Diego is adorable. We haven’t met him yet, but we went to Bienestar today and they told us all about him. His foster mom made us a photo album/scrapbook that goes all the way back to when Diego was 2 years old. So cute!!! I can’t wait to meet him tomorrow. They told us that Diego has taken special care of the photo album we sent to him and that he has watched the DVD of videos and pics from home every day since they gave it to him, right up until bedtime last night. They said that has really helped him get excited about becoming a part of our family, even though he doesn’t quite understand what adoption means because he’s only 6 after all.
At the end of the meeting, they told us that Diego got each of us a present. He is going to give Zach a bon bon bum and he’s going to give me a red rose. We are going to give him a forever family. It’s a good mix!
In my experience, white, Dutch Americans typically lumber into a dance with rusty, jerky, mechanical movements that resemble tin men without the grease (anyone ever see Dutch Dancing?). It’s a natural condition, no doubt fostered by a Calvinist/puritan roots skeptical of displaying too much emotion and a climate of cold mid-western winters that discourage displays of passion. But, although it is a natural condition, it can be changed with persistent practice and a healthy appreciation for beat and rhythm.
Last Monday Ren and I had a double date with Jeff and Kristen. We went Salsa dancing. It’s part of our concerted effort to seek out latin cultured everythings. I am acutely aware of the difficulties of maintaining our daughters’ Latin American roots in Cincinnati.
Anyway, we danced Salsa. Or tried to. I was having problems with my hips. They wanted to take my torso along for the ride. This, apparently, was a no no.
Before folks think I’m just a funny, skinny looking guy trying to dance I want to mention that I’m a halfway decent dancer (or at least not terrible). My year in Brazil was one long, continuous dance (samba, lambada, foho). When Ren and I started dating we frequently went swing dancing (popular for a brief period of time in the late 90s). I can feel a beat and follow it.
Still, since moving to Cincinnati we’ve had such little opportunity for Latin dance. We were rusty. And, listening to the Porto Rican band play that evening, I realized I’ve grown rusty in many ways.
I love Latin America. This love began when, at 16, I spent a year living in Brazil. Since then I’ve studied in Chile, backpacked and hitchhiked through through the Andes, gotten lost in Jesuit ruins in Argentina, graduated with a degree in Latin American Studies, asked Ren to marry me on a beach in Brazil, taught History in Spanish to ESL students in Houston, and, now, am adopting two girls from Colombia. The people, the languages, the history, the beaches and the mountains, the stories and songs. I love them all. I’ve often joked that mi corazon es latino (or the Brazilian version “minha coracao e brasilero”).
Yet these past few years have felt so, I don’t know, middle American. Part of this is because Cincinnati, while a great city, is not necessarily a mecca for latino immigrants (and, of course, any place that lacks “the other” tends to have greater xenophobic views of them). I rarely speak Spanish. It’s hard to come by a decent taqueria. There tends to be a rather narrow world view.
Before adopting I was somewhat at peace with this. We still get 3 month off out of the year. We can travel to other places (indeed, Ren and I had planned to go to Brazil this summer before – happily – finding out about the girls). I would have to work harder at engaging my Latino interests, but I could get by.
Now it’s different. I don’t want my daughters to loose their identification (and my identification?) with their Latina roots. While certainly not the most pressing issue (bonding and attachment definitely take precedent), it’s an issue that sits on the back burner.
Our identity as a family is changing. I’m thrilled and happy with the change, but I wonder what it all means. Is there a wise way to do this? How important – their Colombian roots – will it be to them? What is Ren and my relation to Colombia now? Are we obligated to keep abreast of its current events and its culture? Is creating opportunities with other Latinos the same as creating opportunities with Colombians?
Just some random thoughts that pop up from the back of the mind.
Sometimes I come across writing that so accurately describes what I am feeling better than I could ever do. I just finished reading Secret Thoughts of an Adoptive Motherby Jana Wolff (thanks Kristen for passing it on). I’m borrowing Jana’s words from this book to try and explain how I feel about the adoption journey I’m on as a “mother.”
The process of adopting a child pushes your personal envelope as a woman, as a mother, and ultimately, as a human being. It takes more courage than you think you have, offers more self-knowledge than you think you want, and reassembles your characteristics into someone familiar but changed.
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let our bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.
I am reading a wonderful book called Adopting after Infertilityby Patricia Irwin Johnston. One section I read today was called The Psychological Pregnancy. I’ve mentioned before that I feel like I’m “pregnant.” In the adoption world we call this “paper pregnant” which means our paperwork is complete, approved and we are officially on the list to have our children. Johnston says that the psychological waiting time is similar to a woman who is physically pregnant and she describes the following stages:
“Adoption validation – accepting the fact that our children will join the family by adoption rather than birth
Child embodiment – incorporating the children by adoption into our emotional images
Child distinction – beginning to percieve of the children as a reality in order to make plans for them
Role transition – preparing to take on the parenting in adoption role”
(side note: someone close to me has often asked why we don’t continue to try and get pregnant while we are in this adoption process and Johnston follows the psychological pregnancy section with this comment, “It is impossible to experience a psychological pregnancy related to a particular adoption when one still has enormous amounts of time, energy, emotional reserves, and money committed to becoming pregnant biologically.” I agree with her. Plus, if we got pregnant, which we don’t want to do, our adoption would be put on hold if not canceled all together and then I would feel like I just had 2 miscarriages. Now why would I choose to do that?)
So, I was wondering from other adoptive parents how you prepared for your child/ren to come home during this “paper pregnant” stage when you had no knowledge of timeline, age, or gender to guide you.