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Archive for November, 2007

O.k., this is the third and final section of my notes about this ASAP conference. It was a panel discussion led by Hollee McGinnis who works for the Evan B. Donaldson Institute and who founded Also-Known-As, Inc. (see websites at the end of the email).

She opened the talk and then talked more between and at the end of the panel discussion. I’m going to record some of her comments. Also, since all of the panelists were under 18 and I didn’t ask if I could quote them, I’m not going to include their comments. However, these notes will be the most fragmented because her comments aren’t all being recorded as part of a sequential talk so some things are a bit out of context. However, with that, Hollee McGinnis had a lot of important points for families so I’ll do my best:

  • If you’re doing things right for adopted kids, you’re doing things right for all kids
  • In Jan. of 2008 the results of an Adoption & Identity study will be released. It has over 45o people participating (about half were adopted domestically and half internationally) and the ages of those who responded ranged in ages from 19 to 70
  • It was interesting that for most respondents, the adoption identity grew in importance throughout the life cycle and racial identity was most significant in college and young adult years.
  • It will be wonderful to read the entire report to get the actual stats and also the way the stats are analyzed, the way the questions are worded and what respondents said.
  • For those who experienced racial discrimination sometimes or fairly often, it was done by classmates, friends and teachers most often
  • For those who experienced adoption discrimination, it was done most often by extended family.
  • Adoption discrimination, she said, “Assumption that everyone has ready access to genetic/biologic information.” She talked about school assignment and well-meaning questions, the question being asked regularly, “Why were you adopted?” and she said, “No ones asks why were you born” and if we inserted the word born into questions people ask about adoption we’d realize how personal, private and intrusive many questions are.
  • She said there are also assumptions of adopted people as “lucky, not wanted, saved, not loved, orphaned,” and she said, “Our stories are complex.”
  • As for transracial adoptees she said, they are expected to represent their entire race. Also, she said how people will assume you’re foreign, (how she’s been complimented on her excellent English), how schools don’t often emphasize contributions of people (ex. Asians in building U.S.) 
  • Adoption, she said, can be like a cake with many layers. The number of layers vary depending on people’s history and experiences. One layer might be family of origin, another layer, adoption, another layer foster care, another layer race/ethnic identity, another layer is transracial adoption.
  • She said, for her, she came to a point where she came to be with all of her story. She said, “the question of who I am can only be answered by who am I?  
  • Professionals generally recommend ages 8-11 are best for a “homeland tour” with the initial visit to make “ghosts” real. She said, “birth country visit is not the same as a trip to Italy.” She said many people wait and don’t always remember a trip at age 11-12. Many people go in high school or college. She said, it’s complicated. There’s pride and also, “that’s the country that sent me away.”
  • When people commented about the importance of culture camps she said, “It wasn’t the fan dancing or Tae Kwon Do that was great but the one week reprieve from having to explain myself” that people appreciated.
  • She said, adult mentors of same race important. Not forcing culture but opening the door.
  • I wish I had heard an entire keynote address as she was a great speaker, summarizing facts and research and mixing it up with more personal stories or quotes as well. LOOK FOR THE REPORT FROM THE EVAN B. DONALDSON INSTITUTE COMING OUT IN 2008 (jan. i think) on ADOPTION AND IDENTITY!!!!

Evan B. Donaldson Institute:  http://www.adoptioninstitute.org/index.php

Also-Known-As, Inc: http://www.alsoknownas.org/

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As promised, I’m adding more notes from the conference on November 10th, 2007. This time, the heavy-hitter of a speaker is Joyce Macquire Pavao. For a little about her and her organization, there’s a link to the organization she founded AND an excerpt of her biographical sketch at the bottom of these notes:

She followed Boris Gindis who probably didn’t mean to sound grim and make us feel a bit worried. So, her light-hearted opening, “You too can have a Harvard-educated faculty if you’ve adopted.” She talked about being adopted as an infant. She said many things and I wasn’t working as a reporter so my notes are subjective and not meant to be comprehensive. Still interested? Here goes. These aren’t 100% quotes but close and are paraphrased pieces of the talk:

  • Adoption is a complicated subject and what we often have is case-history from or about one of us personally or professionally. But, it’s much too broad a subject to do that. My note: I’ve heard this from Beth O’Malley as well who respects personal AND professional experiences but values nothing more than a combination of both.

  • Adoption, like marriage, incorporates families. You get the birth family because they come with the child. They are a part of your family. You incorporate them in your mind and heart if not your life. Like, in-laws, you don’t have to like it or like them but they are a part of the package.

  • She reminded audience of parents (adoptive) and teachers, that in schools many kids are touched by adoption. If the student isn’t adoptive he or she may have a relative who is. Also, she emphasized that some things that we learn about adoption are same for emotionally adopted families (foster families, kids in kinship care, guardian-care, families formed through alternative reproductive technology, step-families, etc.) and that remembering this “normalized adoption.”

  • She said “root families” where the same people conceive, deliver and raise their children are probably more uncommon.

  • People pathologize adoption still and adopted children, adoptive parents and birth parents. She says people still come up to her and when they hear she’s adopted say, “I’m sorry.”

  • Adoption isn’t an incident or an event.

  • In Hawaii, adoptions are open and there’s a phrase, “hanai” which has been done for centuries. She said, for many cultures, process of birth goes to age two and at that age their is a ceremony where primary family (adoptive family) is acknowledged and where birth family is treated forever as aunt/uncle and a part of the family.

  • She said she heard a man speak of being “hanai’d” and being the “holder of 2 families” and wished we had that openness in U.S.

  • She said things are getting better in the U.S. but impression is still that it’s really “too bad” and it isn’t at a point where adopted people are respected (or adoptive parents or birth parents – especially birth mothers).

  • In the 1950’s she said, there was no acknowledgement of the loss aspect of adoption, it was a “get on with your life” time and “love will fix everything.”

  • She spoke of the big difference between secrecy and privacy. She said a secret is when info. about you is kept from you whereas privacy is not sharing info. at the supermarket.

  • She talked about how in adoption there’s a need to talk to children about these heavy big issues, “before they’re developmentally ready” but it’s necessary. She says you have to tell your child early on and help them deal with feeling of loss – loss of birth family for them, loss of biological child for adoptive parents, loss of child for birth family. She says the loss has to be balanced with joy.

  • She said 98% of children adopted older than age 3 have suggested neglect, physical or sexual abuse so the level of trauma is pretty great (I don’t know if she was speaking about int’l or domestic adoption or both)

  • Even with “adoption at birth,” she says, “loss is there but not of the same essence.”

  • For an adopted person there’s the loss of genetic and cultural history, birth family’s religion, siblings sometimes, being part of a traditional family and self-esteem.

  • For adoptive parents who have faced infertility she believes feelings aren’t “resolved” but they get tempered but still normal to feel loss of reproductive control, contributing genetic material and missing first days, mos. or years of child’s life and having status of normal family 

  • For birth family there is the loss in not raising child, not 100% sure they did the right thing or the loss of approval from others.

  • At pre-school age, anger can cover fear/sadness. She said, sadness sits still whereas anger moves and can be re-directed.

  • She said, kids can get labeled and “children are not mentally ill. They don’t trust adults and why should they? Anger is normal. Normal under the circumstances.”

  • She talked about control issues and how “most adopted children are in training to be So. American dictators.”

  • She said, “we were moved, placed, had identities changed,” and compared adoption to being in the witness protection program. She said, “later you find out you could have been entirely different person.”

  • Control issues are normal. “Behavior is the language of children,” she said, “Pay attention.”

  • We need to speak to children about very hard subjects, to explain why they are with us, why they are not with someone else (birth family), and how it’s “an existential thing” and kids are 3, 6 and 9 and wondering who I am and where I came from. She said, “most adults don’t do (the existential crisis) til grad school.”

  • The parents need to be team leaders she said because the parent is the expert on their child. She said, “if we don’t pay attention to the parents we destabilize. It’s incredibly important.”

  • She said, kids who are adopted are thinking about “complex matters” and school touches on these issues. Of course kids are distracted she says, the readings and assignment can cause emotional difficulties. But she’s clear that children are reacting/acting “normal under the circumstances” and shouldn’t be pathologized. But, we have to be sensitive to what gets brought up and stirred up with certain conversations and discussions and assignments. The subjects kids are learning can interfere with learning even in absence of any learning issues.

  • She said it’s important not to label. She says, “you can’t have an attachment disorder alone. It’s lack of trust. It’s traumatic beginning. Often treatments can re-trigger children. Can’t just medicate or pathologize kids and expect them to be o.k.”

  • She talked about how often parents go to school to help educate teachers and students about adoption. She talked about how this can embarrass kids and cause privacy issues or awkwardness. She suggested parents team up and go to various schools to do training so it gets done but isn’t as personal as having it be done by the parent.

  • In talking about diversity she said it’s important not only to look at student body but how diverse are teachers, the board of directors, will kids have adult role models as well. She said, “no school is perfect.”

  • She talked about the wondering about birth families and said, “The people you don’t know are as important as the people you do know. The children hold these people. Join them.”

  • She emphasized saying/thinking, “normal under the circumstances” as opposed to pathologizing kids and issues.

  • She said sometimes therapy pathologizes but she did think consultations were important, especially for parents.

  • For more about the center she founded and work she’d done: http://www.kinnect.org/who_team.html

  • An excerpt from the kinnect website says:  “Joyce Maguire Pavao, Ed.D., LCSW, LMFT, is the founder and CEO of Center For Family Connections, Inc. (CFFC – est. 1995), Adoption Resource Center (ARC – est. 1973), Pre/Post Adoption Consulting Team (PACT – est. 1978), and Family Connections Training Institute (FACT – est. 1995), all of which are in Cambridge, Massachusetts.”

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Fog covers the water. A woman walks on the shore and there is no landscape or sense of place. It looks as though she’s walking in and across steam. Timeless. The ocean is timeless today. It’s warm, sunny, almost sixty degrees. It’s late November and I am wearing only jeans and a sweater and a scarf. Are the seagulls as confused and delighted by this weather?

There is a t.v. on the shore! It’s not even that tiny. I lift it over the sea wall because I can’t imagine someone or even an animal swimming in the ocean and bumping into a t.v. This beach combing might keep me from swimming IN the ocean ever again.

I see a bottle, whole, green and in the water. This will be sea glass some day but now it is clearly litter. It’s out of reach and makes me sad. It will crack and break and someday be beautiful bits. Right now, it is out of place, the discard of someone lazy or clumsy treating the ocean like a trash can.

I dreamt of green glass but it didn’t look like an empty beer bottle. I see so many brown pieces. I think of Al-Anon and 12 steps and the amount of bottles that are left by drinkers. Maybe I’ll design an “Easy Does It” line for those of us who love people who don’t love themselves. A necklace that says, “I too know someone I can’t reach.” What is the need for community when what is shared is misery? Is it so that we know we are not the only ones who carry this particular bundle of burden?

The sand is filled with ceramics, large chunky pieces and small earth-toned pieces. The water makes the white ones glitter on the sand. I hover near the sand, my arm reaching down like an elephant’s trunk skimming over the surface below me.

Someone left a hook in a fish. The fish, still soft, but the hook rusted and in the middle of this animal. I toss it back in the water. It is no less dead in the ocean but it seems wrong to leave a fish on sand. The mother in me worries about a child stepping on that hook but it’s too deep to retrieve.

I come to a place in the sand where there are more pieces than I can pick up. Whites, greens, browns so dark they are almost black. Treasures, like tragedies, don’t littler our lives evenly. Sometimes there are wide expanses of nothing, no sharp edges and no gems either. Other times there are dangerous edges poking up everywhere. And now, this morning, on this little patch, pieces that seemed to have traveled together.

I never reach into the water to get sea glass. I don’t know why. It’s the boundary I have drawn for myself. I search along the shore for what Mother Nature has left. Somehow, going into the water feels like stealing, greedy as though what’s on the earth isn’t enough. How silly and arbitrary the rules we make up for ourselves. Maybe tomorrow I will dip my hand into the ocean and see what there is to discover?

I’m grateful for the solitude. I will see so many people I love today. But in a crowd, I go dumb, distant and distracted.

The Poet Visits the Museum of Fine Arts

a poem by Mary Oliver from her book Thirst

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So, a week ago today I spent my Saturday at an Adoption and Education Forum. It was sponsored by the Adoption & Foster Care School Awareness Project and had some big name speakers such as Joyce Maguire Pavao and Hollee McGinnis. Boris Gindis was there as well and I have some notes from his talk too. I had not heard of him before but he was interesting. Anyhow, these are just my notes.

Points were made that were interesting, educational and thought-provoking. I’m still sorting out what I believe, feel and need to learn about. Feel free to do the same.

BORIS GINDIS: http://www.bgcenter.com

His talk was titled “Educational Issues in Children Adopted from Overseas Orphanages”

  • language mediates experience. ex. a child can learn boiling kettle is hot by touching and burning hand (that’s a direct and unmediated experience) or she can learn by a parent saying, “Don’t touch. This is hot.” That indirect and mediated.
  • Children in orphanages have had more unmediated learning and when exposed to education are not always ready to benefit by mediated learning. He says education must be rebuilt and re-mediated first.
  • He noted that more school-age children, or “older” children (children older than age five) are being adopted. In 1995, 3% of all adoptions were of “older children” and now it’s 21% of adoptions.
  • The swiftness at which children lose language when adopted is astounding. Even those who can read and write in native language still have a high and rapid language attrition process.
  • 99% of adoptive families do not speak the language of their child’s birth country.
  • A child of three will lose most expressive language in the first three mos. Receptive language may last a bit longer but is generally lost within a year.
  • He says, in an article he distributed, “Language Development in Internationally Adopted Children,” originally published in China Connection (A newsletter for New England Families who have adopted children from China – which I write for as well), the following (about children born in China). “They are monolingual upon arrival (Chinese only) and after several months are monolingual again, only this time in English. He stresses that thinking that these children are bilingual is an “erroneous” approach, especially from an educational approach.
  • Why is language loss so rapid?
  • 1. Initial level of language is low
  • 2. Incentive to keep language isn’t there
  • 3. Children are practical. New language coming in takes up “linguistic pace”
  • 4. Negative attitudes of life before adoption. When adopted, everything is new and language is a link to old life which, if from an orphanage can be a reminder of suffering (even unconsciously in children). In a sense the language of birth country can remind a child who has been in an orphanage of time when they were hungry, cold, etc. He said, “Mere sound of language can be a PTSD trigger.” In fact, he said, having a daycare or nanny who speaks native language when parent does not will impede bonding and attachment with parent (that was a surprise to me).
  • For “older children” losing language, behavior regresses. A six-year old who could read and write in native tongue can lose language and behave like a two-year old. In fact, he said, children with most advanced and developed native tongue can have most difficulty behavior wise. Again, if you realize that language mediates experience, the loss of it means the loss of associated skills which impact behavior.
  • With children adopted at “older ages” the actual readiness for school and the actual “school” age can be very different.
  • It is a mistake to treat IA (internationally adopted) children in same category as ESL learners. ESL learners have mediated learning in home environment usually while IA learners do not.
  • Remediation is recommended in home, school and in community.
  • One shocking statistic was that the age at adoption (six mos. vs. six years, for example) didn’t matter much as ALL children IA are “at risk” with learning. His take on the reasons for this are as follows
  • 1. premature birth (2/3 of all children pre-mature will have learning issues. Adoption status is not relevant)
  • 2. exposure to drugs and alcohol
  • 3. birth may have been difficult
  • 4. exposure to malnutrition
  • 5. neglect
  • 6. abandonment
  • 7. deprivation
  • 8. trauma – in fact, the number of children adopted internationally with Post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms is much larger than it is for same-age peers without this experience

The education of teachers is “paramount” he said because so far, most training is “sensitivity based” and provided by adoptive parents. However, he said, “a full assessment of differences in educational means to assess needs” is needed.

He suggested parents put a statement in IEP (individual education plans) saying something such as, “Professionals must learn specificity of children and adapt to children” and list articles, courses, workshops, etc.

He also told schools to remember that unlike many parents adoptive parents tend to be “more educated, prepared, middle class, mature, part of support groups, taking courses, reading a lot and are better prepared than school in general knowledge of their child’s educational needs. Also, they know their legal rights and it would be best for schools to cooperate with these parents.”

Stay tuned for notes from the other speakers (next blogs) and my thoughts. I welcome your comments!

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My aunt sent me this link to an article written by Hollee McGinnis who I just so happened to hear speak an an Adoption and Education Forum held in Pembroke, MA

http://relativechoices.blogs.nytimes.com/

The cool coincidence is that my aunt didn’t know I went to this conference and that she was the key speaker on the panel.

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What I Know of Nothing

Christine “Cissy” White 

I know, at forty,

at least something

which is I know nothing

and even this knowledge is suspect. 

At forty,

I forgave my mother

for having me,

for having had the nerve to have me.

She had told me when I was a crying teen,

face down on a twin bed,

wondering why

I was even alive

how her father had told her not to have me. 

She was seventeen and already had a child when pregnant with me.

“I should have been aborted. Is that your pep talk? What are you saying?”

“No,” she said, trying to show me her own teenage angst

and how despite it I had been wanted, chosen, and not a mistake of fate. 

She was trying to say it could have been otherwise.

I was not grateful, comforted or heartened.

I was angry

at her

for not listening to him

and having me.

She had no business mothering me

with how little she knew,

how overwhelmed she was. 

Her father, who was Irish Catholic  

had probably meant adoption

not abortion and so I fed that fantasy too.

Maybe if I had been adopted or aborted

things would have been better

and that might be true.

I did suffer greatly

with abuse and neglect

in quantity and details

not needed.

But still, even knowing this, 

the question of whether I was

to be had or kept

was never mine to ask –  

only answer. 

No one gets to conceive herself.

No one can make his own adoption plan.

Maybe, with time, we can conceive of ourselves,

sculpting images we aspire to,

carving monuments we hope to embody,

letting go of the caricatures who stand in for us

when we can’t stand ourselves.

At forty, I know how little I knew

How much less I know now.

And still, I quest, and hunt, and seek

in books, on sand and with paper

to understand. 

The waves crashed today

sounding like enemies moving closer.

pulsing with a drumming beat.

Was it me who put the thunder in each crash?

Because I know it’s Veteran’s day,

because I was thinking of my own biological father

who I don’t know

with few exceptions and a few facts

Veteran, Vietnam is one.  

I don’t know what it is to be on a beach

armed with a gun and expecting attack.

The boats and planes overhead could be bombers.

And yet I stroll here at will with warm tea,

a thick winter coat grateful of how often I do feel safe.

I do not know the kick of a baby

in my teenage belly

while a one-year old pulls at my hand and time

and a husband doesn’t use his hands to help or hug

but hits. 

The crack of feet on mussel shells surprises. 

I jump up a little,

turn to the sound to see

it’s just an older woman with a tiny dog.

She walks toward me and I squat

“She’s Mia” she says

as the white fur jumps into my arms,

kisses my face though we’ve just met 

“She’s just so happy,” I say, “Is she always?”

“Yes” she says, “She’s a bichon”

as though that tells it all.

Did she say beach hound?

“They are expensive, known for their kindness with babies and children.

she was mistreated, a rescue, so I got her for free” 

“Well look who is so happy now,” I say to the dog

and want to apologize for minimizing any tragedy.

This dog doesn’t require my empathy

but who knows how much love this woman gave her

to get to this joyful place?

I groom her twice a year, other times I cut her hair.Thanksgiving is our anniversary,” she says.“I’ve had her a year.” “What are you collecting?” she asks as I empty my pockets of fragments. “Sea glass,” I say. 

“What do you do with the pieces?”

“Collect. Make jewelry,” I say.

And she grabs a piece, tells me she does stained glass,

3D with shells and glass, she shares secrets of craft,

how she coats the pieces in copper

in case I want to try.

In two minutes we are comrades. 

This is why I hunt.

For the glass in my pocket.

For Mia the dog and her happy kisses.

For Dorena the woman I met

The memory of the man the other half of responsible for my being – my 

veteran father.

He did his tour of duty and time

and was maybe a hero to somebody.

I never blamed him for having me

as he had no say in the matter

and so, he didn’t get my forgiveness either

not that anyone actually

asked for it 

They say forgiveness frees the person giving it.

We let go of the hate and are no longer controlled.

The theory makes sense and has always annoyed.

Yet here I am – free at forty.

I was the dog in the cage so long

I didn’t know to run when the door was opened.

To forgive also means to accept responsibility

for your own life.

I didn’t want it, wasn’t ready,

damage had been caused symptoms, injuries.

I refused to tend to them – oil spill inside

I walked over and around

for decades

waiting and wishing

for rescue.

The cleaners and healers did not come. 

I know at forty I know nothing

but if I did it would be this:

The gift of my being

is not one I can return.

And my mother

having had me

never needed my second-guessing.

A thank you perhaps.

Neutrality at least 

We don’t get

to have ourselves

Only to be ourselves

if we are lucky enough

to become “beach hounds.”

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 NoticingA friend reminded me to get to the ocean yesterday because of the big storm we had. Thank You to you ocean girl! I’m so glad as I did find a few larger than usual pieces and my favorite white frosty gems. They are so chalky and salt stained, have called the ocean home for so long I wonder if they will miss the air and dizzying turbulence and rhythm of the waves. Will solid ground now make they aware of their “sea legs” the way a migraine can make a non-headache day seem a miracle? 

My nieces love to hunt for sea glass. One of them, five, bounded in the door one day to show me her treasures at my daughter’s birthday party. I did not grow up near the ocean. But we are ocean people now, beach people in an area where the sand is not yet claimed as private but still open to all.

This summer I noticed the waves receding on a particularly rocky shore. As the waves receded it sounded like a loud rain stick and I stopped for a minute, said to friends, “Can you hear that?” and we all listened together. It was beautiful. The shore was vibrating as the water trickled, almost clinging to the rocks, in a spirited struggle. The larger the crash of the wave the louder the ocean’s feedback against them.

That same day the sunset made the white sails of a boat glow pink as though huge triangle art was drifting by. Why aren’t sails more festive colored?

 

I may take up rowing. I want to be out in the middle of the ocean before the day has started rushing by. I want to push my arms against the strength of nature and learn to find a way to cut in and out of the waves. I never was a morning person before. Age has changed so many things. Except for needing my reading glasses even when I’m not reading I can say all of the changes are positive. 

To see my sometimes reserved girl giggling, bouncing, bounding and happily stumbling as though joy were a metal ball ping ponging her all over the shore is something I could not have predicted. To witness delight and energy in a child who can fully and un-selfconsciously inhabit her space is wondrous.

 She said, upon turning five, “Good-bye four. I’ll miss you.” She said, as we passed the beach and headed to the Y, “This is my 1st time going to crafts class at 5.” She stopped the class to tell the teacher, “I had a birthday,” as the teacher had failed to make an announcement, as if to say, can’t you see/feel/sense/intuit the change? Oh well, I’ll just tell you, I’ll just tell everyone I’m five. Now we can do crafts.”

Being Noticed My daughter pretended she could do magic about a month ago. She said, “All my stuffed animals have black eyes like I do. You don’t.” She pretended to do magic so she and I looked alike. We pretended we “go together” visually. 

“Wouldn’t it be nice if no one ever stared at us or asked if you are my daughter or all the questions?” and she said “Yes,” and put her head in my lap and cried. “Let’s sit here and pretend we’re walking around and no one even notices us, no one stares or talks to us.” We stayed that way for a while. I had to remind her that we do already belong together even though we don’t look alike. What will I do when she’s older, and she doesn’t tell me when she’s hurt, and doesn’t curl up under a blanket and cry or giggle? I finally said, “I want to go back to being me. I like who I am.” She did her magic and made me look like me again.

Someone said to me once, about race, “It’s gonna be an issue if you make it one.” It’s not that simple. The world, and by the world, I mean strangers, talk directly to her and tell her she is “lucky” to have parents, “lucky” to be in the U.S. and so loved. She is loved but hearing how “lucky” you are gets to be a tiring song. It’s a worn-out tune and it’s too often said by people who know nothing about my daughter or her life or if she is indeed lucky.ng about them or their lives.

I don’t know if I’m going to say too much or too little or the wrong thing. The other day she asked if she could talk to me. She wanted to tell me something about being in her class. She wanted to ask me a question. Could she just tell me something. I gulped. O.k., I thought, maybe a rude race or adoption question or comment came at school. She said, “I’m the only one in my class who has glasses. I wish I didn’t have glasses.”

She doesn’t want to be different. I had glasses. So did her father. Early, just like her, and we didn’t like it either. Sure, seeing is wonderful but being different didn’t feel wonderful as a child. Sometimes people said stupid kid comments. That’s life. Sometimes they didn’t. It didn’t matter. Even as a child I knew this tiny difference made me stand out a little.  Self-consciousness is sometimes a seed and other times a tree. Some of it depends on environment and tempermanet. But it’s real.

My daughter is lost to her birth mother, father, extended family, birth country, culture and language. It’s not something she walked away from, gave up or moved away from. It’s hard to know how much to try to give her of her birth culture, when she’s Chinese American now, so that she can put it down and/or reclaim it on her own (or not) some day. I don’t know the exact amount of language, dance or dumplings to share.

 “Can you just give me whatever pieces you find?” she asked yesterday when she was getting tired. “It’s not the same if you don’t find it yourself. It’s more special if you find them,” I say. “They’ll be special because they are from you.”  She climbs on my back. We are a four-armed sea-glass hunting figure covering the sand. The air is cold and it’s windy. It’s Nov. and we’ll need mittens and hats soon. For now, it’s the perfect match – warmth and love.

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