March into My Heart

Today’s Drip: About Adoption, the Word

In this world of new semantics that we started accepting as part of our everyday language when personal computers burst onto the scene in the early 1980’s, I wonder if we shouldn’t rethink the use of the word adopted and adoption when we refer to the precious people that make or complete our family.  Many years ago, we bought our first computers and easily accepted new names coming from acronyms like PC and MS-DOS, and with the internet, came undocumented utterances that are now household words like Yahoo, Google and Bing. Even some real words are now more frequently used to refer to technology or new companies than their original use (i.e. Windows, Twitter and Amazon).

adoptionWhen I looked up the official definition of the word adopt, Merriam-Webster provided the following five definitions:

1: to take by choice into a relationship; especially: to take voluntarily (a child of other parents) as one’s own child

2: to take up and practice or use <adopted a moderate tone>

3: to accept formally and put into effect <adopt a constitutional amendment>

4: to choose (a textbook) for required study in a course

5: to sponsor the care and maintenance of <adopt a highway>

The first definition is clearly in a different class of importance than the remaining four definitions. Referring to a human child who joins a family the same way as taking on a tone of speaking or caring for an inanimate object like a highway seems awkward at best. It occurs to me that we really need a new word that expresses the importance and sensitive nature involved in bringing children into a family forever.  Adoption doesn’t sound positive, doesn’t roll off the tongue easily, and brings too many different connotations to mind. Even though I am a pet lover at heart, using the same word to refer to someone’s four-legged family member joining the family, as well as their precious child, seems inappropriate.

In addition, for parents who have adopted children, being referred to as adoptive parents separates us from all parents unnecessarily. We are clearly just as in love with our children and as capable as natural parents. I am in fact, the same kind of parent when I mother my adopted child as I am with my naturally born children. I wonder if the distinction is necessary at all.  If it is, we need to come up with a new word altogether that provides a more flattering and sensitive way of referring to adoptive parents and families.

The online dictionary gave examples of the above definitions. The example of the first definition rendered me and at least one other reader surprised and disappointed. The example for the first definition was “They were unable to have children of their own, so they decided to adopt.” Well, before I could get too upset at the narrow-minded example which confirmed my assumption that people who haven’t adopted children might be the ones who wrote these examples, I skimmed down to the comment section.  One reader said, “This example ‘They were unable to have children of their own, so they decided to adopt.’ is incorrect. Children who were adopted ARE their parents’ own children– that’s the whole point! I think what was meant to be conveyed, and what would be more accurate is: ‘They were unable to have children biologically, so they decided to adopt.’”  Eight people, in addition to me, liked her comment.

Although I am the first person to complain about someone who brings up an issue or controversy without offering a good suggestion or solution to the problem, I have to admit that I don’t have a good recommendation to this conundrum.  I doubt that I am the first to lodge this complaint in public and yet, I have not read anything that poses a similar question, or challenges others to find better terminology. Perhaps someday a smart, adopted child will come up with a whole new approach when referring to his or her circumstance of life.

Today’s Drip: A Valentine Gift that Melts your Heart

Valentine’s Day is a bitter sweet holiday.  For those with a romantic relationship, it’s a good time to remind our partner how much they mean to us and when it is reciprocated, it is a magical day. For those without a special someone, it can be an annoying hindrance as friends and co-workers squeal with delight about receiving flowers and the restaurants get too busy to offer the usual menu items we like.

My family has always gone a bit overboard on Valentine’s Day, expressing their love for me through cards, hand-made and store-bought, and roses. This was especially true back when I was the only “pink team” member of the family ten years ago. When we adopted my daughter, the “blue team” became a little less conscientious, knowing my dream for a girl had been fulfilled, but remained loving on a daily basis.

heart hands

On the morning of Valentine’s Day this year, our family celebrated with the traditional exchange of cards, chocolate, and flowers before everyone went their separate ways to school and work. It was a lovely way to start the day but the best Valentine’s gift I have ever received happened just before my daughter stepped onto the school bus.  She got out of the car in the parking lot, walked away and then turned around to give me the “I (heart) you” in hand sign language (see picture). As a budding teenager, the rare loving communication in front of other kids literally melted my heart and tears came crashing down as I drove away.

I adore my two sons, now young adults, who keep responding to me in loving ways when I need it.  Additionally, I am overjoyed that ten years after adopting my daughter at birth, I am starting to see the relationship between us grow into the mother-daughter love that I had with my mother. I realize that the teenage years will create some friction between us, especially as the color pink fades out of her closet, her friends become more interesting than family, and the music gets louder and harder to understand. I look forward to the changes, both positive and frustrating, but those moments that she communicates her love will keep me content no matter what else happens.

Today’s Drip: Are Dogs Ruling the World?

The short answer to the posed question is YES. Clearly, in my home and across America, it seems that the essence of dog is the way in to almost everything. As I approach the anniversary of writing my blog with entries about many emotional, adoption-related topics, no entry has surpassed the readership I received when I posted about my dearly departed yellow lab, Jasper, last summer. And it seems that everywhere I look– in real life, on TV, and around the internet– people include their dogs in almost every aspect of their lives.

Jasper was the perfect family dog for his entire eleven-year life. As a puppy, he quickly learned that nipping at my two sons (then ages seven and nine) was not going to make them play with him more, and he learned to sleep alone in his crate when the whining did not successfully bring me downstairs each night to free him. At one year old, he was the perfect displaced youngest child when my newly adopted, infant daughter entered our world as he protected, warmed and entertained her.  He learned how to make us smile more often, throw the ball for longer periods of time, and offer him treats which he never tired of. He enjoyed watching television with the family reacting positively to dogs, horses and elephants (and ignoring cats and rodents) when they appeared on the screen. His passing nine months ago has not only been painful because we all miss him terribly, but since then, I have been tormented daily by my entire family to get another dog.

Jasper Blog Composite 2

My stubborn resistance to getting another dog is simple: We will not find another Jasper.  His personality was so wonderful, calm and compassionate; I cannot imagine that we would luck out twice. No other dog will fill the void that was left by Jasper who was just as happy when we arrived home late for his dinner or after dark, having forgotten to leave lights on for him. My family is convinced another dog is the solution to our sadness and will help us heal after the loss of Jasper. I am not at all convinced we are emotionally ready for another dog, although the intrinsic benefits of a dog, especially for kids, are amazing.  In addition, even though they all fervently promise to care for the dog themselves, I am the one who will most often feed, train, pick up after and worry about a new dog. On the other hand, now that my daughter is in her tween years, perhaps a dog would help her learn responsibility for something other than her iPod.

As I look around online at other blogs, I notice the pictures of dogs used to accompany posts, which may or may not be about dogs. It has become apparent that readers of all kinds like to see, hear and read about dogs, whether they have one or not. Case in point, Heather B. Armstrong’s marvelous blog features her adorable, tolerant mutt Chuck: What other creature would tolerate a pile of cooked noodles on his nose for a picture?

Before my sweet Jasper passed away last May, it never occurred to me to feature him in my blog to build my readership.  After he left us Memorial Day weekend and I wrote about him for the first time, my blog readers had more comments and passed along my URL to friends more than with any other post before or since then.  Even topics about adoption, parenting, family issues, holidays, shootings and personal brushes with death have not compared to the popularity of my post mourning Jasper. Had I known, he would have been my star for all to enjoy. As it stands now, he is just a wonderful memory and another loss for our family to contend with day in and day out. One day, I will relent and get another dog because I’m convinced it’s going to come down to me or the dog, and I can only assume from experience that the dog will win. They always do.

Today’s Drip: Thoughts About Final Thoughts

While vacationing during the holidays in December, I was on my way for an early morning walk when my luck seemed to run out. Starting from the sixth floor of my hotel, I planned to take the stairs for my “warm-up”. As I approached the elevators on my way to the stairway, I saw a couple who were on the tennis court near us the day before shortly before we were all rained out. They were off to the courts to play again and we got to chatting about the weather, and other matters, when the elevator arrived. I decided to get in with them, rather than taking the stairs and cutting our conversation short. Shortly after the doors closed after our stop on floor five to let a bellman aboard, the elevator started to move, thumped once and stopped.  The digital sign went dark so we were unsure which floor we were on.  The bellman had a walkie-talkie and communicated our situation to one of his colleagues. Since cell phones and the phones installed in elevators rarely work, I felt fortunate to have been stuck with a hotel employee. He was promised that a security officer would be called immediately. I started to panic, thinking that a security officer may not know how to get an elevator to work without calling a technician, who could take hours to show up.

At that moment, I began to wonder what my family (all still safely tucked in bed and not answering their cell phones) would become without me should the elevator suddenly crash down to the basement. I thought about my two sons, both adults, who would be devastated but have essentially been raised already—as much as college and high school students can be considered as grown up and “fully cooked”.  I worried the most about my daughter, age ten, who still had her potentially problematic teenage years ahead of her. My daughter, demonstrating her new independence as a tween, already finds ways to torment my husband by arguing about insignificant issues on a daily basis.  In addition, he was already worried about training bras and phase two of “the talk” so raising her alone was unthinkable.  I was worried that without me, they would suffer terribly through the next eight years, especially with both boys out of the house.

I lost my mother to breast cancer when I was age 33, shortly after my second son was born.  We were very close and her loss devastated me in many ways, not to mention the rest of my family. I have a similar close relationship with my daughter and am just beginning to see how her coming maturity will change how we relate to each other. I could not imagine leaving her at such a young age. We adopted our daughter at birth and somehow taking on that responsibility made it even more imperative that we keep her safe, warm, educated and happy, at least until she can take care of herself as an adult. Having a mother, as well as a father, would be critical to her happiness over the next ten years. I just couldn’t leave her. Although being stuck in an elevator may routinely happen more frequently than I knew, I was determined to get out quickly.

During the eight excruciating minutes while we waited to be rescued, all four of us were running the “what-ifs” through our heads. It doesn’t take long to consider the most negative consequences. I walked up to the doors and tried to pry them open. Clearly, I wasn’t strong enough but the two men took over the project and got the doors to open.  We were just below the fifth floor and it only took a little bit of athleticism to crawl out to safety.

It didn’t take me long to thank my lucky stars, text my family that I was okay (in case they woke up to my previous panicked texts), and head down the stairs to freedom. My daughter had warned us about that particular elevator, which she had noticed as problematic on several previous occasions, and I let her say “I told you so” when I returned from my walk. There aren’t many brushes with death that leave you emotionally content but this incident reminded me how grateful I am for my family and they all reminded me how truly loved I am. Hopefully we can all take a moment to acknowledge our blessings in life, without getting stuck in an elevator or finding ourselves in any other perilous situation.