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Speaking of "real parents"

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Amazing article ... thank you for sharing!

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wow--very interesting article. thanks for sharing. there are many aspects of adoption that i feel, but it helps to have concrete reminders. i particularly like being reminded that everyone needs to feel entitled to the relationship.

andrea

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Andrea - totally agree. In the day to day you are aware of these issues in the back of your mind ... but the articles that Elizabeth posted yesterday bring them to the forefront and serve as reminders for us....reminders that we must work on these issues within ourselves and support our children by recognizing how our behavior impacts their adjustment to us. It is especially important for me with Victor....and I am writing post-it reminders to myself. Hugs to the Blakes!

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I agree it is an amazing article. Thanks for sharing.

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Awesome article. It really serves as a great reminder to have conversations with ourselves about any unresolved infertility or entitlement issues before they negatively affect our children and their sense of identity and belonging.

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Get yourself some cookies and milk, and settle into a wingback chair for this grownup bedtime story...

THE VELVETEEN PARENT

Kathryn B. Creedy

As appeared in the Washington Post for Mother's Day, 1998

"Now this is real," I thought as I flexed my hand, stiffened by sewing on the patches to my daughter's Brownie sash.

My mind had gone back to the encounter I'd had on the train that morning when my seat mate noticed I was reading Adoptive Families magazine. She had all the usual questions of someone unfamiliar with adoption. Where were my two daughters from? How old were they when they arrived? How old are they now?

Then the conversation took another typical turn.

"I don't know how anyone can give up a child," she said. "Do you know why their real mothers gave them up?"

I've always met that question with a lighthearted response. "I feel pretty real," I said, leaving the next move to her. Such queries, for me, provide an opportunity to educate people on a very misunderstood subject. Usually, when faced with this question, I try to discuss what it means to be a parent -- not adoptive parent or a stepparent, but what it means to parent a child. As families have changed in the last few decades, society itself is struggling with that question.

"I mean the birth mothers," she said. "Why would they give them up?"

decided to answer her question by educating her on the etiquette of adoption, using language more accurate than what she had used.

"I'm so glad they made adoption plans," I said. "It was the answer to all my dreams. All I know is their birth mothers were very great women and I thank God for them everyday." I went on to explain that today, birth parents do not "give up" their children, they make plans and carefully choose who will parent their children. I also explained that the girls' adoption stories were theirs to share, not mine. I also explained that if the girls were with us, I'm sure they would share them because we are all very proud of our family history.

I've been a mother since 1991 when I brought Alexis home from Romania at the age of 14 months. Like many women in this decade, I became a mother on my own. At 39, with no marriage on the horizon and my career in place, I realized there is nothing as strong as the continuity of the generations. I knew I wanted children. But unlike many "Murphy Browns," I wanted parenthood without pregnancy.

Adoption was, by far, my first choice for many reasons; the most important of which was the fact that pregnancy did not look fun. Delivery looked even less fun. Second, I had no special investment in my genetics or in the pregnancy experience. I knew that neither provided any guarantees because there are none in life or with children. I knew many parents who said that adoption considerably improved the gene pool and did, in fact, bring them the children they held in their dreams. I now know that to be true.

I also knew how deeply I could love a child when I met my nephew, Matthew, at two weeks old. He opened a door for me and showed me what I was missing. I also knew any child I adopted would be my own regardless of how she joined the family. Alexis's sister joined us in 1993 when Brooks arrived at the age of five months. Three years younger, Brooks came from the Bolivian plains and had the golden glow and almond eyes of the descendants of the Inca.

The feeling I always had was of a fairy tale coming true. I was amazed that I was able to have two such wonderful little girls. I was amazed that if I had called central casting and asked for the perfect child, Alexis would have come marching through the door ready to party. I was amazed at the differences in Brooks, my shy, little one who curls herself into my lap whenever she has the chance.

I was amazed at their beauty in both body and soul. And I was especially amazed when I hovered over them each night whispering our good night ritual and feeling them pull me down for a big hug. To this day, I always walk away with wonderment that dreams can really come true and that I was so very, very blessed. Do people who birth their children have this much appreciation and thankfulness of the gift they've been given? Can their more traditional path to parenthood make them take having children for granted? Can they possibly love their children as much as I love mine?

Others have described real to me in terms of chores as if toiling over homework, diapers, sick children and soccer games somehow grants us an entitlement to be called Mom or Dad. All that, like the Brownie patches and birthday parties and Chuck E. Cheese's, represent our patches in this troop called parenthood, to be sure.

But what few realize is that our paths to parenthood are not that different than our more traditional counterparts. While they grew a life within them, we grew a mountain of paperwork and researched the way we would build our families. We, too, went through our own medical procedures but also had extensive home studies. We rearranged our houses in middle-of-the-night nesting rituals. Our emotions rose and fell wildly as we waited; waited the long months for our assignments and then more months before a precious picture or shaky video turned into someone who could fill our aching, empty arms and hug us back.

Even so, it is not persevering through the similar stages of pregnancy or adoption that make us real. There is much more to it than that.

Real is a tiny hand in mine as we cross the street. Real is the whisper of breathing as Brooks naps in my arms. Real is as light as a baby's touch. Real is lying in bed reading stories with small bodies on either side interrupting with so many questions you think the story will never end.

It's planting flowers and jumping in puddles. It's catching a running youngster as she jumps into your arms when you pick her up in the evening. It's mastering roller blading and ice skating. It's listening to kids pound down the stairs on Christmas morning, their feety pajamas swishing along the bare floor toward their prizes.

Real is lifting a crying child into your arms and nursing a bloody knee. It's secretly watching a two-year-old sing lullabies as she lovingly lines up her baby dolls and covers them for a nap. It's passing on the family traditions as your child takes your place at your father's side to become the official Thanksgiving turkey taster, her small hand reaching up to remind him she's ready for her job. And real is letting go of the bicycle and little hands at the classroom door.

Real is, quite simply, the thrills all parents get from just being a parent and loving their children.

Finally, around midnight, the once-bare Brownie sash was festooned with patches: the Troop 1351 patch, the theatre, dancing and sleepover patches. As I turned it over and pictured it on Alexis, it didn't surprise me to discover that my rare and feeble attempt at sewing had resulted in all the patches being affixed to the back of the sash.

"Typical," I thought, shaking my head. "Well, it will just have to do."

As I readied myself for best, my thoughts turned to my favorite passage from The Velveteen Rabbit.

"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day....

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."

Real is also when you get lucky enough to have a child to love.

And, yes, it's also taking all the patches off and sewing them back on the right way.

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Elizabeth,

As always, thank you for sharing and educating us in the Abrazo community. The Velveteen Rabbit book is my all time favorite. I usually have a tear or two after reading it. So when you posted The Velveteen Parent I had to blush...I again teared up. I am a REAL MaMa to my not so lil' Ty any more. I'm going to copy this one for future reference. And by the way, I have like 10 or more Velveteen Rabbit books. I used to collect them over the year because of the illustrations and especially the story. Thank you! :D

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I just read this and I can not help but tear up. What a wonderful well-written story. I think I said the below passage a few times over the last few months to help educate people.

"I'm so glad they made adoption plans," I said. "It was the answer to all my dreams. All I know is their birth mothers were very great women and I thank God for them everyday." I went on to explain that today, birth parents do not "give up" their children, they make plans and carefully choose who will parent their children. I also explained that the girls' adoption stories were theirs to share, not mine.

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Someone today at work told me that, 'Alexander could be my real son, since we look so much a like'.

I never really know how to handle that because it has happened a few times but never with the 'real parent' comment.

Anyway, I said I think he favors his Birth-Mother and By The Way I am his real parent.

Of course, they then proceed to just dig themselves deeper and I told them to just let it go.

Geez........

Edited by TexasFamily

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I have had people make insensitive comments pertaining to the girls that make me shake my head...All of those comments were meant to be somewhat of a compliment (I think) but it sure didn't sound like that to us. The best you can do is try to educate them as patiently as you can.

Nicole

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Leah, I am sorry you had to hear those comments.

I think like Nicole said that sometimes people think it is a compliment when in reality it is not and it is hurtful.

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I love the Velveteen Parent story and want to share it with my family! How touching!

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I get the "real" comment alot - except people ask if the are "real" brothers. I always answer YES and follow it up with do you mean are the biologically related then the answer is NO.

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I get the "grandmother" comment a lot less now that Catherine will be turning 14 this month and is as tall as I am (not that I am "tall," but she can look me directly in the eyes now which is scary!! LOL) Instead I get the "is she your youngest" comment, as it is assumed by my "mature looks" that surely I must have some 20-somethings out there somewhere. I have thought of making up a few siblings for her (the one who ran off to join the travelling circus, the one who joined a roving band of gypsys, the one who lives in a nudist colony.....) but I'm not sure I could pull it off with a straight face. Maybe I'll just use the "why do you ask" answer and see what comes next ;)

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Thanks for all of the feedback.

Education is key.

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Hannah posted a link to this on the private Facebook group for adoptive families, but I thought it was so remarkable, it needed to be shared here! So thank you, Hannah, and thank you, "K" (and her mom Carrie Goldman and Chicago Now), for helping to make this remarkable reflection ("I Want To Go Live With My Birthmother!") available to us all!

http://www.chicagono...t-me-%E2%80%9D/

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I read this when Hannah posted it! It is a great article to read! I continue to keep learning and preparing myself for things that may occur with my family in the future.

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I came across the following last week and was going to put it on my fb today... them this morning came across this thread and thought it fit here very nicely..

If you've never been hated by your child,

you've never been a parent.

~ Bette Davis

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Good article. This is something we chat about in our adoption group at church. How to handle it, etc.

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I just read the article as well and think Mari's quote from Bette Davis is very true. I can say that I have a good relationship with my parents now but I remember times when I tested them and said mean things. I'm sure most of us can relate to that. Sometimes as adults I think we forget what it's like to be a kid. Kids go through so many changes both physically and mentally, so we just have to try and handle things with grace and not overreact if they tell us they hate us. Start building a good foundation when they are young and if those days come when they are angry and hurtful then you can tell them you will always love them. Remember that tomorrow is a new day and as long as you love your kids and they know you love them things will be ok (and this applies to all whether your kids are adopted or not).

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I remember as a child, I would tell my mom rather frequently that I was going to go live with my grandmother (her mom) when things were not going my way. One summer, they took me to visit her for two weeks, and I never said that again. :) I loved my Mema, but I missed my family terribly (and got quite bored with no other kids around...even if I didn't have to put up with a bossy older brother and a pesky little sister!)

As I got older, I joked with my mom that she left me there so long on purpose. She insists that it was just the way things worked out, but I still wonder if it was intentional!

Joshua has never said he wanted to live with his birthmom/dad, but he did go through a spell where he said he wanted to run away. (I totally understand. I sometimes feel that way!) I just told him that was fine, but he had to take me with him. :)

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I fall into the same category as Jocelyn and I’m sure many others in testing our parents. I never used the “going to live with” excuse, mainly because there was no one to go to, but had there been, I am sure I would have played that card more than a few times. During mine & my siblings years as youths my mom had a saying in Spanish that she would throw out at us when we were threading on her last nerve by challenging her authority.. “Cuando tengan sus hijos van a ver lo que es amar a Dios” translated to English (but not sure it carries the same exact message) is “when you have your kids you will know what it means to love God”..I always took that to mean that she prayed A LOT for patience and strength to not break down and go dump us somewhere or worse to save herself from wanting to cause some serious injury to one of us... When we were young she also had that LOOK that said more than words, but as we got older the LOOK lost its effect somewhat.. (she still has that look and my girls tell me I have it too).. I agree we forget what it was like to be kids, pre-teens, and the nightmare of teens in some cases.. Those glorious short lived stages and ages where these little cute and adorable creatures that don’t talk back yet, let us dress them how we want and don’t get into too serious mischief pass so quickly..

It’s funny how when kids start coming into their own, pushing their independence, their likes and dislikes we sometimes feel like they are challenging us, when all they are doing is growing and experiencing and experimenting which is the natural process. Is it fear we have based on them no longer being 100% dependant on us or is it we think (actually we know) we are losing control (meaning acknowledging our kids have opinions that differ from ours, etc.), or a little afraid of us losing them by giving them that independence. I think these are some of the same reasons that some parents may give into their kid’s whims and wants too easily and sometimes we contribute to our kids feeling an entitlement, so when we say no emotions run high (to put it nicely) ..

Some kids well challenge the guidelines, boundaries, rules and regulations more than others no matter what, always reminding/telling them we love them even when we have to communicate we do not like, condone or accept a particular behavior, language etc. The good foundation Jocelyn mentions is so important, of course many of us with our first child, are a work in progress ourselves, learning to be good parents and depending on what we experienced in our own homes, what/how we saw our parents deal with us, that adds a lot to the mix. .

Children’s personalities are also different, so we can’t deal with all the same; we have to find what works with each child. The boundaries, guidelines, etc.. Should remain the same for each one, but how we get them to that end goal may be different. In my case with my girls it was no different. My oldest child was an easy going one, did what I told her and didn’t have to tell her no twice. Especially in stores when impulse items are situated on tandems right by registers. She went through her terrible twos @ 18. My youngest child which some have gotten to know here, was my challenge, questioned everything, challenged everything, had to tell her no 100 x, was very PASSIONATE about things, to get her to do something I had to stroke her ego if you well, “can you help me with xzy because you are so good at it” .. With that same passion she would ALWAYS the first to jump in and help someone. I used to tell her that if she had been my first child there would only have been one, no matter that they are almost 12 yrs apart. But I truly believe that same passionate and zesty personality was/is what has gotten her through several life threatening and the many life altering experiences she has had to deal with in the last four years.

Bottom line is really that It doesn’t matter if we are raising our natural children, adoptive children, step-children, foster children..If you have to set the guidelines and rules, enforce consequences, say NO/YES defending on the situation, we are going to run into those times that we will not be the favorite parent, may not even make the top two list, this lifelong job/position we have is/will not always be a popular one.

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Bottom line is really that It doesn’t matter if we are raising our natural children, adoptive children, step-children, foster children..If you have to set the guidelines and rules, enforce consequences, say NO/YES defending on the situation, we are going to run into those times that we will not be the favorite parent, may not even make the top two list, this lifelong job/position we have is/will not always be a popular one.

I think this is a wonderful summary of parenthood! It's not always easy, and our children will not be happy with us all the time. It makes me nervous to think about the pre-teen/teenage years but like everything else it is one day at a time covered in lots of prayer!

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