Ten Things That I Wish My Parents Knew, Had Told Me, or Done Differently Regarding My Adoption

1. I always did feel a little “gyped” by the whole being adopted thing, but not for a single moment did I blame you!

2.I wish you hadn’t kept on telling me that my being adopted was “nobody’s business”. Even at an early age, that had that same feeling of “ickyness” that went with not telling people about other stuff the family was sort of embarrassed about.

3.It really upset me that the cousins seemed so obsessed with it. When we visited, it seemed like it was all they ever wanted to talk about. I always felt like I belonged when they arrived, but not so much by the time they left.

4. It really upset me when you were talking quietly with other adults (including my aunties) and when I walked in you would stop talking and send me out of the room. Granted, you certainly weren’t always talking about me or the adoption; but sometimes you were. By the time I was five, right or wrong, it always crossed my mind that you were probably talking about my adoption. After all, it was the biggest and most consistent secret our family had. At that age, I was unaware of the myriad other things adults often talked about in hushed tones.

5.When we met people for the first time, it was always awkward when they would scan us and comment about “how much we all looked alike” (‘cause we didn’t). In fact, I wonder if this was the very reason they were broaching the whole issue of family resemblance in the first place. Inevitably they would pick out a single feature that they thought looked consistent (generally eyes) and would make some gratuitous comment to that effect. You shouldn’t have played along with that because it felt very much like a lie (See #2). Well that’s wrong actually, it was a lie. It was the very thing that you kept on telling me was a sin and offended God (we were very Catholic). From a little boy’s perspective, I realized early that the secret must have been VERY important for my otherwise perfect and sinless parents to lie about. In retrospect, I think it would have been better if you had just thrown your heads back, laughed and changed the subject. I would have liked if you just said, “Yes, he has nice eyes, thank you.”

6.It would have been nice if you had talked to me more about my birth parents. Eventually when I found out that you knew more than what you had told me (in my late 20’s) and that you even had documents reflecting my first name (I had always wondered about that small locked metal box) I felt a little betrayed as though you didn’t trust me with the secret. Up until this point, I had always thought of the secret as being mine, but this really did cause me to wonder if the secret really wasn’t yours. And one that you apparently even kept from me. It didn’t change how much I loved and appreciated both of you…but I was disappointed. For some reason, even when I was very little, I wanted to be proud of my birthparents who I sensed were somehow under the same adoption cloud that I was. It was obvious they had done something “wrong”, but I wanted them to be good beautiful people. I can’t explain why.

7. It’s a shame that you raised me to be an “adopted person”. I always told people “I am adopted” or referred to myself as an adopted person. Even to me this seemed like an integral part of my identity as opposed to an isolated event in my life over which I had no control. People don’t say, “I’m a Cesarean Section” or “I am a Breach”. Those sorts of things are simply details of a past event. They might make interesting historic information but don’t serve to define the individual from cradle to grave. I try hard now to say “I was adopted” and understand in my heart that it describes a past, if not important event, but really should have nothing to do with who I am.

8.I have always felt that I am missing pieces. This feeling has only gotten worse as I got older. Please don’t make me feel that I am betraying you because I feel this way. Do you know how significant it would be if you had offered to help me with this?

9.I always thought about my birth parents on my birthdays. Why do you think it was the only day of the year that I checked the “Personals” in the classified section of the newspaper.

10.I love you. I always found it humorous, but also a little distressing, that you could even imagine that you could possibly lose me to my bio-family. It’s even hard for me now to imagine how you could ever think that was even a remote possible. What were you thinking?

JMP ’15

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Small Miracles Adoption is Alberta’s Newest Adoption Agency in Decades!!

The day is here, the day is today, December 1, 2014:

Small Miracles Adoption is a fully licensed not-for-profit adoption agency! We are Alberta’s newest adoption agency in a least a couple of decades. Today is the best day of the year!

Marie – A Christmas Story

Marie was almost certain that she had never been in this neighbourhood before; nonetheless, the feel of this place was comfortingly familiar.  In truth, the streets were very similar to the ones that she had played along when she was growing up.  Perhaps that was why she wasn’t feeling that twinge of vulnerability that females walking alone at night often experience.   Moreover, it was an exceptionally dark night, but one contrasted with the light emanating from the closely arranged bungalows, most decorated with the colourful arrays of Christmas lights that befit this time of year.

Marie was alone on the street.  The children that might have expected to be present there, during the few hours of winter daylight available in this northern town, were likely busy getting ready for bed.  They would be donning pajamas, pulling up plates of cookies and milk for final snacks.  Many would have become suddenly and suspiciously quiet in hopeful anticipation that their distracted parents might unwittingly extend “bed time”, perhaps by temporarily forgetting they even had children.

Marie smiled a little as she visualized these activities, occurring just beyond the warm glow of the decorated front room windows.  She walked along the alternately shoveled and snowy walks and noticed how still and close the air was this night; typical of the charged atmosphere that often cradled the quiet interlude between two storms.  The still and frozen mist hung closely around her and, for some reason, she found the mildly claustrophobic effect calming.  Perhaps the air had found harmony with her mood or maybe, like the evening itself, she had somehow become resolved to a storm that, although near, was yet to arrive.

The Christmas lights shone and twinkled silently but the sounds of her footfall on the frozen concrete, ice and snow of the sidewalk amplified in the thickened air.  Marie’s one hand rested deep in the pocket of her coat, clutching the envelope on which her destination’s address was written.  In her other hand she held a brightly coloured gift bag by its twisted paper handles.  She had journeyed close enough to begin earnestly scanning the addresses of each house as the numbers, like a countdown, began to align with the paper in her pocket.  Her heart began to race slightly ahead of her steps.

Marie was a pretty young woman in her mid-twenties.   She was taller than most of her friends with long auburn hair and vibrant blue eyes.  Men noticed her but she was seldom aware of this and, despite the attention she commanded with her good looks and easy disposition, she had engaged in only a few serious relationships.  Marie had never considered herself “lucky in love” preferring her own company and a good book to the noisy and congested confines of the clubs that her girlfriends had long ago stopped trying to pull her into.  It was hard to believe that it was only two Christmas’s ago when she had met the tall and handsome Joe in a meeting that had seemed positively serendipitous.  The two had collided while attempting to pass each other in the laundry room doorway.  The contents of their respective baskets spilled causing their clothes to intermingle indiscreetly on the floor; his items still newly warm from the dryer while her unwashed items exuded a potent combination of pheromones and soft, faint perfume.

Amongst nervous apologies, complicated by their curious but mutual inability to make direct eye contact, Marie and Joe found themselves kneeling close to one another, their clumsy and darting hands inadvertently brushing the other’s sparking a series of invisible but significant biological pyrotechnics as they tried to separate the mingled items while their nervous and frenetic movements only served to further confuse and blend their respective laundry. Marie tactically snatched up a pair of her more indulgent underwear when, at one point, she noticed his uncertain hands hover, and then hesitate, above the lacy item.  She instinctively grabbed and drew the lingerie to her chest, concealing the tiny panties in both hands while looking directly into Joe’s eyes for the first time.  She momentarily had the look of someone who, while standing guiltily in a prisoner’s dock, had suddenly blurted out some kind of confession.  Inevitably, this moment culminated into an intense and passionate relationship.

Within a few months Joe’s unfortunately heavy emotional baggage, combined with a cocktail of commitment issues, was steadily chipping away at what Marie had fervently believed was the perfect “chance-laundry-room-meeting-happily-ever-after” scenario.  Equally unfortunate was that Marie’s commitment to the relationship had become all too tangible in terms of her quietly swelling belly. Despite remaining frustratingly devoted to his own independence, thankfully, Joe was understanding and supportive when she told him about the baby.   The event had been as close to a modern day “immaculate conception” as you could get, apparently the fault of some unknown failure of their meticulously administered birth control.

She was pleased as she withdrew the envelope and confirmed the address. The house was nice.  It was bright and cheerful with an attractive array of lights framing the dormers above the garage as well as the large picture frame front window.  Lights flashed unrelentingly on a mature spruce while an illuminated outline of a reindeer was caught, stop-motion, sprinting across the snowy lawn.  Despite the welcoming nature of the property, Marie felt as though some invisible force-field stood silent guard between the edge of the recently shoveled driveway and the sidewalk. As sure as she had been about accepting the invitation, she was now desperate to re-think this.  Marie considered the implications of simply stealing up and leaving the gift on the doorstep.

From the very first moment that Marie suspected she had conceived, she had sworn an oath that all of her decisions would reflect the best interests of this child.  She had resolved to have the baby, choose wonderful parents and then dutifully step aside.  Marie had convinced herself that having either no, or limited, contact with her baby was the right thing to do.  She also realized, however, that many cowardly decisions were often couched in honourable pretense.  Was it possible that her conscious decision to limit contact with this child was not as altruistic and unselfish as she had first led herself to believe?  Was the distance she had already maintained really intended for the ultimate benefit of her first born and his adoptive parents, or did it simply serve as hollow justification that allowed her to escape the many feelings that she was afraid could never be reconciled?  Marie had struggled to find balance in this admittedly difficult situation.  She had held the baby boy shortly after his birth but less than she would have liked, concerned that indulging her maternal love for him could potentially wreak havoc on them both.  She also knew that the boy’s adopted mother walked the same fine line, politely providing the requisite little notes and pictures while always remaining just a little wary about the possibility that, like some random bit of anti-matter, Marie could somehow cause her newly fulfilled domestic universe to implode.  If she walked away now, would it really be the “right” thing to do, or would she simply be succumbing to her own fears?

Marie stood a very long moment in front of the house wondering what to do when she suddenly felt a deliberate and impatient tug at her sleeve.

“What’s in there?” The little boy asked pointing directly at the gift bag with a mittened hand that matched the comically swollen proportions of his snow suit.  Marie was relieved for the distraction as she looked down at a little boy who had seemingly appeared out of nowhere.  The boy was perhaps 4 or maybe 5 years old.  It was really very difficult to tell much about him given the manner in which the miniature snow suit bulged around the tiny frame and even more so because the boy’s mouth and nose were completely concealed by a plaid scarf that had been tied tightly around the back of the snowsuit’s furry-edged hood. The child’s breath had condensed and then frozen on the scarf creating a crusty icicled outline of his nose and mouth.  Marie reflected that the snow suit, including the garish scarf, which she concluded could never have been in fashion anywhere but the Scottish Highlands (and maybe not even there), bore an uncanny resemblance to winter clothing that her own mother had “packaged” her in when she had been about the same age.  “Does this stuff never go out of fashion?” she thought to herself.  It was as though one of Marie’s old winter outfits had somehow been reclaimed from a family garage sale.

All Marie could really discern of the boy was that he was about two and a half feet tall and had distinctive and compelling blue eyes.  Marie thought that his eyes were probably accentuated by the fact that, beyond the scarf, they were his only visible facial feature.  Marie couldn’t help but feel that she recognized those eyes and was struck by the idea that she might have met or, may possibly even know, someone related to the boy.

“What’s in there?  The little boy asked again, once again clumsily poking the gift bag with the distended mitten.

“Hey!”  She replied, “What are you doing out here?  You all by yourself?”

“No.  Of course not!”  The little boy giggled while at the same time rolling his expressive eyes as though to suggest that Marie had just asked the most ridiculous question in the entire universe.  Marie looked around and saw what appeared to be a snowman under construction nearby and realized that the winter darkness really belied the relatively early hour.  Still, the little boy did appear to be alone in the street with no obvious parent or playmate in sight.  And it was getting late.  Marie decided to pursue the matter of the boy’s welfare further.

“Which is your house?” She asked to which the boy answered with a wave of his arm that was made decidedly more imprecise by the bulk of the snowsuit.  Unfortunately the gesture could have applied to one of a half dozen homes that fell within the arc made by the small arm.

“What’s in there?”  The boy repeated insistently.

“It’s a gift.”  Marie responded.

“Ohhhh.”  The boy replied, his most optimistic suspicions having now been happily confirmed.

“Who’s it for?”  Marie suspected that she knew where this conversation was heading.

“It’s for a little boy.” She replied.

“Ahhhhh…”  The little boy was clearly intrigued at the possibilities.  “Is it for your brother?”

“No.”

“Who’s it for then?”  He clearly wasn’t giving up on this.  Marie sighed.

“It’s for…it’s for my S-Son.”  A lump had suddenly formed in her throat.  She had choked on the words.  She suddenly realized she had never spoken them before.

“It’s for my Son.”  She repeated more clearly.

“Is it a toy?”

“No.  It’s not a toy”

“Oh.”  The boy’s reply, accentuated with his expressive eyes, clearly indicating both disappointment and an imminent loss of any further interest in the brightly decorated bag.

“You cumin’ in?”  The boy reached up offering Marie the opportunity to take his heavily insulated hand.

“You know these people?”  Marie asked surprised.  She was certain that the young couple that she had chosen to parent her baby had been otherwise childless.

“Of course I do!” The little boy’s muffled giggle obvious beneath the icy scarf.

Before Marie had much of a chance to think about it, the little boy was leading her up the walk towards the wreathed door.  It was all a bit strange Marie thought but, accompanied by the little boy, she suddenly felt better about approaching the house.

As he stood beside her at the door he suddenly tugged on her again and locked his beautiful blue eyes on hers.  In a voice that was suddenly mature and clear beyond his years the boy said, “Thanks for not giving up.  Please, don’t give up now.  You have no idea how much you are needed and how much you are already loved.”

Marie’s mouth fell open.  “What…What did you say?”  But suddenly the door swung open and Marie was momentarily engulfed in a tsunami of warmth and light that poured out from within the house.

“Marie!”  The young woman smiled warmly while extending both her hands in a gesture of sincere welcome.

“Yes…Hello…” Was all Marie could manage, the impact of the little boy’s words still resonating.

“The little boy…”

“Yes.  Of course.  He’s right here.”  Marie could see the woman’s husband walking in from the living room with a one-year-old boy in his arms.  The little boy hugged his father while staring intently over his shoulder at Marie.

“Oh.  He’s beautifullllll.” Marie cooed.  She was suddenly and totally distracted as she looked at her little boy.  Marie could immediately see the faces of her parents as well as many of her relatives reflected in the boy’s handsome features.

“But this boy…”  Marie looked down to see that the little boy who had almost dragged her up the walk and engaged her in such precocious conversation only moments before, was now gone.

“Where’d he go?”

The woman moved past Marie and looked out onto the empty street.  “What did he look like?”

“I couldn’t see him very well in his snowsuit.  He was about 4 years old or so.  He was playing outside…right out here.”

“Well.  I wouldn’t worry.  He’s probably visiting in the neighbourhood.  I’m sure that he’s safe at home now.”

Marie was slow to respond, her gaze now locked onto the familiar and distinctive blue eyes of her son.  An understanding of the Christmas miracle that had just occurred was welling up inside her.

“Yes.  Yes.  He’s safe at home.”

The little boy smiled at her.

JMP / EP

Small Miracles / Small Miracles: What’s in a name?

When I ventured into the world of adoptions as an entrepreneur, I agonized over what to call my new company.  Understand that I was not opening as a licensed adoption agency (although that had been my background) but instead, my company offers complementary services particularly in terms of independent adoption counselling; and assists in completing and filing court documents for step-parent, adult and private-direct adoption.  With respect to step-families, I believe in the power of legal adoption to relieve at least a portion of the angst experienced by many families formed following domestic upheaval.

 

I chose “Small Miracles” because it seemed so appropriate.  My friends, colleagues and business advisors cautioned that it did not, “…at a glance…” clearly reflect my product or services; an attribute so important in a world where so much information whizzes by us at light speed.  From my perspective, however, the name was perfect.  At its root, my business was about children, who are both small and miraculous…I loved the imagery and I was excited to attach myself to the idea. Mistakenly, I believed that the name was unique.  An Internet search and the entire corporate registration process failed to reveal a conflict. I was so pleased with my new name and corporate identity!

 

The many calls that I received inquiring about pet adoption were my first clue that something had gone terribly wrong.  These calls did, however, cause me pause (paws) to wonder if I should add a new product line as there did appear to be a persistent and determined market.

 

In retrospect, my initial search of the Internet may have been too perfunctory.  How could I have missed the other companies who had, or were still using “Small Miracles” or a similar name?  Regardless, I had one very serious, very concerning, doppelganger.   There had been an “open” adoption agency based in Engelwood, Colorado named “Small Miracles Adoption”.  Worse than the unfortunate name-sharing was the fact that this particular, now defunct, agency has drawn the very public ire of many birth-mothers who express their very personal pain and rage through numerous blog and web-page postings.  I have received many calls from birth mothers looking for assistance with a variety of complaints involving the Colorado agency.  I have attempted to help them and have put them into direct contact with the appropriate State social services agencies; I am touched by their stories.

 

I support adoption…particularly, I support OPEN adoption.  I am proud to be affiliated with Adoption By Choice (ABC) who I consider to be a particularly ethical and professional organization.

 

For now, please understand that while I love animals, I cannot help you find a pet and please do not confuse me with Small Miracles Adoption formerly of Englewood, Colorado! We are located in Edmonton, Alberta Canada.

Origin of the term “step-child”

Is the word “Step” in relation to families a “…rose by any other name…?”

Step-
Old English. steop-, with connotations of “loss,” in combinations like steopcild “orphan,” related to astiepan, bestiepan “to bereave, to deprive of parents or children,” from P.Gmc. *steupa- “bereft” (cf. O.Fris. stiap-, O.N. stjup-, Swed. styv-, M.L.G. stef-, Du. stief-, O.H.G. stiof-, Ger. stief-), lit. “pushed out,” from PIE *steup-, from base *(s)teu- (see steep (adj.)). Etymologically, a stepfather or stepmother is one who becomes father or mother to an orphan, but the notion of orphanage faded in 20c. For sense evolution, cf. L. privignus “stepson,” related to privus “deprived.”

http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_is_the_origin_of_the_word_%27stepchild%27

In my previous blog contribution I considered the origins of the word “family”.  I  concluded that the concept of family as a nuclear, genetically-linked group is a relatively modern concept emerging sometime in the 17th century and culminating in such pop-cultural jargon as “family values”, an undefined but politically-charged term emerging sometime during the political campaigning of the 1960’s.

 

Although there have been several notable attempts to provide a better name for “modern” families, “Step” continues to be the prefix of choice.  Unfortunately it doesn’t mean “take a step in the right direction” as though it were a part of a larger and progressive process.  Unfortunately, although ancient in origin, the concepts of sad and deprived children, as demonstrated by the etymology, are all too often reflected in today’s reconstituted families.

 

Just in case you think I’m spending way too much time worrying about the ideas behind these adoption-related words, apparently I’m not the only other person thinking about this stuff:

 

http://voices.yahoo.com/the-origin-word-step-blended-families-and-7708888.html?cat=25

 

Family … What’s ‘blood’ got to do with it?

Sometimes I get “writer’s block”. This seems fundamentally unfair to me because I don’t consider myself to be a writer. I think it is especially cruel for a person to succumb to an affliction for which they don’t technically qualify. I have been blocked like this before and what I find is that research often helps. Exploring the etymology of a word that I consider “key” is especially helpful. As a social worker, working in the unique area of step-parent and adult adoption, I am moved to write about the modern phenomenon of blended families which, statistically, are becoming a norm in Western culture. It occurred to me that the obvious key word is “family”. Given their use and context all words have power, but I believe that an elite group of words exists whose power is somehow fused into their jumble of consonants and vowels in a way that makes them distinctly potent. “Family” is one such word. It occurred to me that rediscovering the concept of “family”, within the very history of the word, should prove a very effective means of laying siege to my writer’s block. Armed with this approach, I assailed the etymology sites available on the Internet.

family
c.1400, “servants of a household,” from L. familia “household,” including relatives and servants, from famulus “servant,” of unknown origin. The classical L. sense recorded in Eng. from 1545; the main modern sense of “those connected by blood” (whether living together or not) is first attested 1667. Replaced O.E. hiwscipe. Buzzword family values first recorded 1966. Phrase in a family way “pregnant” is from 1796. Family circle is 1809; family man, one devoted to wife and children, is 1856 (earlier it meant “thief,” 1788, from family in slang sense of “the fraternity of thieves”). (http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?l=f&p=2)

The above definition is typical of what my research revealed and which, at first glance, did not afford the epiphany that I had so desperately hoped for. “Household” from the Latin familia seemed absolutely sterile, completely devoid of any of the inspirational adjectives I had expectantly anticipated. The fact that the word’s meaning included, “relatives and servants” was troubling given the direction that I wanted to go with this topic. Things got worse! “Servant” from the Latin “famulus”? I had really been hoping for something more like, “Latin for a group of people who love, respect and would throw themselves in front of a run-a-way chariot for one another”. As the etymology traced the word “family” through history, I was further assaulted with, “the main modern sense of “those connected by blood” (whether living together or not) as first attested 1667”. It occurred to me that, “the main modern sense” was very much pointing in exactly the opposite direction to the one that I had wanted to go. Dejected, I logged off.

Over the next few days, the concepts revealed within the etymology continued to ferment in my subconscious. In my heart, the word “family” was no less powerful than it had been before I clicked onto my computer. It occurred to me that something had truly been revealed but, within my modern context, I was failing to grasp it.

I found the reference in the etymological definition to “family values” and its description as a “buzzword” to be very revealing. I would have thought that the phrase would have had a far more meaningful and pedigreed origin as opposed to the buzzy expression originating in the middle 1960’s that, admittedly, didn’t have any actual list of identifiable values associated to it. I had never stopped to think about it until now. It was clear that the fusion of two elite words like “family” and “values” were socially irresistible and sufficiently powerful to exist without requiring any factual or intellectual foundation. Although the idea itself was without substance, it proved sufficiently compelling that its repetition, particularly among political and religious groups, had eventually elevated it to the status of a generally accepted concept.

This has caused me to wonder whether or not the Ancients had it right all along, and that our modern concepts of “family” are far more subjective, limiting, and ultimately superficial than those intended by the creators of the word. The Ancients had been unrestrictive and inclusive in their approach to the concept of family, making no reference to any connection by “blood” or lineage. Their definition reflects their acknowledgement that belonging to the “familia” simply meant being a member of the household.

Perhaps, the ancient definition of family is more in harmony with the modern blended family than we, as a society, are prepared to admit.

Raising funds for Kaley to keep her family together!

Raising funds for Kayla to keep her family together!

Dear Friends and Families,
 
I have a client whose husband passed away tragically before we could finish the paperwork for their step-parent adoption.
 
The parents of her deceased husband are trying to take one of the children away from her (she has a 4 year old son that she is a stepparent to and a 5 month son). The paternal grandparents are taking her to Court to try and get custody of the 4 yr old. My client, Kaley, was a stay-at-home mom and does not have the money for a lawyer. We are raising money to help pay for these costs. Please consider donating by going to our website and clicking the “donate” button.
http://www.smallmiraclesadoption.com/index.html?r=20120620123228

 

Help us to help Kaley keep her family together during this dreadful time in their lives!

This article is about Kaley’s husband:

http://www.albertapolicereport.com/2012/05/28/missing-camrose-boaters-named-bodies-recovered/