Monday, January 11, 2010

I'm Rubber, You're Glue.

Read an interesting post today at an adoptive-parents blog.Yeah, I know. There'd a blog for everything, isn't there? There's probably a blog for people afraid of scary clowns, probably another for folks with a plumbing fetish, tons (I suspect) for plushies, shoe fanciers, barbershop singers and Trekkies (sorry...TrekkERs.)

Well, this ain't no adoption blog. Yes, my little girl was born in China. But where this blog is about her it's about HER. Her past, her birthparents, our adoption, that's all part of her. But, honestly? When I think of her, the first thing that jumps into my mind is "giggly". Or "cute". Or "happy". Or "energetic". Somewhere in there is "Chinese-American" and "cleft" and "adopted". But they're definitely behind "Barbie girl", "loves to sing" and "tell me a story about me and Dora the Explorer" in the Missy queue.

What we don't think much about are the things that many adoptive parents talk about (and worry about, stress over and, I suspect, look for).Things like "attachment issues" and maladaptive behaviors that you're supposed to be concerned with as an adoptive parent. The stresses we have and had (and we did have a tough time; go back a skip through my entries for the autumn and winter of 2007 and spring 2008 if you doubt me) were, as much as not, the stresses of having two kids instead of one. The fact that the little one had sleeping problems sucked, but it didn't suck any worse than the sleeping problems that the big kid had when he was her age. The fact that little wanted to be carried everywhere was an additional stress, not a unique one - although in retrospect, I'm sure it was an attachment thing...

Anyway, we have bumbled along for two years and change now with the two little peeps hardly distinguishable in their fears and loves, in their tantrumy gusts and their sudden flurries of hugs and kisses. I won't say we don't see the differences between them. But we see the similarities much more.And over that time, we've lost a lot of our contact with other adoptive parents.

We returned from China with another family that, over time, cut us dead. The young woman we knew through our "adoption group" drifted away after never really bonding with us. I'm still in touch with some friends from an on-line adoptive parents group through Facebook, but often as not we talk about food or movies and anything but adoption.

We just don't seem to have the adoptive parent magic. One evening back in '08 Mojo was hanging out with the other two women I mentioned above (the younger was still awaiting her referral) and was laughingly describing how Little Girl was chewing on us; in her view (and mine) it was a kid thing, the same sort of thing that the Peeper went through when he was two. She finished the story, chuckling, and looked up into two very, very concerned faces."Have you considered the possibility that this may be the sign of an attachment problem?" asked the young adoptive-mom-to-be.

Mojo thinks about that for a moment.

"No," she says, "honestly, I haven't. I just think she's two and she likes to bite people. After all, we're tasty."

I think she lost some points for that.

Is that why the other adoptive parents backed away? Is it us? Are we being terrible parents? The blogging adoptive mom wrote that her bond with other adoptive parents "was magically strong, like superglue." Are we - am I - just not right for superglue, covered in emotional teflon or PVC or whatever it is that superglue won't stick to?I don't feel that way. But perhaps teflon never does...


Dee said...

This is an interesting post and while I have some thoughts on it, I would like to gather them a bit before responding (which is difficult to do while at work). I'll try to respond tonight.

Lisa said...


I think you're just right. Here are some harsh observations:

Some do it to complete their object retinue. Some are rabid churchgoers, who see the adoption as the logical next step to proselytizing. Some, well-to-do see the exotic appeal of a foreign baby (for those who missed out on the VN babies.)

You can tell those who enjoy the exotic appeal: They dress the little 'uns up in dynastic silk garb and take tons of photos. They feel very good about themselves (and I will not argue that they are helping the child.) The thing is, if you are not wrapped up in the adoption-as-project -- if it was just a means to an end -- then you will naturally fall out from that group.

If you are content within yourself, you will never fit in with those more interested in obsessing upon real or imagined glitches.

For you, Missy is simply your daughter. Her "child-ness" trumps her origin. So I imagine like most of us, you'll enjoy a very small circle of true friends, and they will not be pretentious people.


FDChief said...

Lisa: I don't see most of the other APs as pretentious - it's not like this is a case of parental Munchausen's Syndrome.

I think some of it is that we lucked out; our little girl is a survivor, she's me in a Cantonese girl suit. She hunkered down and made it through the shitty part, realized that things had changed for the better, heaved a big sigh, shrugged and moved on.

There's no doubt in my mind that she WILL have some issues that will go back to her first year-and-a-half without parents. Trust, for one - she has a hard time believing that things that change will ever change back. And she is very clingy.

But you have to get a taste of it to understand how saturated the adoption community is with this sort of vigilance about attachment disorders and other orphaning-related personality and development problems. There are times when even I feel like "Well, maybe we ARE ignoring something..." until I pick Little Girl up and listen to her artless chatter.

It does get a little wearing not having friends to just hang with and talk to who have kids their age. Part of the problem is that most parents with kids in their single digits are in their twenties and thirties, not their fifties. But the other seems to be that I'm (or Mojo and I are) just lacking some critical element of adoptive parent likeability or bondy-ness or something.

Lisa said...

I would be more gentle with myself if I were you. I sense you have always been an unusual person in that you think, which sets you apart immediately from the mass of your fellows.

You seem to also understand the futility in obsessing over what may or may not come to be a problem. Right there, you knock out the hyper-vigilant AP's (and hypochondriacs.)

So, unfortunately, due to your general well-adjusted-ness and unwillingness to wallow in pathological speculations, you have winnowed down your pool of human contacts, both within and without the AP community.

At least, that's how I would see it.

FDChief said...

Lisa: One thing I do have trouble with is mincing words and giving hugs.

I should link you to the blog in question, because one thing I've noted is that a typical post - usually something fairly gentle about the poster's kids, giving the positive aspects of something and radiating love and gratitude towards the kids - garners comments like "You're doing an awesome job, mom!" or "Love you, love those kids! Woot!".

There's nothing faked or hypocritical about them - the commenters obviously feel genuinely happy for and uplifted by the poster's sharing.

But there's something in me that just finds it hard to join in the chorus of happy emotion. It's like I want to just nod and move on. My wife has noted that I don't often "celebrate" when things go well. "I'll take it." or "That's nice." is my typical response.

I'm wondering if that's part of it. And there's the whole "Not keeping my mouth shut" thing.

I was the object of immediate flight at the local Families with Children from China when - instead of commenting in awed terms about the cuteness of the kids or the wholesome Chinese-ness of the occasion - I made the observation that seeing a bunch of Caucasian moms and dads dressed up in happi coats teaching adorable Chinese-American moppets to do traditional dances was about as relevant to modern Chinese culture as seeing a bunch of Chinese adoptive parents in overalls and Amish hats teaching their American kids to square dance and barn-raise.

Was it accurate? Probably. But was in uncomfortable for the other parents? Probably, too, which is why I imagine they were happy to see the back of me.

And yet I'm sulky because we can't find other adoptive parents to be our pals.

Lisa said...

"One thing I do have trouble with is mincing words and giving hugs"

Well, you and me both on the mincing words. But I'll bet I could finagle a hug ;)

I can't get on-board with all the "woot" hoopla. No thanks. I'm happy, zippy and content. Solid, but no "woot". I'm no wet noodle, but I'm not gonna contra dance, either. I like what I like, and don't do silliness and vapidity (as I see it.)

You suffer an all-too-rare modern malaise -- the curse of impeccable honesty. You will find kindred spirits, though possibly outside of the AP community. That would be o.k., right? I mean, she's not your little China doll, so much as your little girl. Labels be gone.

I think you're way cool, FDC.

Lisa said...

p.s.: re final comment --

You already knew that :)

FDChief said...

Lisa: Consider yourself hugged. You're pretty nifty your ownself.

Pluto said...

I'll chime in on Lisa's side on this one.

My family gets regular updates on your blog posts and we all agree that you guys are really well adapted to the adoption thing, although we've never done the adoption thing ourselves, we've known quite a few people who have.

The totally impressive thing about adoption is that you take millions of children and adults, mix them together approximately randomly, and the results are generally very good. There are always problems and they get all of the attention but most people do somewhere between okay and extremely well. Amazing and delightful.

On the topic of not having much connection with other parents, you're not alone in that department. We've never had much connection with other parents and have slowly come to the conclusion that we're just not lucky that way. The toddler years were the hardest for us and things slowly got better after the second one got into Kindergarten so I think your future will be brighter.

Lisa said...


Thank you for the virtual hug, m'dear (it's much better than trading seeds or chicken coops, IMHO.)

Re. Pluto's comment, this reminds me of my parents: My mother had only one close friend, also with young children. My father had his own friends, but they were not involved on the kiddies front.

Of course, this was 40 years ago when socialization expectations may have been different, but I remember the two women taking the kids on outings, and I remember family vacation, but I never recall group family outings.

So today, when people seem even busier, it may simply not be realistic to have that many group confabs. We live in neighborhoods, but family activities are usually pretty insular, I think. Again, it may be a different vibe on the West Coast. I am speaking as a provincial East-coaster :)

FDChief said...

Lisa: Trading seeds? Oh, my...that sounds rather risque'. I'll have to check with my wife ;-)

Lisa, Pluto: I may be reflecting the current mania for groups. There seems to be a support group for everything from TV series to serial killers. The adoptive moms I correspond with on FB and through the blogosphere all seem to have these neat little communities of people around them. The communities are around us, too, but, as I mentioned, we don't seem to play well with others.

I can live with it, but it does occasionally reinforce my glum suspicion that I'm not a fundamentally "likeable" person. Too opinionated, too rude, too...too. It's all well and good to read about a Falstaffian sort of person in a story, but it appears that it's not such a good thing to be one in real life.

I do appreciate the kind words.

And the real important thing is that little girl is a sweet, loving, happy, loveable bit of a thing who charms everyone who meets her. She seems to be growing into a delightful and happy child, and that's the crux of the parental biscuit, ain't it?

Lisa said...


Though I wasn't thinking in the biblical sense, you're very cheeky, and I like that ;)

This is absurd: "I'm not a fundamentally "likable" person. Too opinionated ..."

Good, sound people who appreciate directness and humor and a quick wit will adore you. Unfortunately, those people are not the bulk of your fellows. If "likable" in certain crowds equates to being simpering, I don't see you doing it. You are intense, and I do not see you compromising yourself.

And as pluto says, most people are very wrapped up in their own doings, and if you're not going to do the mindless square dance thing, you will just have to stumble upon those who do appreciate the very unique mix you do bring to the table.

There is no question that you are deeply appreciated and loved by those who have the pleasure of coming to know you.