Sunday, April 20, 2008

soccer.. swimming... life

I have spent far too much time in the sun on the soccer pitch... a 2 game weekend... and driving kids to and from the pool... to and from soccer games. Arranging to drive goal posts to and from soccer fields. Then driving kids home one of them who lives part time on a road so high ... up up up so high you can practically see the western oceans... so isolated. so alone. it looks like the house in Kubrick's Clockwork Orange.

Old and Ugly

How am I? A raving lunatic
old and fat
and gray
and for the first time
married to a younger man

my clothes buldge in awkward places
I snap at Asian women
my daughters in law
and me resenting their youth
appalled at their children
how neat and tidy their clothes their hair
how easily they melt to orders
how little they question
how quickly they respond and don't resist

You can twist williow
if you leave it long enough to soak
in the marshy river bends
where the water pools
and bugs skitter
no fingers bleed

but not old oak
where the oak grows
deep roots
in the dry coast hills
branches snap in the hot wind
that fans fire
and trails of ashes
make way for next years grassland

Adoption and Redemption

Over 12 years of adoptive parenting my kids and I have had to face an ongoing discussion about why did this happen.... why did my mother leave me... it becomes an ongoing lifelong discussion with my kids... In facing "the elephant" with my kids (kids are now ages 7, 8, 12 yrs), I have to start with the idea that we live in a world that is incredibly different from China. In our world we expect to have all the food we can eat, more or less open government, an education, full Internet access, a relatively free press, at least one car, a house with a garage.... tons of fun toys and stuff that makes everyday life pretty easy. On a deeper level our Bill of Rights actually says that we have the right to pursue happiness (if not necessarily achieving it...we have the right to try). For all this we practice gratefulness.

But most importantly, we live in a culture that values and teaches individual freedom -- personal privacy -- free will -- the right and responsibility to make our own decisions about our own individual lives for better or worse (for example, Our popular press glorifies celebrity unwed parents... Angelina Jolie comes to mind..from that kids could get the idea that this is true everywhere... but it's not true in China).

Little of this holds true in China. China is a very old, very successful culture that has survived over thousands of years... on the other hand, it is rooted in traditions and values that our upstart Western culture just doesn't hold. Coming from our environment it's almost impossible to fully comprehend the pressures that Chinese birth parents face with an unplanned pregnancy. In China women tend to be first and foremost a member of the family and community... independent decision making isn't taught or valued in the same way. In fact, much in Chinese culture actually subverts individualism. Birth parents are often not the ones making the final decision about an "adoption plan"....

When the kids were young we kept it very simple and focused on how thankful we felt to the birth mother for eating healthy foods and taking care of herself so that she could deliver our daughters into the world and give them life. In the world of a Chinese woman bringing a birth to full term can be an act of tremendous courage. (We read aloud good historical fiction to help add details to this idea such as "Bittersweet" "Wild Swans"). How ever it happened that my kids got to safety as a mother how can I be anything but grateful?

As the kids get older this discussion becomes a chance to talk about personal responsibility, decision making, and a general philosophy of life. In my case that means telling my kids that the world is a miraculous place and every life is a holy journey... however it happened that we became a family I am grateful... that each of us has a responsibility to live that life with a sense of purpose... it's really a religious experience for me... full of depth, tragedy, redemption and wonder.

This work has been made easier over the years by the Chinese school we attend. We have learned so much from our friendships with the generous parents and teachers who have grown-up in China and moved to the US. They have given my daughter a bridge from our world to the world of her birth. In offering us their friendship and their stories they have helped my daughters create a sense of herself and flesh out their stories in their minds.

Adoption, like anything in life, can be really hard work sometimes... it requires self knowledge from parents and a willingness to grow and change. There is tragedy but there is also redemption. And in this there is hope. In this there is a future. We can't be perfect, we can only do the best we can with the information we have to do what is best for the children.