Saturday, August 16, 2008

Open Book Answers PART VII (by B)

Q: Cate said...
I'm a former Big Sister in Big Brothers/Big Sisters and there's a strong possibility I may end up with custody of my Lil' Sis. I adore her, and her grandmother, who has custody, is in failng health.
She's African-American. I'm white, and now live in a very non-diverse community in Oregon. Okay, bluntly, it's almost all white. She visited recently, and we were eating out. A lady at another table shot us dirty looks our entire meal. I wanted to scream, "WHAT?! Have you got a problem?"
Have you run into situations like this and how do you handle them?

A: Hi Cate, sorry to hear that happened to you, the sad truth is that it happens a lot. We also live in a predominately white area (something we struggle with and are trying to figure out what to do about), and experience lots and lots of looks. Now, to be fair, we get lots of different kinds of looks, some curious, some encouraging, some attempting to ignore us and some that feel hostile. I believe that black/white relationships (whether that is parent/child or adult) in the US are still very touchy for a lot of people, so that’s what generate the looks. And for us, we can deal with the first group of looks, it’s the hostile ones that we struggle with. We find that generally, we get an immediate sense if someone or someplace is friendly to our family (keep in mind that when either Heather or I are alone, we are protected by our white privilege and don’t experience this) and if it’s not, then we just avoid it in the future.

As for how we deal with it, I tend to take the long view – that most people are just ignorant and curious, so I either ignore it, or I try to just smile and acknowledge that they are people who are interested in our family. Other times, I wear a protecting veil which says “don’t bother me, don’t even look at me.” Heather tends to take the “when in doubt act dumb” approach (which always cracks me up since she’s so intelligent) and if someone gives her a look she looks back with a quizzical “whatcha looking at?”

Good luck with your Little Sister!

Q: Life in the Bend said...
Thank you for your blog. My husband and I adopted our two children from Ethiopia in February. We have our own blog at
Do you feel that most people treat K., O., and M. equally now that M. is here? I ask because I worry about the effect having a biological child could have on our first two children.

Do you feel like you treat Meera differently than K & O? Do others in your family or circle of friends treat her differently? We have noticed that people treat our twins differently simply because they are twins and have that unique twin thing going on. My oldest has said she wishes she were a twin because the twins get all of the attention. My heart breaks a little when she says that.

A: Congratulations on your adoption – that is great news!!! Oh, this is such a hard question, and not because it’s hard to come up with an answer, but because it’s so emotional. I will say that it’s a little hard to know right now since she is younger than when we got the boys and also because they were twins and she is a singleton. When she hits 8 months, maybe I can offer a better comparison, but maybe not. And it’s also hard because she is the “second” (really third) child, and as anyone with more than one kid can attest, the second is qualitatively different. And maybe there is gender stuff in there too.

All that said, I do notice subtle differences in our friends and family. I can’t say if there is favoritism of any kind, because for everyone K&O are so special and M is so special.

Q: vy said...
I haven't commented much before so here's my intro. I am a mother of a soon-to-be 4 year old adopted from China. We are currently waiting for our second child from China. (Hubby and I live in Denmark. He's a Dane, I'm American.)
My questions...will you share your tips for preparing the boys for the arrival of their little sister in an upcoming post and will you include any good books on the subject matter?
I don't recall you ever mentioning any sibling jealousy and they just seem so loving and sweet with Meera. I would love to hear any tips.

A: Hi Violet – good luck finishing your adoption and thank your for reading! We did a LOT of prep for the boys prior to Meera arriving. We talked to them about where babies come from (age appropriate – but literally also). We talked to them about how they came from their Birth Mother’s belly. We talked to them about how their skin is brown like their Birth Mother’s and that Meera’s would be like ours. We read books like “I’m going to be a big brother”. And “Baby makes 5” (Berenstain bears). We talked to them about how she won’t be able to do much, that they have to be super gentle. That they will be role models and she will want to do what they do.

From a jealously standpoint, we continue to be amazed by how sanguine they are about it – they are just not jealous. All we can think is that other than their generally sunny dispositions, the twin factor is in effect. They have just never known any other life than sharing their parents with their brother, so this is just another little thing in the mix.

Q: Have any of your colleagues offered unsolicited advice about the blog (i.e, be careful what you post; aren't you worried about security?; etc.)? ~Gooch: Surprisingly not! But then again I don?t do anything to make it public. I only have one colleague that I know of who reads the blog. A lot of people tell us we should be worried about security, etc. I am not concerned about it, but I am going to have Braydon answer that part of this question in one of his Open Book posts.

A: I think that in today’s media and online world it’s futile to restrict your privacy; any reasonably talented software developer (and reasonably is a pretty low bar) can build an application to find out basically whatever they want about you – not even by hacking. Almost anyone can develop an application for Facebook or MySpace (and lots of other social networks) and access any of your data, Google makes lots of hidden pages available and tracks your browsing and search activity and reams of credit cards are stolen all the time from the most secure of electronic settings. All your private information with the exception of what you ate for breakfast is accessible online and even that is suspect with people uploading camera phone pics and video to YouTube all the time these days. And while not always easy, it’s not impossible to retrieve.

That is, unless you live off the grid, which you don’t, since you own a computer, have an ISP to access the internet (which you pay a bill into their system which is online in some capacity), you have a telephone number found in the phone book, against which anyone can do a reverse look up and find out where you live, not to mention, just using Google analytics tells me exactly when and where you were when you read this post. And that is just the tip of the iceberg. Credit card companies track where you spend, what your habits are, what your trends are, where you like to eat. They respond by selling that information to other marketing companies, with employees who are not screened by any government agency (not that that will make things more secure necessarily), who can also use that information in other ways that might not be so friendly. I forgot to mention that if you use a loyalty card at the grocery store, they track that information and trend it and can tell you not only what your purchase habits are, but what you are likely to buy over the course of this month and when.

Sorry to rant, I get fired up about this, because if you believe for a second that your privacy is safe, you are sadly mistaken; and most people believe their privacy is safe. A much better thoughtful reaction to our overall lack of privacy, is that most nefarious people in the world just don’t care enough about you to action the data they can access.

So – while you won’t see us putting out SSNs our there or our credit card numbers, we generally take the view that you’re safer in a crowd in the light than in a dark room wearing a blindfold with a stranger standing next to you.

The last thing I will say is, that while much information is in the public, some is much harder to get than others. It’s not trivial to get a credit card number. It’s not trivial to get a social security number (it’s easier to pick it out of someone’s trash can than off the internet right now). It’s not trivial to access someone’s bank account. There is value in obfuscating certain information, but it’s also pretty shocking how little people actually work to protect their privacy.

Q: Jess said:

Hey, I didn't leave my question on the Open Book post, but now that I see other people broke the Yes or No Phrasing rule, I want in!

MorMor and MorFar are all over this blog, but I've "seen" your parents, Braydon, just about once. (I hope I'm not bringing up something painful here, and I apologize if so.) Is Heather just way closer to her parents than you are to yours? I've been curious for a long time.

A: Hi Jess – this is a very emotional and sensitive question too! Heather is unusually close to her family. When I was first getting to know her, I actually thought there was something unnatural about it, but in truth it’s the most amazing parent to adult child relationship I have ever seen, really incredible and beautiful. And frankly, it takes a ton of effort on all their parts to make it work.

Also, over the years I have struggled with my relationship with my parents for lots of different reasons. Fortunately I have worked through a lot of that in my own life and am so glad that over the last few years things have gotten a lot better, and I am focused on making sure they keep improving.

Q: Kristi said...
I'm way late but I finally thought of a question!!!
What are Kyle & Owen's favorite books?
We are adopting from Haiti as well - we have a one year old boy waiting for us and just met him in June. Haiti is an amazing country with amazingly smart, funny, beautiful children.

A: Hi Kristi – hang in there waiting – you will get through it, you will, you will! Kyle and Owen love books. Kyle has really really loved books from the start and we have many many books. And, he has them all memorized, it’s really quite something. They tend to go through cycles of which books they like and some keep coming back. Here are some of their favorites at the moment:

  1. The Berenstain bears: Baby makes 5, Clean’s house, Big Road Race, Get in a Fight, Forget their manners
  2. Curious George: Original, Ride’s a bike, and a few other new addition ones.
  3. Queen of the Scene (this is really Owen’s fav) by Queen Latifah
  4. “Please baby please” and “Please puppy please” by Spike Lee
  5. A mother for choco (an all time adoption must have)
  6. Pancake, by Eric Carle
I am sure I am missing a ton, sorry! Heather has also posted a lot of Top Ten Books here, here and here.

Q: Hello ! I am an AP to a tiny 20 month old wonderful girl from Haiti, we have been home for two months and to say my life has changed for the better would be a major understatement! I love how chill you are with your kids, and also that there is not a lot of "god" talk in your blog which is rare in the adoptive world I have found. As a city-dwelling parent I love seeing photos of your big lush yard ! My question is this-at what age did your boys become truly aware of strangers (rude) questions? What come backs have you both used ?
Thanks, I love your site!

A: Thanks for noticing about our use of language. Our adoption was motivated by our life philosophy, not our religion, so, for us it’s not about God (sorry to everyone who feels differently, I respect your perspective). We believe that humans have free will and make decisions independent of any deity. We also believe that we are obligated to do right by others and with great privilege and power comes great responsibility. But our blog is also not a platform for political punts.

But on to your question! Actually, I am not sure how aware our boys are of rude questions exactly. Meaning, they generally are so happy go lucky and seem to genuinely believe that people in the world are good that they are oblivious to the less-than-sensitive questions people ask. So, I think that for right now, Heather and I are trying to teach by example, without pointing it out to our boys that rudeness is happening. That said, here are Heather’s any my general tactics for dealing with in appropriate, rude, subtly racist, or other not so pleasant comments (some of which are just ignorant, some of which are not so ignorant):

  1. Ignore it and pretend like they didn’t even ask it or make the statement.
  2. Take it at face value and just answer or respond
  3. Gently correct their use of language by repeating it back to them with something more appropriate
  4. Play dumb, ask what they mean and make them dance around it
  5. Point out what they said was bad (we reserve this for special and rare cases)

Q: All these serious questions! I feel like I've got to lighten the mood! Hope this isn't too late (I'm past the deadline!)
If you two could go anywhere on a 4 nite vacation for just the two of you where would you go?!
Sherri (been reading from Montreal for about 8 months)

A: (From H): Ah! What a dreamy question! If it was just the two of us, and just 4 nights, it would have to be the Ritz Carlton Montego Bay Jamaica (we vacationed there before we adopted K & O and it was just such a fabulous, exquisite place to spend a few days – I would love to go back… but definitely not with the kids! LOL!)

A: (From B): Oh, I love this! We LOVE vacation and have made experiences a priority in our and our family’s life. So, if it was just the two of us, I think it would be a nice little villa on the Playa del Carmen in Mexico (or a beautiful all inclusive would be fine too!).

Q: Brooke said...
Sorry this isnt a yes or no question. But I was wondering how your neighbors are doing with their adopted children?

A: Hi – I am not sure it’s really our place to comment on another family’s rearing of their children in this fashion, although everyone is entitled to their opinion. Sorry!

Q: Tiz said...
Hi My name is Tamsin and i live in Western Australia with my Husband and 2 boys (also very lively!) aged 6 & 4. I found your site via a site given to me by a friend with a daughter from China. I dream of adopting our next child but at this point it seems it will have to be just that ...a dream. Thank you for your great blog, you have a lovely family.
My question is Do you live in a culturally diverse community? I ask this because i do not and it worries me that a child from a different culture would find this hard if we do get to adopt from Ethiopia as we would like to.
Thanks Again

A: Hi Tamsin – wow – that is so cool that you’re reading from Western Australia, thanks for checking in! We live in a very white area and we struggle with that. To put numbers on it, in our locale, at the last census there was only one black family (I am pretty sure that is accurate, but not 100% sure). We are really torn as what to do. Right now we’re doing some serious soul searching about how to address this problem. Why is it such a problem, why don’t we just move to a more diverse area? Because, when you break it down, there are just not that many diverse areas. And when you overlay any kind of class filter, the number of areas is dramatically reduced. And when we factor in our careers (which are not as mobile as we’d like), then it’s really really tough.

But, that should not deter you, since if you’re sensitive to race and work to make race an important part of your life and child’s understanding, then I think it’s entirely possible.

Anonymous said...
How on earth are you going to find time to answer all these questions?!!!! (You don't have to answer this one.)

A: Hi mom! It’s Saturday night and I have been working on these for an hour or so. Each set seems to take about an hour of writing, and more time of thinking and then more time for inserting pictures. So, figure for 7 sets of questions, about 14 hours total. I have only done two sets, so Heather carried the weight on this mostly (as she does mostly anyway – thank you Heather!).

In terms of fitting it in, here is what we do: 1. Work 2. Spend time with family and friends occasionally 3. Chores. 4. Rinse and repeat. Note the absence of hobbies and external interests!

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