Monday, December 30, 2013

"It's my Job to Pay Attention:" New Conversations in the Shifting Paradigm of Adoption

From a scrapbook my maternal
aunt made me.
The other day, I had an interesting exchange with one of my best friends.  She is not adopted.  Together, we spoke of family, life, and the holidays.  As I so often do when speaking of both of my mothers, I prefaced "mom" with each mother's first name. I have gotten into the habit of prefacing "mom" with each mother's first name for the sake of clarity.  Simply using "mom" when talking about both mothers in conversation seems to cause confusion.  People interrupt me mid-sentence, "wait, which mom?  Your real one or the other one?" so on and so forth.  The false dichotomization of mothers in adoption as "real" or "unreal" is a microaggression I try to avoid.  Apparently, I have adjusted my speech accordingly.  This friend stopped me in mid-sentence to offer commentary on my use of the word "mom," as so many people have done in the past.  However, what she said was something new and entirely different.  Something new and entirely amazing.

"Amanda, do you call your mothers by their first names?" she asked.  "Do you really think of them by their first names, or both as 'mom'?"

Monday, December 23, 2013

Caring for the Adoptees in our Lives During the Holidays by Honoring their Definition of Family

A holiday photo card for you, featuring an image
of a gift to me from my original mother.
Have you ever had one of those moments when someone says something to you that sums up an ocean of your own thoughts in just one sentence?  I will never forget the moment in undergrad when one of my favorite professors gave a short lecture on what's called the "strengths perspective."  The strengths perspective identifies acknowledges that all people have strengths that can be used to help them overcome problems.  By pathologizing someone instead--choosing to see deficits or assuming the worst of a person--we alienate them from their sources of strength.  We also alientate them from ourselves when we could potentially be a source of strength for each other.  Then he said it, the line I will never forget.  "Be careful not to define 'family' too narrowly for someone else.  Family is a source of strength for many people."

Yes, I thought.  That.

The title version of this post title could be: "Caring for the Adoptees (and anybody) in our Lives During the Holidays (and everyday) by Honoring their Definition of Family (and their experience in life in-general).  I say this because every person needs and deserves respect for their family and the story of their family.  Being in the midst of the holiday season at this time, I am reminded of how intense the topic of family can be for those of us in the adoption community (and anywhere) during the winter holiday season.