Clean family entity, the boys' biological relatives seem to only have interest in the life that isn't.  The part of the boys' lives that were irrevocably changed when they joined our family.

None of us really have any control over our lives.  We have choices to make and reactions to circumstances to decide, but even then, until we are at an age that we can recognize this fact, someone else has to guide us along.  When you adopt a child, there is an added history to manage.  One you had no part in and one your child may or may not want a part of when they come to an age to understand it.  Because of that, I feel like I need to protect them a bit more.  I do not want their pictures plastered all over the internet without my consent.  I freely share pictures of my children, but I chose the circumstances.  I decide for all of them what is seen and who can see it, until they are old enough to make that decision on their own.  By others doing that without me knowing, I think they are stepping over the line.  I do not care if they share DNA or not.

This may sound harsh.  It sounds harsh to me, even though I have read it, re-read it, and even edited it in various ways.  There is no way I have been able to open my heart in this post to show you what I am feeling and thinking, because it comes from a place that is indescribable.  A mother's heart.

We no longer live in an age when school pictures sent to far off relatives (or biological families) wind up on the fridge for a season, then into a drawer or old photo album.  Or even the trash.  The digital age has taught us that photos now live forever and can be duplicated and sent to millions in an instant.  It makes one feel a tad vulnerable to think about your child's image being shared without your knowledge.  Even if it is without an ounce of malice.

My boys will one day have to sort out their own feelings about being adopted, their biological parents and siblings, and if they want to delve into that part of themselves.  It almost feels like a betrayal to them if I share everything about them with a family they do not know now and may not want to know in the future.  Maybe they will, and we will certainly encourage that, but until that time I feel it is my job to protect them.  There is a big difference in having your annual school picture up on Great Aunt Tilly's fridge, and special shared family moments being copied and pasted onto someone else's social network site. A huge difference.

My head wants to share these moments with the boys' biological families.  My heart wants to protect them and save them until my boys can consent to sharing them themselves.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

It's The Most Horrible Time of the Year...

I know what you are thinking.  After all, THAT day in April is upon us and we have to deal with Uncle Sam and his Band of Merry Men.  But no, I am not referring to Tax Day.

A day or two ago a package arrived in the mail. My girls were positively giddy, and I wanted to throw up.  It was safe enough looking.  An innocent package, gray with dark lettering.  It was a Land's End package.  And it contained bathing suits.

Now lest you think we are extravagant people, I will just say for the record, the reason my girls were so, "over the moon" is because their bathing suits usually come from exotic places like Sam's Club, in between the dog food and the bananas, or Target, my second home.  But this year I wanted a more modest option for my chiquitas and I saw a really cute suit at Land's End that fit the bill.
The top of the suit for the girls.  I bought matching swim shorts as well.  They look adorable!

The suits were not that pricey and I loved them.  A friend had bought a similar one for her daughter and I loved that it came with shorts.  No more "yanking" when the girls come out of the pool.  A bit more coverage would help my growing girls as well.

My bathing suit was one I bought a couple years ago and is now too big.  Plus, it is a bit worn out from a couple years of daily treks to the local pool, and sadly misshapen.  It is a bit embarrassing.  So, I took the plunge and ordered one along side the girls' suits.

Now, although bathing suit shopping is certainly more private when you do it at home, it is no less terror inducing when you have to try on the blasted thing.  It was time to pay the piper.

I avoided the inevitable by joining the girls in their happy dance over THEIR new suits.  They excitedly tried them on and they looked perfect.  Of course.  On the first try.  My youngest is a petite thing and at seven years old she fit into a size 5 bathing suit.  A five.  I come no where close to that number; girl's size, ladies' size or otherwise.  My suit lay waiting at the bottom of the Land's End package like a snake in a pit, poised to strike.  I carried the offending thing up to my room and locked the door.  And then installed a deadbolt and infrared sensors, lest anyone come within 20 yards of my bedroom and witness the stand off between me and the suit. 

I pulled the pretty, innocent, thing out of the bag and looked at it.  It was a nice suit, maybe it would be kind.  Because I have a long torso and am taller (not "freakishly" tall, but tall nonetheless),

I chose a two piece (like a tankini).  It was time.  I could only stare at it for so long.  I took the plunge.  And then laughed hysterically.  Not the kind of laughter that is a form of relief from a stressful situation, but the kind you may hear, say... in a mental institution.  Which may be where they find me if I do not find a new suit soon.  Needless to say, the Land's End suit got stuffed, no rammed, back into the bag.  It will not be making the rounds at my pool this summer.  At lease not on this gal.  

It is back to the drawing board and back to searching, browsing and scouring the web for that perfect suit.  So if you see me in a suit like this one...

...and muttering to myself in between bursts of hysterical laughter, it may be best to stay on the opposite side of the pool.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Mr. Clean is Harassing Me...

Okay, so maybe that title is a bit overstating things.  A bit.  Just a little bit.  For the past few years Mr. Clean has requested a family portrait.  You know the kind.  You get all scrubbed up, put on matching white shirts and trendy jeans, haul the family to some place in the mall and smile, BIG, even thought you want to punch the photographer for saying stupid things, like... "Say Pumpernickel!  Everyone, say pumpernickel!"  I would rather have a mammogram.  

I am not sure what has turned me off of the business side of a camera.  I love taking pictures, and seeing pictures, and admiring other people's family portraits, but the thought of my own stops me in my tracks.  Probably because I have seen pictures of myself and I usually look like I want to bite someone's head off, or I pour on the cheese.  Mega cheese.  And now that I am 30 something, cheese is no longer endearing.  Nor is looking like my great grandmother in pictures from the old country.  Back when you had to wait a hour and a half for the shutter and looked like you were seriously ready to punch the photographer.  He probably said something stupid too, like, "Cha toir a’bhòidhchead goil air a’ phoit."  You know, the classic goofy mall photographer lingo.

Recently my sister-in-law had the complete gall to send us gorgeous photos of her family, taken professionally.  None of them looked like they wanted to hurt someone.  Their photographer was probably mute.  Lucky ones.  But after seeing them, guess who started talking about the lack of family photos in his house. Uh-huh.  Mr. Clean.  The big whiner.  

It made me panic for a minute, as thoughts of me reigning in five kids under hot lights, as my handsome hubby sits looking quite dapper (does anyone actually use that word anymore?), resulting in my forehead so shiny from stressing over what child is, or is not, picking their nose in public and on film, that it could be used as a solar panel, well... makes me want to hyperventilate.  And the mental image of the Mr. Clean clan in their white shirts and trendy jeans all smiling sweetly while Momma is breathing into (or drinking from) a paper bag?  Not so good.

But then the nostalgic Angel kicks in.  The one who can stare off into the atmosphere and dream of a photograph where I look like Rita Hayworth, perfect matte forehead with coiffed tresses, and a three year old who would not dare make his favorite "bad guy face" right before the flash goes off.

This makes me want to call the mall and make an appointment. Or mortgage the house and book a photo shoot with a real photographer, make-up artist, lighting specialist and stand in children who resemble my own, but without peanut butter in their ear or magic marker tattoos.  But then reality kicks in.  And I schedule a mammogram instead.